Tag Archives: bbq

Spatchcock BBQ Chicken

SPATCHCOCK! No, that’s not a dirty word or an insult or anything along those lines, this isn’t that type of blog.  Spatchcock is simply the term used to describe a chicken, turkey, or any other type of whole bird that has been split along the spine (removing the spine) to allow it to open up and lie flat.

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I love whole chickens. Whole chickens give you the ability to prepare both white and dark meat at the same time while the bone and skin give the meat a huge boost in flavour.

The idea behind spatchcocking a chicken is it allows you to cook the chicken fully on the bone as you would with a whole chicken but much faster. The body cavity (where we usually jam stuffing) insulates the bird during cooking.  This insulation slows down the cooking process and also makes the bird cook unevenly.  Spatchcocking removes this cavity.   Birds are weirdly shaped with big pieces of meat intertwined with much smaller pieces.  This process helps the breast and dark meat sections to cook at relatively the same pace.

To start, you are going to need a whole chicken, a very sharp knife or kitchen scissors and a cutting board.  Safety tip; use sharp knives!  People are afraid of sharp knives as they think they are going to lop off a finger or an entire appendage.  If you are careful, a sharp knife is actually safer than a dull knife.  Dull knives force you to push harder than needed, which increases the chance of the knife slipping and cutting you.  If your cutting board has a tendency to slide around while cutting with it try putting a slightly damp kitchen towel underneath it.  This should stop the sliding.

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Place the bird so the spine is resting on your cutting board.  Either with your knife or your scissors cut up either side of the spine and remove. **Please note that the chicken in the picture above is actually the wrong way up.  Please do not attempt to cut it in this manner unless you are using scissors.**

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Note: in the above picture the spine is still attached on the left side.

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Now that the spine is gone take both hands and push down firmly on both breasts at the same time.  You will probably feel and hear some snapping as this will break some of the rib bones and allow the chicken to lay as flat as possible.

Season the chicken liberally on both sides with your favourite BBQ Seasoning.  I like to do this the day before I cook the bird or at least a few hours ahead.  This allows the spice blend to really penetrate the meat.

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To cook, preheat one side of your BBQ to medium heat but leave the other side off. If using charcoal, have one side of the grill with a bed of coals that have fully lit and are fully grey, then wait 10 minutes, no charcoal at all on the other side.  Cook skin side up for 10 minutes with the lid closed.  Flip and then cook for another 10 minutes skin side down with the lid closed.  Now, place the chicken on the cold side of the BBQ and cook for another approximately 20 minutes with the lid closed or until the breast meat is at 165 degrees.

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Enjoy!

Spatchcock BBQ Chicken

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 1 Hour
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken
  • BBQ Spice
  • Kitchen Scissors or a sharp knife

Directions

  • Use kitchen scissors or knife to remove the spine by cutting up either side.
  • Place both hands on the breasts and push down flattening the bird.
  • Season liberally on both sides with BBQ Spice
  • Place in a ziplock bag and allow to sit for up to 24 hours
  • Preheat one side of your grill to medium heat and leave the other side off
  • Place the chicken skin side up directly over the heat and cook for 5-10 minutes with the lid closed.
  • Turn chicken over and cook skin side down for another 5-10 minutes with the lid closed.
  • Move chicken to the indirect side of grill and cook for another approximately 20 minutes with the lid closed or until the chicken is 165 degrees in the breast meat.
  • Cut chicken into individual pieces (breast, thigh, drum, wing) and serve.

 

 

Shrimp Skewers

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To me bbq shrimp is one of the best things to come off a grill. They are quick, easy and a huge crowd pleaser.

They can be made on a gas bbq or charcoal.

First, the shrimp. I went with a shell and tail on shrimp. They were 20-30s.  This means you get 20 to 30 per pound. I went with shell on shrimp as this helps protect the shrimp a bit while cooking and adds a great flavour. I chose to marinade the shrimp in a combination of minced garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and a store bought seafood seasoning but you could easily use whatever you like.

