Category Archives: Pork

Dreams Do Come True

You’re undoubtedly familiar with this item:

Many McCalories

Many McCalories

I’m not much of a McDonald’s fan, unless we’re in a pinch on a long road trip and low on options. Despite the utterly non-realistic and highly deceptive name McRib, I strongly doubt any actual pork rib meat makes it into this sandwich. Let’s remediate that atrocity.

Start with some baby back pork ribs, smoked for four hours with apple wood. Pre-smoke, I added a bunch of brown sugar, pepper, garlic salt, paprika, etc. rub and removed the concave membrane.

REAL rib meat, sandwich-bound

REAL rib meat, sandwich-bound

After four hours of smoke, the ribs were set for a three hour tenderizing foil wrap, enveloped in some PBR and Pappy’s BBQ sauce.

Well on the way to glory!

Well on the way to glory!

Finally, I let the unwrapped ribs rest for about 10 minutes. I flipped it over onto the convex side and gently popped the rib bones out of the very tended pork rib slab.

The boneless sheet of rib meat went on to a sourdough hoagie that had been loaded on both halves with Gates BBQ sauce. I diced half a sweet onion, and layered on some lengthwise-cut dill pickles.

If this doesn't win the Nobel Pork Prize, I don't know what will.

If this doesn’t win the Nobel Pork Prize, I don’t know what will.

Fold. Cut. Consume.

(gasp!)

(gasp!)

It was exceptionally messy and delicious.

I plan some variations in the future. Perhaps I’ll toast the bread, add some cheese, and maybe a few scoops of slaw on top of the pickles. Who can say. I’ll let my conscience decide.

Messily devour

Messily devour

I should have made more than one sandwich – it went fast.

No, it’s not a McRib. It’s infinitely better. If you’re down with shoulder, heart, and tripe reprocessed into meaty loaves that are shipped to McDonald’s and re-heated by some teenager who flunked the Taco Bell entrance exam, doused in over-sweet sauce from a plastic jug on a mass-produced bun… power to you.

If, instead, you want real rib meat on your sandwich… , not a McRib but a RealRib, then give this a try. Worth the effort for sure.

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Marinade Injected Pork Shoulder

Experimentation is at the heart of this blog, or at least as close to the heart as beer and meat. I’ve never used a marinade injector before, but I’ve heard good things.

I’m now officially a hypodermic needle user.

Don't share this needle

Don’t share this needle

Lots of BBQ blogs espouse their own special marinades. Most include lots of liquid, with saltiness, sweetness, some kind of liquor or beer or wine, and often some pureed spices and perhaps fruitiness (like juice).

I went simple: PBR and some honey apple BBQ glaze my wife bought for me on impulse. I made a 50/50 mixture and liberally injected the shoulder all over from all angles – down to the bone, through the fat, along the sides, through the top… everywhere. I also consumed the rest of that PBR, then several others.

As I injected, bulbous sections of pork protruded. Each puncture wound oozed marinade, some more than others. In all, I injected the hell out of this meat. This butt got stabbed more times than a [insert horribly tasteless joke here].

Onto that went a simple rub of brown sugar, paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic salt, seasoned salt, & Italian seasonings.

Will we see the wonders of a marinade injection?

Will we see the wonders of a marinade injection?

And the whole thing went on a Weber 22.5″ kettle over indirect heat with cherry wood chunks. I put a thermometer probe through an onion near the meat to get an idea of the grill temperature. Even a conservative amount of coals gave me a hot grill, at or near 300 degrees. That’s a full 100 degrees higher than my typical drum smoker runs.

The answer to "What, what, in the butt?" is apparently: Syringe full of sauce and beer

The answer to “What, what, in the butt?” is apparently: Syringe full of sauce and beer, and a thermometer probe

About 3-4 hours later (who can say with any specificity – it was an 18 pack of PBR), the shoulder was foil wrapped with some BBQ sauce and a sprinkle of some more beer.

Percolating pork

Percolating pork

What a wonderful smell comes from a wrapped pork shoulder. Lots of bubbling, cracking going on in there.

Finally, a few more hours later, perhaps after 7 total, I pulled the meat off the grill and opened it to let it rest.

The fruits of my labor

The fruits of my labor

The end result, as usual, looks wonderful. Great smell & color. I’m excited.

