Showing posts with label pork. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pork. Show all posts

Monday, September 29, 2014

Tex-Mex Style Smoked Pork

Two weekends ago, Alexis and I traveled to Decatur, AL, the home of Big Bob Gibson's Barbecue, to be judges at the KCBS BBQ contest at Riverfest 2014.  Despite sampling 6 portions each of chicken, ribs, pulled pork, and brisket, I wanted to make some of my own BBQ.  When we got home I fired up my Big Green Egg to smoke a pair of pork butts that I had.  Since I had just eaten a lot of competition bbq with sweet/heat flavor profiles, I decided to make my Tex-Mex style pulled pork with one of the butts.  

Barbecue folks often use leftover pulled pork on/in tacos, burritos, enchiladas, nachos, and quesadillas and that works well.  But I like making this Tex-Mex style with a flavor profile that already matches those dishes. 

This is probably the easiest smoked pork butt that I make because it uses a pre-made rub and has only limited preparation - no special trimming, injections, brines, or any of that stuff.  I just trim off any excess fat cap and then heavily rub the pork butt with AlbuKirky Seasonings Green Chile Rub.  That's it, prep is done.

When I got ready to set up my kamado grill for the smoking, I realized that I was out of hardwood chunks.  No problem, I just took some of the 16" hickory logs from the pile for The Warthog (stick burner) and made 1" x 1" x 16" splits with it.  When I use small wood splits like this in the kamado, I first put three in that are angled up from the charcoal grate to the firebowl top like this.  This way they are traveling up, down, in, and out of the coal so I'm always getting some wood smoke as the fire burns through the coals.

Yes, that's a cracked bowl.  Big Green Egg will replace it under warranty, but I'll keep using it until when/if it actually breaks.  I cleaned the ashes seen under the fire grate out before lighting.

Then I put in some lump coal and a few more splits like below.  Then I top it off with lump coal to a little above the fire bowl (below the fire ring).

Then I just smoke them for about 1 1/2 hours per pound at 250°F so these 8 pounders took about 12 hours. Because the kamado grill is so efficient, I don't have to add fuel at all for the 12 hours.  At low temps like this, it can burn as long as 20 hours on a single load of coal.

Here's a cool idea.  At the Franklin BBQ contest, it rained so much that Gilgamesh himself said it was too wet and my dad fashioned this plastic storage box as a way to keep the connection of two extension cords dry.  He just cut a small chunk out of one end and then covered it with a duct tape flap so the cords can pass through. Turns out this box also works perfectly to keep my electronics clean and dry.

Here it is holding two of my Thermoworks Chef Alarm remote probe thermometers and the controller unit for my Auber Instruments blower.  It is easy for storms to sneak up while you are asleep during overnight cooks and even though the electronics are under a gazebo, wind often blows soaking rain onto the table.  This solves that problem and lets me sleep a little better.

Even closed, I can see the read out displays. 

The reason the Auber is reading about 220°F when I want 250°F is because of the temperature difference between the level of the cooking grate where the food is and where the temperature gauge which is mounted near the top of the kamado grill dome.  If I run the Auber set at about 220-225°F, my dome temp will be around 250°F.

The Auber is basically a little CPU that is connected to a temperature probe in the grill and a small fan connected to the bottom vent.  When the CPU detects the temperature inside the grill is less than I have set for the target temperature, it turns the fan on to heat up the coals.  So basically it minds the fire while I sleep.  
You don't need an controller/blower like this because a good kamado grill is perfectly capable of holding even temps with just the upper and lower vents. In fact, I wouldn't even recommend that you buy one until you have used your kamado grill for at least a year to master fire control first.  I use mine but about half of the time for cooks over 6 hours, they are nice for insurance on these overnight cooks. 

These butts finished right at the expected 12 hours.  The internal temperatures were 197°F and 198°F and the bone was protruding and wiggled easily.  That bone is like a pop up thermometer in a turkey only this is way more accurate.

You can't tell which butt is the green chile rubbed one and which is the regular BBQ rub one after they have cooked, can you?  From past experience I knew that would be an issue so I purposely connected the green Chef Alarm to the green chile rubbed butt so I'd be able to tell which is which. Doesn't really matter since you could tell by the taste and smell.

The metal clip in the center bottom is the temperature probe for the blower.
So I gave them the FTC treatment which means I wrapped each in foil (F), then a towel (T) and put them in an empty cooler or Cambro (C) for 1 to 4 hours.  The longer the rest the better for my tastes.  Here is the green chile butt after 4 hours in the Cambro.  Looks burnt?  No way, that color is flavor. 

