All-American barbeque – the allure of this smoky grilled fare lies both in it’s simplicity and depth of rich, sweet and spicy flavors cultivated over hours of low and slow cooking. That said, pulled pork is as much about the experience as it is about the actual meat. And all of the above I love.
This may be my favorite technique to develop the flavors and texture of great barbeque. To accomplish this feat, I’ll follow these 10 best practices:
- First, start with the end in mind and a full tank of gas. This recipe will require from 8-12 hours of marinating and 6-8 hours of smoking, depending on the volume of meat. This recipe is best started the evening before and put on the grill at sunrise.
- The two best friends of any grill master – a trusted butcher and a high quality internal temperature thermometer. Employing both is critical.
- When selecting meat, purchase pork shoulder or “Boston Butt.” The “butt” is the upper portion of the pork shoulder. Color should be bright pink and well marbled with a healthy degree of white fat cap attached. Buy approximately 10 ounces of raw meat per person. After trimming and grilling, this will provide nearly 1/2 pound per person.
- Establish a two-zone cooking surface – one direct heat, smoke-emanating zone and and another cooler, indirect heat cooking zone. The pork butt will slowly render its intramuscular fat and caramelize its exterior over the indirect zone.
- Barbeque is all about patience and the smoke. In terms of woods, hardwoods are strongly preferred – hickory, maple, pecan, mesquite or fruit woods such as apple and cherry. Softwoods produce a dark, resinous smoke that most often spoils the flavor of meats. Apply wood chips directly over the grates, wrap in a smoker packet or purchase these incredibly convenient disposable packs by Char-Broil.
- The “Texas Crutch” – a method for wrapping meat in tight layers of tin foil midway through grilling to help the cooking process. Apply a double-layer of foil around the pork when the internal temperature is between 165-170 degrees. Place it back over indirect heat and remove the foil at 195 degrees. Cook the meat for no longer than one hour in foil to avoid mushy meat. Finish unwrapped over the grill if necessary. Also, many grill masters pour a cup of apple juice or beer in the bottom of the foil to help maintain moisture.
- You know your meat is done when the internal temperature has reached 195-203 degrees, a dark exterior crust has formed and the bone is easily removed when gently pulled.
- Give your meat a rest immediately after grilling. Tent it loosely with tin foil for 45 minutes to an hour before shredding, allowing the meat to relax and reabsorb its natural juices.
- Simply shred the pork using two forks, then toss with your favorite barbeque sauce. Side note: Don’t worry much about thick chunks of pork. Those morsels of deliciousness retain moisture and flavor more than the shoestring strands.
- The fixins’ should be classics – beer, buns, sauce and slaw. Cheers!
A tangy, sweet and spicy barbeque sauce employing the caramel undertones of Medjool dates, heat of cayenne peppers & crisp flavors of your favorite witbier or hefeweizen.
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
- 2-3 tablespoons table salt
- 2 tablespoons ground peppercorn
- 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon granulated garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1 6 pound pork butt, trimmed
- 2-3 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 cup tomato paste
- 12 Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
- 1 cup Hefeweizen Beer, plus additional to thin sauce as needed
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ tablespoon ground mustard
- ½ tablespoon paprika
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Kosher salt and fresh ground peppercorn to taste
- 1 1/2 cups apple juice
- 1/2 cup Hefeweizen Beer
- 3-4 12-inch pieces of tin foil, perforated
- 1 pound hardwood chips, soaked in water 1 hour prior to grilling
- 1 dozen pretzel buns, lightly buttered and toasted
- Coleslaw and pickles to garnish
- Pulse all ingredients together in a food processor. Apply rub immediately.
- In sauté pan over high heat bring oil to simmer. Add onion and garlic, sauteing 5-7 minutes or until fragrant. Turn down heat to medium and add all remaining ingredients. Bring to gentle boil and cook uncovered for 30-45 minutes or until desired thickness is achieved. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 10 minutes, then pour into food processor and puree. Serve or store in an air-tight container up to 2 weeks.
- Mix apple juice and beer in a spray bottle. Spray pork intermittently throughout grilling.
- Divide wood chips evenly among tin foil sheets. Wrap wood with foil and perforate with a fork.
- The evening before grilling, massage a liberal amount of dry rub across entire surface of the pork and then place it in an air-tight resealable plastic bag for 8 hours, up to overnight. Remove pork from refrigerator 2 hours before grilling and rest at room temperature, still sealed in plastic. Also, prepare the barbeque sauce. Reserve in refrigerator overnight.
- Preheat grill to 250 degrees using the 2-zone grilling method (as detailed in notes below) and apply the first smoker packet over the hottest direct-heat grill grates, adding an additional smoke packet every 60-90 minutes of grilling.
- Place pork butt over indirect cooler grates fat-side down. Rotate and spray intermittently to keep exterior moist. When the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees wrap pork in a double layer of tin foil. Place wrapped meat back on the grill and cook until the internal temperature reaches 195 degrees or until the bone can be easily removed. Remove from grill, tent loosely with tin foil for 30-45 minutes.
- Using two forks, shred the meat. Toss with prepared Bernalillo BBQ Sauce.
- To plate, place between 2 toasted buns, top with coleslaw and pickles. Serve alongside a cold brewski.
To thin BBQ sauce, add beer. To thicken, add tomato paste. To sweeten, add date honey. To kick up heat, add another dash of cayenne.
Creating a 2-Zone Grilling Surface: 1-burner grill – leverage the warming shelf, lined with tin foil, to remove the meat from direct contact with the grill grates. 2-burner grill – heat the right side to hot and leave the left side off. 3-burner grill – heat the far right side to hot, the middle to low-medium and the left side off. 4-burner grill – heat the two right zones to high and leave the two left zones off.
Posted in tribute to my late friend and fellow Char-Broil All-Star, Chef Christo Gonzales – an amazing father and husband, incredibly talented chef, inspirational poet, a lovable and sharp-witted jokester, the selfie-taking extraordinaire of selfie-taking extraordinaires and most compassionate of human beings. My prayers pour over his son, wife, family and those whose lives he unforgettably touched. I’m surely thankful for our time together over the last three years and the unique friendship we formed. I will miss our weekly late night laughs and wee-morning chats. May you rest in peace with the good Lord above, Broski, until we meet again. David