Saturday, March 27, 2010

Picnic Cut: A Crash Course

Pulled pork again, you say?  Well first of all, yes. I love pulled pork.  Second, a good friend was miffed that last week's project yielded no leftovers for him to try.  So he said he had to taste this stuff and would do all the shopping, etc.  How could I refuse?

My first concern arose when he told me that he'd gotten a shoulder.  He asks me, "The picnic cut, right?"  The what?  You mean you didn't get a Boston butt?  I was vaguely aware that the shoulder was made up of more than one cut of meat--but only barely.  

Here's a cool chart I found thanks to a Google search that landed me at  You can see that the butt is more behind the neck and the picnic cut incorporates some leg.  In fact, while the butt is an amorphous collection of yummy pork, the picnic cut has some vivid reminders that your dinner once walked and wallered about. 

You see here that the picnic cut has a good deal of skin (which my buddy and I removed and saved--much to my wife's chagrin.  Any good recipes for cracklins?).  You can also see the stump where the front leg came down at one point.  This cook felt a little PG-13 for gore and violence, friends.

With the rub our cut here looks fresh out of some horror flick--or burn unit.

Looking around the I learned that cooking a picnic cut is no different than cooking a butt. You just have to decide what to do with the skin.  Some folks score it and then rub it.  I just took it off in an effort to get more bark.

Below is our picnic cut after 18 hours.  I wrapped in foil for 2 hours before dinner.  Note the reddish goo dripping out of the leg bone into the drip pan.

This thing pulled very easily.  See the leg knuckle in there?  Mmm.  Grill knuckles.

Usually I douse some eastern NC-style vinegar sauce into the pork as I pull it.  But my friend is from Memphis and a bit of a minimalist.  So we ate it "dry" and had some sauces on the table to sample.  In fact, he's a bit of a barbecue snob, so it's with great pride that I report that he was really impressed with how it came out.  We both had a great time and ate some really good food.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Food Fight?

Yesterday Labon directed me to this story about the Indian military's new anti-terrorist weapon: the bhut jolokia grenade.  As you may be aware, the bhut jolokia or "ghost chili" is the world's hottest pepper.  These peppers of mass destruction register 1,000,000 scovel units.  By comparison, jalapeƱos top out at 8,000 scovel units.

On a number of occasions I've been tempted to purchase some of these plants or even just the dried peppers themselves online.  Now I learn that the Indian military has weaponized it.  Perhaps I don't want to try one of these after all.

Has anyone else tried em?  

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Boston Butts: Dinner for 20

Family came for dinner on Saturday. A lot of family. Including the neighbor who hopped the back fence to sample what he'd been smelling all weekend, we pulled pork for 20 people. For a number of reasons, these butts were my most successful of my 3 tries at pulled pork.

For starters I bought a new thermometer at my local hardware store (and Big Green Egg dealer) on Friday. It's a Maverick ET-73 with a Big Green Egg branding all over it. This particular hardware store is known for being really expensive and I over-paid for this little jobber, but I put a premium on having it right away vs. waiting on shipping, etc. At least that's what I told myself. Plus, I guess I supported a local business in a tough economy. I'm great at rationalizing, by the way.

Then I got two butts to cook up weighing 8.5 lbs and 6.5 lbs. I rubbed them thusly using a variation on Elder Ward's recipe:

· 2 Tbs. kosher salt
· 2 Tbs. raw sugar
· 2 Tbs. brown sugar
· 2 Tbs. ground cumin seed
· 2 Tbs. chili powder
· 2 Tbs. cracked black pepper
· 1 Tbs. cayenne pepper
I got these guys on at 10:20pm on Friday night. I decided to snap a quick photo about an hour later (below) before I hit the sack. I love the new thermometer by the way. From my bedroom I could tell the grate and meat temp, which let me rest a little easier.

Even with the alarms set on my thermometer to tell me if any temps got out of my desired range, I woke up on my own at 3:30 am (5 hours into the cook) to check my remote sensor on the night side table. Yikes! The grate temp was almost 250f, which meant my dome temp was even higher. So I got out of bed to make some adjustments and snap this photo below. Things seemed to be going ok.
The next morning I whipped up some slaw--again leaning on the Elder Ward recipe. I doubled this given the large crew we were expecting.

