Love (and war) in the time of pulled pork

It is 7am on Saturday. We have begrudgingly gotten out of bed in order to start the smoker for the FIVE pounds of Boston Butt that has been sitting in the fridge. We decided that a PHOTO TUTORIAL on SMOKING PULLED PORK would be a rather SWELL idea to thank you for your votes during the FoodBuzz Culinary Internet Writers Championship to the DEATH tournament. Yes we advanced once again. HOW do we KEEP pulling this off? Anyway, I THOUGHT that getting out of bed WITH Jeff rather than pulling the blanket over my head would have been received with love and appreciation for the assistance he was about to receive. Instead I got barked at and just felt devalued as he grumbled and stomped in and out of the house with camera / no camera / one shoe off / pork / camera / etc. I DID get to place the already seasoned pork on the grate in the smoker. Probably because he saw the pout that was starting to form on my lips. Or probably because he was out of hands and actually required the use of mine. Whatever.

But in truth this was a lesson of sorts for me as well. As often as we have used the smoker I am not the one who mans said smoker. I am not the one who creates the rub. I am not the one who rubs the pork. (Well. You know what I mean…) I am merely the one who creates all the side dishes to compliment the star of the show. So we are learning together. YAY us! Which really is rather good for you. I get all the abuse and you get all the knowledge. Of course I get to EAT the end product. But trust me, in some twisted way – you are still coming out way ahead. So let’s begin shall we?

NOTE: This may SEEM like a tragically long post, but it is chock full of AMAZING photography and KILLER instruction which is needed to pull off the perfect pulled pork. So suck it up.

For purposes of this tutorial we are utilizing the Weber Smoky Mountain Cooker Smoker. So when we refer to the WSM, THAT is what we are talking about. And here it is – disassembled.

wsm-parts

First things first, get those coals going.

chimney-stack-coal-starter

A chimney coal starter is the best way to start coals. If you do not have one. Just stop reading now and go get one. We will wait here. Back? Ok now fill the chimney one-quarter full of charcoal (about 20 pieces), shove some paper under the chimney to act as the coals ignition, and light it with your chosen fire starting method. We used a welder’s torch. A match, however, would be just fine.

In the base of the WSM, fill the charcoal ring with unlit charcoal and scatter 4-5 chunks of wood (we used apple and hickory) within the charcoal.

coals-with-wood-chips

Sure this doesn’t seem like a lot, but a little bit goes a long way. We want faint whispers of smoke, not nuclear reactor smoke. Let the smoke kiss the meat and move along. Too much smoke and the meat will taste vile.

Once the coals in the chimney starter have grayed over, add them to the unlit ones in the base of the WSM.

hot-coals-on-cold-coals-and-wood-chips

Make sure they mix in with the unlit ones and the wood chunks. This is known as the Minion Method of lighting the coals and will ensure you do not need to add more fuel (coals) during cooking, unless you go longer then 12 hours…

Now fill the water pan with… you guessed it water. This water acts as a buffer between the heat and the meat. And assemble the center of the WSM.

middle-set-up

First put in the water pan which should be full of water. Then the bottom grate and finally the top grate. Now carefully put this assembled center part on top of the prepared base.

grill-with-center-on

Put the lid on and open the bottom vents and let it go until the WSM’s temperature reaches 220° F.

Smoker all put together

While you are waiting for it to reach 220° F. Prepare the meat.

Unlike grilling and roasting, this rub does NOT impart any real flavor into the meat. That is what the smoke is for. So marinades or rubs that are applied hours / days / weeks earlier don’t mean a hill of beans. This rub creates a wonderful crust on the meat that is To. Die. For. The following is our go to recipe:

pork-rub

Pulled Pork Rub

  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of paprika
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon whole chili powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Crushed red pepper to taste (advise adding this a little bit at a time, shake, taste, adjust)

As you can probably tell from the previous photo – you take all of those ingredients and combine well.

Next take your pork and slather it with mustard.

pork-with-mustard-slathered-on-it

Just some plain ole’ yellow mustard. We have found that it imparts no real flavor to the end product. You are using it simply as a glue of sorts for the amazing rub you just mixed up. So yes you know what is next.

pork-with-rub-rubbed-on-it

Take the rub you just prepared and apply it all over the entire surface of the pork. Looking good!

Time to check the temperature of the WSM. Which should be happily at 220° F.

Smoker temperature.