Even after four hours in a cooler, pork butts are still hot to handle so I'm a big fan of these silicone gloves that have hit the market.  They make it easy to handle steaming hot food and break the butts down into pulled pork.

Just like regular smoked butts, this has nice bark, a good smoke ring, and is tender.  It just has a slightly different flavor profile that works better in Tex-Mex style recipes.

Decatur Riverfest 2014
Once again, the Decatur Riverfest was held in spectacular weather with mild temperatures and blue skies.   They put together a top notch event here and we were fortunate enough to be selected as BBQ judges for the pro side of this event on the banks of the Tennessee River in Alabama.

Entertainment and Food
This year Riverfest boasted live performances by 8 recording artists.  That alone is worth the price of admission but wait there's more;)

They had a free kids area with inflatable rides, monster balls, face painting, rock climbing, and Lowe's Kids Kits.  I couldn't convince the monster water balls operator that I was under 10 so they wouldn't let me play. 

Vendors and sponsors had booths set up.

Since public health laws prevent the competition teams from selling or giving out samples, there are plenty of BBQ and festival type food vendors on hand to make that stomach happy.

I don't care much for sweets but I have a serious weakness for deep fried festival foods. 

Team Signs & Names
We always get a kick out of the various names and displays of the BBQ competition teams.

Not every cool sign has to be professionally made...

One of my favorite teams, always!  They killed Kenny.

Overall winner of this year's Riverfest.

There was a wide range of smokers (aka cookers) there.  There seemed to be a higher percentage of kamado cookers at this contest compared to other events.  We have pretty much decided to switch to kamado grills for comps next year.  I love the stick burner but it's a lot of work and I don't know it as well as the kamado grills. 

A large Big Green Egg.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Memphis Style Dry Ribs

Here it is the end of August and I forgot to post a link to my Char-Broil Allstars post for the month which was a recipe for delicious Memphis style dry ribs.

Memphis ribs, dry rub, dry ribs, baby back ribs
BBQ sauces need not apply.

The ribs aren't dry, they are as succulent as can be.  "Dry" just means they are not slathered with a sweet, sticky sauce like most ribs you'll see this Labor Day Weekend.  They rely on a highly seasoned dry rub that loads them with flavor.  This is actually one of my favorite ways to do ribs.

dry rub
I didn't consciously line the rub ingredients along the pig's ribs, it just happen that way.
And for the majority of my readers who don't have a kamado grill, these were cooked on my Char-Broil Gourmet TRU-Infrared gas grill and the recipe is written for a gas grill.

ribs, baby back, smoking on gas grill

Of course, if you want to do them in a kamado grill, that works too, just use the rub recipe and your normal baby back cooking times.  

Happy Labor Day Weekend!!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Mango Mustard Slaw, Spicy Honey Mustard Sauce, and Mustard BBQ Sauce

Can you spot the mustard in this picture?

jerk chicken sandwich, sweet potato fries, honey mustard, grilled

Actually, varieties of El Diablo Mustards are pretty much in everything pictured except the beer.  This was our mustard feast that we put together a few weeks ago when it was National Mustard Day.

The first thing we made was Jerk Chicken Sandwiches with Mango Mustard Slaw.  I have a jerk chicken recipe that we normally use but today, I marinaded boneless skinless thighs in World Harbour's Jamaican Jerk Marinade.  

jerk marinade

This is more of an Americanized Jerk sauce, as it is sweeter and less spicy than normal jerk, but it still has the earthy flavors (allspice, nutmeg, etc) of jerk.  If you want hotter, I'd add some finely minced habanero.

While that marinated, I wanted to make a quick slaw to go with that and I thought the El Diablo Mango Mustard would make for a slightly fruity and mildly spicy dressing.

cole slaw, El Diablo

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Father's Day Wagyu Brisket and Kurobuta Pork Shoulder

Yeah, I know Father's Day was over a month ago.  I am just behind on getting out stuff that we have done so far this busy summer.  Heck, I still have posts to get out about the Almost Heaven South - Blogger Party, the Blue Ridge BBQ Festival, the Blount BBQ Bash, and the Porkopolis Eggfest.  

But for Father's Day, Alexis splurged and got us a Wagyu brisket and a Kurobuta pork shoulder from Snake River Farms.  My neighbor, John, and I celebrated Father's Day Eve by staying up all night smoking these two beasts for a Father's Day feast with a few of our neighbors.  