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After letting the shrimp hang out in the marinade for about an hour, I skewered the shrimp in 3s using 2 skewers per set. Using 2 skewers makes the shrimp much easier to flip.

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Cook over very high heat and flip once the shrimp shells turn bright red and get a slight char on them. This should take about 2 to 3 minutes. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes on the second side.

Pull off the grill and serve!

BBQ Shrimp Skewers

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Time: 10 minutes
  • Difficulty: Very Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 30 Shrimp
  • 20 Wooden Skewers
  • 6 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 2 tbsp. Seafood Seasoning
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 tbsp. Olive Oil

Directions

  • Marinade Shrimp for 1 hour in the garlic, seafood seasoning, salt, pepper and oil in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator.
  • Skewer shrimp in sets of 3 with 2 skewers per set.
  • Cook over high heat grill or charcoal for 2-3 minutes per side or until bright pink and slightly charred on each side.
  • Serve!

Enjoy

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Cooking With Will

WARNING: INCOMING CHILD BRAG POST!!

I guess you could say that the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.  A chip off the old block. My own little mini – me. All those corny sayings that imply that a child has taken on, or was born with a passion and love for something the parent has a passion or skill for. This would be the case for me with my youngest boy William.

Will has always had a love for food.  He loves to eat and will try anything you put in front of him at least once.  Anytime he can help in the kitchen, he runs for his apron and dives right in.

He will also sit down with me and watch the Food Network, good thing since it’s on the TV in my house basically non-stop.  His favourite show is Food Factory.  He loves watching how things are made.  He went through a phase about a year ago where we were having to DVR Food Network for him.  This probably explains what happened next.

The family was in the kitchen together and we decided to set out some fruits, yogurt, juices etc. and create a make-your-own smoothie bar.  We let the kids pick what they wanted in the smoothies and experiment.  William started verbalizing all of his decisions and steps.  He was explaining why he wanted each item and how many to use.  He was basically putting on a cooking show at this point, so, we encouraged him to keep talking, we taped it and we put it on YouTube.  Voila, Cooking With Will was born.

He was so blown away with seeing himself on YouTube he immediately had to make a second video that same day.00001_CaptureHe caught the bug and we’ve been making videos ever since.  He has shown the videos to family, friends, classmates, teachers and pretty much anyone who will watch.  I’m more than happy to be his camera man and post production crew and sit back and watch him be the star.

Will picks the dishes he wants to make and when he wants to make the videos, hence the gaps sometimes in the releases.  So far there hasn’t been a BBQ episode, but I’m sure it’s in the works if I can convince him!

As a Dad who loves to cook and BBQ it’s amazing to see my kid take such an interest in something his Old Man is into.

Here are his Episodes if you want to check them out.

Cooking With Will – Click the Titles Below to Watch!

The most amazing part of all of this is watching how much he is learning doing these videos.  In just 6 episodes he already remembers the names of most ingredients he has seen before and knows most by sight.  He understands when to ask for help and when he can try something out on his own.  And most important to me, he is developing a love and appreciation of all types of food.

Watch out Bobby Flay, here comes the next Food Network Star!

M.D.

 

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Is It Done Yet?

Temp vs Time.  A battle as old as time.  The epic struggle between gut feeling and instruction.  The quest to understand that not all things are created equal and it is these differences that define it.

Now I’m not talking about any epic moral dilemma here, but simply the idea that not all recipes are created equal and not all items we plan to cook (especially proteins) can be “recipized”.  I just invented a word I think (autocorrect’s red underline lets me know!).

Let’s look at some facts.  Almost all recipes in existence will note a time till completion.  These road maps to our current culinary adventure give us something concrete and solid to hang on to and guide us.  For most recipes, you can follow them from stem to stern as written and end up with a wonderful dish.  Here is the exception: Meat.  Have you ever come across a turkey that was cooked for the recommended time per pound as suggested and still need 17 cups of gravy to get through it?  Have you ever cooked 2 pieces of chicken, one over done and one still pink?  Ever cooked a steak for 4 minutes per side and not end up with that perfect medium rare the website you were referencing promised?  Wanna know why?

