Aah…Labor Day Weekend. The last bastion of warm weather holidays. A time to pay tribute to the American worker. Labor Day weekend symbolizes the end of summer for many of us and in doing so we celebrate with parades and backyard parties. Labor Day also marks the official start of NFL and college football and sadly, the last day of the year it is fashionable to wear white. So before I put away my array of white pants, shoes and belts for the season, I stoke up the backyard smoker for one of our last patio parties.
All summer long in my columns I have covered almost everything about cooking in the backyard, and a long holiday weekend is a great time to start learning about your grill. And since we have covered smoking ribs, grilling steaks and stuffing burgers, why not close out the summer season by throwing a Boston butt on the smoker and feasting on some pulled-pork?
Smoking ribs and brisket require some attention. Boston butt from the pork shoulder is a lot less forgiving. Butts will come anywhere from 6-8 pounds with the bone in. Just trim the meat of any excess fat, heat the smoker to 215 degrees, throw the butt on and retire to the backyard for some horseshoe tossing and cold beer.
I like to rub my butt before smoking it. The Boston butt that is. So I turn to my trusty Bad Byron’s Butt Rub. Sprinkle it liberally on my butt and massage it in the meat. Then we are ready for some smokin’.
Figure on about an hour of smoking per pound, so the butt should be ready in 6-8 hours. Here’s a tip. Rub the pork the night before and refrigerate. Take it out early in the morning and let it sit at room temperature for an hour or so. Get the smoker heated up and make sure to keep a constant temperature between 200 and 250 degrees.
Some smoke jockeys will either mop or brush the butt the last half-hour or so with sauce. Purists however, just leave it alone and allow the merits of the smoked flavor to stand on its own. I tend to agree.
Use a digital meat thermometer and when the pork reaches a temperature of 165 degrees you are good to go. Let it cool and pull some pork.
Which brings us to our next poser when assembling a pulled-pork sandwich. Sauce.
North Carolina versus Kansas City. No, it’s not an NCAA college basketball game, it’s Carolina vinegar based sauce against tomato based Kansas City sweet sauce. Carolina Sauce is a hot vinegar sauce laced with Karo syrup, salt and pepper. Various recipes include adding mustard, brown sugar or anything else that rings your bell. The KC sauce is tomato based with vinegar, brown sugar, spices and again, whatever tickles your fancy. Or just go out and buy a jar of your favorite sauce at the supermarket. It’s all just a matter of taste.
When assembling a pulled-pork sandwich keep it simple and keep a few things in mind.
First, make sure your butt is shredded fine. Pull it by hand; if it is done, it will fall apart easily. If you have to, shred it further using a knife. When it’s shredded, that is the time to sauce it. Pour sauce in a bowl, throw in the pork and toss it. If you want to serve the butt naked, fine, put a bowl of different sauces on the side and let your guests do it.
Second is the bread. No fancy buns needed, cheap hamburger buns or even plain white bread will do.
Third is the Cole slaw, an integral component of any pulled-pork sandwich. Cole slaw is basically a portable salad that in different parts of the pulled-pork universe is served either on the sandwich or on the side. Either way, you’ve got to have it.
For the best results serve up everything buffet style and let the family and friends assemble their own. A couple of different sauces, Cole slaw, a half-dozen bags of buns and a whole bunch of paper towels.
Happy Labor Day everybody and remember, a good rub makes a smokin’ butt.