Having left the meat to marinate overnight, the easy part was over. Now it was time to try and turn it into something that resembled pulled pork. First of all, I should say that I don’t have a proper smoker, or even a halfway decent barbecue. As this was a first attempt I thought I’d just use an old kettle grill that I had in the shed and see if I could get anything decent out of it. So I fired some coals up in a chimney starter (everyone should have one of these):
I set the grill up for indirect cooking by keeping the coals to one side, and on the other I placed two foil containers of water. The water evaporates and becomes a vehicle for the smoke, and the moist atmosphere makes the meat absorb the smoke. As you can see this grill is way too small for this cut of meat, and the coals weren’t as far away from the meat as I would have liked but what the hell. A handful of apple wood chips and then on with the meat…
I covered it with the lid and made sure the vent holes were open and placed over the meat. This helps draw the smoke over it. I stabbed a digital probe thermometer into the thickest part of the joint and then…we wait. Most barbecue aficionados agree that you want to cook low and slow, at 225F until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 190F. At this temperature the fats and connective tissues liquify, the meat moistens and it becomes easy to pull apart. I don’t have a thermometer on the lid of my crappy old grill so I went by meat temperature alone. I kept the smoke going for 3 hours, and then gave it a further hour before my coals started to die. At that point the meat temperature was 176F and not budging. So I wrapped it in foil and finished it in the oven for a further hour. Don’t all be shouting “CHEAT!”. Wrapping in foil is a method known as the Texas Crutch and all competition cooks do this. I let the meat rest for 45 mins and here’s what we have:
I know what you’re thinking. It’s as black as two in the morning, and burnt to a cinder. But no, that black exterior is the wonderful, wonderful “bark”. The chewy layer of goodness created by the mixture of rub, heat and smoke. Because when you take a knife to it you see this…
See that beautiful pink aura just below the surface? That is a smoke ring. And it’s magnificent. Before I finished cooking I did the fork test. That is, I stuck a fork in and turned it 90 degrees. If it takes little effort to do this, it’s ready. If there’s resistance you need to cook longer. So I was hoping the pork would pull…
Dear sweet baby Jebus, it’s PULLED PORK!
And it’s bloody amazing. Amazing as it is on it’s own (and I think I might have mentioned that its BLOODY amazing), pulled pork needs sauce. It’s tailor made for holding onto moisture. So now it’s time to make…
I made a variation on Meathead’s Lexington Dip. This is a Carolina vinegar based sauce, and a far cry from the sweet sticky stuff that you conjure when you think “barbecue sauce”. Here are the ingredients:
We have: ground black pepper, salt, distilled vinegar (not malt, not cider), tomato ketchup, hot sauce, crushed chili flakes, light brown caster sugar, apple juice. Please note the potato scones are not part of the recipe. I combined the ingredients in the quantities suggested by the recipe, but it was just too vinegary for me. So I sweetened it up with a bit more ketchup, sugar and some honey. The end result was a sweeter tasting sauce with a vinegar and chili kick. Perfect. And here it is here:
If you’re still reading after all that, congratulations. But this is about food after all, and the reason we make great food is to eat it. So here’s what I had for dinner:
I think what we have here is technically fusion cuisine. Carolina pulled pork and barbecue sauce, on top of the king among breads…the Scottish morning roll. The coleslaw may seem an odd touch, but it’s quite a common accompaniment in the States so what the hell. It tasted great.
I had no huge expectations, but it seems you can get really great results out of the crappiest equipment. I’ll definitely be smoking food again, although I’m left with the slightly uneasy feeling that this has all been a tremendous fluke and it’ll end in disaster next time. If it does, you can read about it here.
The first hour that the shoulder was on the grill I tossed in a couple of salmon fillets that I had brined the night before. Glazed with honey in a little water and topped with some dark brown sugar. They turned out stupidly good.