Smoked Boston Butt
The cut of meat called “Boston Butt” is not from Boston, and it’s not a butt, either. It’s a particularly tough chunk of hog that comes, first, from the South, and second, from the shoulder and upper leg of a full-grown pig. This cut needs some tender, loving care before it turns into the best pulled pork sandwiches you ever ate. No worries, though. With some good seasoning and about 10 hours, anyone can turn out award-quality barbecue.
The biggest bone of contention in the pulled pork debate is the type of sauce that goes on when the meat is pulled. In Western North Carolina, that sauce is vinegary and spicy; in Lexington, it’s sweet and red; in Texas, “it don’t need no sauce,” and so the debate goes on. For something different, try our Mustard-based Carolina Barbecue Sauce.
1 Boston Butt (about 5-7- lbs) aka Pork Butt or 7-bone Pork Shoulder
12 fresh sandwich buns
Marinated Cole Slaw (see sidebar)
When you first take the roast out of the fridge, rub it down with the Barbecue or Cajun Rub, then let it sit about an hour until it comes to room temperature. Meanwhile, start your grill in a smoking configuration. This means a modified 2-level fire where one side is medium hot to start, and the other half has no coals at all – a medium side/cold side set up. You are going to begin with about 5-6 quarts of charcoal briquettes and 3 or 4 large chunks of your favorite smoking wood. Be sure the chunks have soaked for a while in water, and keep lots of chunks soaking – this is going to be a long process.
Put a piece of foil down on the grate, and start the butt off, skin or fat-side up (if there is one). To help confine the heat, especially on large grills, it is helpful to cover the roast with a disposable aluminium pan. You will need to cover the roast toward the end anyway, to slow down the browning process.
The roast will cook for 6-8 hours, rotating about every 20-30 mins in the beginning, and every hour toward the end, as the fire cools. It is very difficult to keep a charcoal grill at a steady, low temperature, so avoid opening the lid to check on the meat any more than is absolutely necessary. Plan on adding about a dozen briquettes and a large, wet chunk of wood every hour for the entire cooking time.
The roast is done when the internal temperature reaches 190-195 degrees – but the 7-bone Boston Butt has its own way to let you know when the meat is tender enough to “pull”: grab the 7-bone and wiggle it – if it slides out of the meat easily, it’s done!
Take the meat off the grill and wrap it in foil. Let it rest for about 20 mins, until it’s cool enough to pull apart, using your hands. The roast will come apart in large chunks – dispose of the fat, then use two forks, combing in opposite directions to “pull” the chunks into thread-like shreds. Put the shredded meat into a roasting pan, add about 1 cup of barbecue sauce, cover, and keep in a warm oven until ready to serve.
Pile the pulled pork on the buns and top with slaw and additional sauce, if desired.
Brownies and Ice Cream
Marinated Cole Slaw
This German-style sweet ‘n’ sour slaw is a long-time family favorite. It originated in Fredericksburg, Texas, in that large German community, and has been a part of our Louisiana barbecues since before Ali and I can remember. You boil the dressing before pouring it over the cabbage and onions – then let it marinate overnight to create a sweet, vinegary slaw that moderates the richness of the pork shoulder. We think it will become a family favorite at your house, too.
1 head of green cabbage
One large Vidalia or other sweet onion
1 tsp celery seed
7/8 cups sugar
1 Tbs Kosher salt
3/4 cup vegetable oil such as canola or Crisco
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp dry mustard
Slice the cabbage and onion as thinly as possible, and layer in a large plastic container with a tight, leak-proof lid, beginning with cabbage and ending with cabbage. Sprinkle the top with the celery seed, 7/8 cups sugar, and salt.
In a non-reactive saucepan, combine the oil, vinegar, 2 tsp sugar and dry mustard. Bring to a boil and immediately stir and turn off the heat. Pour the hot dressing over the cabbage mixture and refrigerate overnight, tossing occasionally to re-coat the vegetables. Serves 10-12.