While messy (and really, what good BBQ isn’t?), this Beer Brined Pulled Pork was Bliss on a Bun with a nice cold cole slaw and some grilled veggies.
6 lbs. pork shoulder or butt, bone-in or boneless
For the brine::
1 c. kosher salt
½ c. dry malt extract (DME; can be found at your local home-brewing shop)
¼ c. black strap molasses
2 Tbsp. black peppercorns, whole
8 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
5 bay leaves, torn
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
5 c. Porter-style beer
3 c. water
2 qts. ice
In a large pot over medium heat, add the salt, DME, molasses, peppercorns, garlic, bay, carrots, celery, onion, Porter, and water. Stir occasionally until the mixture comes to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes to infuse the flavors.
Add ice to chill the brine to approximately 40 F. Transfer the cooled brine to a large container that will hold both the brine and the displacement of liquid from the pork, placeing a plate or some other heavy waterproof item atop the shoulder, weighing it down so that it is completely submerged in the brine. Refrigerate for 48-72 hours. The general rule of thumb is to brine 12 hours per 1 pound of pork.
Remove the pork from the brine at least 12-24 hours before cooking, still keeping it cool in the refrigerator. This will help the meat form a pellicle, which helps the smoke stick to its surface. Remove the pork shoulder from the refrigerator once you start prepping the coals.
If you have a wood fire smoker, start with 2 lbs. of charcoal in the coal box. In separate medium-size bowls, add ¾ lb. of each type of wood chip, adding enough water to cover the chips. Let them soak for 30-45 minutes.
Once the coals start to show a light layer of white ash on the outside, place a medium-size log of firewood onto the coals and seal the hotbox. Place a water pan under the grill rack and the pork on top. This will help keep a moist environment for the pork. Adjust your air intake and the amount of coal to keep the temperature between 250-275F. Check the coals, adding more firewood periodically, usually every 45 minutes. The pork will cook for 8-10 hours at this temperature.
After 6 hours, it is time to start layering the smoke flavors. Start by adding the apple wood soaked chips, a small handful at a time, every 20 minutes for an hour. Next, add the cherry wood chips in the same fashion at the apple wood chips. Finally, add the pecan wood chips, following the same procedure. The cooking time should be about 9 hours at this point. Thereafter, any remaining wood chips can be mixed together and added every 20 minutes as before.
This technique adds extra layers of smoke, creating a “smoke ring”. Just under the skin, a true sign of good barbeque. The pork should be dark, almost black in color, and should nearly fall apart at the touch of a fork or knife. Remove the pork from the smoker and transfer it to a platter, letting it sit wrapped in foil for 20-30 minutes to redistribute the juices.
Once the meat has cooked, rested, and curiosity and hunger have outweighed the idea of waiting any longer: pull the pork apart into thin strips. Serve in a large bowl. The pork may be served as is, or mixed with barbeque sauce. Some prefer to chope the meat into small chunks, others slice the meat like a roast. Whatever approach you use, do not trim the smoky crust that holds most of the smoke flavor. Mixing it into the pulled meat brings the flavor of barbeque to the dish.