Time is not king when it pertains to meat.  The key to successful protein perfection?  Temperature.

An investment in a decent temperature gauge for internal meat temperature will instantly improve your success with meat.

Beyond just the gadgets and tools we use to monitor our meat’s progress we also require an understanding that meat has a mind of its own, so to speak.  I present for your consideration a small tale of two beings, locked in unending struggle.  The epic story of meat’s fight to be unpredictable and one man’s journey to understanding. Enter our protagonist; a BBQ enthusiast with over 7 years of competitive BBQ experience.  A BBQer who has cooked more than a thousand pounds of pulled pork in that time period.  Behold the nemesis; pork shoulder.  In that 7 years our hero has been in a constant battle to put these pork shoulders in a cooker and have them cook at a relatively consistent rate.  The result?  Pork taking as little as 12 hours and in one extreme case just under 24.  The morale of the story? Don’t fight the meat.  It is boss.  It decides when it wants to come off the cooker.  It calls the shots.  All we can do is show it the path to completion and give it gentle pokes and prods here and there to speed it on its way.  This applies across the board in the world of meat and is by no means unique to pork.

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Introducing the Thermapen by Thermoworks.  The thermometer of choice by almost every serious competitive BBQer I know.  The reason? It is super accurate, has a small needle which creates a super small puncture hole in the meat and it is actually instant.  You have probably come across temperature reading products that boast “Instant Read” on them, especially meat thermometers.  Thermapen actually delivers on that promise.  The ability to lift a lid, open a door, remove a cover (or however you access your pit) for as little time as possible is just awesome.  The less time the lid of your BBQ stays open the more heat you retain and minimizes the amount of time required for the cooker to heat back up to the proper cooking temp.  When working with charcoal especially this is crucial.

Photo courtesy of www.hsn.com

If you prefer to monitor the meat during the entire cooking process get your hands on an internal meat probe. These beauties provide you with the ability to leave the probe in the meat throughout the cooking process.  I would recommend the Maverick Redi Chek brand available at www.bbqs.com.  Other cheaper brands of meat probes are available at almost every big box department store and some of the larger grocery stores.  They usually consist of a base unit with a display and a probe for the meat.

Of course there is always the old school method to meat reading….touch it.  There are countless web posts talking about how meat should “feel” when it is at a certain doneness.  This takes a tremendous amount of trial and error and experience.  Sure, I’ve tried it, however I will say this…I have been wrong just as many times as I have been correct.  I prefer my new fangled gadget thank you.  This is by no means a knock to those of you who prefer this method, but for me, why ride a bike when you can drive a sports car?

The ultimate conclusion would read as follows.  Timelines given to recipes that include large or tough cuts of meat should be viewed as simply a guide.  A suggestion really.  A rough idea on how long you can expect to be committed to your current culinary adversary.

Investment in an accurate temperature measurement tool can save you not only heartbreak at the dinner table but also give you a tool that you can use to ensure you get the results you desire.  Steaks cooked to the exact doneness you prefer.  Chicken that is both fully cooked and full of moisture.  Pork tenderloin wonderfully charred on the outside but still slightly blushing with a hint of pink on the inside.  It is by far my most relied upon BBQ tool beyond the cooker itself.  Get one.

If you have any questions about these products please do not hesitate to leave a comment below and I will do my best to help you out!

M.D.

Whole Hog

Whole Hog…The mother of all BBQ feats. The task that makes even the most confident backyard warrior think twice.  I decided it was time. I decided I was ready.  The results were better than I hoped for.

