04 July 2008

The Art of Smoking

Mustard's no good without roast beef.
~ Chico Marx

And a Fourth of July weekend is no good without pulled pork. So today I entered the mysterious world of smoking. Meat that is. I had never been in this culinary realm and so did as much research on it in the preceding weeks: Alton Brown, Bobby Flay, The Meatwave. You name it, I have probably read it. All the masters of the grill looked to pork butt as the cut to go with. So that is what I bought. Over 17 pounds of it. Like all my Southern female ancestors before me, I live in terror that there will not be enough food. In the South, it is practically a mortal sin. Even 17 pounds does not sound like enough for 25 people. So I also have a couple of racks of spareribs (both pork and beef) and some chicken.
Brining the pork butt beforehand also seemed the way to go, so when I got home late last night, I made up a brine of water, salt and molassas. I owe this new knowledge to The Meatwave and Alton Brown. While the salt was dissolving on the stove, I took out the pork to get a closer look and to take some of the excess fat off. Whew. I seriously need to sharpen my knives! I have never encountered such tough, hard fat on a piece of meat! Luckily, I did not want to take off all the fat, because you need some for flavor and to protect the meat during smoking.
Once that was done, the butt went into the brine and I stuck them in the fridge to sit overnight and moved on to make the rub for the ribs. Here I also took a cue from The Meatwave and followed his recipe almost to the letter. Only I didn't have cayenne and I didn't have mustard powder. So I used red pepper instead and hoped for the best. One of my housemates walked in while I was rubbing the spices into the meat and said that it looked therapeutic. Hmmmm. Not really. Kneading dough, now that's therapeutic!
This morning I woke up and set to work preparing the fire. This is very sad, but I must confess I had to call a male friend to get instructions on the best way to light the charcoal and keep it going. Once that was done, I checked the temperature until it was between 225-250 degrees, added the wood chips and then placed the pork butt on the grill. For the pork butt, I took matters into my own hands for the rub and made up my own consisting of black pepper, curry powder, garlic, chili powder and fresh basil and rosemary from the garden. I also added rosemary to the fire on one of the grills. I had a little trouble with the first grill. The temperature would not drop below 400 degrees for the longest time, but I put the meat on it anyway since I cannot be up until the wee hours. We shall see how that affects the meat.
More tomorrow!
Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
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