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.


  1. Dang, Gray, those butts have a VERY NICE bark on them. Did they take less time, this time? They look really good, dude.

  2. new toys new toys new toys!!!

    And those butts look terrific, my record is 4 butts, served 55 neighbors for a neighborhood labor Day party.

    And I am saving that slaw recipe

  3. All my friends have big butts but yours look best.

  4. The butts look great. I am doing two butts later this week to see the difference in rub/injection and just rub. I hope they turn out as good as yours did!

  5. Chris: Thanks, they were great.

    A Year On The Grill: New toys are the best. 55 people? Now I know what to shoot for.

    Kim: Thanks. You don't think this grill makes my butts look too big?

    JHM: Good luck this week. I'll be curious to know what you think of the injection method. I've never done that for a butt.