Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Prep Time: 45 min
Cook Time: 5+ hrs
Yield: Feeds 4-6 people
4-5 pound half pork shoulder
Meat Church The Gospel All Purpose BBQ Rub - to taste
Stalling out on the Highway of BBQ
If I take a moment to pat myself on the back, I have learned to BBQ better than I ever thought possible. In my previous couple posts, I talk about my success and pride within this art form. Despite that success, part of me knows I have not even scratched the surface of real BBQ. I may have gotten good at a short cook, but to cook at length is a whole new art which is uncharted territory for me.
For this cook, Mikey assigned out cooking a pork shoulder. This cook is a milestone for me in many ways. First, it is a true BBQ cook. When people think BBQ, pulled pork is one of the first things which come to mind. For me, this is the cook I longed to do long before Mikey brought me on this journey. Quite honestly it always seemed out of reach. I made excuses for myself that I couldn't do it on a kettle. That I needed a true smoker like a Smokey Mountain, or an BGE if I could even think about trying this. Yet here I was, with nothing more than a Kettle and I needed to master this cook.
To make this cook a bit easier, I opted to purchase a half shoulder with no bone. It weighed in at right around 4 pounds. Honestly, any larger would be more meat than my family needed. Nonetheless, I figured this would be the perfect entry level piece of meat. While my meat selection might have made this cook easier, I made up for that by adding pressure to myself. Sure, I could have casually cooked this on any normal day. Instead, I opted to make this the Mother's Day dinner for my wife.
So in planning for this, I consulted the great Mikey. Based on the size of the shoulder, he estimated around 4-5hrs. for the cook to be done. Given that, my goal was to have it hit the grill by 3 pm. While 8 was a later dinner for some, for us it worked out well. So there I was, I pulled out my beautiful shoulder and gave it a generous rub of Meat Church's The Gospel. It looked awesome. The next step, per Mikey, was to set the shoulder in the freezer for a half hour before letting it hit the cooker. So I put it in the freezer and began making my fire. This part was typical. Set it up for 2-zone cooking, hit my 250 mark, add some cherry chunks and wait for the clean smoke.
A half hour later, the shoulder hit the grill. I didn't have a lot of concern about holding temp. Throughout my cooks, I have gotten the hang of that. Granted this was a lot longer of a cook, but still the process was the same. I also knew that this cook, being longer was the real test of my patience. I can freak out for a couple hours constantly looking at the thermometer on a short cook. But I didn't have the stamina to remain freaked out for 5 hours. So I chilled. I relaxed and enjoyed the day. Every hour or so I added some charcoal and briefly looked at the shoulder in awe. It was coming along beautifully.
I was so relaxed that it took me a while to realize how long it had been cooking, and how much further it had to go. Here it was 7:30 and we were not even close to being done. The shoulder had stalled and stalled big time. There was a brief moment of pride that I felt in this. I had finally experienced something everyone in BBQ goes through. Then I made the realization that this Mother's Day dinner was going to be late. At the same time, there was nothing I could do but stay the course.
I distracted myself by making a batch of slaw with the help of Historic BBQ's dressing and prayed that when I looked at the temp I would see it rising. Time passed slowly. The kids were starving. My ultra considerate wife tried to play it off, but inside I knew she too was starving. Finally, after ideas of bringing in a Taco Bell Mother's Day Feast in for the rescue, the shoulder was getting close to completion.
I don't remember what time I ended up finally pulling the shoulder off the grill. My youngest had long-since gone to bed after eating some mac-n-cheese. My guess is that it was around 9:30-10:00. I tried my best to not show the feeling of defeat. I pulled the pork and served dinner no differently than I had planned to hours earlier. At this point, I knew only one thing could save this meal. Sure it was late as hell, but if it tasted anywhere near as good as it looked it was not a loss.
The reality was, it tasted amazing. Memories of the phenomenal pulled pork sandwiches I have had in the back of my mind disappeared after one bite. Not only was it as good as it looked, it was better. Looking back at this cook, I cannot say it went perfectly. Hell, I don't even know if this goes in the win or loss category on my record. The end result was fantastic though. Looking towards the future I realize that I need to plan on some extra time. I would much prefer a shoulder finishing it's cook ahead of schedule and resting for a while than risk a super late meal like this. Either way, this is one cook which I learned a lot throughout.
Until next post, remember kids.....CHUNKS not chips!
Remove pork shoulder from refrigerator 45 minutes before cooking.
Season with Meat Church The Gospel All Purpose BBQ Rub on all sides.
Place prepped shoulder in the freezer for 30 minutes and place on cooker immediately after.
Set up cooker for 2-zone cooking.
Once the cooker is at 250 degrees, add several chunks of cherry wood to the charcoal.
Place shoulder on the indirect side of the cooker
Let cook while maintaining a cooker temperature of 250 degrees.
Cook until the internal temperature hits 185-190 degrees.
Remove from grill and let rest for 10-15 minutes.
With hands pull the meat apart into small strands discarding the large pieces of pure fat.
Serve on a bun topped with slaw.