Pulled Pork (Smoked Pork Butt)

This may well be my laziest, virtually no-effort attempt at smoked Boston Butt yet….and I think it was one of the best.  Sometimes the less you do, the better things turn out.  No brine, no overnight rub, not much tinkering with the cooking…just a generous application of Dizzy Pig “Dizzy Dust” and onto the Big Green Egg.

When you are not working with many ingredients, it is especially important that those ingredients are of high quality.  When buying pork, support farms with pastured animals that are compassionately and sustainably raised.  Look for Heritage breeds of pork, like Berkshire, which unlike “factory farm” animals that are raised indoors for maximum size in the minimum time, are traditionally bred and raised in a natural environment for the best tasting meat.  Use fresh spices when making your own rub, or buy spice blends that have all natural ingredients and no preservatives.  I like the the assortment of rubs offered by Dizzy Pig Barbeque Company, which are also gluten-free and have no MSG.

Here’s how our lazy day went…

About an hour before cooking, I took the boneless pork butt (around 3.5 pounds) out of the refrigerator.  It got a nice rub down with olive oil, then I liberally applied the Dizzy Dust all over the butt.  (No snickering…)  The butt was then tied up with kitchen twine.  We let it sit there on the counter to come to room temperature while the spice rub melded on the surface of the meat.

In the meantime, Mr. “He Cleans” got the Big Green Egg set up for smoking, with plenty of charcoal since we anticipated this would need to cook for 7-8 hours (roughly 2 hours per pound).  When the Egg was showing a stable temperature around 225F, we threw in several handfuls of Jack Daniel’s Barrel Wood Chips for smoke, put in the inverted plate setter and grill for indirect cooking, and set that pork butt in there right on the grill.  To really notch up the effort, we also had a slab of pork belly there with the butt.   We closed up the Egg and watched the smoke pour out, hoping that our annoying, loudmouth neighbors were getting a good whiff of it and burning with jealousy.

The weather was really pleasant, so we sat on the screened-in porch…reading, playing Sudoku, browsing the interwebs.  We peeked in the Egg after 2 hours had passed; the little rush of ventilation gave the woods chips a boost and picked the smoke up again.  Then back to porch sitting, occasionally wiping drool off our chins.  After 4 or 5 hours (what is time, really?), we pulled the pork belly out of the smoker and had a little snack.  More time passed – jalapeno slaw and bbq sauce were made, more Suduku, Words with Friends, checking on what people were up to on Facebook.  Next thing you know, it’s about drinking time!

After about 6 hours, the temperature of the butt seemed to be stuck in the 160F range.  This, I found from reading blogs about meat smoking, is known as the “Stall”.  We want the meat to get above 170F, because that’s where the magic happens.  Around 170F is when the collagen in the meat begin to melt and turn gelatinous, and the meat becomes more tender and juicy and scrumptious.  One way to get around the “Stall” is to cover that butt to keep the juices from evaporating, and thereby cooling the meat.  I plopped it in a cast iron pot with a little apple juice, sealed it up with foil, and put it back on the grill.  If you don’t have a pot handy that you want to stick in a grill, you can also wrap it securely with foil.

Now that it was drinking time, the wait became a little easier.  We cooked the butt for another hour, and checked the temperature.  It was just under 180F – but more importantly, the butt passed the “fork test”.  Basically, if you can stick a fork in it and twist it easily, it’s done!  At this point, the butt should rest for about 30 minutes.  I think we made it for 15 before deciding that surely that was enough.  We put the butt in a lasagna-sized pan to make sure we got all the juices, and pulled it apart with these nifty “Bear Paws“.  The Bear Paws make easy work of picking up hot meat off the grill or out of a roasting pan, as well as shredding it.  If you don’t have Bear Paws, you can also shred the meat with forks.  When the meat had cooled down a little, I also picked through it to remove any gristly or extra-fatty parts (and only ate a little of the delicious bark while doing so).

We ate our pulled pork with hot tortillas, spicy jalapeno slaw, and smoky barbeque sauce.  Pork with guacamole and pineapple-mango salsa was also a hit.  Delicious!  What a nice ending for a lazy day!

We said goodbye on April 19 to one of America’s greatest artists, Levon Helm of The Band. His wonderful voice and unerring ear for music will never be forgotten. Eerily a week before his passing I picked up Ramble at the Ryman, and it’s a great evening of music, Levon with special guests such as John Hiatt, Sam Bush and Buddy Miller raising the roof at the legendary Ryman Auditorium.

And speaking of legendary, you can’t go wrong with Rock of Ages. The Band at the height of their formidable powers, with horn arrangements by Allen Toussaint. A must have for fans of one of America’s most beloved bands.


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