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Pulled Pork in Oven - Lessons Learned and Questions

HI All,

Yesterday, I created a post asking for advice on the topic of pulled pork in the oven (thanks for the advice!). Now that it is complete, I thought I would share my "Lesson Learned" and also to pose a few questions. This is probably going to be long and boring, but I thought I might give it a try for all of you Alton Brown and Cooking Illustrated fans.

Here are the steps I took in preparation:
1. Made a paprika/brown sugar based rub and applied to the meat (6.2 lb boston butt from Sam's Club) the night before cooking and wrapped in saran wrap.
2. Placed meat on roasting rack and cooked at 250 for a total of about 10.5-11 hours.
3.For the first 3 hours I did not touch the meat or open the oven (in fact I left my house for that time so as to not fidget with it or worry about it). I did this to create the beginnings of a nice crust.
4. After 3 hours I applied a mop sauce containing apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, red pepper flakes and salt. I did this every hour for the next 3 or so hours.
5. When the Interior Temp reached about 155deg (after about 6 hours) I tightly wrapped the Butt in foil and added a little bit of apple juice. I am not sure why I did this but I had remembered a technique used on pork ribs called the Texas Crunch, which I thought should produce similar results since I am aiming to break down the fat and collegan in the meat. I think I left it in the foil for about 1.5-2 hours (now up to about 8 hours total) and the meat reached a temp of about 180deg.
6. I removed the meat from the foil hoping to crisp the outside again to finish the crust/bark. Something interesting happened - the temp started to decrease from 180 deg down to around 175 after about 30min . This confused me! I thought that maybe since the macro structure of the meat was being changed so much that maybe an air gap had been created at the location of the sensor. I changed location of the sensor and it still read the same temp. So, after about 30 min of seeing the temp drop I decided to re-wrap in foil (without juice).
7. In the foil, the temp started to increase steadily and finally got up to around 185 at which point I opened the foil to again crisp the crust.
8. Finally, 190 deg and done. I removed the meat a section at a time in order to break into small chunks. Each section seemed to have the correct texture and moisture level until I arrived to the last section on the bottom. This section seemed to be tougher and not as easy to pull than the others. This also confused me. Either it had cooked way to long or it had not cooked long enough for the connective tissue to break down. Or, it did not have the same level of fat and connective tissue as the rest of the meat.
9. Added sauce to the pulled pork for service today.

Questions-
1. Why did the temp of the pork drop from 180 down to 175 after removal from the foil the first time? Was steam creating a more efficient cooking environment? Should I just have left it int he foil until about 185 and then remove from the foil for the last few degrees in order to crisp the crust?
2. Why did the one section of meat seem to have a different texture that the other sections?
3. Recommendations (besides doing it on a smoker or grill)??

Enjoy and have a good day

Thanks

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  1. 1. Quite a few variables here. You could always broil it quickly at the end to crisp it. Or just crank up the oven temperature briefly.

    2. This section may have been tougher, cooked slower because it was colder coming out of the fridge. Or because it was on the bottom and didn't get as much heat as the top of the roast. There is liquid dripping there.

    The more I think about it the more questions I come up with. Just cook a few dozen more for comparison.

    1. The whole thing's really very simple... though it's fun to scrutinize, I guess. The Texas Crutch is the technique of using foil... and it can be worthwhile sometimes. Most often for brisket, I think. The temp will sometimes go up and then down a little with butts as it cooks, and the fat renders. That 179-180 zone is AKA the plateau, where that rendering of the heavy stuff takes place, and you tend to see those fluctuations. Basically, pay no attention. Eventually you get past the plateau and it goes up to the finish. You can leave it unfoiled for the whole time, and after 10-12 hours it will reach 190-200. On the firmer muscle, it would have softened up if you went to 200. I find 200 is when the whole thing will be done. I also don't bother with the mop any more... it just doesn't penetrate anything. The butt has plenty of fat and really does not require the foil. Let it go and it will have nice bark at 195-200.

      7 Replies
      1. re: woodburner

        I just bought 2 whole boston Butts - 6# each. I will light the fire in my weber bullet and while it comes up to temp (250F) I will paint the outside of the butts with cheap yellow mustard and sprinkle with Bad Byron's Butt Rub. When the cooker is holking temp, I'll go to bed.

        In the morning I will continue at 250F until the butts are done using the bone as the indicator - when the bone is loose and the meat has a jello-like consistancy, I will wrap the butts in towels and put in a warm cooler to rest for a few hours prior to pulling with additional rub and Gates Original BBQ sauce

        1. re: rich in stl

          yep... set it and ferget it. Do you post on the Cookshack site, Rich?

          1. re: woodburner

            Thanks for the replies folks! I have reallized, too, that the mop isnt bringing much to the party. If you've got the right cut of meat for low and slow cooking I shouldnt really need a mop.

            Romanmk - I like your suggestion of cooking a few dozen more. Even when they dont turn out PERFECT they are still good eats! And I like your analysis of the the tougher muscle section. Now that you mentioned it, I did take it out of the fridge to come up in temp before I began cooking. But, it was still sitting in the cold pan which I suppose was keeping the bottom chilled for a longer period of time.

            Woodburner - did not really know that about the plateau but I saw first hand what its all about.

            Rich - You put the butt on a charcoal grill when you go to sleep - dosnt the grill lose temp quite a bit by the time you wake up (I am assuming you sleep at least 6 hours).

            Thanks again

            1. re: nielubow

              The weber bullet is a smoker and can hold temp for a long time using the minion method (and others I supposed).

              http://virtualweberbullet.com/fireup2...

              1. re: Dax

                Do you think you'd have to use briquettes, or would hardwood lump charcoal work with the Minion Method as well?

                1. re: Steve

                  I've used the Minion Methond with lump in my WSM. In my experience it burns hotter and faster than briquettes. I stick with the latter.

          2. re: rich in stl

            Cooks Illustrated did some tests and found they needed to get the temp up to 200-210 to get the ultimate tenderness. You can read about it on their website, but you need to have a web subscription.

        2. Were you happy with the results?