So, my very first ever smoke and I decided to try pulled pork. Over all it went well, but wow, what a huge learning curve that 13hrs was!
Redi Chek wireless thermometer set
Austrailian Heat beads
3kg pork shoulder (butt)
Surrey Butchers, Oxshott, UK (amazing butchers)
So, here is what I did and how it happened, step by step.
1. The rub, as my first smoke I followed what sounds like a classic "Roxys BBQ rib/pork rub" which was a supplied recipe from my ProQ manual.
2. Mixing the rub together was in itself a total joy, the flavours and smell was awesome! I must admit, I was a little bit like 'really? seriously are all these flavours needed?' at this stage...
3. Preparing my pork - i had read several recipe suggestions and wasnt sure about leaving the skin on or off, so I followed gutt and decided to take the skin off. There wasn't much fat left on the outside of the pork, but could see some lovely marbled bits running through the shoulder.
4. Then the messy part, smothering the pork butt in English mustard, I only used about 1/2 a small jar.
5. Rubbed all that lovely rub on to the mustard covered pork shoulder - messy but fun! After rubbing in, I then lightly sprinkled a little extra rub over the top to make sure it had a good coating. Into the fridge over night.
6. Following morning, up at 7am, meat out of the fridge and I started preparing my bbq. I decided to follow the minion method even though I wasn't at all confident that I knew what I was doing. I filled up my basket edges with 3/4 of the 4kg back of Aussie heat beads leaving enough space in the middle for the hots ones to go. And the rest of the bag went into the charcoal chimney.
7. Next up was the chimney, now I had done this once before when breaking in the smoker. I had purchased a self lighting charcoal from the local supermarket which was horrible as it made such thick white smoke for 20mins. Anyway, I tried lighting the aussie lumps with just newspaper but didn't get very far. The paper wasn't creating enough heat. So, reading the instructions it suggested using firelighters which I didn't have any of.
So, I decided to use a little of the horrible self lighting charcoal that I had from the break in. I put this at the bottom of the chimney, then the aussie lumps over the top. Lit with paper and away it went. It smoked pretty heavy for 10mins - pretty sure my neighbours were not overly happy with sunday morning smoke pouring in their windows.
(I said to myself, if the neighbours complain, just offer them some pork at 8pm if they bring their own buns!)
(luckly for my pork supply, nobody complained!)
8. So after about 20mins of the chimney bellowing away I transferred the hot coals into the smoker tray. Sealed up the smoker and waited for it to get up to temp and hold. I managed to get it to settle around the 230 f mark, which I thought was good.
9. Once sure the smoker was holding its temp, I probed up my meat, slapped it on the rack and quickly put it in the smoker.
My ProQ has 2 shelves, I decided to raise the water bath so I had better access to the coals. This meant that my pork was on the top shelf.
10. Temp differences - I took this photo really to prove a point about how useful the food probes are, as the thermometer on the smoker doesn't seem very accurate in comparison, showing some 15-20 deg f difference at times.
11. Some smoke, I went for Oak, to be honest not entirely sure why I have a bunch of other chips but decided to keep it simple for my first smoke. Sprinkled a even layer of chips in my little smoke tin and put on the hot coals. What an amazing smell that was! Loved it and couldn't get enough of it!
12. So, 1 hr in and things were looking good and I was starting to feel very confident. The temp in my ProQ was holding perfectly, I hadn't had to adjust anything. Was a steady 237 f and the pork was already at 120 f.
Yes, I admit, at this stage I thought, what the hell are these folks talking about, 9hrs to smoke a bit of pork..... pffttt! at this rate, i'll be done in 2hrs... WRONG... SO WRONG...
13. The stall.. Man... this sucks so bad... everything I read was so right... I started to think my thermometers where broken, considered whacking up the temp (but didnt). I hit 158 f in the pork and went no further for about 4.5hrs, it was painful, but I just kept having to laugh about it and sit it out. The smoker temp fluctuated between 230-250 but I didn't need to do anything, light wind and the minion coal method seemed to do its thing and keep my smoker chugging along perfectly. (just what you need for a first timer!)
14. 6pm, the pork temp started to rise and went to 160 so I then put it in double layered tin foil, sealed it tightly with a glug of apple juice inside. Sorry, forgot to take a picture at this stage as I was so concerned about getting it back in the smoker asap.
The temp of the meat dropped a few degrees after 20mins, but soon picked back up and sat at 262 for an hour...
15. 9pm and 267 f, my girlfriend had decided to eat something else. We'd already eaten our side of corn on the cob as we were so hungry.
9.15pm the temp in the smoker suddenly dropped to 210, 198, 192... I was adding coal, increasing air flow, blowing the coal... basically panicing. So put the oven on in the kitchen as I was so close and didnt think I could get the smoker back up to temp with fresh coal. After all it had been going since 7:30am on the same batch of coal.
So I transferred the pork into the fan oven and within 30mins 197 f was reached.
16. The pull - after 30mins of salivating over the smell of pork resting in my kitchen I ripped off the foil and took a massive chunk of pork, dunked it straight into my BBQ (home made for the first time ever) and just swallowed... It was awesome! Tenders, smokey, flavoursome... wow wow wow...
So, being new to the smoking game i hadn't got as far as finishing sauces, but just pulled away with a couple of forks. The big bones just twisted out with ease. There were a couple of slightly less tender parts, but overall it was easy to pull and very tender and moist. The bark was lovely too...
17. Into some buns, cover with BBQ sauce (I followed Roxys BBQ sauce recipe), a few leaves and coleslaw and scoff.
1st smoke and 1st pulled pork attempt verdict.
1. Smoke over night next time - far too much uncertainty with timings to plan a 7pm dinner on the day of smoking.
2. Cook until 205 f, I think an extra few f would have made it that much better.
3. Load up with more coal, or add some extra before running out.
4. Be better prepared with starting the bbq/chimney - possibly even set this up a good few hours before smoking. Just to ease the pressure.
5. The stall - laugh it off and see it through. After reading so many articles about it, I think its amazing whats actually happening to the meat/fat.
Now I have a weeks worth of left over pulled pork. Life sucks ;)