20140913_171501First, let me start by thanking some people.  These people were a big help with the cooking of this pig.  They helped me wrangle the pig, get the pig in the racks, move the grates and pans around, pull the pig apart once it was cooked and of course, taste test it once it was done.  A big thanks to Casey, Joel, Uncle Mark, Chad, Shane, Matt, Amy, Jill, Sarah, Carissa and everyone that was on hand to help put the rest of the shindig together.

As I posted earlier on this blog I was aiming to get my hands on a La Caja China Roasting Box…well, I got one.

20140913_161957I went with Model #2.  It is the bigger box and can handle larger pigs.  Go big or go home, right?

I ordered the pig from Kohns in London.  I asked for a 50lb pig, dressed weight, butterflied open.  “Dressed Weight” simply means all the guts and nasty bits are removed and you have a clean carcass.  “Butterflied” means they split the backbone for me so that the pig will lay flat.  When I arrived to pick up the pig it was 52lbs and they split it perfectly for me while I was there.  I highly recommend you become friends with your butcher.  I highly recommend Kohns.  Always great service and quality.

My buddy Casey was with me when we picked it up.  We put it in a big cooler with some blocks of ice to keep it cool.

20140912_143229The day before I had prepared the injection I was planning to use and the dry rub for the pig.  Because this was my first attempt and because of the hours and hours of videos I watched on Youtube regarding cooking a pig I decided to stick to a tried and true approach.  I used the injection and rub suggested by La Caja China, the makers of the box.  It is a traditional Cuban Mojo Criollo Injection and an Adobo Seasoning mix.  Both credited to Roberto Guerra of La Caja China.  I didn’t change a thing.

Mojo Criollo

Ingredients

  • 3 heads garlic, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed sour orange juice (or 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice mixed with 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice)
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground bay leaves

Directions

  1. Place garlic, peppercorns, and salt in a large mortar and grind with a pestle to form a paste. Stir in sour orange and pineapple juice. Add oregano, cumin, and bay leaves; stir to combine. Let stand at least 1 hour before using.

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Adobo Seasoning

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup onion powder
  • 1/4 cup ground oregano
  • 4 teaspoons ground bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Mix together all ingredients in an airtight container; cover and let stand at least 12 hours before using.

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The day before we planned to cook the pig I injected the pig all over but focused on the hams (back legs), shoulders (front legs), loin (attached to the ribs) and the belly meat (the..well…belly of course).

It’s worth noting that I strained the injection before I used it so any large chunks wouldn’t plug up the needle on the injector.

After injecting the pig I coated both the skin side and the open side with the seasoning blend.

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It was back into the cooler at this point for the night for the injection and spice blend to do their work.

The next morning the pig was brought out about an hour before we planned to cook it to come to room temperature as suggested in the cooking instructions for the pig.  Notice in the picture below the difference in colour of the meat.  The seasoning and injection did it’s job.

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The pig was then put into the racks that came with the roasting box and closed using the “S” hooks provided.  Here is a tip for you; this is not a 1 person job.  It took 3 of us to get the hooks in place.  Two people pressing down on the side of the rack and one person placing the hooks.

Once we FINALLY had the pig in the racks it was time to enter the roasting box.

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You will notice there are some wires coming out of the pig.  We attached a couple meat probes in the pig to monitor the progress as it cooked.  Next time I won’t bother.  If anything, all the probes did was add stress where none was needed.  The directions they give you right on the side of the box are all you need.  I followed them exactly and am glad I did.

We used the instructions for a 51 to 100lbs. pig.  We did this because you will notice that the pig weights on the box are based on “Live Weight” not “dressed”.  Live weight is the total weight of the pig before any cleaning or butchery is done.  Because our pig was 52lbs dressed, it was easily 60-70lbs live weight.

Once the pig is in the box, place the top charcoal grate and ash pan to seal the box.  We started with the recommended 18lbs of charcoal, placed in two piles to light.  Here is the hardest part of the cook.  You can NOT lift that lid.  For no reason.  Not even for a second for a quick peak.  JUST DON’T DO IT!

