Sunday, October 30, 2022

Smoking Pork Butts 2 Ways on the Big Green Eggs

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A grocery store had pork butts on sale for under $1 per pound and there's no way I'm passing that price up these days. I picked up a couple of butts and cooked them using two different recipes - I wanted one for chopped Carolina-style pork and one using our smoked green chile pork recipe for tacos, nachos, etc. Here's how it all went down.

Smoking Pork Butts 2 Ways on the Big Green Eggs

Meat Prep - Friday 4pm

I usually like to prep butts and briskets 12 hours before going on the smoker. Because of a time crunch for when I wanted these ready, I only had about 8 hours this time. Resting the seasoned meat in the fridge for hours lets "dry brining" occur. That builds depth of flavor and actually alters the cell structure of the meat so that it retains more moisture [source].

  • Pork Butt for Carolina-Style Chopped Pork - I did minimal trimming, injected it with an apple juice solution, and seasoned it liberally with Meat Church Honey Hog.
  • Smoked Green Chile Pork Butt - Also minimal trimming and injection but I seasoned it heavily with the green chile rub.
  • Then I loosely cover both pork butts with a food bag and pop them into the fridge until I'm ready to put them on the smoker.

I made up a batch of my NMT Green Chile Steak Seasoning, loaded with ground green chile, salt, black pepper, garlic, shallot, cumin, and coriander.  Alternatively, you can save some work and buy a jar of Albukirky's Green Chile Seasoning. I can't recommend Kirk's seasoning enough; it's fantastic on eggs, chicken, steak, pork, shrimp, or just about anything.

Injecting apple juice solution into a pork butt for smoking
I injected both butts with a simple solution of apple juice, salt, and sugar. I don't inject every time, but I tend to do it more often than not. Brining only penetrates so far into big meats; injection complements the job and gets seasoning deep down in the meat. 

Honey hog is a safe bet for seasoning pork.
Boneless pork butt what? I was so giddy about the low price that I didn't notice that one of the pork butts I selected was boneless. Oops. Not a major deal. I take advantage of the opening and season it before tying up the butt.

Seasoning a pork butt with green chile rub
Seasoning the other pork butt (the bone-in one) with green chile seasoning. I like to make sure I get the pork coated on all sides, not just the top and bottom.

Pro tip:  I like to put a glove on my seasoning jars when prepping big meats because your hands are going to be dirty when you need to pick up the seasoning. This lets you not worry so much about cross-contamination and makes cleanup a breeze. 

Smoking Pork Butts 2 Ways on the Big Green Eggs
There isn't much different about smoking a boneless pork butt, but I do like to tie the roast, so it cooks evenly. Otherwise, the 2 flaps of meat where the bone was removed can separate, cooking faster than the rest of the pork butt.

Smoking Pork Butts 2 Ways on the Big Green Eggs
Regular pork butt on the left, green chile pork butt on the right. I often get asked about the steam pans. I learned this from several competition BBQ classes. The two main benefits for me are 1) ease of handling from start to finish and 2) it keeps your smoker much cleaner. The one disadvantage for a smaller smoker like a Big Green Egg is that it takes up more space.

Smoking Pork Butts 2 Ways on the Big Green Eggs
Loosely covering the pork butts is an important part of the dry brine process. That's because, for the first hour or so, the salts in the seasoning actually extract moisture from the meat. That moisture mixes with the seasoning, changing the concentration, so the meat starts pulling the moisture back into the meat. If you don't cover the meat, the cold, dry air blowing in the fridge will evaporate the moisture before it can be pulled back into the meat. We use 18 x 24" food bags, but you can use plastic wrap.
18 x 24" food bags [Affiliate link]

Smoker Set Up - Friday 6pm

I decided to use my pair of large Big Green Eggs for this cook. I like to set up my cookers well in advance of the time to light up. 

  • Carolina-style Chopped Pork - For this butt, I used my Egg in the BGE Modular Nest. The fuel was a Kick Ash Basket full of lump charcoal and 2 big chunks of hickory wood. I used a cast-iron plate setter for the indirect piece. I used a Flame Boss 200 to run the show while I slept.
  • Green Chile Smoked Pork - For this butt, I used the Egg in the Challenger Torch table. Same fuel as the other butt. My indirect setup was an Adjustable Rig with a spider rig/heat stone.