If you aren't familiar with the term, Wagyuis essentially American Kobe beef.  A lot of restaurants and vendors have claimed to serve "Kobe beef" but most are really serving Wagyu.  The difference is like the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine.  To be Kobe beef, the cattle had to be bread and raised in the Kobe region of Japan.  If you take that same breed and raise it elsewhere, even with the exact same techniques, it is Wagyu, not Kobe.  

My first experience with Wagyu beef was with Snake River Farms at Kingsford University one year and they were one of these first sources of this Kobe style beef that I knew of.  Many top level competition BBQ pitmasters rely on Snake River Farms Wagyu briskets for that extra edge over their competitors.  This wasn't for competition but I wanted to serve the perfect brisket for Father's Day just the same.

Ordering the meat was super easy.  We went to the Snake River Farms website and ordered a 11-14 pound Wagyu brisket and a 14 pound Kurobuta pork shoulder.  From what I understand, Kurobuta is a specialized version of Berkshire pork, but I don't know all of the details on that.

A problem arose on the Wednesday before Father's Day when Alexis got home and asked where the meat was.  UPS tracking showed it was delivered to our house at 3:17pm; however, our son had been there waiting for the shipment at that time and the UPS guy was never even on our street.  Sean at Snake River Farms talked us down off the ledge - our Father's Day Feast wouldn't be a no-show.  He got UPS involved and assured us that he was going to have another package ready to go first thing in the morning if UPS couldn't get it straight.  MAJOR KUDOS to Sean and Snake River Farms for doing all of the right things to fix the mistake of someone else.  UPS got several people involved and it turned out that the package was delivered to a different house number....on a different street.  UPS' solution was for Alexis to drive to this location and pick up the 55 pound package herself from some stranger's door step.  Bad, UPS, bad.

Alexis went there and the box was still on the doorstep.  Fortunately, she wasn't shot at and no "good Samaritan" neighbor called the cops on her for "stealing a package from someone's door step".  Here's how the package arrived.

There were about a dozen freezer packs in with the meat.
The meat was still heavily chilled, I'd say frozen, even after shipping across the country.

The plan was to let them thaw for two days in the fridge and then cook them on kamado grills.  With good quality meat like this, we wanted to go basic with seasonings - no injections, no phosphates, no brines or marinades.  We wanted to meat to shine.

My ideal brisket is 13 lbs and this one was perfect at 13.7.  I think 13 is my favorite because it is about the biggest brisket I can fit onto a Large Big Green Egg so that is what I usually used before I got my pit.

Look at that fine marbling, it's most evident in the lower left quarter.
My NMT Beef Rub is my favorite for brisket.  It is just smoked salt, black pepper, green peppercorns, garlic, dried onion, dried bell pepper, and oregano.  That is not too much more than the classic beef rub of pepper, salt, and garlic but it adds a few more transition flavors.  We used about 1 tablespoon of beef base and enough Worcestershire sauce to thin it out, as a slather to bind the rub.  

brisket rub, bbq brisket
The toothpick in the lower right corner is to mark the grain of the brisket.  This makes it easy to know which way to slice once it is all done and the grain pattern isn't so evident anymore.
I set up my Big Green Egg for indirect cooking (plate setter in legs up, drip pan on that, grate on top of that.  My goal was cooking it at 250°F until done, about 1.5 hours per pound.  As you can see from the ChefAlarm, the meat was still quite cold, only 40°F, after thawing.

The Auber controller (left) was set at 250, this was right after opening the kamado grill to put the meat on, so the cooking temp had dropped and was on its way back to 250°F.  The probe was at grate level.

We planned to cook the Kurobuta pork shoulder on John's Big Green Egg but we ran into a slight issue with that.  The shoulder was too long and wouldn't fit!

Fortunately, the exterior of the Vision Kamado is over an inch bigger but the firebox is the same diameter so Big Green Egg accessories like the plate setter still fit inside as shown.

We tried it and the pork shoulder JUST BARELY fit inside of the bigger Vision.  We fashioned an adapter mount for John's Auber unit to fit the Vision.

We seasoned the pork shoulder with Meathead's Memphis Dust recipe.  Again, no injections or other fancy treatments.

pork, bbq

I frequently mention John and I talking so much about grilling.  That is because our grilling/bbq areas face each other in the back yard.  Here is his cooking area as seen from my deck.

