First time making pulled pork - help me make it a success!
I am preparing to make pulled pork for the first time, and I have a few very specific questions I’m hoping some of you may be able to answer.
First off is the size. How many servings can I reasonably expect to get from a 6-lb. bone-in Boston butt?
Second, I’ll be using a gas grill (my new Weber Summit, yea!), right side burners with smoker box on, left side burners off (right?). Do I need to remove the “flavorizer” bars and put a drip pan underneath the meat? Will it give off that much fat? Or can I just let it drip into the drip pan under the grill?
If my premise above about the burners is correct, do I heat the entire grate surface and put the meat on a hot grate or not? Do I rotate the meat throughout the cooking time or let it stay in one position?
How long is the cool-down period before I can shred the meat? Can anyone give me tips about how to best go about doing the shredding to best effect and least mess? I was thinking about putting the meat in a large roasting pan in order to keep the mess contained. Any good ideas along this line? How long will the shredding take?
The party will begin later on a Saturday afternoon, maybe 3:00. We were thinking that I cook and shred the meat Friday, refrigerate it, then warm it up in a crock pot on Saturday. Will this affect the taste/texture in any way? We thought we would put minimal sauce on it to heat it and serve sauce on the side for folks to add what they’d like. Will this work?
I feel mostly confident, as it seems to be a relatively straightforward process, one that just takes time and patience. I’m trying to think now of all the questions I know I will have that day so that I can proceed with confidence. I will be most grateful for any and all advice. Thanks!
6lb bone in, about 7 or 8 servings. I only really braise pork shoulder so I can tell you my experience with that. It will give off a lot of fat. I braise it for hours on a really low temp, about an hour a pound. then let it cool for 30 minutes or so and it falls apart with tongs. If it is cooked right shredding takes 5 minutes at the most. I don't know about in a smoker though, not sure of the difference, but i can tell you braising it in a dutch oven makes a great pork shoulder and with minimal effort and worry.
I make pulled port a lot only usually on briquets or a gas smoker. Here are my suggestions: place butt fat side up put a drip pan under it. What you are trying to do is actually cook the small layers of fat out of the interior. I will suggest to cook the day of for best flavor. I will guestimate it will take about 6 hrs on a 300 degree indirect cooker. Since you are using gas you could increase the temp to 325 if you want. The temp really comes up in the last 30-45 minutes. The MAIN thing you have to do is get the internal temp to 194 degrees. Otherwise shredding will be hard to do. Let it cool (tented) about 15 min. This is really hot internally. I also like to chop after shredding as it is neater to place on buns. If you do cook the day before as you re-heat maybe add a small (1/2 cup) of water to keep from being really dry but don't wash out the flavor. If you add a sauce it should be a vinegar based sauce. Pork is very sweet and the sour only enhances the flavor. A 6 pound but should feed about 10. Unless your talking about 18-30 age group then I would figure about 7.
that's a big roast--Boston Butt is shoulder roast--so give yourself 6-7 hours total time, cooking at between 250 to 300. You want to go slow enough to let the connective tissue (gristle) to soften. Too hot a temp and it hardens.
You can place it over a drip pan to catch the juice and fat, and you shouldn't need to move the roast at all. The closed grill acts like an oven, so it'll cook evenly. There'll still be some fat between the muscle groups that make up the shoulder.
When the meat is easily nudged into separating by poking with a fork, remove the roast to a sheet pan and use a couple of meat forks or other large utensils to separate the muscle groups into large chunks on a sheet pan.
When it is cooled down enough to handle, separate those out with your hands, remove the remaining fat, and cut the meat into smaller chunks which makes the serving/eating easier.
To get the stranded effect, take two forks and holding them backside up, insert and drag them away from each other through the meat chunks.
I don't have a smoker, or like to fiidle with smoking chips in the bbq, so I cheat and rub about 1 tsp of liquid smoke over the roast before I salt and pepper it, then place it in the bbq or oven. Gives a subtle smoke flavor.
Cook up a big pot of carmelized onion rings to go with this. Just slice 3 or 4 dry onions into rings, place in a big dutch oven with a big lump of butter or glop of oilve oil, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occaisionally, over very low heat till onions are soft and creamy looking. Great with the pork. You can do this while the roast is cooking.
If you are serving this as sandwiches, get the best soft rolls you can. Put your bbq sauce in sqeeze bottles on the table and let guests dress as they prefer.
(you might want to practice ahead of time with a smaller 2-3# roast before hand so you can see what to expect. Do it in the oven, and use the meat as carnitas-type burrito/taco filling. Leftovers freeze in small containers)
All of the above is good advice. You might want to wrap the pork in foil for the last hour of so of cooking. This will keep it from drying out, a very common practice when cooking briskets. You must get the collogen to break down and that doesn't occur 'till about 200 degrees. I like to use a probe with a digital monitor to be sure. Good luck, it'll be worth all your time and trouble.