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We doused in lighter fluid and let them burn until almost all of the coals were turning grey, meaning they were on fire and burning.  This took about 20 minutes.  I then spread the coals out evenly over the top of the box and began my timer.

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The instruction on the side of the box calls for adding fresh charcoal every hour.  Based on the weight of our pig I added 10lbs of charcoal after 1 hour and then another 10lbs after the second hour.

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You do not need to worry about starting the charcoal in a chimney or anything like that.  The already lit coals will ignite the fresh coals.  Make sure you follow the amounts on the side of the box and spread it out evenly when you add it.

The next step was to add 12 lbs of charcoal 30 minutes after the second 10lbs of charcoal was added.

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30 minutes after the 12lbs were added it is time to finally see what the pig looks like.  The instructions call for you to remove the ash from the ash collection pan.  This will remove all the ash which is actually reducing the amount of heat the pig could receive.  By removing this ash we will get a very high temperature in the box which we need at this point.  We will be turning the pig over to crisp the skin.  High heat is definitely needed for this.

Lift the charcoal grate and shake to remove the ash.

20140913_162502Place the charcoal grate on the handles, remove the ash pan and dump it out.

20140913_162559Here is a tip we learned.  Make sure that when you shake the charcoal pan that you do it gently and try to keep things that can light on fire away from the box.

Now, the moment you were waiting for.  Your first peak into the box.

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As you can see, the pig is nicely roasted on this side at this point.  There are areas that look dark on this picture, they weren’t burnt.  They were actually nice and crispy and tasted great.

Time to flip the pig.  Grab the rack at one end and lift.  Let the bottom slide to the opposite side of the box from where it originally was placed then lower the top end back down. This can easily be done with one person.

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As you can see from the picture below, the skin side is seriously missing some colour.

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Take a knife and score the skin in an “X” pattern in each of the rectangles created by the rack.  Be careful to not cut too deeply.  We just want to score the skin, not the meat.

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We decided to try 2 beer can chickens in the box at this point just for fun.  They turned out awesome.

Put the ash pan back on the box and put the charcoal grate back in place.  It should take between 30-45 minutes to crisp the skin.  Check the skin after 30 minutes.  If it is not done to your liking, cook for another 15 minutes.

Here is what our pig looked like.

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Take the pig out of the cooker, remove it from the rack and let rest for about 30 minutes.

You will need a heat resistant pair of gloves for the next part.  Separate the pig and pull the meat from the carcass and serve.  The meat will be so tender you will not need any type of knives or tools for this.  The only thing I used was a cleaver to make cutting up the crispy skin easier.  The skin was awesome.  Glass shatteringly crispy and tasty.

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Start to finish the pig took 4 hours and 45 minutes. It was relatively easy to do and everyone loved the pig.  I would change absolutely nothing.

Serve with some nice salads, buns to make sandwiches, mustard and sauces and enjoy!

MD

Chicken Drumsticks

Chicken Drumsticks is one of my youngest boy’s favourite items out of the smoker. He asks for them from time to time and of course his Dad takes any chance he can get to play around on the smoker.

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I use a simple rub of black pepper and seasoned salt on them.

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Get the smoker running at 275 degrees and add a couple chunks of wood. I used hickory.

Place the chicken in the smoker.

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Cook the chicken until it reaches about 180 degrees internal temperature. This will usually take about 45 minutes with medium size drumsticks. Once we reach 180 degrees we need to deal with the skin.

One of the issues with cooking skin-on chicken in a smoker is the texture. If you don’t cook it right it turns into rubber and is not pleasant to eat. So, at 180 degrees I will remove the water pan and wood tray from the smoker so the chicken receives direct heat. I also crank the temp up to full blast. This is a huge benefit of a gas smoker as this process is easy and fast. You could do the same with charcoal by removing the water pan in your smoker and opening up the air vents to get a higher temperature it will just take longer for the coals to get to full whack.

