Assembling A Sandwich With Slow Smoked Pork
In the world of barbecue, smoked pork ranks high. The process of making it yourself can seem daunting, though. Where do you start? What kind of meat do you use? How do you keep it moist? My mission is to see to it that these questions no longer stand in your way. Making your own slow smoked pork for a great sandwich is not difficult; in fact, once you know what you are doing, it is actually fun. With a few materials, a bit of time, and a little care, you will produce a meal that is so delicious you just might be eating homemade pork sandwiches every weekend.
- Wood for superior flavor, choose hickory or oak. You can use any kind you like, though, with the exception of alder and mesquite. If you smoke with either of these two, you are likely to add an unpleasant taste to your meat. Wood gives the best flavor, but it is possible to use charcoal instead. Just soak chunks of hardwood in water before beginning the fire, and add them to the charcoal while they are still damp. Be aware that you might find it necessary to add more charcoal and wood chunks as the cooking process goes on.
- Pork shoulder. There are three possibilities when it comes to meat: you can buy either a whole shoulder, which is actually a front leg and shoulder, or one of the two cuts which come from it. Either of these cuts, called the Boston Butt and the Picnic Roast, is usable, but Boston Butt is often preferred, being more even in form and more manageable. However, should you choose to use the Picnic Roast, be sure to buy it with the bone in; the bone will give far more flavor and moisture than boneless meat.
- Meat thermometer
- Heavy aluminum foil
- Pot or slow cooker for keeping the meat hot while pulling
- Insulated food-safe gloves
- Injection marinade and meat injector
- Disposable aluminum pan
Step 1: Trimming the meat
You want plenty of fat on your meat but not so much that it interferes with cook time and flavor. Before beginning the seasoning process, it is important that you pare down the fat so that it is no thicker than ¼ - ½ inch at any one point. At the same time, you want to remove loose fat, skin, and any other undesirable matter from your meat.
Buy Berkshire, Duroc, Mangalitsa, or Tamworth for optimal flavor. You will not find these breeds, known as "heritage pork," in your grocery store, but a butcher shop or online market should be able to supply you with what you want.
Step 2: Applying the rub
After gently drying the meat, it is time to begin seasoning. To do this, we use a rub, or to put it more simply, a mixture of spices and herbs. Do not be sparing in your application. As long as the rub continues to adhere, continue sprinkling. Make sure that your roast is uniformly coated before you set it aside to let it absorb the flavors.
For extra juiciness, inject a marinade before applying the rub. Blend water and vinegar in a 1:1 ratio and add some of your rub. Push your meat injector two inches into the pork before releasing the mixture, repeating this process uniformly over the entire surface.
Step 3: Preparing the smoker
Try to keep your smoker heated to 215 degrees Fahrenheit, although anywhere from 215 to 235 degrees Fahrenheit is safe. Average cooking times at the lower temperatures are anywhere from 1 to 1½ hours for every pound, but smoking your meat closer to 235 degrees Fahrenheit will mean that you will need to cook it 10 minutes fewer per pound.
Depending on the design of your smoker, you can minimize cleaning by catching the drippings in a disposable aluminum pan.
Step 4: Cooking the meat
Now your meat should be ready. Center it on your smoker and let it cook for four hours minimum before checking the temperature. After this period, insert the thermometer at the boneless end of the meat, making sure it reaches the middle. Your goal is an internal temperature of 180-190 degrees Fahrenheit; if it is lower, it will be difficult to pull, and if higher it will dry out.
Note that every time you insert the thermometer, you release moisture. The more you poke, the more liquid you are letting escape. Check the temperature as little as possible to keep your meat at maximum tenderness.
At 145 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature will be static for approximately an hour. If speed is necessary, you can use heavy aluminum foil to wrap up the meat. Leave it wrapped on the smoker, or, if you wish, complete the cooking in an oven preheated to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 5: Pulling
At this point, you are going to transform your roast into sandwich-worthy form. Before you begin, however, you want it to cool for about an hour. When the temperature is low enough for you to handle the meat, break it into chunks, discarding any fat or bone. Put the chunks into a slow cooker or a large pot and keep them heated at a low temperature while you shred them.
To retain moisture, it is important that you shred the meat with your hands rather than cutting or slicing it. The natural character of the meat is preserved in this way, which renders your product juicier and more regular in form.
Wearing insulated food-safe gloves to protect your hands from the heat will allow you to begin shredding while the meat is still very hot.
Step 6: Serving
When you serve your shredded pork, you have the option of adding a sauce. Sauce is a piquant addition, but you do not want to overwhelm the flavor of the meat with it. If you choose, you can stir it into the meat. It may be best, however, to serve it in a bowl or bottle and allow individual preference to dictate its use.
For optimal flavor, serve on buttered, toasted buns with coleslaw, both of which accent the taste of the meat.
Are you ready now to try for yourself? Once you master this procedure, you will never want to buy smoked pork again. Making your own meat will not only allow you to tailor the flavor according to your own preferences, but it will also give you the satisfaction of the artist and the joy of the creator.
Do you have any thoughts, tips, or ideas? Share them with us in the comment section below, and if you think this tutorial helpful, pass it on to your friends!
Frequently Asked Questions
Should You Leave the Fat Cap On a Pork Shoulder?
There is much debate whether to leave the fat cap on the pork shoulder or remove it. If you are going to leave it on, make sure to inject it with the brine. Otherwise, the brine will not penetrate the meat. If you are not planning on injecting, you should trim the pork shoulder so it is only 1/2-inch thick.
What Are the Best Heritage Breeds of Pork?
If you can find heritage breeds of pork, they are well worth the effort and extra money. Red Waddle pork, for example, is well marbled and earthy flavored. Berkshire is naturally sweet and smokey, while Duroc is super juicy. You may not find these breeds in the local grocery store, but you can talk to your local farmers or to the butcher at the meat counter to find the right breed for you.
What is the Best Way to Shred Pulled Pork for a Sandwich?
Using your hands (protected from the heat with gloves) is the best way to shred pork without over manipulating the grains. When you use a knife or a fork, it’s easy to harm the natural character of the pork. You can also use shredding claws to help you quickly and easily shred your pork shoulder. They are placed on top of your hands and have sharp knives that mimic the natural movements of super sharp fingernails.
How Should You Make a Smoked Pork Sandwich?
Using a soft bun, like a potato bun, is the first step to a great pulled pork sandwich. It will prevent the pork from slipping out of the sandwich. Then, adding crunchy toppings like coleslaw and dill or sweet pickles will add contrasting flavors and textures. Your favorite barbecue sauce always has a place on a smoked pork sandwich, and grilled onions, sauteed peppers, or cooked mushrooms are also very popular. Cheese is less popular on pork sandwiches but it would taste good, too.
How Many Sandwiches Will You Be Able to Make With a Pork Shoulder?
One pork shoulder should make about 8 to 10 sandwiches, depending on its size and how much meat you are putting on each sandwich. A normal pulled pork sandwich contains approximately 6 ounces of meat.