That's 5:16 AM - as in *morning* - before it's even gotten light out. I NEVER get up before the sun, never even before 8:00 if I can help it. So, what could ever prompt me to rise so early - and willingly, no less?
None other than the siren call of a well seasoned pork butt just waiting to become barbecue on our trusty little smoker.
It all started one day earlier with a sweet, salty, peppery, savory, herby, chile-laden dry rub. We used the recipe mostly taken from Bruce Aidells' - we posted the recipe last year for the butt we cooked on our gas grill.
After mixing the seasonings in a jar, we coated the meat with a generous dose of the rub and then wrapped the whole thing tightly in plastic. I actually used the entire jar since we were cooking a whole, 7.5 pound butt.
The next morning, I unwrapped the butt and got it on the smoker at about a quarter to six. We were shooting for a 225°F cooker temp and a target internal temp of about 190-200°F. Last year's butt on the gas grill took about 9 hours. Since we could keep the smoker's temperature lower, I estimated a 12 hour cook time for this one.
... 12 hours later it was at 183°F ... at 13 hours: 189°F. We called this done!
It's really hard to get a good picture of smoked pork butt just off the cooker. It always looks rather charred and black.
But trust me, it's anything but burned - that "outside brown" part is fabulous. And check out that vibrant pink smoke ring:
We let the butt rest for almost an hour and by then we were ready to pull it apart and dig in. The meat was super easy to shred. All it needed was a few splashes of spiced up vinegar to give it a little twang.
Piled on a toasted bun, this was the best pulled pork sandwich we've ever made at home. While gas-grill barbecue was good, the consistent smoke you get with a real fire smoker allows all the flavors to really intensify.
In addition to pulled pork sandwiches, we use the leftovers in all sorts of other ways - it makes a great filling for pulled pork tacos, as well as sopes. We've even gone a bit crazy and made mu shu pork butt. Oh, and it makes an awesome pulled pork pizza. These leftovers will definitely find good use.
Speaking of leftovers...
Maybe a 7.5 pound piece of meat for two people was just a little excessive? No way! A freezer full of barbecue is always a good thing.