Cook the chicken at high temp for about 10 minutes, turning the chicken often. You will see the skin brown up nicely. You won’t get crispy skin but you will get bite through skin that tastes great.

At this point you can add sauce if you like or just serve as is. I personally like it with no sauce.

One thing to be prepared for however is pink meat. Smoke turns meat pink, there is no way to avoid it.  Whenever people see pink chicken they get nervous. You didn’t screw it up. This is why we use a meat probe. If you hit 180 degrees and then blasted it for 10 minutes over high heat it will be cooked. I promise.

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Serve and enjoy!

MD

Pulled Pork

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Pulled Pork is a great BBQ meal. It’s easy to do, is relatively cheap and tastes great. The popularity of pulled pork has sky rocketed in Ontario in the last few years. You can find a version of it in tons of restaurants now and lots of people making it in their crockpots or ovens. I always make mine in my smoker. The smoke makes it for me.  The only drawback to pulled pork (if there is one) is that it is a time commitment with the cook lasting usually 12-16 hours.

The traditional cut of meat you use for pulled pork is called a “Boston Butt” which is taken from the shoulder of the pig.  I order mine from Kohns in London. Never been disappointed in the quality. When you unwrap it you will notice a lot of fat on one side of the pork. This is called a “fat cap” and we want to keep it on. The only fat I would trim is any hard fat. If it feels soft leave it. This will help with moisture and flavour during the cook.

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You will need a dry rub,  sauce and if you choose to do it, an injection. Injections are a great way of putting flavour way down deep in a large cut of meat. You can use anything you like in an injection. A good one for pork is to mix some pineapple juice with some soy sauce and hot sauce. 3 parts juice, 1 part soy and as much hot sauce as you like.
I didn’t use an injection on this pork but I do from time to time.

Start by injecting your pork and dry rubbing it about 6-12 hours prior to the cook. Put in the refrigerator and let get happy.

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Fire up your smoker to 230 degrees. I used my Masterbuilt for this. Add wood to the fire (I used hickory) and wait for the first signs of smoke. I use wood chunks as they smoke longer. Start with 3 good chunks.

Put the pork in the smoker fat side up.

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You can see in the above picture that I have a meat probe in the pork. This allows me to monitor the progress of the pork during the cook.
Keep adding wood as smoke dies out until the pork hits 140 ish. At this point the amount of smoke flavour the pork will take in will be miniscule so I don’t bother wasting the wood chunks.

The magic number I personally look for is 193 degrees internal temperature. This could take anywhere from 12 hours plus. It depends on the size of your pork. They are usually around 8-10 pounds.

One thing to be prepared for. At about 145-165 degrees the temperature of the meat is going to stop climbing and sit there for what feels like forever. This can even be hours. What is happening is at this temperature range the internal fats and connective tissues begin to melt and break down. Once this process is finished the temperature will start to move again. Trust the process. Don’t crank the temp. Just look away or go do something else while this happens. Staring at the meat thermometer won’t make it move, trust me, I’ve tried.

At 193 degrees you want to remove from the smoker. Should look sorta like this.

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If it’s darker than this, that is normal. In fact I was a little disappointed this one wasn’t darker actually.  It’s not burnt. It’s called “bark” and is some of the tastiest parts.

Here is an easy way to tell if it’s done properly if you don’t have a meat thermometer. There is a large bone in these roasts. You should be able to grab the bone and just pull it out with almost no resistance. If it comes out easily and clean you are where you want to be. If it won’t come out put it back in the smoker.

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See the bone?

Break apart into large chunks and let sit a few minutes. It’s 9000 degrees right now.

Pull the pork by hand. Discard any chunks of hard fat or any connective tissue you find. Keep in mind however that you do want most of the fat to stay. It’s good!

I always add a bit more dry rub into my pulled pork and my sauce and mix well.

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The pink is not undercooked meat. That is what the smoke does to the meat. It’s called a “smoke ring” .

Serve with coleslaw and buns to make awesome sandwiches!

Enjoy!