And here is the opposite view of my cooking area as seen from his side patio.  So you can see how we always end up talking BBQ.

So after getting the brisket and shoulder on it was time for a little sleep.  We had some weirdness with the cooking temperature readings on both the Auber and dome thermometer for the Vision early into the cook.  We never did figure out what that was about, but it finally stabilized.  It was acting like the probe was touching the meat and reading low but there were two probes involved and neither was touching anything. 

Father's Day morning at first light, our backyards smelled glorious.  I mopped the brisket with beef stock, Albukirky's Duke City Sweet, and Liquid Aminos.  I only mopped it twice during the whole cook, just enough to keep the surface slightly moist but not overpower the flavor.  I normally do much more often with regular briskets.

The pork shoulder was rendering a lot of fat, we had to even take it out and empty the drip pan once.  Just a testament to the fat content of this gorgeous shoulder.

bbq pork, smoked pork shoulder

Almost 11 hours in and my brisket is still below 160°F.

John spritzing the pork shoulder with fruit juice.

It was at this point that I noticed I did my brisket with the flat up.  I normally do it point side up.

Alexis frying up bacon outside for a side dish.
It took right at 16 hours for my 13 pound brisket to finish.  That is longer than the regular briskets I do but still within the 1.5 lb per hour ballpark.  Normally I'm cooking them on the stick burner at about 275°F and here I did them at 250°F on the kamado grill.

BBQ brisket kamado

While the brisket got to rest briefly, we made BBQ beans and Ted Reader's Love Potatoes on the Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Gourmet.  Setting your gas grill up for indirect heat at 350°F and using it as an oven is a great way to keep your house cooler on those hot summer days.

The pork shoulder finished in 16 1/2 hours.  This is a huge hunk o' pork.

We set up a buffet in John and Anna Mae's front patio. 
John hamming it up for the camera. #porkpuns
Because the shoulder and brisket took so long, they didn't have much time to rest.  John had to use Bear Claws to shred the pork because it was really too hot to handle.  We ordered insulated food gloves right after this for that reason. 

Next we sliced the brisket.  It was the moistest brisket I have ever had, so tender and juicy that I think I heard angels sing.  Or maybe that was the radio playing.  Either way, it was bleepity-bleep good.

The one noticeable difference to us was the complete lack of a smoke ring.  This is not an indicator of smoke absorption and you could taste smoke.  You can read more about smoke ring formation at Third Eye's web page.  But John and I both agreed we like the smoke rings we get from using the stick burner and that's what we'll use in competition so all is good.

Chalk pig from our good friends, Jackie and David Scott. Alexis had this as the centerpiece.

Then we had our feast.  In addition to the pork and brisket, the neighbors brought sides and we loaded up.  If my plate looks light, it is only because John and I had already eaten a ton of meat just before serving when we were slicing the brisket and pulling the pork.  Quality control is just an occupational hazard in the world of BBQ.

We finished the meal with cold watermelon and key lime pie.  Great way to spend a Father's Day!

So was the splurge worth it?

Kurobuta Pork Shoulder
$60 vs ~$35-40 for commodity pork butts
I don't have a direct comparison since it is hard to get whole pork shoulders around here so I'll have to compare the shoulder against two pork butts.  You can taste a difference in the pork, for sure.  I can only describe it as getting more pork flavor, like I imagine pork was before the selective breeding and hybridization resulted in today's lean commodity pork.  I'll definitely use it again but I wouldn't feel that I have to buy it every time, maybe just for special occasions.

A note for kamado users: cooking a whole pork shoulder on a kamado has its limitations because it puts the thinner leg shank end right over the hotter spots of the smoker.  It makes it hard not to overcook that end.  Also a good bit of the rendered fat dripped down the leg bone and between the firebowl and kamado wall, making a mess to clean up.    Next time I would cook the pork shoulder on the stick burner where there is plenty of room and that isn't an issue.  I'll have to try it that way before I use it in a contest.

$85 vs ~$45-50 for US Choice Briskets at Costco
Absolutely worth the difference and this is what I'll be using for competition from here on out as well as for the backyard.  The texture was velvety and the taste, beefy.  Our neighbors said it was the best brisket they've ever had.  I consider it highly recommended and we didn't even get their best brisket,  which is their Gold Grade Wagyu brisket.

We were very happy with the products and service from Snake River Farms and look forward to placing our next order with them shortly.

[Standard Disclaimer]  I have no affiliation with Snake River Farms, received no compensation for this post, and paid full price for the product.