Sunday, October 19, 2008

Q on the Cheap

Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to get my hands on some decent pork butt for 99¢/lb. I purchased two for school, and one for myself while carefully planning my method of attack. I faintly recalled Alton Brown smoking some salmon in a cardboard box, and wondered if it would work for pork (he smokes his pork in a terra cotta planter). My main concern was not being able to keep the temperature up to 210ºF on such a chilly day (Hi 57ºF). I decided to move forward with the plan and collected the various things I would need: a medium sized cardboard box, a couple of wooden dowels, a cooking rack, a drip pan, an electric burner with extension cord, a cast iron skillet, a digital probe thermometer, and hardwood shavings.

First, I cut a trap door in the box for easy changing of the wood shavings. Then I punched holes in the sides and inserted four pieces of dowel to support the drip pan and the cooling rack. In the bottom, through the trap door access, I placed the electric burner and the cast iron skillet full of cherry wood shavings. I punched the probe of the thermometer through the top of the box so that I could monitor the air temperature inside, and closed up the box with the burner set on high to preheat.

Meanwhile, I removed the pork from it's 8 hour brine (a 3% salt and sugar solution), and patted it dry. I assembled a rub from freshly ground chile de arbol, chipotle, guajillo, and pasilla, along with powdered habanero and paprika. I also added a bit of freshly ground black pepper, coriander, and cumin to round out the flavors. Donning a pair of latex gloves, I liberally applied the rub to the pork ensuring that all surfaces were thoroughly coated. I put the pork into the smoker and sealed everything with tape.

I was able to get the smoker up to about 195ºF for short burst of time, but largely unable to maintain a temperature of over 200ºF. I decided the best course of action would be to build a second box that surrounds the main smoker, leaving a two inch air gap between the two boxes. This worked remarkably well, allowing the internal temperature of the smoker to cruise up to a stable 205ºF. I smoked the pork in this environment for about 7.5 hours, changing the wood shavings about every 90 minutes. When I took the pork out of the smoker, the internal temperature of the meat was 140ºF. I wrapped the meat in aluminum foil and continued to cook it in a 325ºF oven until the internal temperature was 170ºF. Alton calls for 190ºF for pulled pork, as it will shred more easily at that temperature. However, I prefer sliced meat at the lower temperature to the sometimes dry pulled pork. I will admit that the brine absolutely ensured juicy BBQ, and I was more than happy with the results.

To finish off the Q, I whipped up a vinegar based sauce from Valentina Black Label hot sauce, rice and cider vinegars, honey, black pepper, and a pinch of brown sugar. I prefer the tanginess of a vinegar based sauce to the thick, sweet, tomato based sauces found at the store. If you need a recipe, there are tons available online.


Jen said...

now THAT'S barbecue.

FOD said...

Good Cheap butt is hard to come buy these days congratulations on an exquisite smoke job... Emmmm em

josh p. said...

Am still not convinced that the extra 20 degrees would have made the pork shred or tear readily but rather that the cut of meat dictates this. Very tasty bbq though.

Jennifer said...

Wow, that sounds great! I have just started cooking larger cuts of meat in the last few years. I used to be intimidated by them, but the probe thermometer has helped alleviate the fear of undercooked (or overcooked) meat.