Mary Lee's, "I Fought the Slaw and The Slaw Won".
These are from the Jack Daniel's old time Barbecue cookbook by Vince Staten. (with an Elder Ward twist)
· 3 LBS. cabbage
· 3 ribs of celery
· 1 onion (yellow)
· 1 bell pepper
· 3 carrots
· 2 C sugar (Hawaiian when you can get it.)
Shred, chop or dice all and mix with sugar. Set cabbage mixture aside.
· 1/2 Cup of white vinegar
· 1/2 Cup of Apple Cider vinegar
· 1/2 C olive oil
· 1 tsp kosher salt
Bring all to a boil and pour over cabbage mixture and chill overnight.

Clearly, I didn't start the night before, but I figured I had enough time for it to all stew. Here's the slaw with the sugar on it before I poured the boiling mixture over it. Oh and having made this recipe before I cut the sugar by half since it was too sweet for my taste last time.
So the other two times I'd tried to do pulled pork I had to reload the coals thanks to how long it took to get the butts up to the 195 internal temp. This time I kept the dome temp in the 225f to 250f range as opposed to cooking at 195 dome temp in the last two attempts. I think the Egg must be more efficient at the higher range, because these guys wrapped up in 18 hours and I had lots of coal left.
I had time to wrap each butt in foil and rest them in a cooler for a couple of hours. I had not done this previously either due to how long it took to cook. It had taken right up until supper time for them to reach the pulling temp. The foil/cooler rest really makes a positive difference.

In theory we should have had lots of leftovers, but folks had seconds and thirds of everything and we pretty much wiped it all out. The second butt to be pulled sat out for folks to pick at and pull their own sandwich-sized serving so it made for a great late-night snackin.

When you add to all this the beautiful weather on Saturday, it was a great weekend with some great cookin' and good eatin'. Awesome. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

No Knead Bread

This recipe came with the cast iron bread pan my dad gave me a few weeks ago. He found it on the internet posted by Mark Bittman of the New York Times.

The whole family really enjoyed this loaf. While it took a little planning ahead, the end result tasted to me like something you'd get at an actual bakery or something. I mean this was some real bread, folks.

Here's the recipe:

3 cups bread flour (I did 1 1/2 c. whole wheat and 1 1/2 c. reg. flour)
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups water (110 degrees)

Here's the planning ahead part:

Mix dough: The night before combine all ingredients in a big bowl with a wooden spoon until the dough just comes together. It will be a shaggy, doughy mess. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 12-20 hours.

Shape the dough. The dough will now be wet, sticky and bubbly. With a wet spatula dump the dough on a floured surface. Fold ends of dough over a few time with the spatula and nudge it into a rectangle (loaf) shape. You can use your hands if you like, just keep your hands wet so that the dough does not stick.

Generously dust a cotton towel (not terrycloth) with flour. Set dough seam side down on top of towel inside of a spare loaf pan (I only have one loaf pan, so this sat on the counter) Fold towel over the dough. Let it nap for 2 hours.

After about 90 minutes, get your Egg (or oven, if you must) preheated to 350 degrees indirect heat--with your greased cast iron loaf pan preheating in there too.

Bake: I took my dish towel of dough out to the Egg and dropped the dough right into the pan. According to the recipe, it matters not how it lands in there. With a serrated knife cut a 1/2 inch deep groove down the middle of the dough and sprinkle flour on top for appearance. I had dusted my dish towel generously enough that my loaf was completely covered in flour already.

Bake for 35 minutes or until the crust is golden and the middle of the loaf is 200-21of. Remove and cool on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes before slicing.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Idle Hands

I've got a silly list of excuses for not grilling or posting.

Rather bore you with those excuses, allow me to tell you what's right in the world:

I've cooked another bread recipe, which I hope to tell you about shortly.

I've learned some good stuff about freezing meats.

I'm in the market for a new meat probe thermometer.

A pal from college has reached out to let me know he's all into Eggin' too. In fact, he's made a great video about how to smoke a butt. I'd love to post it here or direct you to it when he finds an internet home for his lovely and informative little documentary.

Lastly, I'm delighted to report that spring is here. With it comes good weather to stand around one's Egg.

I'm also interested in tweaking my blog design a little. Any suggestions or tips are welcome. You may see some experimenting going on in the margins. Feedback is welcome.