Pulled Pork Barbeque

Yesterday I took MaineSource up on their offer of a 10 percent discount for veterans and bought an 8-pound boneless pork shoulder. I cubed 3 pounds of it to make carnitas using the flaps left from boning. The remaining 5 pounds are in a nice piece perfect for pulled pork.  

There are countless recipes for barbequed pork but they generally can be arranged into three distinct regional styles: East Carolina, Memphis, and Kansas City relying, respectively, on vinegar, mustard, and tomato-based sauces that also become sweeter as one goes west. The cut of meat is usually shoulder or Boston butt but sometimes fresh ham is used. There is also a local upstate New York style pork barbeque epitomized by Brooks BBQ in Oneonta but it is really roast pork loin in a sort of honey mustard sauce. It is not bad, but in my opinion, bears little resemblence to real barbeque.

Besides the different sauces, barbeque varies in the rub applied to the meat before smoking. In the east dry rubs are universal while out west some swear by wet rub or marinades. You can find rub recipes with an unbelievable range of ingredients. Salt and pepper are basic, of course, but some rubs contain chili powder, dry mustard, garlic powder, ground cumin, white or brown sugar, etc. Then too, many pit masters use a “mop” or basting sauce often containing butter, sugar, tomato, and sometimes vinegar. 

Then there is the matter of what wood to use. Hickory is traditional but fruit woods, especially apple and peach, are popular. Oak is sometimes used and farther west is mesquite country.

Now, here is the secret to great barbeque: less is more. I like my pulled pork in the East Carolina tradition: smoked simply and sauced with vinegar and chilis. For the rub I mix equal parts of kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Depending on my mood I might add a third part of dry mustard or paprika. I smoke the meat over hickory in an electric smoker for 2 or 3 hours then wrap it in foil and finish it in a slow oven (275° to 325° depending upon how much of a hurry I am in) to an internal temperature of 180° to 190°. Let it rest in the foil for about an hour before pulling.

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