Sunday, November 8, 2009

Site Renovations and Pulled Pork

Welcome to the new Nibble Me This. Watch your step, we're still finishing up the renovations.

A huge thanks to my pal Brandi from Excess Baggage for doing the design work. I think she did a great job. She's a flight attendant but in her spare time, she also does custom blog template designs if you're interested. Brandi is a friend that we met through blogging over 5 years ago back during the AOL Journal days and she's visited us several times here in Knoxville.

We've been working on it this week via instant messaging. I didn't like one of the pictures for the header so I told her I wanted to redo it. When she found out that I smoked a pork butt last night just so I could get a better pulled pork sandwich shot, I believe her exact words were:

Brandi: Serious?
Chris: Serious!
Brandi: OMG, I'm totally going to make fun of you for that forever!

And she will, trust me;)

So anyway, yeah, I smoked a pork butt last night on the Big Green Egg. It was a HUGE butt, 10 and 1/2 pounds of pork shoulder. This isn't a step by step guide or a recipe, just some tips.

An injection imparts flavor deep into the meat, since the rub can only affect the outer surfaces. It also adds moisture, although that really isn't a problem on the Egg, but I really notice a difference if using my offset smoker. I have used Chris Lilly's pork injection for several years with great results.

Of course, he has used it for years with much better results, like multiple world championships. The recipe is in his book Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book but it is also the worst kept secret in the BBQ world so you can find it online.

TIP: Injecting your butt while it is still packaged (as pictured above) helps reduce the accidental splashes as you are pulling the hypodermic needle out of the shoulder yet still applying pressure on the injector.

After injecting (if you're injecting), it's time to rub your butt.

On the back deck.

In plain view of your neighbors.

I make my own beef and chicken rubs and love them. But when it comes to pulled pork, my weapon of choice is *gasp* a commercially prepared rub.

I haven't been able to do better than Billy Bones Competition Rub (green label) since I first used them two years ago, so if you can't lick 'em, join 'em. I've tried his rub against my rubs and other commercial ones. Billy has eons of experience and produces a consistent, high quality line of BBQ products.

TIP: Unlike ribs, butts have a low surface to mass ratio, so you want to give them a pretty heavy dose of dry rub. Don't be shy. Billy says, "Rub your butt all you want, we'll make more." (okay, he doesn't but he should and then make that into a t-shirt.)

"The Sweet Blue Smoke"
When smoking, you don't want a heavy thick white smoke. That smoke is full of nasty critters that are part of incomplete combustion and they will do bad things to your meat. That means your fire really isn't ready yet, even if it's at the temperature you want.

BBQ folks refer to a good smoke as "blue smoke". During the day, it's almost invisible but last night I was able to catch a few shots as it went from white (bad) to "blue" (good).

"It's Done When It's Done"
BBQ'rs often use that reply when someone asks when the food will be ready. If they say that, they aren't being a smart ass. Even though we try to control a million variables and use time tested processes, sometimes the food has a mind of it's own. Last night was a case in point.

I have smoked countless pork butts and almost every time, it takes 1.5 hours a pound at 250f (dome temp, 225f grate level temp).

So I planned 15+ hours for this 10.5 butt. Instead, it was done 4:30am after only 10.5 hours.

Another oddity. Butts usually hit a "stall point" at about 160f where the internal temperature just stops going up. It hits a "plateau" and won't budge for a while, could be hours. Well last night might went straight through 160, 170, and up to 180f.
If it ever did stall, it was between 2am and 4am and at a temp over 180f. I dozed off so I missed it. But have any of you smokers ever seen a butt totally skip the plateau or have one that high of a temp? I was really thrown off by that.

TIP: Your butt is done when it hits an internal temperature of 195f. Another way to tell is to grab the bone and give it a wiggle.

When the butt is done, it will pull clean out like so. (Fall off the bone pork butt = good. Fall of the bone ribs = overcooked)

This butt pulled very easily into nice full pieces. I prefer pulled pork like this as opposed to chopped bbq pork. That's just a personal preference.

There was very little waste to this pork butt, it yielded a good percentage of meat. You can sometimes lose up to 50% of the precooked weight during the cooking process. Not this time.

Alexis stole her first piece of the cutting board and said, "MMMM! You don't even need sauce for this."
"Yeah," I agreed, "Isn't that the whole point of real BBQ?"

I made some cole slaw and made myself a hand stretching sandwich that about put me into hibernation.

In summary, I had a pork butt that cooked faster than usual, had a higher yield than usual, and tasted good. Man I've got a great butt!!!