I saw this recipe on Good Eats a while back and being a big fan of BBQ, I've always wanted to give it a try. What we're looing at here is a slow-cooked pork shoulder which marinates overnight, and then cooks all day. I've done something similar before with ribs on a charcoal grill and swore I'd never do it again (try keeping charcoal at 240F for 8 hours, ugh what a pain). The gimick here is you use a cheap homemade electric smoker. No fuss no muss! Let's start with that.
So we've got a 17" terra cotta pot ($12) and a 16" terra cotta bowl ($11), a 15" replacement char-broil grill ($5), and some sort of electric burner / hotplate ($20). Do *not* buy the one pictured here from K-Mart (more below). You'll also need a grill thermometer if you don't have one already. While you're at Home Depot, pick up some wood chips. I used Hickory.
The first problem with this burner was that it was square and way too big. The pot at the bottom is only about 10" across, so this thing only went about 1/3rd the way into the pot before it would wedge itself in tighter than a toddler in an abandoned well. I could have just taken it back and ordered a better one from the Internet, but I have powertools, and powertools can solve any problem. An hour later, I've got a slimmed down, sporty version of the original hot plate. Put a spoiler on that, that thing is .
Later on I found another problem with this model. It uses a thermostat to cycle the power to the burner on and off. When you put it in the smoker, it confuses the hell out of that thermostat and it turns off at a much lower temperature than you'd want. This required me to disassemble the whole thing and... um... "fix" the thermostat mid-cooking. Even experienced halfgineers (half-ass engineer) like myself should avoid this level of ghetto, duct-taped, fire-prone, assembly. So let me sum up some tips to help you select a burner:
-- Don't get a square one. A 10" x 10" square burner requires a 14.1" diameter hole. You want something about 10" round.
-- Get one that is adjustable, but not with a thermostat. You want one that just varies the power to the burner, not turns it on and off.
Ok so we've got out aparatus. Let's look at the grub!
I've got a 5lb pork shoulder, the boston butt. You'll sometimes see a "picnic" labeled as shoulder too, but that's more arm than shoulder, so avoid that because its got a lot of gristle in it. I also like the bone-in, because the bone brings a lot of flavor, and it's really easy to get out later. We're going to marinate in a brine. Combine the pork, 8oz of picking salt (fine salt made to disolve easily even in cold water), 5oz (by weight, about 1/2 a cup by volume) of molasses, and 2 quarts of water.
Make sure the pork stays submerged and put it in the fridge overnight.
The next morning, remove the port from the brine and discard (the brine, not the pork). Dry it off with a couple paper towels. Mix together a dry rub of:
1 tbsp Onion Powder
1 tbsp Paprika
1 tbsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Whole Fennel Seed
1 tsp Whole Cumin Seed
1 tsp Whole Coriander Seed
1/4 tsp (dash) Cayenne Pepper
I combine the whole seeds and grind them in my mortar and pestle until there're all crunched up and add the powedered ingredients. Then dump all that into a fine mesh strainer and sift onto your dry pork.
Use one hand to pat the rub into the meat. You're going to lose a little rub to your hand, and it really makes a mess so I advise to use just one hand. A latex glove can be used to reduce what sticks to you if you're both a doctor and a sissy.
Put the burner in the pot, feet the cord through the hole in the bottom. I prop the pot up on a couple of useless books to allow some airflow through the hole too. Turn on the burner and put a steel pie pan (not a disposable aluminum or tin foil or nonstick) on the burner, add a couple handfulls of wood chips, place the grill on top, add the pork, and cover with the bowl. Put the grill thermometer in the top.
You want to adjust the temperature so that you keep the thing at about 210-220F. Once you get it right, you probably won't have to adjust it again. A 5lb pork shoulder is going to take about 8 hours to cook like this. Check it every hour and add more wood chips as they are needed. When you hit an internal temperature of 170F, it's done. Some of you might say, "170F!? Surely you're mad! That's going to be one dryed out mess!" You couldn't be more wrong, and don't call me Shirley.
Wrap it up in a couple layers of heavy duty aluminum foil and let it sit for an hour. The internal temperature will probably top out around 180F before it starts to cool. So we're about 9 hours in at this point. Do you want it done fast, or do you want it done right? Now would be a good time to take a shower. You proably smell a bit like smoke. I smelled like smoke, my garage smelled like smoke, my apartment smelled like smoke, every freakin' thing smelled like smoke, when I peed, smoke came out.
This is what it looks like when it's done. It isn't burned, that's just what your lungs would look like after just 8 hours of smoking. At this point, you can just grab the bone and pull it out. It should just slide right out.
You can pull this with a couple forks and make some really delicious sandwiches, but I just cut some thick slices and had it with some corn pudding, baked beans, and texas toast. You can see that even though we cooked the hell out of it, it still is just dripping with juices. This was the best piece of pork I've had in years, and I recommend this process to anyone who has a whole day to cook. It is pretty effortless, but requires you to be around for 9 hours.
Here's a link to a big version of the finished product, just to get your mouth watering: http://capnbry.net/cooking/pork/donelarge.jpg