Telling all my secrets

April 18, 2012 in Personal | Comments (0)

Today someone asked me (my wife, actually) on Facebook how I make my pulled-pork barbecue, so I told them everything. 

Well, not everything, but a lot. 

I know a lot of cooks who talk about "secret recipes" and "special tips," but I think knowledge exists to be shared.  So, I thought I'd take my Facebook post and copy it here to my blog for the world to see.  I don't consider myself an expert cook, by any means, but the stuff generally tastes pretty darn good, and I thought people who've never tried their hand at making authentic, southern barbecue might learn a bit from my years of experimentation.

So… without further ado, here are my basic steps for making barbecue.

 

Dry Rub

I don't really know the amounts I put in my rub.  I just go until it "looks right."

Dark brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, black pepper, kosher salt, white pepper, Mexican chili powder, chipotle chili powder, and cinnamon (that's the secret ingredient, don't tell anyone). Roughly equal parts chili powder and sugar, roughly a half part salt, roughly a half part everything else put together.

Brine

I always brine my pork and poultry before I cook it.  Beef usually has enough flavor and fat to not really need a brine.

1 cup kosher salt to 1 gallon of water, worcestershire sauce, dehydrated onion, dehydrated garlic, whole black peppercorns, apple cider vinegar, cayenne, cinnamon (again), and a touch of honey. I never measure any of these ingredients.  Just put some of this, and a little of that.  It's cooking, not astrophysics.

Cover the meat with brine and lots of ice (or freezer cold packs) and stash in a cooler for 12-24 hours for large cuts of meat, 6-8 hours for smaller cuts like ribs. Replace ice/cold packs as needed to keep the meat below 40F. If your meat floats (whole turkeys and chickens tend to do that) weigh it down with a bit of heavy steel chain from the hardware store.  Pop it in the dishwasher when you're done and store it in a plastic container until next time.  Also, I highly recommend you have cooler dedicated to brining as it tends to leave odors behind that you can never fully wash out.

Smoking

After brining, rinse the meat and dry it thoroughly with paper towels. Apply dry rub liberally (there's a reason is called "rub" work it in there good) and let sit for 30-60 minutes at room temperature. Smoke at 225 until the internal temperature hits 185 for pork, 175F for poultry or 195F for beef brisket and ribs. (18-24 hours for shoulder, brisket and large birds, 8-10 hours for ribs and small birds). For pork and chicken I like a combination of hickory, oak and apple wood. For beef, I like straight hickory, or a mix of hickory and mesquite. Pull it from the smoker and let it rest for at least half an hour.

You may be looking at these temperatures and thinking, "That's way overdone!" and you're right.  However, when cooking cuts of meat with lots of connective tissues like collagen and elastin, you have to get it hot enough to break down fully.  Yes, the meat will be overcooked, but it'll also be coated with lots of natural gelatin formed by the breaking down of the connective tissue.  This will make the meat feel and taste moist and juicy, even though you've pretty much cooked all of the natural juices out of it.