Ask 1000 barbecue cooks how to make pulled pork and you will get 1000 different answers. Consider this a starting point of sorts, it will give you some theory and technique, but you can take this and run with it and make it your own.
Back in November of 2012 I decided to cook 5 pork butts on my XL Big Green Egg at once, 40 pounds in total!!! I called it my Pork Butt Project 2012. My goal at the time was to cook enough pulled pork to get Jackie and I through the the onslaught of Pot Luck dinners we would be going to in December. It worked like a charm!!!
Over the course of about 18 hours I posted about a dozen times updating the status of this massive Pork Butt cook. What I am going to do here is consolidate those posts into one that will give you everything I learned (in some cases the hard way) and hope to get you off and cooking some pork butts of your own.
The temperature control issues that I had during this cook I have now all but eliminated because since this cook, I have been using my DigiQ DX2 Pit Controller to keep the Egg rocking at whatever temperature I set it at. But since a Pit Controller doesn’t come as a standard accessory for your Egg, I was glad that I could show you this cook without using it.
So sit back with your favorite beverage and get comfy, cause this is going to be a long one!
Pork Butt Project 2012 – Nov 21, 20:49
I went by my local butcher shop the other day and ordered 40 pounds of Pork Butt!!!! This is the biggest cook I have ever attempted on the Big Green Egg! (or on any BBQ for that matter!)
That’s right, I ended up with 5, boneless pork butt roasts, all tied up thanks to Steve the butcher and I am ready to start smoking. Or at least I will be at 4am
The first thing I did was hit them with a bunch of Cluck & Squeal Rib Formula. I like using this rub because it is well balanced, not too sweet, not too salty. Just right! But feel free to use whatever rub is your favorite!
I have some wood chunks ready to start soaking, and I just finished cleaning out my Big Green Egg and getting it ready to go. All I have to do is get up at 4, light the Egg, get it to 225F and get smokin!!!
It is very important when doing a long time cook such as this that you start with a perfectly cleaned out Egg. Nothing kills a long cook more than already blocked air flow. You also want to load enough lump to last 14-18 hours, which is almost to the top of the fire ring.
It’s currently 11pm, so I should hit the sack and try get a few Z’s before I have to get up and get these going.
Pork Butt Project 2012 – Nov 22, 04:30
Got up at 4am and got some hickory chunks soaking in some water. I should have done this before bed at 11, but just forgot! I am going to use both chunks and chips. I like the combo. The chips get an intense smoke at the beginning, the chunks last a little longer.
Since I pre-cleaned out my XL Big Green Egg last night, all I had to do was light it. I used a Mapp Torch to do that I lit 5 small spots of charcoal. This is the challenge:
You want to light a small fire that will burn for a long time. So you light smaller spots. I then put the plate setter back in the Egg and closed the lid. I am now waiting for it all to warm up.
You want to warm up your plate setter along with your Egg so that later when you are ready to put the meat on you don’t have as massive of a temperature drop.
This is a longer process than normal because normally I light it and getting going to hotter temp.
I just looked out the window and the Egg temp has climbed up to about 100F…
I will post back here shortly
Pork Butt Project 2012 – Nov 22, 04:45
The Big Green Egg temperature has climbed up to almost 300F.
That is ok. It is still lighting. I closed up the bottom damper and the top flywheel and I am going to let the temp stabilize before I put the wood chunks in and put the pork on. I know that when I do that, the temp will drop.
Back in a bit…
Pork Butt Project 2012 – Nov 22, 05:30
Ok, so the Egg temp had dropped once I closed up the dampers, just like I said it would.
It was holding there pretty steady. Time to get the Pork Butts on. As you can see, I pre-rubbed them last night in Cluck & Squeal Rib Formula, but use whatever rub you like best!
So I put a combination of wet and dry hickory chunks and chips in the Egg. Topped it up with a little more charcoal so that it has enough for a long low n slow and it started smoking almost right away.
Now the moment of truth!
