Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Smoking Is Good for You: Smoked Pork Shoulder, Part 2

Gentle reader, as you may already have surmised from the fact that you’re reading this post, the smoked pork shoulder was a success! Mind you, much of the credit must go to The Rob, who got up at 7 AM to go set up the smoker in our friends’ backyard, and spent the next several hours peering at the temperature gauge, twiddling the vents, and replenishing the water. Since I am constitutionally incapable of getting up before the crack of noon on a Sunday, I really appreciate him shouldering this huge responsibility. Get it? See what I did there? SHOULDERing! BWAAAAHAAahhahaaaaahaaa...

Ahem. Anyhoo. I arrived at my friends’ BBQ around 6 PM to man the smoker for the last few hours, before pulling the meat and serving it on soft corn tortillas with a chipotle slaw. So here’s a little post-pork analysis of the lessons I learned.

  • While the meat was delicious, after about 12 hours of it cooking, I still ended up having to use a knife to slice the inner meat off the bone, although the outer part was more shreddable. Ideally, you should be able to shred apart strands of meat with your fingers or two forks, so it actually could have cooked even longer.

  • The internal temperature of the meat got to about 180°, though based on what I gleaned from the Google machine, it should have been about 190°-200°. To clarify: It was well past the point of doneness vis-a-vis food safety; it’s just that the texture wasn’t quite falling-off-the-bone, finger-shreddin’ good. Safe to eat doesn’t necessarily mean good to eat, so don’t rely solely on such guidelines.

  • The meat also could have rested longer, about 45 minutes according to this very helpful article ... but it was after 9 PM and I could not in good conscience keep the crowd of BBQ guests waiting that much longer. (Really, we might have done well to smoke the thing the day before and then reheat it in foil on the grill, or on low in the oven. I believe that letting people go hungry is a social crime on par with not letting the passengers exit the train before you get on, or murder.)

  • Fun fact: It turns out that opening the smoker’s vents increases, rather than decreases, the temperature inside. Since this was counterintuitive to me, I panicked early on when the temp climbed to 300° before getting this memo. You want the smoker to remain at around 225° to 250° ... and if you prefer eating dinner before midnight, I’d recommend the high end of that spectrum.

  • I left the outer layer of fat and skin on, thinking it would keep the meat from drying out, but in retrospect I wonder if it would have cooked through faster and been more shreddable had I removed it.

  • Pulling smoked pork causes your hands to absorb the indelible smell of, wait for it, smoked pork. If you are disturbed by the prospect of spending the rest of the night sniffing your fingers compulsively like Mary Katherine Gallagher (I know, it’s not a good look, but gentle reader, they smelled just like bacon!), you might want to wear plastic gloves.

  • I need a better camera. Seriously, look at that photo up top! I’ve seen more professional-looking graphics on MySpace pages!

    All that said, the meat was well-received and I was pleased. Again, a big shoutout to The Rob for all his time and energy—oh, and he had also caught some striped bass the day before, and we threw that on the grill, so he was pretty much a cookout supahstah.

    Stay tuned for the recipe for Purple Chipotle Slaw, which is great served with the pork or as a picnic/BBQ side dish. (And if you missed it, here's Part 1 of the porkapalooza post.

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