What I notice in trying to shred the shoulder was that the meat was separating in chunks rather than typical shreds. I figure what happened was all the injected moisture boiled and steamed and percolated within the meat, which not only tenderized, moistened, and flavored the flesh itself, but also broke down fat and connective tissue. This lets the meat break into hunks of succulent sweet pork, instead of shreddings.

Chunks of shredded pork

Chunks of shredded pork

It was delectable! I’m thrilled with how it turned out, and I’m definitely making this again. Flavor injection is part of the BBQ regular rotation. Yes, I’m now a habitual needle user.

Leftovers? BBQ pork pizza the next day.

Enjoy the same meat twice

Enjoy the same meat twice

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Ribs on a Big Green Egg

Belated greetings from Atlanta, where we visited my brother-in-law and his family on the way to Florida for a biennial expensive fiasco extended family vacation! I would have posted this sooner, but, in the spirit of the Olympics, I was very busy competing in Competitive Co-Ed Beach Beer Drinking…. I nearly medaled.

I have never cooked anything on a Big Green Egg. I’ve always wanted to, but the opportunity had not presented itself until recently.

Approach me if you dare, mortal

It’s a clay / ceramic hull of a beast of a BBQ smoker in the shape of a (wait for it) big green egg. Just like Busch Stadium II, I’m told it holds the heat well. (HT: Casey Stengel)

Cleaned out and ready for meat

How fancy are these things? They have their own charcoal…

What? Kingsford not good enough for you?

… and their own starters…

What? A coal chimney’s not good enough for you?

… but it started up well and took a heapin’ helpin’ of water-soaked cherry and apple wood chunks.

Fire Burn!

Wood Burn! (Just not as much…)

I picked up some beautiful baby back ribs from a Straubs-like market in Peachtree City, Georgia, so you know I paid out the nose. At checkout, the cashier saw my shirt and asked what a Billiken is. After I told her, she flirtingly remarked that, being from St. Louis, I surely knew how to handle these pork ribs. I’ll take it.

While there, I found a plethora of BBQ sauces. It took some time, but I finally picked this one after reading dozens of ingredient lists:

Ingredient list beauty

Apparently this was a home run, as my nephew pointed out that it is his favorite BBQ sauce.

On to the ribs. As is standard rib smoking procedure, I peeled the membrane from the concave portion of the baby back ribs. I then applied a hearty coating of my brown sugar based rub all around the ribs and placed the three slabs on a rib rack. Pro Tip: The large (but not extra-large) BGE cannot comfortably hold three horizontal slabs of ribs, so a rib rack was a must.

Now would be a good time for a beer. How about one of these:

Sweetwater 420

I’ve had the SweetWater 420 many, many times before, otherwise it would be a Drink This Beer entry. Easily one of my favorite beers, and certainly one of the best southeastern US beers money can buy. Anyone who knows me or who has read this blog knows I like a classic, smooth pale ale and SweetWater delivers here. Seriously, buy and drink this beer.

After about 3 hours and some beginners issues with respect to BGE temperature, the ribs were looking good.

The wonderful results of smoke and rub

Even though I have committed the atrocity of parboiling ribs, I do actually know how to make real, honest, decent ribs.

Close up of the porky goodness

Each rib was given a generous slather of the Bone Suckin’ Sauce, along with a sprinkle of rub and a little drizzle of honey, followed by a wrapping in aluminum foil for another 2-2.5 hours on the BGE.

Wrap your meat: A life lesson that transcends BBQ.

I finally managed to get the temperature to hold steady at just over 200 degrees, instead of the first timer problems I was having. Whilst the ribs continued to cook and tenderize, why not try another local beer?

What a clever play on words

As the name suggests, this is a hoppy IPA style beer with an ABV over 6. The fine people at Red Brick did a nice job holding back on the hops. Certainly there’s the typical bitterness, but it is a milder, fruitier, more restrained approach to an American IPA than, say, Hopsecutioner, which is another Atlanta-area beer utterly loaded with hops (to the tune of a 71 IBU!), of which we had many.

After 5 or so hours on the BGE, I pulled the ribs from their foil pouches and prepared each slab according to my orders. Prior to wrapping, one got a little bit of beer poured into the pouch to tenderize the ribs to fall-off-the-bone level. Once taken from the pouch, I coated it in more sauce. The second slab got a coating of the original rib rub, mainly for my son, who loves very sweet and spicy ribs, but not BBQ sauce. The third and final slab (the control sample) was simply re-sauced. Each was put on the Big Green Egg to finish.

