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smoker essentials: heavenly pulled pork rub & base

Recipe by
Andy Anderson !
Wichita, KS

As I pen these words another Labor Day is slowly disappearing in the rearview mirror. This year has been one amazing whirlwind; passing by as swiftly as a gale. However, no matter the speed at which it travels, I will NEVER forget 2020. For Labor Day I smoked 6, pork shoulders… 5 for clients, and 1 for us. Friday, they got dry rubbed, and stuck in the fridge, smoked and shredded on Saturday, finally warmed up, sauced, and out the door on Sunday. This is the rub that I made for the roasts. It is a sweet/savory rub that is sure to please. So, you ready… Let’s get into the kitchen.

yield serving(s)
cook time 16 Hr
method Smoke

Ingredients For smoker essentials: heavenly pulled pork rub & base

  • 10 - 12 lb
    pork shoulder/butt, bone-in or out
  • 2 Tbsp
    yellow mustard, i prefer french’s
  • 2 Tbsp
    smooth brown mustard, i prefer grey poupon’s
  • 1 Tbsp
    hot sauce, i prefer frank’s
  • 1/2 c
    salt, kosher variety, fine grind
  • 1/2 c
    coconut sugar
  • 2 Tbsp
    smoked paprika, spanish, if you have some
  • 2 Tbsp
    ancho chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp
    black pepper, freshly ground, or cracked peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp
    garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp
    dehydrated onions, ground to a powder
  • 1 Tbsp
    ground cumin
  • 2 tsp
    white pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 tsp
    dry mustard, i prefer coleman’s
  • 1/2 tsp
    coriander seed, ground to a powder
  • 1/4 tsp
    cayenne pepper
  • apple-cider vinegar and water, more on this later