I put the first 3 butts on the bottom with the intention of putting 2 on my home made raised grid. Only problem is these bad boys were too big!!!! My grid just sat on the meat, not the grill. D’oh!!!
Did I mention that it is currently -16C or 6F right now??? The only upside is there is no wind!
I was freeeeezing my hands trying to get all that figured out! So in the end, I decided, to hell with it, I have an XL, I am going to just stuff all 5 butts on the grill and close the lid!
It may not be ideal, but it should work. Guess I will find out in about 12-14 hours 🙂
But once I closed the lid it was smoking nicely.
I am now just waiting for temp of the Egg to come back up. I have the vents open a little wider than I normally would keep them at, but when the Egg hits 225F I will close them up a little. Looking out the window it looks like it is about 200F.
I also normally stick a remote meat thermometer in the one of the Butts, however, -16C and AA batteries don’t work well together, so I am going to wait till later and hopefully it warms up. The high today is only -5C or 23F.
So there wont be too much more excitement here for a bit. I will make some coffee and monitor the temp of the Egg, make sure it gets to 225 in the next hour and then I will let it do it’s thing.
I normally don’t open the Egg until the meat hits 190F. I will have to do it sooner than that today though because it would be just a guess. I might open it up to check on the butts in about 6 hours. Maybe put the remote thermometer in one of them.
In the meantime, I’ll just relax and try to warm up!!!
Pork Butt Project 2012 – Nov 22, 06:15
The temp finally came back up to 225F. Closed up the damper and flywheel slightly, as I want it to stay in that range without continuing to climb. I am going to keep watching it for a bit to make sure it stays there.
I still haven’t played with my electronic pit controller, the BBQ Guru that we won at Fargo Eggfest, but one of these days I will. That would hold the temp exactly where I want it. I just need to find out if there is a minimum operating temperature for it. I don’t want to freeze it up!!!
So for the time being, I’m doing this manually and I’m keeping an eye on the Egg and I will adjust the temp if needed. Once it stabilizes though, it’s pretty good at hold the temp on it’s own. It’s one of the many things I love about my Big Green Eggs!
Pork Butt Project 2012 – Nov 22, 08:00
So I took a nap on the couch for about an hour and even in my sleep I’m dreaming about cooking pork butt 🙂 I swear I could taste it, but must be the smoke in my clothes.
I just went to check on the temp and it was hitting the low side, around 200F. This is my fault because earlier it was climbing to about 250F. So I went and closed the dome wheel slightly, now, an hour later I have to open in it again. So I’m just looking for that sweet spot. However, I think I would rather run it a little hot than a little cool, seeing as I have 5 of those butts in there and I still want to eat dinner sometime before 8pm!
It’s been 3 hours since I put those on and does it ever smell good outside!!!! Like Emeril used to say, “I wish you had smellivision”
Sorry no pics for a bit… I wont be opening the dome till at least 11am CST. I would normally not even open it then, but I want to take an internal temp reading and I might want to reposition the pork butts.
Pork Butt Project 2012 – Nov 22, 10:45
Well, since the Egg was doing it’s thing, I went for another little nap on the couch. I feel MUCH better now!
But when I woke up it was snowing!!!!
Anyway, snow or no snow, we keep on cookin!!! Snow wont hurt the Egg, it will just annoy the cook!!! 🙂
I will be checking the temp of the butts in the next hour or so, so I will finally have some pictures of food to post instead 🙂
Pork Butt Project 2012 – Nov 22, 12:45
The pork butts have now been on for almost 8 hours (although the pics are from around noon) and the snow outside has gone from scattered flurries to almost white out. The current temp outside is -10C or 14F so it’s warmed up a bit since this morning.
Anyway, the Egg temp itself is holding fine at 250F and it’s still smoking.
So with no further adieu here are the pics you’ve all been waiting for!
Sorry about the wet camera lens, like I said, it has gone to full on snow!
So I took the temp in the center of each roast and they varied from 140F to 160F depending on size and location on the grill.
The least cooked one was the one in the front of the first picture and the most at the back of the Egg. The one in the center of the grill was probably the second most cooked.
