Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fire + Meat - How Hard Could Caveman Cooking Be?

In the north, barbecue is a verb - "What did you barbecue?" "Oh, some burgers and chicken." It may also be an event - "How was the barbecue?" "It was a lot of fun - Cheryl was there, and someone brought those amazing lemon bars." In the South, it means pulled pork (or beef in Texas).

Ooohhhh, the right meat and the right sauce and the right technique are a matter of considerable debate and passionate discussion, probably because the results can be so, sooooo good. That, and it takes so frickin' long to cook. Vinegar based? Mustard based? Sweet red sauce? Seriously, you could tell someone their kid was homely and they wouldn't be as offended (he'll grow out of it) as if you said their barbecue was so-so.

The super anal-retentive Cook's Ilustrated magazine, which goes to great lengths to determine if one brand of baking soda is superior to another (it isn't) and tries out seventeen different bread-kneading techniques to see which one reigns above all others, is an unlikely participant in this debate. Scientific and persnickety vs. My Daddy Did It That Way. Heat to 170 degrees vs. when the coals sputter, but not too much, it's ready.

Still, a magazine devoted to summer cooking and grilling must have barbecue. Being a rather persnickety person myself, with more background in red pasta sauce than red barbcue sauce, figured I'd better get my $10 worth out of the CI summer supplement.

A bona fide North Carolinian has confirmed her home state as the Lexington referenced (I thought it might be Virginia or Kentucky). It was my first experience making barbecue on a grill and also my first with vinegar sauce - this year's earlier experiment with a mustard-based sauce didn't go so hot.

Sweetie and I thought this turned out pretty well. I expect it will be even better when I have some more experience with using soaked wood chips in a gas grill. And I have to say that I'm astounded to get so many meals from a $6.50 Boston Butt (major sale, coupon, etc.).


Spice Rub
2 TBSP ground black pepper
2 TBSP paprika
2 TBSP brown sugar
1 TBSP table salt
1 boneless pork shoulder roast (4 - 5 pounds)
4 cups wood chips

Lexington Barbecue Sauce
1 cup water
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
1 TBSP granulated sugar (I used molasses instead)
3/4 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1. Combine paprika, pepper, brown sugar, and salt in small bowl, breaking up any lumps as necessary. Massage entire pork roast with spice mixture (lucky pork roast).
2. Soak wood chips in bowl of water to cover for 15 minutes. For a gas grill, seal woaked wood chips in a foil packet. Place packet on primary burner of gas grill, turn all burners to high, and preheat with lid down until chips are smoking heavily, about 15 minutes. Scrape grate clean with grill brush. Turn primary burner to medium and shut off other burners - adjust as necessary to maintain average temperature of 275 degrees.

3. Position pork on cooler side of grill. Cover and cook until meat has dark, rosy crust, about 2 hours.
4. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Transfer pork to large roasting pan, wrap pan and pork tightly in foil, and roast in oven until fork inserted into pork can be removed with no resistance, 2 - 3 hours. Remove from oven and allow meat to rest, still wrapped in foil, for 30 minutes.

5. For the sauce - whisk together all ingredients until granulated sugar and salt are dissolved. Using hands, pull pork into thin shreds, discarding fat if desired. Toss pork with 1/2 cup sauce; serve remaining sauce separately.

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