Do Not Fear The Pork Butt
I remember the first time I finally got up the courage to buy a ‘Boston butt’ from the grocery store. My son was having a few friends over to watch the Super Bowl and I thought I would make some pulled pork for the boys to nosh on during halftime, who doesn’t like pulled pork? I had never made pork barbecue but how hard could it be? I poked around a bit on the net and found a few pointers and tips beforehand and I have to tell you, up until I brought it home, I was thinking this wasn’t going to be very hard at all.
The day before my scheduled cook, as I sat staring at the huge hunk of swine still in the cryovac sitting on my counter staring at me with a menacing look, I will admit, I began to get a little apprehensive. As I read and re-read the instructions I had now printed out I began to see phrases like, “prepare your smoker” and “you’ll need approximately 10-12 hours at 225 degrees” as well as “add wood chunks to the firebox.” What in the wide world of sports were they talking about?
Smoker? I had no smoker, additionally I was without wood chunks and a firebox. I did, however, have the 10-12 hours they were asking for, but certainly not to stand around and watch my grill while it cooked, especially outdoors at the end of January, around these parts, this time of year can be a bit chilly. I wasn’t in a full-blown panic yet, but I was getting close. I asked my wife to inquire if the local pizza shop would be open on Super Bowl Sunday, just in case.
What I needed (besides some help from a real barbecue guy) was a plan. I had a Weber Kettle and plenty of charcoal. I had cooked a few larger roasts and whole chickens on the grill with a limited amount of success, this couldn’t be much different, at least this is what I thought. I would set the Weber up for an indirect cook using an aluminum pan under the butt filled with apple juice and beer. It seemed I had seen this method somewhere before and felt this might be something that would help and at this point, I needed all the help I could get.
I got the operation underway around 8 AM on game day throwing the 10-12 hour time frame right out the window, my thinking here was, nothing could take that long to cook……..could it? My kettle was not equipped with a temperature gauge, so I have no idea what temperature I was making within the cooking chamber. The entire process looked very impressive every time I opened the lid to show a newly arriving guest and I have to admit, the smell being emitted was almost intoxicating…ahhhh….nothing like the smell of some slowing rendering pork fat over a charcoal fire.
The guy at the grocery store told me to just cook it until the blade bone was loose and able to be twisted out without a lot of resistance and I would be fine. By the 6:00 kickoff, my blade bone almost felt as tight as it did when I started, maybe a little looser, or maybe I was just wishing it to be. I didn’t have a decent or reliable meat thermometer and the older unit I had was telling me the internal temp was around 175, far short of my target temperature of 195-200.
Not a problem, the meat was safe to eat, when the time came, I broke the butt down (with a fair amount of resistance) using a knife and fork, some of it pulled, the rest had to be chopped. All of the meat then went into a pan and was doused with plenty of barbecue sauce before being served.
I guess it is at this time you are expecting me to tell you how the guests loved the pulled pork and spent the rest of the evening asking for my recipe and telling me what a great barbecue cook I was. But alas, this is not the case, they ate it, but keep in mind, these were a bunch of 16-18 year old kids, they would eat anything if you covered it in enough barbecue sauce and probably most anything else that isn’t bolted down, whether it was covered in sauce or not.
It certainly wasn’t my best, but I could tell I was onto something. My biggest takeaway was the realization that cooking a pork butt was not as complicated as, let’s say, open heart surgery, or mapping a journey to the moon and certainly nothing to be feared. In fact, it is now my humble opinion that cooking a pork butt is one of the easiest things you can do in the world of barbecue. With just a few preparations, a minimal amount of equipment, a little planning, and a bit of practice you will find that even you can cook a succulent, tasty, and crowd-pleasing offering of pulled pork barbecue for your family and friends.
If I can do it, anyone can, and remember the next time your grocer has pork butt on sale you have nothing to fear but fear itself unless of course, you have a house full of hungry teenagers on Super Bowl Sunday with nothing for them to eat. If you find yourself in this position, there is not much that anyone will be able to do to help; basically, you are on your own….good luck and Godspeed.
Fear not…..Next month, we will cover HOW TO cook that pork butt.
(Authors note: If you have a few teenagers in the house, it is a good idea to keep the local pizza shop on speed dial for use in case of emergencies, of course, if you have teenagers, you already knew this)
Do you have BBQ questions? You can ask George Hensler at firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in getting your own BBQ equipment? Check out Smoke’n Dudes’ BBQ supply store in Bucks county. If you are looking for the best BBQ smokers in Bucks County Pa, contact Smoke’n Dudes for more information!