The things you do for your kids…

After 45-60 minutes or so (who can be sure, we had 6 hours to drink some beers), the ribs were done.

Ready for my belly

Another brother-in-law (I have five on that side of our family) was in town, fresh from a 6 month jaunt to Australia. You might not believe it, but Australians apparently do a really shitty job of making American-style BBQed pork ribs. He ordered the control ribs (not too tender, with sauce) and they were a hit. The ribs didn’t fall off the bone, but they were tender and succulent. I was pleased.

Though it seemed intimidating and complicated, using a Big Green Egg was neither. If I ever get enough money to purchase one of these expensive items, you can bet I will.

;

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Shredded Pork Shoulder… For A Big Crowd

As I have mentioned before, I am in the parish men’s club. That comes with certain responsibilities, including working zealously at the annual fish fry and eating food / crushing AB-InBev products at our monthly meeting.

One of those responsibilities was presented to me a few weeks ago: “We need you to cook dinner at the June meeting. It’s the same night as the washers tournament, so plan on 50 guys.”

What’s fairly simple that has wide appeal, especially to a beer-swilling crowd of old men from St. Louis? Pork shoulder, of course.

I have never cooked for more than a dozen adults and as many kids at a family function, but this is a little more intense. I made an epic trip to Sam’s Club. A learned BBQer that I know through a friend told me to make one pound of raw pork meat per person, so I went ahead and bought eight shoulders that came in at about 55 lbs.

My bounty from Sam’s Club

As you can see, I also bought a ton of other stuff, like beans, corn, beer (for me), wood, charcoal, buns, seasoning, cole slaw, etc. At any place but Sam’s, the jackass cashier would ask about your weekend plans and then semi-jokingly invite themselves.

I got to the school parking lot around 10:30am with plans to serve dinner at 6:00pm. Most unfortunately, I came across a couple septuagenarian dudes grilling burgers for some octogenarian ladies having a luncheon in the cafeteria. The grill was full (FULL!) of charcoal and the thermometer said 500 degrees. This is a problem.

After evicting those guys and cleaning out the grill, I was ready to go at noon. I set up the fire box on the side of the smoker with a huge amount of water-soaked hickory wood chunks on top of the coals.

Hickory wood ready to do its magic

We bought this grill to replace the rusted-out shitbox of a grill that we had been using for years. It was a custom rig from some shop in Memphis and cost a pretty penny.

Behold the wonders of modern BBQ

As the smoke began to fill the chamber, I got my rub ready to go. Again, having never done this before, I made way too much rub.

I needed enough for eight shoulders, so I poured in 2lbs of brown sugar, a full container of paprika, a half container of seasoned salt, and a bunch of garlic pepper.

Too much pork rub

I made about 40% too much, which is a damned waste. But, having rolled a bunch of raw pork in it, the remainder had to be tossed.

55 lbs. of pig meat… never too much

The shoulders were arranged fat side up on the grill with the smoker in full force, and then I sprinkled on a little more rub for good measure.

Shoulders covered in salty sugar

I figured I would rotate everything around at about the 1.5 hour mark.

A profile photo of the raw pork

After an hour and a half, I reloaded the fire box with more wet wood and did a little ballet of moving the meat around so as to evenly cook it all.

Smoke reloaded

I shuffled the meat around a couple more times to get things cooked up evenly.

Three hours of smoking

I decided to BBQ up 2 lbs of maple bacon to chop into the baked beans. You really can’t have enough pork at this BBQ.

The shoulder looks amazing and is coming along nicely, evidenced by the bubbly fat cracking through the plaster walls of the charred sugary rub.

Eat me

After around four hours of cooking, each shoulder was wrapped. I made an X out of heavy duty aluminum foil and put the pork in the center. I made a boat around the meat, then poured in half of a PBR and maybe 3-4 oz. of BBQ sauce, along with a little seasoned salt and garlic pepper. Each was crimped and put back on the grill to finish.

Percolating beer and spice

The beans needed more than the original 1 lb of bacon, so a second pound cooks above. Some canned corn has joined the party! I also bought a cookie tray.

Finally, after about 7 hours total on the BBQ, I was ready to shred / chop the shoulder into some pans. All of the luxurious beer / seasoning / fat drippings went right into the meat.

