Meditiations on smoked pork.

Smoked Pork Shoulder

Okay, so I re-visited the local fire codes and electric cooking devices are allowed on patios. I can therefore speak freely now about the latest foray into North-of-the-border balcony barbecue. This venture was not motivated by, but certainly reinforced by one of Alton Brown’s final Good Eats episodes, this an hour-long treatise on pork smokery.

This particular beast was the product of an impromptu spend-off, hastened by the approach of Hurricane Irene. We found ourselves in Fairway the Friday before the storm arrived, ready to fight of hoards of nasty panic-stricken Metro-ites (Metroids?) filling the cart with everything in sight not just for the storm itself, but for the week. Not a terribly logical action, you might say- stocking up on perishables before entering a period where power (and thus refrigeration) loss was highly probably- and you’d be right. I guess fortune favored the foolish and we were lucky enough to retain electricity throught the ordeal and my shoulder, roasted all day Saturday, was safe.

I’m not going to go into the entire process here, as the Good Eats eps are up on youtube, but I will make some comments, especially to anyone thinking of attempting this sublime and demanding art. First, I de-boned the entire pork shoulder myself as the store only had one (I guess they figured not too many folks need 8 lb pork roasts the day before a hurricane… ha!) and it was intact. I do not regret this, but I did not remove all the little scraggly (but otherwise fine) meat bits from the incision site, thinking they would be fine. Unfortunately, once brined they became jerky-like and I had to discard them anyway. I used the brine formulation Alton recommends, though my shoulders come out a bit saltier than I am accustomed to in normal ‘cue, so each time I attempt this, I add less or let it sit for a shorter time. I managed to get to 195 degrees (F) in my smoker this time, which is quite hot, but I’d really like to get the whole thing just over 200. I’d also like more smoke. Both can be achieved with better heat control and possibly more/smaller/drier hickory chips. I’ll admit the bark looked great, but I’m still tinkering with a dry rub that is as subtle as it is significant. I feel onion powder is somehow the key.

Is this all together too much trouble for what is in essence a grown man playing with giant pieces of food? I don’t think so. All told I’m probably into this whole endeavor for about $100 (equipment and food together) and all the results are edible and its a hell of a lot of fun, spending Saturday with the three B’s: barbecue, building stuff and barely obeying local fire codes. Be safe, be adventurous and until next time, cook on!

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