“If there ain’t no swine, I won’t dine,” or so the saying goes. When it comes to smoking meats and barbecuing the humble pig is king, outside of those contrarians in Texas who love their beef brisket.
If you ask 100 different barbeque fan what the best way to have pork you will get 100 different answers. Despite there being numerous ways to season and serve pork, it’s pretty common to smoke your pork. The following ways are the basic foundations for enjoying the best smoked pork possible.
Preparing the Grill
Cooking pork on a smoker is truly a divine experience. If you don’t have a smoker, a grill will suffice and you can use the 2 zone method. This is an indirect cooking technique where you heat half the grill with briquettes. Once the coals are hot add your favorite wood chips that you have soaked in water. You place your meat on the side of the grill that doesn’t have any coals and cover the meat with the lid.
The ideal temperature to smoke pork is 225° although some feel 250° is better since it cooks slightly faster. If you are using a propane grill you simply turn on the jets for half the grill and place the pork on the opposite side. Propane grills also offer the benefit of easier temperature control.
So you’re prepared to smoke your pork, but what type of meat are you smoking? The cut will drastically change the way it should be prepared, and how it will taste.
For starters the butt actually comes from the shoulder of the pig. The reason it is called the butt is because in Colonial times hams and pork shoulder were kept brined in barrels which were more commonly known as butts. The butt is an inexpensive cut that has quite a bit of fat making it perfect for cooking low and slow over smoke.
The key to smoking a butt is that it requires a lot of seasoning because of the size of the cut of meat. For the best results cooking it, it should be placed fat side up indirectly over the heat source. It can take the good part of a day for it to cook completely. You want to cook a pork butt to an internal temperature of 205°.
Once it gets this hot take it off of the heat and let it rest for a half hour. When the meat has rested you just pull and twist the bone and it should slide right out if you smoked it properly. Then you can pull it apart with forks, tongs or the best way: your hands.
Spare, baby back and country style ribs are all delicious. They are all fairly easy to smoke and they each cook for vastly different time lengths. Spare and baby back ribs require scoring the curved underside with a knife before cooking. This helps them pull apart better after smoking.
Once you have your ribs seasoned you place them indirectly over the heat on the grill and smoke them for a few hours until they reach the desired temperature. Then you slather them in sauce and throw them over the coals to finish them off.
Baby back ribs have an extra step to make them fall off the bone tender. Before smoking you lay them on a rack in a baking pan above water or beer. You cover them with cellophane and tin foil and bake for an hour to kickstart the cooking process. This helps breaks the meat down quicker.
Country style ribs don’t have a bone and therefore cook in two to three hours. You simply season them and put them over the coals to cook them, quickly making sure you turn them and keep them covered in sauce so they don’t burn and dry out. Smoke them until they are done and then finish them off over the coals.
The Best Way to Smoke Pork?
Smoking pork is an artform that is delicious. While no two barbeque fans will probably ever agree on the best way to cook their pork, they all agree that the pig is the tastiest of the meats you can smoke. Pick up a few cuts and see which you think is the tastiest!