As a regular reader of my column (you do read my column regularly, right?) you know that I prefer legitimate barbecue cooked low and slow over hickory as compared to pork that is cooked in the oven or crock pot.
Some people try to fake you out by sneaking some liquid smoke into the BBQ sauce, in a desperate attempt to introduce that outdoor flavor to meat that has been cooked entirely indoors. That's the culinary equivalent of a spray tan.
On the flip side, I also understand that cooking a pork butt all day is a time commitment of at least 10 to 12 hours. That's not to say you are standing over the meat during that entire period of time, but to serve pulled pork sandwiches at a reasonable hour means you have to get the meat prepped by 5:30 a.m. or so and on the smoker or grill at 6 a.m.. Let's say it's a 10-hour cooking time. That puts you at 4 p.m.. You then have to take the pork off the grill, let it cool for at least half an hour, and then pull it. By the time you get everything to the table you are looking at 6 p.m.
If you can plan a day ahead, I have a perfect solution that will not wake you up in the wee hours of the morning. I've used this approach twice and served the pork at two gatherings. It turned out fantastic.
It was tender, juicy and full of subtle smoke flavor. Maybe someone else came up with this approach, but I haven't seen it anywhere online, so unless I hear differently, I'm unabashedly taking full credit.
And I fully realize there are expensive smoking units that use wood pellets that you plug into an electric outlet. There are also cast iron units where you fill the smoke box and let it go unattended for hours on end. Most of us have a Weber grill or a charcoal smoker which require occasional additions of charcoal. For those people, keep reading.
At about 2 in the afternoon, set up your kettle grill with indirect heat, meaning you get your coals started and then isolate them in one area of your grill. Use the braces that you can buy or a hickory log to keep the coals in that position. The hickory log will provide the smoke flavor. If you are using the brace, sprinkle the coals with hickory chips. Rub your pork butt or shoulder down with yellow mustard then liberally apply your favorite rub. You can find a lot of great rub recipes online, but the base tends to be equal parts of brown sugar and paprika, with doses of chile powder, onion and/or garlic powder, etc.
Place the pork on the area of the grill that is opposite the hot coals. Put the lid on and let it cook. Add fresh coals and hickory chips (if not using the log method) every 45 minutes or so. The temperature of your grill should be maintained at 240 – 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring the pork indoors after five to six hours of smoking. Here's the revolutionary part of this approach. Place the pork in a roasting pan and cover with aluminum foil. Set your oven at 215 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the pork in the oven and let cook low and slow all night. You read that correctly. All night.
When you wake up your house will be filled with the wonderful aromas of smoked pork. You will be surprised how good that aroma is at 6:30 a.m.. Take the foil off and let the meat come to a temperature that you comfortably handle. Pull the pork and place in large zip lock bags. Guess what? Dinner is ready for that evening! Serve up with sauce and slaw on a bun.
You now have no excuse not to have legitimate pulled pork sandwiches! Give it a try and let me know what you think.
Dave Lobeck is a barbecue chef from Sellersburg, Ind., who writes a column for CNHI News Service. Visit his website at www.BBQ-My-Way.com