We are a little high here. Which is ok. You can easily adjust it with the 3 vents at the bottom of the WSM.

temperature-control-vents

Don’t close them completely or you kill all of the oxygen that is getting to the fire. I learned this when Jeff yelled at me from the driveway, “Heather! It’s remedial science here. No air – no fire!” See I told you this would not be all fun and games for me…

So you now have your WSM at the perfect 220° F degrees. Time to get the prepared pork.

pork-on-the-smoker-grate-with-temperature-probe

I was very excited at this point because *I* got to put the pork on the WSM! Yay Heather! We… I mean *I* placed it on the top grate, and inserted the probe of the thermometer into the side of the pork at its thickest part. We ran the cord through the top vent of the smoker and attached it to our handy-dandy electronic heat-resistant thermometer of INSANITY! You need one of these because the last thing you want to do once you put the lid on is take it off every half hour to check the meats temperature and ruin your perfect WSM temperature! Once the lid goes on it stays on. The pork will not magically disappear in all that mystical smoke. Trust us.

temperature-of-the-meat

It is now 8:30am. The starting temperature of the pork is 67° F. We have quite a wait ahead of us. We are waiting for 160° F. We try to fill that time constructively while keeping an eye on the temperature.

I suppose we could rake the leaves…

Leaves need raking...

Temperature check at 10:30am…

Meat temperature

Maybe do some laundry… oh look! Scary!

laundry

Temperature check at Noon…

temp131

We’re getting closer… Ok what now? I don’t know, cut the grass?

mow the lawn

Temperature check at 2:00… EXCITED!

temp - 144

Ok screw this – time for some video games!!!

play some video games!

Pause game – check temperature at 4:00…

Temp is at 156

YAY! We have reached a milestone temperature here! You are looking for an internal temperature of 155° – 160° F. Disconnect the temperature probe and remove the lid and check out PORK PERFECTION.

Perfect pork

Remove the pork from the grill (don’t forget to put the lid back on the WSM!) and wrap completely in foil. Put the temperature probe back in and return it to the grill.

Pork wrapped in foil

Put the lid back on, reconnect the temperature probe and go back to your video games…

Play more video games

Man I love this game… but anyway… we are now waiting for the pork to reach an internal temperature of 190° F. Pulled pork on the smoker takes massive amounts of patience. Of which, truthfully neither of us have. But for the perfect pulled pork. We will wait a lifetime.

the-perfect-temperature

OMG OMG OMG! See that? It says 190° F! OMG JEFF! Please can we take it off the smoker can we can we can we? CAN WE??? He gave me this very un-amused look, rolled his eyes and said “well get a pan for it woman!” (Then I saw him laugh so he was actually very much so amused but let’s not tell him I told you that. He has after all, a reputation to uphold…)

So now you want to take the pork off the smoker, bring it in the house and let it sit, still wrapped in foil, for an hour. After that painfully long hour has passed, it is time to pull it off the bone. At this point for us it actually FELL off the bone, and Jeff and his pork pulling professionalism, i.e. his hands went to work.

pulling-the-pork

Pulling the pork is very easy. You can take two forks or use your hands. If you choose the sissy forks then with one you hold the pork, with the other you pull the pork into beautiful ribbons of pork excellence.

Serve it on a toasted crusty roll, in a warm tortilla or just on the plate. But whatever you do. Serve it with the sauce of your choice on the side. It tastes so amazing on its own, you don’t want to drown it in some sticky sauce.

pulled-pork-perfection-on-a-bun

Congratulations! You have just smoked your first pulled pork! And if it turned out the way ours did (damn AWESOME!) your taste buds will LOVE you!

If you found this tutorial educational and informational, I hope you decide to vote for us in the FoodBuzz Food Blogger Challenge of SCHOLASTIC RIGHTEOUSNESS! If you found it to be quite the knee-slapping, humdinger as well… then we really did our job damn smoothly.

Cooked up by Jeff & Heather

33 Comments

  1. 32
    Sosptuba
    March 9

    Love the article!

    1. What cut of meat did you use? How many lbs? Was it a pork butt?

    2. Do you ever have to re-load the coals/wood? Do you soak the wood prior? How long? I’m a newb so I don’t know much.

    3. Is there a good guide for ‘seasoning’ a new smoker?

    I’d tell you where I came from but that would be a violation of rule #1 ;-)

  2. 31
    Krazy K Kookers.
    January 19

    Thanks again.Looking forward to a little warmer weather. I’ve got a long wait though. Snow and 8 degrees.

  3. 30
    Norb Kowalski
    January 15

    When you put the wrapped meat back on the smoke did you crank up the heat to get to the 200?

    • 30.1
      Jeff & Heather
      January 17

      You will probably have to open the vents up in order to get the temp back up quickly. If you are quick removing the meat, re-cover the smoker, and then quick putting it back on you should not lose that much heat.