I tried out some new Jealous Devil products
We swung by Academy to pick up some Jealous Devil XL lump charcoal and found that they also had some Jealous Devil products I hadn't tried...

...namely, the JD Smoke Wood Blocks and the JD Boom! Firestarters. I used them both for this cook and will do some type of review post later.

Smoking Pork Butts 2 Ways on the Big Green Eggs
The first step for me for any overnight cook is cleaning out the smoker. This ensures the best possible airflow which is important to fire management. Yeah, I know my fire bowl and fire ring are both cracked. They still work so I haven't bothered with a warranty claim.

I loaded each Kick Ash Basket about half full with 2 blocks of wood. I stood one piece of wood up in the middle and then the other one about 8-10 inches from where I planned to light the coals. I was trying to have the smoke kick in about an hour after starting the Egg when the pork butts go on. I topped all of this with the leftover lump charcoal from a prior cook.

Smoking Pork Butts 2 Ways on the Big Green Eggs
Eggs all set up, side by side. 

Lighting Up - Friday 11pm

I lit both eggs about an hour before I wanted to start smoking the butts. When I'm using a natural draft with manual controls, I usually like to fire up at least 90 minutes before the start time. But controllers start up consistently more quickly and I find an hour is long enough.

  • I turned the Flame Boss 200 and the Signals/Bellows at 250
  • f so that the fan would be running.
  • I nestled a Jealous Devil Boom! Starter in the basket of coal in each Big Green Egg. I put it towards the front left at about 7 o'clock when looking down into the fire bowl. Strategically, that way it will burn across the coal hitting the two chunks of smoke sequentially. 
  • I lit the starters, shut the grills, and headed inside. 
  • The Boom! Starter had the grills to temp quite quickly. I'll do a full review later.

Jealous Devil Boom! charcoal starter in use

The Cook - Midnight

I put the butts on at midnight with the Eggs running at 250f with the following plan:

  • Add moisture throughout the cook.
    • Carolina-style pork - Spritzed every 1 to 1.5 hours with a mix of apple juice and apple pie moonshine.
    • Green chile pork - baste every 1 to 1.5 hours with a mix of 1/2 cup lime juice, 1/2 cup oil, and 1 tablespoon of green chile rub.
  • Wrap the butts in foil when they get the color I want, typically about 6+ hours and at an internal temperature of 160-170f.
  • Pull them to rest in a warm Cambro hotbox when they are tender, usually at an internal temperature of 203-205f.
  • Final kiss of smoke. 

Smoking Pork Butts 2 Ways on the Big Green Eggs
I pretty much always use an electronic temperature controller when cooking overnight on the Eggs because I like to sleep as much as possible. Manual controls work fine and there's something to be said about natural draft, but I like the insurance of having the controller keep an eye on things.

Smoking Pork Butts 2 Ways on the Big Green Eggs
Carolina-style pork butt about an hour into the cook when I was about to apply the next spritz of apple juice. 

The Wrap - Saturday 7:30am

I used to only wrap my pork butts for BBQ competitions but over time, I've started doing it at home. Wrapping 
  • locks in the color, 
  • speeds up the cooking time, and 
  • retains moisture. 
On the other hand, it's braising, not smoking. Like so much in the BBQ world, it's just a matter of preference.

The "wrap liquid" for each pork butt was:
  • Carolina-style pork butt - Sprinkled pork butt with more Honey Hog, 3 pats of butter, and several spritzes of apple juice.
  • Green chile pork butt - I added the remainder of the lime oil baste.

Flame Boss 200 for Smoking Pork Butts 2 Ways on the Big Green Eggs
One of the factors I consider for WHEN to wrap is the internal temperature. For offsets and pellet grills, I usually wrap when the pork is in the 160f neighborhood. For kamados or my gravity-fed pit, it's usually more like 170f. I suspect that's because kamado grills and my big pit have humid cooking environments. Moisture inhibits the Maillard reaction so that would make sense. 

Smoked pork butt in steam pan on Big Green Egg
Here's the Carolina-style pork butt just before wrapping. It was a little darker than it looks here; the overhead light makes it appear a bit lighter in this picture.

