Smoker Essentials: Heavenly Pulled Pork Rub & Base
Andy Anderson !
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.
10 - 12 lbpork shoulder/butt, bone-in or out
THE BASE (WET INGREDIENTS)
2 Tbspyellow mustard, i prefer french’s
2 Tbspsmooth brown mustard, i prefer grey poupon’s
1 Tbsphot sauce, i prefer frank’s
THE DRY RUB
1/2 csalt, kosher variety, fine grind
1/2 ccoconut sugar
2 Tbspsmoked paprika, spanish, if you have some
2 Tbspancho chili powder
1 Tbspblack pepper, freshly ground, or cracked peppercorns
1 Tbspgarlic powder
1 Tbspdehydrated onions, ground to a powder
1 Tbspground cumin
2 tspwhite pepper, freshly ground
2 tspdry mustard, i prefer coleman’s
1/2 tspcoriander seed, ground to a powder
1/4 tspcayenne pepper
·apple-cider vinegar and water, more on this later
How to Make Smoker Essentials: Heavenly Pulled Pork Rub & Base
- 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.
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.
- 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.
Misting helps to keep the roast moist, and the apple cider adds great tangy flavor to the meat.
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.
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.
- 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.
- The Dreaded Stall (cont.
You have two choices:
1. Put the roast in a crutch.
2. Power through the stall.
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.
It can cut hours off of the smoking time.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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).