I am very excited to share the newsletter with you this time as we celebrate the amazing flavor of smoked pulled pork by using it in some out of the box ways.
I have put together a few recipes demonstrating how easy and wonderful it is to use smoked pulled pork in normal recipes and how it tends to take them from ordinary to something quite amazing.
From delicious smoked pulled pork hotdogs to pulled pork party dip just in time for the game to pulled pork parfaits and pulled pork on spuds to take “hearty” up a notch.. I have literally pulled out all the stops this time.
I recommend that you try all of these exactly the way they are posted and hopefully this will get your creative juices flowing as well and make you start thinking about really neat ways to use smoked meat.
I spent a little more time than usual in putting this newsletter together and in doing so, I have been eating pulled pork on everything imaginable for the last few days in order to come up with new recipes and to perfect old ones.
Smoked Pulled Pork with Cherry Dr. Pepper
- (1+) 6-8 lb. Pork Butt(s) (Boston Butt)
- (2) 12 oz. cans of Cherry Dr. Pepper (1.5 cans per butt*)
- (1) batch of Jeff's Rub recipe
- (1) 9×13 Disposable cake pan (about 2 inches deep)
*I used about 9-12 ounces as an injection then I used about 1/2 can in each pan per my instructions on down the page.
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Purchasing the Meat
I highly recommend using the pork butt instead of the picnic when making pulled pork. The picnic will work fine but it does have a thick skin that needs to be removed and in my opinion it is not as flavorful as the butt.
The butts are usually called a “Boston butt” and range anywhere between 6-8 lbs and may have a fat cap on the top side.
I have seen these lately being sold as 3 and 4 pounders as well but upon closer inspection you will notice that they are actually just halves.
Tip: The pork butt normally shrinks by 40% during cooking which is great information if you are calculating how much meat to cook. i.e. an 8 lb. butt will yield just under 5 lbs of meat.
Preparing the Meat for Smoking
As I mentioned before, I decided to inject my pork butts this time which is something I rarely do. My rub recipe is amazing and adds so much flavor to the meat that injecting is usually just overkill. I suppose I was just wondering how much it would change the flavor, if any, and if it would actually have a twinge of cherry when I got finished.
I used my heavy duty injector by Cajun Injector and put an ounce or so of cherry Dr. Pepper about every 2 inches across the top of the butt. There are various methods for injecting meat but I usually go in at a 45 degree angle and once I push the needle in.. I back up about 1/2 inch before pushing in the plunger.. seems to work well for me. It is ok if some of the fluid runs out the top of the hole you made.
Adding the Rub to the Outside
I normally use yellow mustard or some olive oil to help the rub to stick but in keeping with the theme, I used more cherry Dr. Pepper to wet the outside of the meat and help the rub to stick better.
Once I moistened the outside of the meat, I poured about 1/2 cup of my rub recipe on top and proceeded to massage it into the meat. As the rub mixed with the beautiful deep red color of the soda, it turned into a paste and made the pork butt look good enough to eat right then and there. I added more rub for the sides and bottom of the pork until it was well coated on all sides.
Smoking the Pork Butts
Leave the pork butt(s) on the counter to warm up a little and go get the smoker ready to go. If this takes you more than about 25-30 minutes then you might want to do this before prepping the meat so it does not sit out too long.
I highly recommend setting the smoker up for cooking at about 230 degrees or less. I tend to keep mine at about 220 or so most of the time. This does take a little more time but then my rub does not burn so it's worth it to me.
If you have a water pan, be sure to use it. It does seem to help keep the air more moist and while I don't subscribe to the idea that the moisture actually gets into the meat, I do think that moist air has less of a drying effect that completely dry air so it does help.
If you like you can add some juice, more Dr. Pepper or even an onion or garlic bulb to the water pan if you're feeling it.. I threw in an onion and garlic bulb for good measure;-)
Once the smoker is setup and ready to go, place the pork butt directly on the grate and let it smoke away for a while. If your pork butt has a fat cap like mine did, place it fat side down.
What Type of Wood for Pork Butt? : I use heavier flavors for the larger cuts such as mesquite, hickory or pecan. In this session, I used a 50/50 mix of Hickory and Cherry to stay with our “cherry” theme a little bit.
If you are using a charcoal, electric or gas smoker, keep the smoke going by replacing the chips/chunks as needed for at least 4-6 hours.
Be sure to insert a digital probe meat thermometer either in the beginning or sometime in the first 4-5 hours so you can monitor the internal temperature.
Once the pork butt reaches about 160 degrees, you may opt to place it in a pan and/or wrap it in foil to finish it off. At this point the butt has been exposed to plenty of smoke and some time in the foil will not only super tenderize it, it will help it to get done a little faster in some cases. You can always just leave it on the grate until it's done if you wish.. your call.
Here's one of my pork butts.. at 3 hours in
Then at about 5 hours..
At around 6 hours, I checked and they had reached 160 degrees so I placed them in a foil pan, added some cherry Dr. Pepper to the bottom and covered the top with foil before placing them back into the smoker to finish.
Let the pork butts cook until they reach at least 200 degrees with about 205 being about perfect. At this point they are very tender and will practically fall apart with very little effort.
Here is one of the butts once it reached 205 degrees. As you can see the pan is full of liquid which is part cherry Dr. Pepper and mostly rendered fat and juices from the meat. The juice will be saved and used later.
Beautiful smoke ring and it is absolutely delicious.. albeit very hot!
Pulling the Pork
If you follow my cooking instructions and let it cook to an internal temperature of 205 degrees, this process will be very easy. I usually slide the bone out first thing. I then start pulling the meat into large pieces and discard any fat that I find.