Chopped pork. Ready for your belly.

I served it all up on a long folding table and the metal tray behind the grill.

Eat up, people.

So maybe I grossly over-calculated two things: (1) how many people would show up, and (2) how much meat each person would eat. After everyone had eaten their fill and more, I still had two unshredded shoulders and some more meat in the pan. I pawned off as much leftovers as I could on people, who were all to willing to fill up to-go containers with the good stuff. It made a great lunch and dinner for me today.

Pork.

It was universally well-received, even by the two hardcore BBQers in the men’s club. They were either bullshitting me to protect my feelings or were genuinely impressed, and frankly either one of those is fine by me. The rest of the men’s club, full of beer-chugging washers players in 90+ degree heat, were all thrilled with the dinner. I enjoyed a smug sense of self-satisfaction, despite the fact that I lost both washers games and then crapped out at poker that night.

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BBQ Preview: Shredded Pork Shoulder for Fifty

I’ve never tried to cook for anything larger than a big family outing, so tomorrow is a big step. I was tapped to make dinner for 50 men at the annual washers tournament. Here’s everything the night before, including eight pork shoulders coming in at 54 lbs total and a monstrous amount of hickory wood.

My bounty from Sam’s Club

Hopefully the post on Friday that gives an account of my adventure is more positive than negative…

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Men’s Club Rib Dinner

I am a member of the Our Lady of Providence Parish in South St. Louis County, as evidenced by my Fish Fry post and Facebook ads pointing to the same post.

Last year, the Men’s Club had two serious problems: (1) a broken, dilapidated metal deathtrap of a BBQ pit, and (2) a budget surplus. What better way to fix both problems at once than by buying a very expensive custom BBQ trailer from a Memphis-based company?

BBQ Trailer

We have several BBQ fanatics in the Men’s Club, including one guy who agreed to cook us dinner at the last meeting. We meet the third Thursday of every month for a brief meeting, some dinner, and then poker/beers until (1) we run out of beer, (2) someone wins at poker, (3) the school alarm goes off, (4) any combination of those.

I have been tapped to make dinner for the June 2012 meeting (Hint: 10 pork shoulders for 50 men!). Dinner for the May 2012 meeting was to be about 20 slabs of baby back ribs. This is a good thing.

What’s in the box!?

This evening, what’s in the box is a bunch of charcoal and cherry wood logs. They called them chunks, but these are quartered logs, like something you would put on a back yard fire pit. And, they were not wood soaked.

Firebox

Sadly, I got there late. I thought I was early, but everyone else was way early, so I wound up being late. That put me at the end of the BBQ line.

However, where one line for food was long, another line, this for beer, was short:

Beers

The beer had already been hit hard. Half of Layer One was gone! There is a strong preference to A-B / InBev products in the Men’s Club. I had to make a PBR run when they only had Bud Light a few months ago.

On to the ribs. I consulted with the BBQer. What did he do?

The ribs were coated in a rub of Lawry’s seasoned salt, butcher’s pepper, brown sugar, garlic salt, and onion salt. Presumably after having removed the membrane, the ribs smoked for four hours with the cherry smoke. After smoking, the ribs were (individually?) wrapped in foil with a mixture of beer and Maull’s BBQ sauce for a fifth and final hour of slow cooking, moisturizing, and tenderizing.

Well-rounded meal

Could these be the potatoes like Grandma Simpson used to make? Shitloads of pork grease in them? Sure looks like it.

Slaw with crushed Ramen noodles and some pine nuts in them? WTF is going on here?

Ribs. Eat ’em.

But the ribs are the star here. Last one there means only one serving. They were delectable. Meat came right off the bones, but they were not too tender. I have been criticized (by this BBQ chef) for my overly-tender boiled ribs. To each their own – I love them both.

Terrible meal. I demand a refund.

As you can see, it was awesome. Great work, Paul!

NB: This brings me to an unrelated pet peeve. You’re out to eat, and Mr. Smartass Waiter comes by to a plate that looks like this. You get one of two jackass comments. (1) Did you enjoy the meal? [chuckle], or (2) Well, looks like someone really enjoyed the dinner. I’ve waited and bussed at several restaurants and never said either of those things. Any server who does should be catapulted into a volcano.