I switched the front one with the middle one and then I put the put the remote thermometer into the middle one. At 12:40 it is currently reading 145F.
I need these to get up to 195-200F, so we have a ways to go. Some of these might be hitting their plateau shortly, while others are a ways off.
What usually happens with pork butt and brisket is that the meat hits the 165-170F range and then it looks like it gets stuck. The temp will sit there or even drop for a while. This is what I mean when I talk about the plateau. Don’t panic!!! This is where the magic of Low N Slow happens. It’s where all that tough connective tissue breaks down into something juicy! These butts should be getting into the plateau shortly. Once they clear the plateau, it usually only takes a couple more hours to finish them off.
I will check them again when the one with the probe hits 185F and I will see where they are all at. I expect the smaller ones to finish first and if they do, that’s fine. I will take them off, wrap them in foil and then in a dishtowel and then put them into a cooler to rest up.
So there probably wont be much action for the next while. Hope this was a good tease for what’s to come!!! I’ll check back with you all in a few hours. In the meantime I have some potato salad and coleslaw to make!
Pork Butt Project 2012 – Nov 22, 15:00
Just a quick update…
We’ve had the pork butts on for 10 hours now and the slowest cooking one is at about 176F. So it looks like we’ve got through the plateau ok and it only took a couple hours. Of course I have been wrong before. 🙂
Stay tuned, 14 degrees to go till I go get more pictures and 24 degrees till they come off.
At least the snow stopped!!!
We’re getting there!!!
Pork Butt Project 2012 – Nov 22, 17:00
We are now at 12 hours cooking time and we’re getting there. The butt that I have the thermometer in was reading 189 but after using my Thermapen instant read thermometer, it is really lower than that. I just changed the position of the thermometer and it is showing 180F.
After checking the temps of all of them, they range from 174F to about 185F depending how big it is and where it is on the grill.
So at 3pm, I was wrong, these things were still in their plateau and they are just coming out of it now. It seemed kind of fast before… I guess that’s what false thermometer readings can do. I know my Thermapen is correct, because I have calibrated it.
Anyway here are some pics at 5pm and 12 hours of cooking.
I changed the position of the thermometer from as it is shown in the picture to now be horizontal and it is now reading 180F which is closer to the Thermapen.
My estimation is that these will take probably another 2 hours. That’s the thing with Low N Slow… you can’t rush it, but the payoff is worth the wait!
Think I will sit back and have a tasty beverage while I wait!
Pork Butt Project 2012 – Nov 22, 18:30
The thermometer alarm went off again, and it hit 190F for real this time!!!
I went out and checked and found this!
After taking all the temperatures, two of them were good to go!!! Woohoo!!!
I then wrapped them both in foil
And then in a dish cloth
And then I put them in an insulated drink cooler to rest.
The other 3 are getting close. They were bigger and were about 10 degrees behind these 2.
I will do the same thing with all of them, let them all rest for about an hour before I pull them. Resting them will help keep these juicy!
Looks like dinner is getting close!!!
Pork Butt Project 2012 – Nov 22, 19:30 – FINISHED
When I took them off, I wrapped them in foil and dish towels, like the others and into the cooler to rest.
When our company had arrived and everything was ready I pulled apart the first butt to have with dinner.
The pork just fell apart when I cut the strings
It didn’t take much effort to pull, a fork and a pair of tongs
In the end, this was a LOOOOOONG day!!!! But it was worth it and I got 5 pork butts worth of pulled pork out of it so my December pot lucks are all taken care of.
I also proved to myself that yes I CAN do 40 pounds of pork butt in one shot! Woohoo!!! Gotta love the XL Big Green Egg!
Hope you enjoyed the somewhat live blogging today!
So there you have it! I hope that was somewhat enlightening to what is required to make pulled pork Low N Slow. As I have mentioned, the various Pit Controllers on the market make this process a lot easier. Just set it and forget it. I love my DigiQ and now use it all the time. Check out the post Pulled Pork 2.0 (using the DigiQ DX2 Pit Controller)