Thursday, June 4, 2009

Smoke Ring on your Pork Butt

I was going to post a grilled pork chop recipe I cooked the other night, that was delicious, but something about the eerie storm brewing outside made me want to write about barbecue, true barbecue, and smoke rings. I love the phrase smoke ring. It makes be think of an Atoll, or a smouldering volcano..smoke ring, ring of fire, Pacific Rim, Lord of the Rings, fires of Beltane...

The smoke ring is that prized red or pink ring just inside the meat. It comes from cooking meat low and slow. Though perhaps too much emphasis is given to the smoke ring, it does give you a visual cue of a job well done, that appears almost magically, or secretly, just inside the meat. Actually, it is caused by a chemical reaction between the liquid in the meat and the smoke, but whenever I cut into slow-smoked meat and first see that smoke ring, I get a little thrill. Like I've just uncovered a secret.

Though we smoke cases upon cases at the restaurant, I still like to smoke pork shoulder at home. I usually smoke the upper part of the the shoulder, called the Boston Butt, or simply pork butt. It is almost fool-proof for pulled pork and one "butt" is a nice size for a small to medium gathering.

The pics here are of a Boston butt I smoked on a Weber grill, not a dedicated smoker. After getting a good coating of a spice rub (use your favorite), it slow-cooked for about 11 hours and was purrfect. I used a blend of apple and hickory wood chunks, and mopped it with apple cider vinegar, red pepper flakes and a little mango-peach juice. I usually mop with a spray bottle, but the red pepper flakes clog up my sprayer. Instead I just drizzled it over the meat about every hour.

Once I let it rest a bit - about 20 minutes - I "pulled" it. I actually chopped this one with a heavy duty cleaver, and then hand pulled the bigger chunks into smaller pieces. I mixed in some Lexington Sauce similar to the recipe in the book. Here is that recipe:

2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup white vinegar
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup ketchup
3 T hot sauce (Any decent vinegar based hot sauce will do. I’m partial to Frank’s hot sauce.)
1 t salt
1 t black pepper
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
1 t Worcestershire sauce

What does the phrase "smoke ring" make you think about, or feel?

1 comment:

  1. Well, I know about the smoke ring and "yum." The title "smoke ring on your pork butt" made me laugh though. Good one.