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Day 3: Why We Love Smoked Pork (And You Should, Too!)
There are many delicious forms of barbecue, but our favorite is very obviously pork. There are a lot of good reasons for this and you will probably agree that they are all worthy of your attention.
One of the most ambitious cooks you will ever try is the whole hog. It is a lesson in patience, skill, and technique that few have experienced, but it is worth every minute of experience. When you smoke a whole hog, you better set aside at least 2 days of going nowhere and staying on top of your assignment.
The whole hog is very rewarding and will feed dozens of people. The meat is very tender throughout the shoulders, ribs, and ham areas. When cooking a whole hog it is good to remember that you have time to get it done right. Always set aside 24 – 30 hours of time including prep and serving so that you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.
The whole hog has a distinct and mouthwatering flavor that is unlike any portion of the hog that you might have otherwise cooked separately. You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten a baby-back rib cut directly from the animal. It is absolutely the freshest, juiciest, and most flavorful way to eat baby-back ribs. Follow Michael’s instructions here for an experience that is like none other. Be sure to pick up a few bottles of sauce or rub beautiful to go with the hog.
As a child I remember seeing my first whole hog cook at a BBQ competition. To me it looked like something you would see a tribe cook on some island far away from Arkansas.
My favorite barbecue dish has to be baby-back ribs. Sure there are spare ribs and St. Louis style ribs, but my favorite are baby-back ribs hands down. Let’s break it down. Spare ribs are from the belly and are meatier, larger in size, and often times tougher than baby-back ribs which come from closer to the loin. Because of this, baby-back ribs are more tender and take less preparation and cooking to get a wonderful and flavorful entree. St. Louis ribs are basically just trimmed and squared spare ribs. They’re uniform in appearance and have less grissel on them, but don’t be fooled, they aren’t “back” ribs.
Some folks like “dry” ribs, which when done properly, I LOVE, and some folks like to get messy with saucy wet ribs. I like something a bit more in the middle. My ribs tend to have the chew of a dry rib with a glazy candy shell similar to my shoulders or butts. Using Rub Beautiful and Sauce Beautiful as a glaze, the ribs come off the smoker with a very thick and satisfying bark that will leave you wanting more even if you’re full.
For more information on how I prepare ribs, see Lock and Load Ribs.
Ah the classic pulled pork sandwich, an American staple. Although the best sandwiches are often a mix of pulled pork from a whole hog, the traditional pulled pork sandwich is made from the shoulder, butt, or picnic ham portion of the hog cooked on its own, pulled and/or chopped, and placed between two buns with a dollop of homemade coleslaw topped with a squirt of Sauce Beautiful to complete the perfect BBQ sandwich.
When cooking a butt or shoulder, I generally season and coat the meat with a very liberal amount of Rub Beautiful and place the meat with the fat side down (to prevent bitterness and greasy meat) on the grate with an indirect heat source. Then I smoke the meat about 4-5 hours to get a good smoke ring in the meat. I do this at about 225-250 degrees. After 4-5 hours, wrap the shoulder or butt in aluminum foil and finish it off to about 195 internally. The bone should wiggle free without hassle when the temp hits 195 to 200.
Pull the meat and/or chop it and serve on sandwiched. Your mouth and friends will thank you.