Introduction: Pulled Pork on a Weber Kettle Grill
The best meal that takes a day to make and a few minutes to eat: pulled pork
Step 1: The Grill
BBQ is low and slow cooking. Although most 'Qers make pulled pork on a smoker, the same results can be achieved on a kettle. In fact, the benefit of a kettle is that you can grill and BBQ. By grilling, you use direct heat directly under the meat. (Think: steak) With BBQ, you use indirect heat, which is more like using an oven.
Step 2: The Meat & the Rub
Pulled pork is made from a cut known as a Boston butt. The butt is the upper part of a pork shoulder. When shopping for a boston butt, be sure it is not boneless. The bone adds tremendously to the flavor of the pork.
The initial flavor for the pork is provided by the rub. The rub is a blend of spices that is worked into the pork prior to cooking. Rubs are like relatives, everyone has one. Here is one I sometime use:
2 Tbls Dark Brown Sugar
2 Tbls Sweet Paprika
1 Tsp Cumin
1 Tsp Garlic
1 Tsp Freshly Ground Pepper
1 Tsp Sea Salt
1/2 Tsp Ground Mustard
1/8 Tsp Celery Seed
1/2 Tsp Ancho Chili Powder
Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl until well blended.
The rub can either be added right before the cook, or the night before. The choice is up to you.
Whatever you do, be sure to take the pork out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking.
Step 3: Ready the Chips
One of the keys to good pulled pork, is smoke. Adding smoke to your grill is easy. First, pick up a bag of wood chips (from the store, not the ground...unless of course you already have some chips, in that case you probably will pick them up from the ground). For pork, I use a sweet wood such as maple or apple. Using anything else, like mesquite, might provide too harsh of a taste.
Soak approximately two large handfuls of wood chips in a large bowl of water for about an hour. Although I said "chips", you can also use wood chunks. If you use chunks, be sure to soak them longer so the wood becomes saturated with water. The wood is soaked so that it "smokes" when added to the grill and doesn't simply burn up.
Step 4: Ready the Charcoal
Cooking a five pound pork shoulder can take upwards of 9 hours. That is a long time to keep your kettle grill at an optimal temperature of 250 degrees. Also, you want to minimize the number of times you open the grill lid because every time you do, you lower the grill temperature and effectively lengthen the amount of time for your cook.
The best way to maintain a low and steady temperature is by using a process known as the modified minion method. By adding lit coals on top of unlit coals, you can maintain a low temperature fire for a long period of time. The lit coals will slowly heat up the unlit coals. It is a great process.
Place approximately 90 unlit coals to one side of your grill, or two piles of 45 coals to both sides.
Place approximately 20 coals in your charcoal chimney and light the chimney.
Step 5: Here Comes the Heat
Heat the coals until they have ashed over (turned grey).
Step 6: Placing the Pan and the Coals
Place an aluminum foil pan in the bottom of the kettle in the location that will be directly below your meat. This will either be in the middle, or off to the side. Place a small amount of water in the pan. This will catch any droppings from the meat and prevent them from burning.
With the pan in place, add your lit coals to the unlit coals.
Step 7: The Chips Are Down
Add a handful of soaked wood chips to the lit coals. Place the grate on the kettle, close the lid, and wait for...
Step 8: Smoke!
Step 9: Work the Vent
The temperature of the kettle needs to be around 250 degrees. This is done by controlling the top and bottom vents of the grill to restrict the flow of oxygen. To make controlling the vents easier, I marked the position of the vents on the bottom ash catcher. To start out, move the bottom vent to half and close the top vent almost all of the way.
Step 10: Watch the Temp
Although controlling the temperature of the grill by the vents might seem difficult, it's not.
Adjust your top vent until you hit 250 degrees. Make small adjustments. Open it more to raise the temp and close it to lower it. Unless you have some wild temperature swings, your bottom vent will remain untouched for almost the whole cook.
Step 11: Meat on Deck
With smoke pouring out of your grill and the temperature gauge around 250, you are ready to place your pork on the grill.
Place the pork on the grate and close the lid.
Step 12: Downtime
Plan on at least 9 hours to cook your pork. This is in addition to the prep time of readying your grill. Needless to say, if you are planing this meal for dinner, start early or your "dinner" may turn into a "midnight snack"!
Once your pork is on, your grill will need periodic checking to ensure your temperature is where it should be. Some temperature movement is normal and swings from 225 to 275 is fine. Just adjust your vents to keep yourself on target.
Step 13: Still Waiting...
Avoid opening the kettle lid at all costs. Doing so will just let out valuable heat. Instead, grab yourself a good beer, sit back and enjoy the sight and the smell of your grill.
As the day goes on and your temperature begins to drop, work your top vent to let in more oxygen. If your temperature really drops, add some additional lit coals to get your temperature back up. However, in most cases this is not necessary.
Step 14: Almost There
You want to cook the pork until it has an internal temperature of 190 degrees. Although the pork is technically cooked past 150 degrees, 190 degrees ensure that this tough piece of meat is transformed into a moist and delicious feast.
Start checking your pork around the 7 1/2 hour mark to see how far you are from the end. Although the internal temperature will rise very fast at the beginning of the cook, it will move very slow towards the end.
Step 15: Done!
With your temperature probe reading 190 degrees, your pork is finally done. Remove it from the grill and wrap it aluminum foil. You will want the pork to rest anywhere from 15-30 minutes.
Once fifteen minutes has passed (let's face it, you have been at this for 9 hours and you are hungry...there is no way you are waiting any longer) start to "pull" the pork apart.
Step 16: The Pull
You can pull the pork using a fork, a knife, your hands, or whatever! As you do, be sure to check for the smoke ring. The smoke ring is a pink ring around the outside of the meat that was created by all of the smoke in the grill. Also, be sure to take a quick taste of the "bark". The bark is the thick covering on the outside of the pork....it is always delicious.
Step 17: Come and Get It
With your pork masterpiece complete, you can serve it however you like and with whatever you want. You can top it with a vinegar sauce, mustard sauce, or red sauce. Bun, or no bun, it is entirely up to you.
This process works great for me, I hope it works just as good for you. Enjoy!