  4. 29
    Julie
    November 14

    I love your blog. Even if I don’t make everything, I really enjoy reading it and laughing at your commentary – always more fun than just simply reading a recipe. Also, I haven’t made anything from your blog that I didn’t absolutely love. After reading this post, I turned to my fiance, Steve, and said: “I really want a smoker for Christmas.” to which he replied, “You are such a DUDE!” What? A girly girl can’t want a smoker?!?

  5. 28
    October 15

    Bet you any money those leaves didn’t get picked up! LOL Seriously though, that is one gorgeous pork. :)

  6. 27
    October 14

    I’m so glad you said that the pork will not magically disappear in all that smoke – I was worried, really! :D

  7. 26
    October 14

    Posts are only tragically long when they’re not engaging, and this one is definitely engaging :) Hilarious — loved the whole thing! You have a vote from me!

    My own post is a romp through croissant making that’s filled with humor, exhaustion, and a little bit of popstar glamor. Come see if you’d like :)

  8. 25
    October 13

    Smoker tutorial with video game breaks gets my vote. Your meat looks so amazingly tender, I’m jealous. Good luck this week, voting for you!

    Lick My Spoon

  9. 24
    October 13

    Another great one! Got my vote yet again! Keep it up! :)

  10. 23
    October 13

    Beautiful tutorial! That pork looks irresistible. So delicious. And your steps are clear and easy to follow, with a little of you guys thrown in. Nicely done. I voted for you!

    Good luck! Hope to see us both in round 5!!! =)

  11. 22
    October 13

    First – too funny! Second – wow would my husband LOVE one of these toys…if we only had a yard. Or even a balcony. Third – OMG is that pulled pork mouthwateringly fantastic!

  12. 21
    October 12

    Excellent post – you got my vote for this! Good luck :) Feel free to hop over to leave a comment :)

    Have a wonderful day!
    jen @ http://www.passion4food.ca

  13. 20
    October 12

    You guys are the only blog I have been voting for that I didn’t know before this project.

    Nice tutorial, especially on how to avoid chores! I’ve got two Big Green Eggs and an SnP smoker so I have smoked more than my share of pork butts. You did a good job on this post.

    Did you hit a temperature stall or plateau at about 165f for a while before it moved on to higher temps?

  14. 19
    October 12

    You are hilarious. And you also made me want a smoker.

  15. 18
    October 12

    This looks awesome!! My dad makes a mean pulled pork, but I’ve never thought to try my own. I did, however, eat plenty of it when I was in Austin this weekend. Great post!! :)

  16. 17
    October 12

    LOVE IT! you got my vote!

  17. 16
    October 12

    I want to come over for some of this! It sounds delicious. I sent a little red heart your way – Good luck!

  18. 15
    October 12

    Looks a lot like our El Cheapo smoker which we love love love

  19. 14
    October 11

    I just voted for you guys! Great job, that pulled pork looks amazing.

    I guess I never knew it took that long though!

  20. 13
    October 11

    Great post- everything looks perfect!!

  21. 12
    October 11

    This. Is. Hilarious! Great entry and writing, plus your photos are awesome. Extra points for showing off your gaming skills. Best of luck – you’ve got my vote!

  22. 11
    October 11

    Haha! Funny post. Always have to make time for some gaming.

  23. 10
    October 11

    Oh man, this looks like it’s done to perfection! Totally drool worthy. Maybe I should get the hubby a smoker for Christmas. That would be a win/win situation for me! ;)

  24. 9
    October 11

    Stumbled! :)

  25. 8
    October 10

    mmm, I can smell it! so good.
    (btw, we have a green egg grill and it does wonders)

  26. 7
    October 10

    Wow, your results look incredible!!!

  27. 6
    October 10

    Complete and total awesomely meaty tutorial,guys! We always love smoking a good old pork butt. You guys are spot on! Damn–i need pork!

  28. 5
    October 10

    Great post, really cool…doing all those chores. lol..The end result is amazing, looks delicious.

  29. 4
    October 10

    LOVE this! What an awesome photo tutorial of one of the most delicious things on the planet! I do love me some pulled pork. I wish we were friends so I could come over and help you prepare (and eat) this wonderful hunk o’ meat.

    You’ve got my vote…again! Good luck!

  30. 3
    October 10

    What’s that I see? Why, it’s a SMOKERING! Nice going there guys! We love barbecue but have never had the nerve to try it at home…I bet we do now :D Can’t wait to vote for this one….

  31. 2
    October 10

    Perfection, the photos, the pork, the way you spent your day. I love it all. GREG

  32. 1
    October 10

    You did a fine job I think. So fine that I am now online buying one of those Weber contraptions. Not kidding. Good luck in the, well, you know!