I then stir the meat around in a bowl and it just sort of falls apart. If you have any trouble with this, just use 2 forks and pull the meat in opposite directions to shred it.
As I stir it around, I am still looking for any pieces of fat that can be removed. I do not like clumps of fat in the meat so I am very careful to remove as much as possible. This is a little tedious but I think it is worth it and knowing that my family and friends are not eating that stuff makes me feel like it's a worthwhile task.
The pulled pork is now finished and can be used in whatever way you wish.
Results of the Cherry Dr. Pepper Injection
So, I guess I was expecting more cherry and I can't say that it was very cherry.. however, it was a little more sweet on the inside than usual and it seemed to be more juicy on the inside which is what you would expect from the added liquid.
To truly do a test, I would have needed to cook one with the Cherry Dr. Pepper and one without and do a side by side taste comparison but I wasn't trying to get that detailed with it. I just wanted to see if it made a remarkable enough difference to make me want to do it that way every time.
All in all, I think it was very successful and the extra juiciness was well worth the time spent injecting it. Maybe I'll try some straight cherry juice next time.. I want to taste the cherry flavor when I take a bite and that may be the only way to make that happen;-)
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Tip: How to De-fat the Pork Butt Juice
Pour the juices into a container such as a jar, put a cover on it and place it into the fridge.
Once it gets cold the fat will turn solid at the top and leave the tasty juices at the bottom. Remove and discard the solid fat with a spoon and you are left with a jelly like substance that is very tasty and can be added back into the meat once it is pulled to juice it up.
Pulled Pork Hot Dogs (Simply Amazing!)
I am and have always been a huge fan of good hotdogs and I'm not referring to something boiled and eaten with ketchup and/or mustard like we did as kids. I am in favor of what I call “adult” hotdogs with all the fixin's and trimmings.
This idea came to me and I couldn't wait to try it out.. let me just say that not only was I not disappointed but I was in love. These will happen a lot more often from now on.. I am committed to the cause!
- Hot dog bun
- Hot dog (smoked or grilled)
- 1 cup pulled pork
- 1/2 c. julienned red onions
- 2 slices of bacon, fried crisp and crumbled (reserve grease)
- 1 Tbs. mayonnaise
- 1/2 tsp. horseradish (optional)
- 1/4 c. pepperoncini peppers, sliced
- Jeff's rub (purchase recipes)
- spicy mustard
- Jeff's barbecue sauce (purchase recipes)
- wasabi (optional)
Saute the red onions in the leftover bacon grease until just softened; drain on paper towel. Mix together mayonnaise and horseradish; spread onto the inside of the hotdog bun. Put the hotdog into the bun. Layer onto the hot dog: pulled pork, dash of rib rub, red onions, peppers, crumbled bacon, spicy mustard & barbecue sauce. Add wasabi if desired.
Pulled Pork Party Dip
I rolled this idea around in my head for a day or two before mentioning it to Abi (my wife) knowing full well that she would probably have me committed for having such a ridiculous idea. I mean.. we've used salmon for a dip or spread but whoever heard of pulled pork used in that fashion.
I was very pleasantly surprised when she not only liked the idea but immediately told me that it must have jalapenos and a little of my barbecue sauce mixed into it.
Together we came up with what might be my new favorite dip on almost anything including Doritos, Fritos, crackers, etc..
- 1 cup pulled pork, chopped (cold)
- 1 – 8 oz. block cream cheese
- 1/4 c. Jeff's barbecue sauce (purchase recipes)
- 2 Tbs. fresh jalapenos, seeded & diced
- 2 Tbs. pepperoncini peppers, minced
In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and barbecue sauce until smooth. Fold in the pulled pork, jalapenos & peppers. Serve cold or at room temperature with crackers or chips.
Pulled Pork Parfaits
Ok.. this is certainly not an original idea of mine but it sounded so interesting that I had to take a stab at it.
I have heard tell of these on several occasions and while I have never seen one made by anyone else, I have the general idea of how it should be layered and such. I don't know if I did it exactly the same as others have done it but I just used my imagination and this is what happened.
I have no idea who came up with this or I would gladly give credit where it's due. If you happen to know, feel free to let me know.
- pulled pork, heated with au jus
- shredded cheddar cheese
- mashed potatoes
- Jeff's barbecue sauce (purchase recipes)
- sliced jalapenos (optional)
Layer into a parfait glass (or a bowl):
- 2 Tbs. pulled pork
- 4 Tbs. mashed potatoes
- 1 Tbs. cheddar cheese
- 1 tsp. Jeff's barbecue sauce
Repeat layer 2x; top with sliced jalapenos.
Pulled Pork on Spuds
There are several barbecue restaurants in the area that offer baked potatoes with smoked meat on top. Having said that, it's only as good as the smoked meat itself. A baked potato with subpar pulled pork or brisket on top is not worth eating but now you take that same potato and put some amazing pulled pork on top of it with anything else you like and add some of my very own barbecue sauce.. now you have a prize winning spud!
- 1 large baking potato, cooked and split open
- butter & sour cream
- 1 cup pulled pork
- bacon grease (optional)
- 1/4 c. each julienned red onions and green bell pepper
- Jeff's barbecue sauce (purchase recipes)
Top the baked potato with butter; in a pan over medium heat, sauté onions and bell pepper in bacon grease for 2 minutes; add the pulled pork and sauté for 2 more minutes. Spoon onto the baked potato. Top with sour cream and Jeff's barbecue sauce.
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