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2012 Schlafly World Pork Steak Championships

One of the best days of the year for an amateur St. Louis BBQer was yesterday at the Pavilion in Chesterfield’s Central Park: the Annual Schlafly World Pork Steak Championships. I have been practicing for a few weeks on an entree and my pork steaks, and my partner, Mike, has been working on an appetizer. We’ve done this together for four years now and it’s always a blast, despite the fact that we always get too drunk and finish near last.

We got the tent set up around 8:30 or so. Say hello to everyone, Mike! Be sure to look as silly as possible.

Hi, everybody!

Easily one of the coolest CPAs I know…

Mike brought his fancy Weber 22.5″ and I brought the Big Blue smoker.

Where the magic happens

Appetizer due at 2:00pm, entree due at 2:30pm, and pork steaks due at 3:00pm.

Planned Menu:

Appetizer – Balsamic marinaded chicken kebabs, paired with a porter beer

Entree – Smoked steelhead trout BLT paninis, paired with an IPA

Pork Steaks – Smoked for about 2 hours at 200 degrees after a dredging in a mustard/beer/brown sugar paste, followed by a brief sear on each side

Competitor Meeting at 9:30am:

No foreign objects allowed, as in no kebab skewers. Also, you can garnish as much as you want, contrary to what the rules said. Also, beer sales are at 12:00 noon, and apparently you could have brought your own package beer after all. Mike was totally bent out of shape by all of this.

Appetizer: (Sorry, but I didn’t get any photos of this)

With some input from my wife, Mike changed things on the fly to lettuce wraps with the chicken and some grilled veggies. He also changed the beer pairing from a dark beer to a summer lager.

Mike toasted peanuts in a foil pouch, grilled some bok choy (Chinese cabbage) and bell peppers, and grilled his chicken as usual. It was all chopped up and tossed in some large leaf lettuce with peanut sauce and dry asian slaw.

Frankly, the appetizer was delicious. We all liked it, but apparently the judges didn’t find it top ten worthy. It was probably Mike’s best effort to date. Good work.

Entree:

I generally followed the recipe from a few practice sessions ago when we first tried the smoked steelhead trout BLT paninis. Both huge filets were generously covered on the non-skin side with Lawry’s seasoned salt and coarse black pepper.

Simply seasoned fish

Due to some grill space issues, one of the cedar planks had to be put on the Weber 22″ over indirect heat and the other had to go on the smoker where the pork steaks (discussed later) were already in the midst of a hickory wood smoke.

Smoked steelhead trout, skin ready to come off

As entree assembly time approached, only the fish on the smoker grate was ready to go. The one on the Weber was underdone. This would turn out to be a critical piece of fortune.

After about 30-40 minutes of cooking, the skin peeled right off in one piece and the fish was ready for a little more cooking.

Skinned fish filet

The BLTs were assembled with the pre-cooked thick-cut maple bacon, some real mayonnaise, arugula, and vine ripened tomatoes, all on white ciabatta bread rolls.

Set up and ready for fish

After putting generous, massive pieces of fish on each sandwich, I put the assembled sandwiches on the smoker and used a paver brick wrapped in foil as a panini press.

While the sandwiches finished, we tried the remaining filet. Much to our surprise, the flavor was much richer and buttery than it had been in the past. Something about the two wood smoking and the drum smoker as opposed to the Weber improved the fish dramatically.

Then, after each side of the sandwich got a pressing, we pulled them and cut each in half. Six individual servings were required.

Paninied sandwiches

They looked good. They tasted amazing. I felt pretty good about my chances. If nothing else, I made something delicious and was getting excited to make some sandwiches for the group once the other filet finished on the Weber.

I needed to pair it with a beer. What better to go with something sweet and smoky and full of fish than an IPA? I selected the Goose Island IPA as my pairing.

BLT w/ Fish

I turned it in and was pleased… despite the pork steak fiasco. Read on.

Pork Steaks:

The plan was to replicate my prior successes at making pork steaks by dredging them through some paste/mud of mustard, beer, brown sugar, pepper, spice, paprika, etc.

Dredge paste ready to go

Each of the pork steaks, and the only gave us three this year, was liberally coated.

Pork steaks in their spicy mud bath

Rubber gloves for food safety. After all, the county health inspector is around.

Safety first. Pork hands are not good.

The witches’ brew of hickory smoke billowed from Big Blue. The time for pork steaks is at hand.

