Ahh smoking. It seems like such a guy thing. But this girl has been wanting to try it for a long time and when I acquired a smoker, I just had to find my nerve. What's the worst that could happen? The planets were aligning... the smoker was ready, charcoal was bought, wood chips were ready and pork shoulder was $1.09 a lb at BJ's. I'm in!
The first thing to do is make a spice rub. I've watched enough BBQ shows on Food Network to know the basics of making a spice rub so I just winged it. Here is my recipe:
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup paprika
1/8 cup cumin
1/8 cup garlic powder
1/8 cup dry mustard
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup salt (you can go half a cup with the salt if you want)
and a touch of cayenne
Rub it all over the meat. Do not leave a spot unrubbed! Believe me, the pork is so happy to have this massage of flavor it almost just sighs into the dish.
Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.
Get an early start the next day because this is an all day affair. The work is minimal, but the process is long. Follow your smoker's instructions (and then, if you're anything like me, call your brother in law who has a similar smoker and ask him what the hell you're supposed to do!) Start your charcoal in the bottom. It needs to burn for about 20 minutes before you do anything else. While that is getting read, soak your wood. I went with hickory. You need to soak the wood chips for about 20-30 minutes.
Once the fire is ready, drain your wood chips and then put them on top of the coals. If your smoker has a water pan, make sure it is filled. And then, place your beautiful hunk of pig on the grill.
Put the lid on and then DO NOT REMOVE IT. My lid is a little off kilter so we wrapped foil around it to keep in the heat and smoke as best we could. After about 3 hours, add a few more coals to the fire and then a little after that, add more soaked wood chips. Check your water pan. You do not want it to dry up. Add water if needed.
I let my pork cook for about 7 hours. The hardest part was not lifting the lid off, but I didn't. Not even once!
It was absolutely delicious! It wasn't fall apart soft like you often see pulled pork in TV, but it was amazingly good. I think another 2 hours would give it that fall apart texture but neither Nick nor I complained about this juicy tender pork. The rub gave it a very nice crust with a bit of a kick. I'm not sure what it was from, the black pepper, the dry mustard or the cayenne. Maybe a combination of them since I used such a scant amount of cayenne.
For my first time, I'm very pleased with the result. You can even see the pink smoke ring around the top under the crust!