I just can't imagine cooking a boston butt for pulled pork sandwiches in a gas grill. You'll definitely want to cook it using indirect heat, not over the flame.
I can give you plenty of tips for doing it on a smoker though...low and slow is the only way to go.
The way I prep mine: rinse the butt(s) in cold water to remove any nitrate/brine and pat dry. I then slather the entire butt in dijon mustard. After it's well coated with mustard, I'll sprinkle with dry rub and massage it in to mix well with the mustard and make sure it is even. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Pull the butt(s) out of the fridge and allow to come to room temp, covered, before you start cooking (60 minutes or so).
Here's one of the rubs I've used in the past:
4 tbsp salt
4 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp cumin
4 tbsp chili powder
4 tbsp pepper
2 tbsp cayenne
8 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp garlic
2 tbsp onion
1 tbsp coriander
This makes enough to rub a couple of butts and a couple of racks of ribs.
Mix well and store in an airtight container or zip lock bag.
Let the meat rest at least a half hour before you pull. Just use a couple of forks. The pros wear a pair of those big black heat proof chem resistant gloves to avoid burning the hands. Takes a few minutes per butt--if it's cooked correctly, the meat will be falling apart tender.
If you want to reheat it, you can put it in one of those disposable aluminum serving pans, cover with foil and reheat at 350 for a 15-30 minutes in the oven. It may help to add a bit of apple juice/cider vinegar for moisture to the pan while it is reheating (to avoid drying it out). I use a 50/50 mix of this to spritz the butts every couple of hours when I"m smoking them.
Definitely rub the night before. Start with grill about 450 then as soon as you put the butt on the burner off side, reduce to about 275. you'll also definitely need a drip pan. I like to put cider instead of water. It gives a little apple flavor to the meat. you don't really want to cook at 300 as outlined above, to dissolve the collagen. After about 5 hrs, I would loosly wrap the butt and start basting it. Wicker's is the easiest and won't scorch like tomato or sugared sauces. actually I'd start basting after about 2 1/2 hrs, about every 30 mins. Some dampened apple or other fruitwood chips will also give more smoke falvor, but be careful not to overdo this or the meat will get a sour twang. let the meat rest for about 10-15 minutes then take it and slam it on the cutting board. this will release the collarbone which you can then pull free. If you wait too long to do this, the meat will adhere to the bone. I'm not really what the obession is with pulling the meat. It's easier to eat and gets more even distribution of flavor( the outside has much more flavor than the inside, which is usually more juicy and tender0 by chopping. You can easily chop a butt by roughly separating the segments of meat then taking a cleaver or chef's knife and whacking hell out of it until the meat is in about a 1/2" dice(of course it won't be uniform or "diced" as the warm meat sortof shreds, but that's what you are going for. adding a little table sauce or basting sauce as you chop will make it nice and moist and flavorful. Unless you opt to go with wood coals or lump hardwood charcoal, that's as good as you can get.
Thank you all for the replies. I will definitely use a lot of these tips.
meadandale, if I only had a smoker... but the gas grill will have to do. It's a fairly big one with four front-to-back burners, a smoke box, and what seems to be a fairly tight lid.
I hope to be able to report back afterwards to let others who may be considering attempting this how it went. Wish me luck!
Wow so many different ways to cook. :)
Like you I did mine on a gas grill for years before I bought a BGE. Pulled Pig is just to die for from a ceramic cooker.
Dry rub your pork the day before and let it set in the fridge over night.
The key with a gas grill is to try to only run one burner as low as possible. You want your temp as close to 200 as possible and if you go over 225 your loss (shrinkage) increases. On a gas grill you should expect a 50% weight loss including fat and bone after cleaning. I never had much luck with the smoker boxes. It worked much better for me to use chunks of wood (not water soaked) wrapped in aluminum foil. Punch holes in your foil pouches and set right on the burners. My gas grill used stones not flavorizer bars so you will have to tweak your method. Typically I could cook about 6 hours on the gas grill. On the BGE I go 22 hours. If you can get a Polder thermometer it makes things a lot easier. Cook to an internal temp of 195.
Because your pork will cook faster on the grill from direct heat it will not have a long enough plateau for the collagen to convert . I do the follwing step even after I cook for 22 hours on the BGE but it is critical when you are doing a faster cook on a gas grill.
Once you remove your butt from the grill double wrap it in aluminum foil and put it in a cooler for 4 hours. The insulation from the cooler will keep the meat over 140 degrees for that time and continue to convert the collagen in the meat. This is critical for tender pork.
Once you remove the pork you will easilly be able to seperate the flesh from the bone and fat. Since you will have about 3# you can factor your servings from there. With the BGE I loose 40% on average.
Pulled pork freezes very well.
If you can use a drip pan the do so. As others mentioned you can use water or other liquid like apple cider, beer etc.
Just remember low & slow is the key to tender and moist. ;)