Chef’s Note: There are a ton of different smokers on the market, and the actual mechanics of the smoking process will depend on the type of smoker you own. With that said, there are two things that are common:
1. Your smoker must be able to maintain a constant temperature of 225f (110c), give-or-take 10 degrees
2. You will need to produce smoke. To be honest with you, a simple gas or charcoal grill can be used as a smoker.
My one assumption in this recipe is that you have a smoker, and you are comfortable using it.
Chef’s Note: I have several smokers: One is a traditional smoker about the size of a 55-gallon drum with a smoke box on the left, and a chimney on the right. In addition, I have two Masterbuilt electric smokers. If you are thinking about getting into smoking, you should check out Masterbuilt… they are awesome.
MAKING THE DRY RUB
Gather your ingredients.
Add all of the dry rub ingredients to a small mixing bowl.
Mix together until thoroughly combined.
Chef’s Note: This is one of my favorite rubs for beef and/or pork; however, you might have your own favorite.
Use a sharp knife to cut a crosshatch pattern into the fat cap, being careful not to cut into the meat.
Generously cover the pork on all sides with the dry rub.
Wrap tightly with cling wrap.
Place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 8 hours, or overnight.
Chef’s Note: The resting period will give the rub a chance to get acquainted with the meat.
Mix the liquid ingredients for the spray mop, and place into a small spray bottle.
Chef’s Note: You can apply the spray mop using a brush; however, the spray method is a lot easier, and much faster.
Chef’s Tip: If you want your mop a bit sweeter, add about 1/2 cup of apple juice to the mixture.
THE BIG DAY
The next morning, remove the meat from the fridge, unwrap, and allow it to sit on your counter for 1 hour.
Chef’s Note: This will take the chill off.
Get your smoker up and running, and set it to 225f (110c).
Soak a bunch of wood chips in water.
Chef’s Note: I found that hickory, combined with a bit of cherry, works very well with pork.
Throw a handful of woodchips into the heated smoker, and put the butt directly on the rack, with the fat cap up.
Now, get a good book, and settle down… maybe a couple of beers… maybe a LOT of beers.
Once an hour open the smoker, take the temperature of the pork, throw in another handful of woodchips, and spray down with the mop liquid.
Chef’s Tip: If you do a lot of smoking, then you must get a remote internal temperature probe. I use two: One to check the temperature of the smoke box, and another to measure the internal temperature of the meat.
Chef’s Note: 80 percent of smoking takes place in the first 90 minutes of smoking, and the other 20 percent over the next hour or so. After the third or forth hour, I stop adding woodchips, concentrate on maintaining the temperature of the smoker, and watch the internal temperature of the pork.
Chef’s Tip: At an operating temperature of 225f (110c), it takes 1 to 1.5 hours per pound of pork, so if you have an 8 pound pork butt, you can expect the process to go on for 12 hours, or more.
TAKE IT EASY
While the meat is smoking it should be left alone… do not move it or, heaven forbid, flip it over. Moving it around will disturb the coating… known as the bark, and believe me; you want that crispy, yummy bark to form.
WHAT THE HECK IS THE BARK
Well, first off, it’s not the sound your dog makes when he starts smelling that cooking meat. The bark is a thin layer of flavored jerky beneath the glaze. It consists of meat proteins that dried out, broke apart chemically, and are then re-joined into a tough leathery film. Its purpose in the smoking process is very important… It slows evaporation from within the meat, and locks in that yummy smoky flavor.
THE DREADED STALL
Many smoked meats will experience a stall in the smoking process. It usually occurs when the internal temperature of the meat reaches somewhere between 160–165f (71–74c).
What’s a Stall? There are a lot of theories on why the internal temperature of your beautiful roast will stop rising, but the most accepted reason is that the liquid evaporating off of the meat has a tendency to cool things down, and in some cases you might even see it drop a degree. It’s that simple… your meat is sweating.
To the experienced smoker, this is an expected occurrence… no problem.
To the novice smoker, it’s time to hit the panic button. The typical response is to turn up the heat.
In a word: DON’T. You will only wind up with a dry roast.
Have patience, grasshopper.
The Solution. You have two choices:
Solution 1. Wait it out. The temperature will eventually begin to rise. You just have to have patience, and realize that all this is just part of the process. A stall can last two or more hours. Relax and have another beer.
Solution 2. Place the meat in a crutch. Remove the meat from the smoker, wrap in a double layer of foil, and place back into the smoker. By sealing the meat, it practically eliminates any evaporation, and the heating process will continue.
Crutch Pros: Using a crutch speeds up the smoking process, and can save several hours.
Crutch Cons: Once you wrap the meat in the foil, you have effectively stopped the smoking process, and you might as well finish the cooking process in your oven. Besides removing the roast and covering it in foil will damage that good bark that’s forming on the outside.
Andy’s Recommendation: If you can afford the additional time, let the meat work through the stall without wrapping. You will have a better-smoked piece of meat.
THE MAGIC NUMBER
What you are planning to do with the pork butt will determine it’s final temperature.
If you are serving it sliced, then go for a temperature of 160-170f (70-76f)
If you are making pulled pork, then 190-203f (88-107c) is your target.
Remove the roast from the smoker, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes before slicing or shredding.
Chef’s Tip: If the pork comes out of the oven early, you can always wrap it up, and place it in a Styrofoam cooler. It will stay nice and hot for several hours.
Cook to the lower temperature, thickly slice and serve with your favorite sides… baked potatoes, fresh corn-on-the-cob. You get the idea.
Cook to the higher temperature, and then shred the meat. Add your favorite BBQ sauce, and place on sandwiches or just serve with some good coleslaw.