mytopleft

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Swine-based food porn

Summer is full upon us, and the hills are alive with the smell of, mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, pig a'cookin'. As any good Southerner knows, barbecue is pork, and pork only. You can put barbecue sauce on other kinds of meat, and it makes them taste good, but barbecue is pork. Get used to it.

And today, chirren, we will delve into the secrets of first-rate barbecue. First-rate barbecue begins and ends with first-rate sauce. Seriously, it's tough to screw up the meat, so you need good sauce. If your sauce was purchased at a grocery store, it isn't first-rate sauce. Unless you have a fricking excellent grocery store. Which you don't. Sorry, you will have to purchase sauce from Virginia or North Carolina. Barbecue was invented in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, and there are families there that have been making their secret sauce for about 300 years, maybe more. This expertise also spread into North Carolina, although eastern and western North Carolina sauces are very different. In any event, all are good.

My recommendation is King's Barbecue in Petersburg, Va. Their sauce is affordable, available online, and really, really good.


Buy it, use it.

OK, sauce is taken care of. Now let's get down to meat. You need to buy a pork shoulder, a picnic or a boston butt. The picnic and the butt are just the two parts of the shoulder. For most home cookers, a picnic is sufficient. If you purchase an entire shoulder, you better have a lot of people coming over.

So you have a picnic. Now you need to smoke it. The easiest way to do this -- and the best -- is with hickory or white oak wood chunks in a charcoal grill. Many of the nicer gas grills have a smoker element. This works nicely, as well. If your gas grill does not have a smoker element, you can get a serviceable charcoal grill for $20 to $40. Get one, follow the directions on how to use wood to cook. (Hint: let it get burning for at least 15 minutes before you put the meat on and cover the grill.) Put the wood to one side when you light your fire so that when you put the meat on, it is not directly above the fire. Like so:


Cover that bad boy, and let it smoke.


Many experts will tell you to smoke the meat for at least 6 hours. This is actually not bad advice, but most people don't have the resources to do that, as it requires professional equipment or constant effort. Go ahead and smoke it for a couple hours or however long you can sustain your wood grill (or the smoker element on your gas grill.) You want to keep the temperature between about 210 and 225 degrees F. Yet another complication, I know, which is what leads me to usually smoke the meat for about two hours until it looks about like this:



Then, wrap the meat in foil, put in on a rack in a pan and set the temperature at 225 F or so. Prepare for a long wait.


With a high fat content, it is tough to ruin a pork shoulder (picnic, butt, whatever) because you pretty much can't dry it out. On the other hand, it takes a long time to cook at low heat. And the bigger it is, the longer it takes. The one I had was close to 10 pounds, and it took over 15 hours. You want an internal temperature of 170 degrees F, and the meat should pull apart easily. When the cooking was done, it looked like this:


I pulled the meat off the bone, chopped it up, sauced it up and slapped that sucker on a bun:


De-lectable. Cole slaw optional. Suitable for any holiday cookout, or just when you want really good-tasting lunch sandwiches. Bon appetit.

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