Outdoor cooking is a staple come the warmer weather. When the dog days of summer arrive, few people want to spend time turning on the oven or standing by the stove. That’s when mastering grilling or barbecuing becomes so essential.
Many people now have smokers in their outdoor cooking arsenals. The slow and low style of cooking imparts rich, smokey flavor and can create tender, fall-off-the-bone results wrapped in a delicious bark. Brisket and ribs are some of the foods associated with barbecue, but a perfect pulled pork recipe can yield juicy sandwiches or main courses accompanied by cornbread or cole slaw. Get barbecue ready with “Competition-Style Pulled Pork” from “BBQ Revolution” (Quarto Publishing Group) by Mitch Benjamin, author and Char Bar restaurant owner.
Competition-Style Pulled Pork
Serves 12 to 14
10 to 12-pound bone-in pork butt (Boston butt)
1 cup Meat Mitch Competition WHOMP! Rub
1 cup pork injection, mixed according to the package directions (optional)
1 bottle (16 ounces) Stubb’s Pork Marinade (optional)
1 bottle (21 ounces) Meat Mitch WHOMP! Naked BBQ Sauce
1 tablespoon honey
Greens (Such as parsley, lettuce, or kale to create a serving bed)
Fire up your smoker to 225 F with a good smoke rolling and get ready for battle. The meat will have a big fat cap on it, and you should trim that down to a thin layer. The meat contains a large amount of fat throughout, so don’t worry about it drying out; it will be plenty moist. Then, you need to focus on the money muscle, trimming the meat to look like a log, which exposes as much money muscle as possible for seasoning, smoke, and bark.
Once you have trimmed the meat, it’s time to inject. This is the fun part — load up your injector or syringe and pump that bad boy full of juice, injecting it randomly all over the meat, until it is packed full. After you have loaded it up, make sure to pat the meat dry with paper towels. Then, cover liberally in Meat Mitch Competition WHOMP! Rub and let it sit for about 30 minutes to sweat.
With your meat ready and your smoker rolling at 225 F, place your meat inside the smoker. Feed the fire with some unlit charcoal and chunks of pecan and cherry. Close it up and make sure you have plenty of charcoal and pecan and cherry wood. You’ll be smoking for approximately 6 hours.
Every 30 minutes, open up the smoker and spray the meat with apple juice. (Put about 1⁄2 cup of apple juice in a spray bottle for this.) After about 6 hours, check the meat to see if you’ve achieved that mahogany bark.
When this bark is achieved, lay the pork on a big sheet of aluminum foil. Pour the Stubbs Pork Marinade around the base of the meat, close up the foil, and return the meat to the smoker. This step essentially steams the meat and breaks it down to achieve the tenderness you want; keep the smoker at 225 F. This stage usually lasts 3 hours, but it can always vary. At the end of the cook, you are watching for internal temperature to reach the target goal of 197 F. You don’t want it so tender that the money muscle falls apart. Remove the meat from the pit and open up the foil to let out the steam. Then, close it back up and place it in a dry cooler to rest for at least an hour. (I have let it rest for up to 4 hours, and it was great.)
Next, doctor up your barbecue sauce. Take a bottle of Meat Mitch WHOMP! Naked BBQ Sauce and pour it into a pan along with enough apple juice and honey to thin the sauce and make it slightly sweeter. Also, the honey adds to the shine. Remember, judges eat with their eyes first. Heat the pan on the back of the smoker box, making sure to stir frequently so it does not burn.
Finally, it’s time to break down the meat. Carefully carve out the money muscle, keeping it as a perfectly shaped loaf, move it to a separate pan, and cover it with foil to keep it warm. It’s time to remove the bone. It should slide out easily and clean — if so, job well done! Chunk the remaining meat, paying close attention to the bark, trying to capture the best pieces. Separate the meat into nice barky chunks and tubes and then pull and slightly shred the remaining pork. Lightly glaze the meat with sauce, making sure not to add too much. Cover the pan with foil and set aside.
Turn your attention to the money muscle. Brush the muscle with sauce; add just a light coating. It should glisten with the honey in the sauce. Next, carefully slice it into even pieces, but make sure to keep the loaf shape intact.
To assemble, start with the arranged greens in a serving box. Then, place the money muscle slices along the back of the box and fill in the front of the box with chunks on one side and pulled pork on the other side. If you’re serving it in your backyard, drop it on the picnic table and watch your neighbors fight it out.