28 April 2015

Pulled Pork - Alton Brown's Barbecue Pork Butt (AB-BQ)

Yes, there is life after Good Eats.  Altonbrown.com has done a nice job of churning out new AB applications over the past few years, and the AB-BQ application is my favorite.  The simplicity of the method produces incredible results.
Brine, smoke and bake, that's all there is to cooking it.  Water, salt, and molasses, that's all there is to the brine.  Charcoal and wood chips, that's all that's needed for the smoker.  Aluminum foil and a sheet pan, that's all that's needed for the oven.  Oh, and about 10 hours.  That's all that's needed until it's done.  Accounting for brine time, it does take about 24 hours from start to finish, but the end result is more than work it. 
Time and patience.  I have become pretty good at getting my smoker regulated and can maintain 225 degrees for about an hour or so at a time before I need to adjust the charcoal or wood chips.  This allows me to get a lot of other stuff done around the house while the pork is smoking, like playing basketball or sipping iced tea on the glider.  I'm almost sad when I see the meat reach 150 degrees.
The 4 to 5 hours of smoke time is really nice, though, and I am happy to finish cooking it in the oven.  I have done 10-12 hours on the smoker, and that starts to take its toll after a while.  In my opinion, finishing it in the oven produces better results and there is still plenty of smoke flavor in the meat.
So, the question remains, is it worth it?  The time, the energy, the patience?  The answer:  a resounding YES!  This is the best pork I have ever had, maybe even the best meat.  No joke.  The meat is moist, tender, smoky, salty, you name it, it's got it.  The definition of lip-smacking good. 
I like to serve it with a little east Carolina barbeque sauce (mmmm....vinegary) and coleslaw on top.  We were already out of coleslaw by the time I got around to taking the picture, or it would be on there.  On the other hand, it is good enough to stand alone, just a plate full of pork and your fingers.  I could go for that, too.

3 quarts water
12 ounces kosher salt
8 ounces molasses
8-10 pound boneless pork butt

Special Equipment: Smoker and 4 ounces hickory or oak wood chunks

Add the water, salt, and molasses into a 12-quart container and stir until the salt dissolves.  Place the pork butt into the brine.  Cover the container and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove the pork from the brine, and pat dry. Then, heat the smoker to 225 degrees F. Add the wood chunks, and place the pork into the smoker.  When the pork reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees F, remove from the smoker, about 4 to 5 hours.

Allow the meat to rest until it reaches 140 degrees F, then heat the oven to 300 degrees F. Wrap the pork in aluminum foil and place on a half sheet pan. Cook until the pork reaches an internal temperature of at least 200 degrees F, about 3 to 5 hours.  It should be tender and pulling apart easily. Remove from the oven, keep it covered, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes before serving.

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