Catastrophe coming…

The pork steaks met the smoke about 2 hours before turn in time. We were busy getting the appetizer and entree prepared and they are a low-maintenance dish. Little did I realize that the temperature was climbing, rapidly and dangerously.

Big Blue usually sits at 200 degrees, barely going over 225. Today, however, it rose to 300 then 350. When I finally realized it was at 350, I knew I was screwed.

Oh crap

In the part trial runs, these things were ready for a flip and continued smoke at an hour. After two hours, they were super tender, hyper-moist, and very flavorful. My plan was to give them a brief sear to get some BBQish crispiness on the outside, at about 2 minutes per side or less, after the smoking was over. No point now.

What a nightmare. I was quite dejected, a feeling that passed later for reasons you will read. Eventually, as explained below, I figured out why this happened. Basically this was the low part of the day.

I cut six slices from the least awful pork steak and turned them in with zero expectations of success. The other two were inedible. Time for a shitload of beers and some contemplation how this freak accident happened.

Awards Ceremony:

Whilst we waited for them to announce the awards, we hit the craft beer tent pretty hard.

Beer tent. What a nice way to spend a 95 degree day.

Mike caught up on his summer reading.

Scandalous! Fabulous! OMFG S&M!

They announced the appetizer winners without mentioning us. Damned shame, but better luck next year.

As a quick aside, my expectations were low. While we were prepping our pork steaks, the guy next to us came over and let us try some of his Tri-Tip that he turned in as his entree. Holy MFing Shit, it was amazing. Juicy, flavorful, perfectly cooked. If this is what I am up against, then I’m screwed.

Much to my pleasant surprise, I was announced as the Third Place winner in the entree category!

Third Place is better than nothing!

It was my first BBQ trophy that didn’t involve something that’s apparently unethical, like parboiling pork ribs.

Obviously we were thrilled!

Hooray

Oh, and I didn’t place in the pork steaks. They sucked. I knew they sucked when I made them and turned them in. I seriously messed up, as explained below. Whatever. I was happy to win something for the entree.

Epilogue:

Not to ruin the story, but I was already dead in the water with respect to the pork steaks and I didn’t know it, before ever showing up that morning.

The night before the competition, I thoroughly cleaned out Big Blue. For weeks, I had been practicing with a lining of BBQ drippings, ash, coal, etc. all cemented to the bottom and lower walls of the smoker. It had been performing consistently and in a manner that I could control and predict. I don’t know why I cleaned it out; I just did.

During the competition, the temperature spiked uncontrollably a few times. It went up to 350 out of nowhere and stayed hot. Even after dousing the fire and closing the baffles, it jumped to 400. Two of the three pork steaks dried out and the third was a mediocre shadow of my previous practice successes. A total fiasco that left me puzzled until I had a eureka moment in the middle of the night last night. Dammit. Live and learn.

Still, a great time and a good finish.

Mike was annoyed about the change in the package liquor rules. According to the original entry form, we would be disqualified if we had outside package beer or liquor. Tons of people had outside package beer and liquor, but not us. I mentioned to Mike that every prior year we had gotten blasted and someone had burnt themselves (usually Mike) and we had turned in sub-par food. This year we stayed bright, drank tons of water, and turned in some wonderful food. He begrudgingly agreed.

Now would be a good time for a beer. This one was awesome:

Matilda by Goose Island, my celebratory beer (among many)

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BBQ Cuban Sandwiches

I don’t have many solid, 100% rules in life. Here’s a big one: If there’s a Cuban sandwich on the menu, get the Cuban sandwich. Only a Sith deals in absolutes? Not true. It’s never failed me. Let’s try making one on the BBQ.

Cubans are simple in theory. You start with pork two ways: sliced ham and shredded pork. I can get both from a single shoulder. Marry that meat on some ciabatta, with pickles, swiss cheese, and (frequently) some brown mustard. Finish that puppy with a panini-style pressing. That can also be done on a BBQ grill.

Start off with a whole pork shoulder on the 55 gallon smoker. I use a 3/4 chimney full of coals and most of a bag of mesquite wood chunks.

To prep the shoulder, I trimmed off the heavy fat and coated the meat with a bunch of brown sugar-based rub, well mixed with paprika, seasoned salt, cayenne pepper, and garlic salt.