How To Make smoker essentials: heavenly pulled pork rub & base

  • 1
  • 2
    If you do not use all of this rub, no worries, it will store just like any other spice. Just keep it sealed, in a cool/dry space, and it will keep for 8 – 12 months.
  • 3
    Traditionally, yellow mustard (French’s) is used as the base, but after testing a few alternatives, I found that adding in some brown mustard (Grey Poupon) and a bit of Frank’s Red-Hot Sauce gives the pork added depth, and a subtitle kick in the butt (pun intended).
  • 4
    You will need a smoker to make this recipe… and a fair bit of time. In addition, a spray mister would be a handy thing to have… For spraying on the vinegar/water mixture. More on this later.
  • 5
    Bone-in or bone-out I cannot count the number of times my clients tell me to make sure that the roast I am smoking for them is “bone-in.” It goes something like this… Bone-in roasts are moister; in addition, the bone adds extra flavor. Hmmm. A claim such as that just begs to be tested… A few years ago, I had ten pork roasts I needed to smoke for clients on July 4th. Each client was to get 10 pounds of sauced, shredded pork. I smoked 5 bone-in; the other ones were bone-out. In addition, I purchased roasts large enough, so that I could keep about a pound of pork from each. At the end of smoking I had what I needed for my test. I put 1-ounce samples into small cups, labeled Sample-A, and Sample-B. Then, I brought in my testers (willing neighbors). The tests samples were not sauced; just shredded and placed into the cups. Sample-A was bone-in, and Sample-B was bone-out. I asked them this question: Can you tell any difference between Sample-A, and Sample-B as it relates to mouth feel (texture), flavor, and moisture content. The end result: No one could tell much difference from the two samples. As a matter of fact, for each person that favored the bone-in; another would favor the bone-out. I called it a draw and moved on with my life. So, is there a difference The main difference between bone-in-or bone-out is that a boneless pork shoulder will tend to be more marbled with fat, plus since there is no bone, it produces more meat per pound. Bottom Line According to my modest test, bone-in, or bone-out made little-to-no difference in the texture, flavor, or moisture content of the pork shoulder. However, I know award-winning pit masters that swear by one or the other. And, would be willing to start a bar fight, just to prove their point.
  • 6
    To Mist or Not to Mist… That is the Question The process of misting involves taking a spray bottle, filling it 50/50 with apple-cider vinegar and water, then spritzing the roast every hour or so. Pros Misting helps to keep the roast moist, and the apple cider adds great tangy flavor to the meat. Cons The process of misting will wet the surface of the roast and prevent the bark from forming. And, the bark, my dear friends, is a quintessential element to a good smoked roast. Solution We are going to take a “Best-of-Both-Worlds” approach to this problem. We will mist every hour, for a few hours. At that point we stop misting, drink a lot of beers, and wait for things to happen. But, more on this later.
  • 7
    The Dreaded Stall Okay, you have the roast in the smoker, you have a remote temperature probe stuck in that bad boy, and you are watching the internal temperature slowly rise… you have a beer in hand, and all is right with the world. Then about the time the roast reaches around 165f (74c) the temperature stops going up… As a matter of fact, it might even go down a point. A stall happens when your smoker temperature stays the same, but the internal temperature of the meat is no longer increasing at a steady pace. The reason is that the moisture evaporating off the roast is cooling it down and preventing the temp from rising. It is the same thing that goes on when we are hot, and our bodies sweat. For humans, sweating is a good thing; for a roast… not so much. Your reaction might be to panic and increase the temperature of the smoker but do not, because you will only wind up with a dried-out piece of meat.
  • 8
    The Dreaded Stall (cont. You have two choices: 1. Put the roast in a crutch. 2. Power through the stall. The Crutch The crutch involves removing the roast from the smoker, wrapping it in a layer of parchment paper, and foil, and then putting it back in the smoker. Since it is wrapped, there is no evaporation to cool down the roast, and the cooking process resumes. Pros It can cut hours off of the smoking time. Cons When you crutch a roast, your nice crispy bark will begin to soften as it steams inside the parchment/foil wrapper. There are ways to work around this, but this is a side effect of using a crutch. In addition, unless you are very careful, when you wrap the roast, you run the risk of knocking off bits of the bark. Power Through When I say, “power through,” what I am saying is grab a few more beers, and just let nature take its course. When I asked one of my instructors how long it would take for the roast to be finished smoking, he replied, it will be done when it is done. Bottom Line If I can afford the time, I will just let the roast smoke away. If time is a consideration, then I will crutch it. That is not to say I am disparaging the use of a crutch. There are a lot of pit masters out there that have won a ton of competition blue ribbons that swear by the technique. As a matter of fact, I would go as far as to say that most pit masters when they are in competition use a crutch. I just prefer to avoid it, if I am able. Besides, I think a roast that is “powered though” tastes better; however, that is just my opinion.
  • 9
    Fat Cap Up or Down Ah, another twitchy question that has a tendency to start a bar fight. The myth of fat cap up. The claim for fat cap be is that the fat will melt into the meat and make it moist and yummy. There is only one teeny tiny problem with that theory… Meat does not absorb fat. So, to keep this short, my suggestion is to know your smoker. Is it using direct or indirect heat? Fat Cap Down In most smokers, the heat comes from directly underneath. Fat acts as an insulator. So, as your meat cooks it is protected from the intense heat of the fire by the fat that does not melt away. As a result, your meat doesn’t dry out. Also, the top of the brisket will form a uniform bark, leaving you with a brisket that looks great. Bottom Line I am a fan of fat cap down for two reasons: 1. It keeps the roast from drying out from the bottom up… the fat protects it. 2. Presentation… Instead of a fatty top, you have a super nice bark.
  • 10
    Gather your ingredients (mise en place).
  • 11
    Using a paring knife stab into the pork at 1/2-inch (1.2cm) intervals. Just pretend this is the movie Psycho, the Bate’s Motel, and you are Anthony Perkins (Not sure if everyone will get that; however, just Google “Shower Scene from Psycho” and that should do the trick).
  • 12
    Mix together the base (wet ingredients)
  • 13
    Place a couple pieces of cling wrap onto a baking sheet and lay the pork roast on top. Then, rub the base rub all over the pork.
  • 14
    Mix the dry rub ingredients together.
  • 15
    Coat generously with the dry rub.
  • 16
    Wrap tightly in the cling wrap, and place into the fridge (on the baking sheet) for 12 - 24 hours. Trust me, you need to do this step. It will help all those spices seep into the pork and make it yummy. If you have the time, go the full 24 hours.
  • 17
    The baking sheet is just there in case there is some leakage from the pork.
  • 18
    PREPPING THE SMOKER Okay, it is 12 – 24 hours later, and you are ready to start the smoking process.
  • 19
    The Water Pan I cannot predict the size of your water pan; however, fill it with a ratio of 1-part apple cider vinegar to 8-parts water. The liquid will not only keep the pork moist during the long smoking process; in addition, it will impart an amazing vinegary taste to this little piggy.
  • 20
    Unwrap the roast, and let it sit on the counter for about an hour.
  • 21
    All smoker brands are different… There are electric smokers, wood smokers, pellet smokers… and the list goes on. You know your smoker. Fire it up and get it up to 225f (107c).
  • 22
    Add the water pan to a lower rack and place the roast on a rack directly above it.
  • 23
    Now, here is what I did: First Hour: More Wood chips, and a spray of vinegar/water Second Hour: More Wood chips, and a spray of vinegar/water Third Hour: More Wood chips, and a spray of vinegar/water Fourth Hour: More Wood chips, and a spray of vinegar/water Fifth Hour: More Wood chips, and a spray of vinegar/water Sixth Hour Forward: No more wood, no more spraying. Just sit and wait until the temp reaches the magic number of 203f (95c).
  • 24
    With a 12-pound (5.4kg) pork roast this could take an additional 10 or more hours… Hope you have a lot of beers.
  • 25
    When it gets to temperature, remove, tent, and let it rest for about 30 – 45 minutes. Just look at that awesome bark.
  • 26
    When ready to serve it should fall apart with a fork.
  • 27
  • So yummy
    You can chop it up, and sauce it, then serve with tortillas, coleslaw, whatever you desire. I prefer to serve the sauce on the side. Enjoy.
  • Stud Muffin
    Keep the faith, and keep cooking.

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