Smoking Pork Butts 2 Ways on the Big Green Eggs
The green chile pork butt prior to wrapping. It smelled ridiculously good like it was ready to eat NOW.

After wrapping, I put the butts back on the grill, stick the probe through the foil, and wait. Once wrapped in foil, you can raise the cooking temp significantly if you are in a hurry to push through to the finish.

When I put the butts back on the Eggs, the green chile butt was significantly behind the other pork butt so I bumped the temp up on the Signals to raise the cooking temperature of that Egg to 275f so it could catch up. You can see what a difference just 25f degrees made. 

Rest - Saturday 11:45 to 2pm

The rest is a crucial step in my pork butt process. It lets everything balance out. 

  • What - Use can use a cooler, a hot box, or even an oven set at 140-170f. 
  • How long - At least 1 hour up to 4 hours
  • Pro-tip:  PRE-HEAT your cooler or hot box. 

Cambro hot box is my preferred method for resting big smoked meats.
My Cambro hot box is one of my favorite tools for BBQ because of 1) it's heat retention, 2) ease of sliding trays in and out and 3) capacity (holds 8 half pans or 4 butts). To preheat it, I pour a large pot of boiling water in a hotel pan on the lowest level about 15 minutes before I put the butts in the hot box.
Cambro UPC 300 [Affiliate Link]

Finish - Saturday 2pm

A KCBS Team of the Year once told me, the last thing you put on BBQ is the first thing you taste so I like to give them a few final moments in smoke. 

  • Refresh the smoke - While the butts rest, I drop the Egg temp and let it run at a low temp just to conserve coal. About 15 minutes prior to finishing, I turn the temp back up to get the fans blowing and add a chunk of wood to an area with lit coals.
  • This gives an opportunity to add another layer of flavor. 
  • Put the butts back on the Eggs for that final dose of smoke. 
  • This also resets the crust, which gets soft during the wrapped rest.

Smoking Pork Butts 2 Ways on the Big Green Eggs
When the pork butts come out of the wrap, after the rest, the crust is a little soggy. This will crisp back up in 10-15 minutes on the Egg.

Smoking Pork Butts 2 Ways on the Big Green Eggs
This comes from our competition program and kind of goes against the Carolina-style pork tradition which eschews sweet BBQ sauces. I glaze the pork butt with Blues Hog Original BBQ sauce that I thinned with apple juice.

Finally done! The thin sauce is cooked on to give the bark just a hint of sweetness.


Normally we would just pull the pork into shreds but in this case we wanted chopped pork instead. We were making my childhood favorite chopped pork with vinegar sauce and since the green chile pork is for tacos, etc, it makes sense for it to be chopped as well.

For both butts, we started by breaking them up into big sections and pulling out any big chunks of non-rendered fat. There shouldn't be much.

Dark tasty bark and juicy pink smoked pork.

A heavy cleaver is a perfect tool for chopping pork. We got this top one from the Chain of Lakes Eggfest in Winter Haven, FL. It is made by Rhineland Cutlery in nearby Melbourne, FL.

Smoking Pork Butts 2 Ways on the Big Green Eggs
For the Carolina-style pork butt, I chop it with my Old Virden's Carolina-Style Vinegar sauce so it all gets mixed in together. No additional sauce is needed. Look at those bits of chopped-up bark in there, so much flavor!

Smoking Pork Butts 2 Ways on the Big Green Eggs
For the green chile pork, I put a can of green chiles on top before I start chopping so it all gets chopped up together.

Smoking Pork Butts 2 Ways on the Big Green Eggs
Good googly moogly, this is delicious!

Dish and Devour!

It's all over except the dining! 

chopped smoked pork sandwich Smoking Pork Butts 2 Ways on the Big Green Eggs
For me a perfect chopped pork sandwich needs nothing but chopped pork and a bun. The piquant smoked pork and white bread are perfection together. I won't get "butt-hurt" (see what I did there?) if you want to put slaw or a spicy pickle on top.

Green chile smoked pork and chorizo tacos
Smoked green chile pork and chorizo street tacos - simple yet powerfully delicious.

huevos rancheros from Smoking Pork Butts 2 Ways on the Big Green Eggs
Huevos Rancheros featuring some of my green chile smoked pork.

Admittedly this is a lot of pork for a house with 3 people. We vacuum seal and freeze about half of it for eating later.