I am going to set up the whole shoulder for a nice, slow smoke on Sunday morning. Two and a half hours should be good. To kill the time, I am taking the kiddo to see The Avengers.

Pork. Beautiful pork.

Wow. The Avengers was friggin’ awesome. See that damn movie, especially if you have a 6 year old. Hulk kicks ass… all kinds of ass. Worth the price of admission and more.

Three hours of godliness

Anywho, after some serious smoking, I carved off the non-bone half of the shoulder. (Ignore the kids’ beef hot dog lunch on the corner of the grill.) Three hours after putting it on the temp is still about 275. The meat itself has an internal temp of about 150 degrees and smells unbelievably amazing.

The bone-in half will get the foil wrap and some juice/beer to steam. Another two to three hours will get me some epic shredable pork.

Succulent pork!

Steam the bone half with some apple juice and ale for about 2 to 2.5 hours on the smoker. It’s holding steady at about 275.

Wrapped up and ready for a shredable steam

Once all the pork is prepped and the sandwich ingredients are set up on a sandwich, I still need to panini this sando. How do you do this on a BBQ? BBQ Panini Brick is the answer. WTF is that, you ask? Well, you wrap a paver stone in a bunch of aluminum foil and put it back on the grill for some indirect melty, squishy finishing. (I plan to set up an e-commerce section of this site and sell panini BBQ bricks for $20 a pop. )

Squish

In the end, a beautiful creation emerges. Slice it up and consume.

Cuban sandwiches… calling Sr. Castro!

Hard to describe the awesomeness of this…

Now… a critical part of this competition is to pair this sandwich with some kind of craft beer. I’m open to suggestions, but let’s start with the flavors in the sandwich. Sweet, smoky pork, the salty tartness of pickles, the strong flavors of swiss cheese… you can go crisp and fresh like a lager or go in the polar opposite direction for some kind of porter/stout. Ale doesn’t sound right. Pilsner could work here.

Regardless, this pork shoulder sandwich experiment was highly successful. I have a ton of shredded shoulder left over. We have a great potential entree for the BBQ competition. All who attended the practice were thrilled. Give this a shot. You won’t be sorry.

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Pork Steak BBQ: 2012 Practice Session #2

In pursuit of the noble aim of perfecting the pork steak, I assembled my crew and got to grilling.

For the second practice session, I am abandoning the Weber 22″ and moving on to my homemade smoker, Big Blue.

Prior to putting the pork steaks on the grill, I cleaned the grill grate with a heavy lubrication of vegetable oil on a half onion. While a 3/4 full coal chimney did it’s job, I got my full bag of water-soaked hickory wood chunks (as opposed to chips). Once assembled, with the coals in the basket, wood on the coals, and grill grate in place, it looked like this:

Lots of flavor escaping!

On to the meat. This practice session will include two different recipes, though they are not too dissimilar to things I have made in the past.

First, 4 of the pork steaks were coated liberally in a brown sugar-based rub that included paprika, dry Italian herbs, onion powder, and Lawry’s seasoned salt. This rub was put only on one side of the meat, and, when the food goes on the grill, that side will be up.

These look pretty good, but for the raw pork issue

Second, the remaining 4 pork steaks were coated in a mustard-based paste, similar to but thinner than my brisket paste, and with far less paprika and no cayenne pepper. Then they were entombed in aluminum foil for over an hour to absorb the flavors.

Though unappetizing now, these will get better

Everybody on the grill:

Hard to see with all of the smoke

I tried several times to get a better picture than the one above, but the smoke was completely enveloping the steaks. I left them alone for 45 minutes, while the smoker was a shade above 200 degrees.

Less hazy, more delicious

How wonderful these look after 45 minutes! Earlier in the post, I mentioned that the grill grate was well-lubricated with vegetable oil. What effect did that have on the pork steaks, besides providing an effective non-stick coating? Flipping the meat will give the answer:

Grill lines!

The answer is beautiful grill lines! Presentation is one of the scoring categories in the BBQ pork steak competition, so getting them to look good is an important element of the practice.

About 30-45 minutes later, the smoker is at 250 degrees and the pork steaks are done. Each is cut in half for serving.

Pork steak two ways: Delicious and delicious

Personally, I found the mustard-pasted pork steaks to be juicier, and they had a much milder yet smoky flavor, as compared to the rub-covered pork steaks. Each picked up tremendous smoke flavor, while retaining the distinct seasonings applied pre-BBQ.

Perhaps it was the technique, but these were the juiciest pork steaks I have ever made. They were not the most tender (though they were quite tender), but they were wonderful. In fact, all in attendance made it a point to tell me that these were the best pork steaks that I have ever made, which is something to say since I have been BBQing with an eye to the craft for several years.

This brings up two challenges: (1) pick one and run with it, and (2) consistently replicate this.

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Pork Steak BBQ: 2012 Practice Session #1

Although the annual World Pork Steak Championships are no longer being held at the Schlafly Bottleworks, the St. Louis BBQ Society picked up the ball and continued the tradition. Good work, fellas. That means that I am still going to be presenting my best attempt at championship pork steaks on Memorial Day Saturday this year.

In addition to the pork steak and appetizer paired with a craft beer (to be handled by my BBQ teammate), we must also now come up with an entree paired with a craft beer. I have some ideas…

Back to the task at hand. After a long day of hard gardening, I was ready to get some meat on the grill.

Lots of Roma, cherry, & grape tomatoes

Lillies, peppers, & roses

I set up my Weber 22″ for indirect cooking with a heapin’ helpin’ of water-soaked cherry wood chips.

Wow that's a lot of wood

I picked up five center cut 1″ pork steaks from Schnucks. For those of you not from St. Louis, a pork steak is a pork shoulder (a/k/a Boston Butt) cut into 1″ steaks, each steak having a Y-shaped bone in the center.

It can be a tough piece of meat, and many people will drown it in abhorrent BBQ sauce or overcook it. My aim is to excell in three areas: taste, appearance, tenderness.

I decided to try two techniques tonight. Two of the steaks will get a brisket-esque paste and the other three will get a dry rub. All will be smoked on the grill, and then the two sets will tenderize in an apple juice-filled foil boat. I’ve never done this before with pork steaks, so who knows how it will turn out.

Pork steaks w/ yummy paste

To make the paste, I used about 6 oz. brown mustard, 1/3 cup brown sugar, some paprika, onion salt, Lawry’s seasoned salt, and maybe some other dry stuff. Each side was coated liberally.

Just another Sunday at the Simpson House

The other pork steaks got a dry rub, which consisted of 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup paprika, onion powder, garlic salt, Italian seasoning, cinnamon, Lawry’s seasoned salt, cayenne pepper, etc. Each side of each pork steak was generously coated.

All five pork steaks were smoked on each side for about 10-12 minutes.

At the conclusion of the cherry wood smoke, each set of pork steaks went into a foil boat with a little bit of apple juice to prepare for a tenderizing steam over semi-direct heat.

A foil ark

Now would be a good time for a beer. May I suggest one of my favorite yardwork beers – Boddington’s Pub Ale.

Like a little bit of England in my Missouri garden

After about 5-6 minutes of steaming, the foil boats got a 180 degree turn.

The bratwurst feel naked by comparison

Finally, I pulled all the meat. The pork steaks, when the competition rolls around, will need to be cut into two servings. That meansĀ a half that is loaded with fat and meat, and a half with the Y bone surrounded by meat and some outer ribbons of fat. Each half has distinct qualities.

Pork steak carnage

In my opinion, the pork steaks with the paste had more flavor, whereas my wife preferred the dry rub. Regardless, the kids destroyed them.

I felt like the steaming diluted the flavors from the rub/paste. You could definitely pick up on the smoke, but the flavors were not as strong. Perhaps on Practice Session #2 I can pull the pork steaks from the steam and follow up with a little seasoning and grilling to finish. Maybe the short time in the foil did not permit a true tenderization, and the juice/steam took off the flavorings that I had applied pre-smoke. The technique will need improving.

All in all, it was a great meal. Even the terminally-ill dog enjoyed the fat, trimmings, leftovers.

Oh shit more BBQ trimmings?!? NOM NOM NOM!!

I still need to come up with a BBQed entree to pair with a craft beer for this competition, in addition to perfecting the pork steaks. The BBQ appetizer… that’s for my partner to figure out.

For the past few years, we have been Team Shock & Awesome. I thought it was pretty funny, while somewhat distinctive. It was suggested that we change to Team Mesquite-squite-squite and use Lil’ Jon as a mascot. Is this too much?

Ignore the potential copyright concerns, please

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