The Meatwave: Barbecue & Grilling Recipes, Reviews, Tips, and Tricks

Wed Aug 11, 2010

The Most Divine Swine

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Big Bob Gibsons Pulled Pork

Compared to ribs, pulled pork didn't take me long to get it to a place I was happy with. In just about one and half Meatwave seasons, I felt my recipe for a smoked pork butt was pretty top notch. I actually preferred my homemade pork to most I got in restaurants and at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party, with one big exception, Big Bob Gibson's. To this day, I have not eaten a barbecued pork shoulder that is as juicy, tender, and flavorful as the ones that pitmaster Chris Lilly churns out. I figured that I could never match such a seasoned pro, and was perfectly fine with my own pork, so never bothered trying to match it.

Having a chance to sit down and talk swine with Chris Lilly the day prior to this year's Block Party, then getting some pork making tips the following day, and having eaten another one of his fantastic sandwiches, I thought I really should be shooting for the stars and decided to amp up my pulled pork game. After this resolve, was there any place else to start except for the recipe that I aspire to?

Big Bob Gibsons Pulled Pork

Where I start with a molasses-based brine for my pulled pork, Chris Lilly takes to an injection method—he said to think of it as a "quicky brine." Flavored primarily with apple juice, the liquid gets injected all over the pork butt, filling it with as much juice as it can take. Although I found something satisfying with my original recipe taking nearly two days from start to finish due to the 12 hour brine, there was something even more satisfying about taking a big needle to a massive hunk of meat—like payback for all those doctors visits.

Big Bob Gibsons Pulled Pork

With the pork thoroughly injected, the rub can be applied right away. I tend to like my rubs on the spicy side, so the recipe for a more sugary one gave me pause. I definitely didn't want a pork that was overly sweet, but I also wanted to follow the recipe as closely as possible. I went with it and prayed for the best in the end, also knowing that the chili powder I make packs way more heat than what you get off the shelf.

Big Bob Gibsons Pulled Pork

Although the original recipe called for the pork going straight onto the smoker, and there's great worth in a pork butt prep that only takes a few minutes, I have not had a piece of rubbed meat that hasn't improved with an overnight stay in the fridge. I foiled up my two beautiful butts and gave them a rest to absorb some of the flavors of the rub.

Big Bob Gibsons Pulled Pork

The next day couldn't have come soon enough—it was finally to cook! Needing the butts done at 2pm for Carne-val, I had to get them into the smoker by 10pm the night before. So a few dozen coals were lit around 9:30pm and, using the minion method on my Weber bullet, I had the pork in right on time. It only took about an hour for the smoker to reach 225, and there it stayed, steady for the entire cook, emitting the sweet smell produced by a combination of oak and apple woods.

Big Bob Gibsons Pulled Pork

In the last few hours of the cook, Chris Lilly applies a vinegar sauce to the pork every hour. This represented a 180 to my usual apple juice spray with a spicy rub, turning it over and using a spicy mop on a sweet rub instead. The mop sauce is a simple mixture of vinegar, cayenne, salt, and lemon slices, and according to his book, was kept a secret until recently.

Big Bob Gibsons Pulled Pork

Almost like clockwork, the pork hit 195 degrees and was ready to come out of the smoker 16 hours later. Although I had been mopping them, it wasn't until they were done that I took a good long stare and marveled at their beauty. The bark was amazing, nice and thick with cracks exposing the juicy meat below. Despite my best efforts to keep them whole, they were so tender that they started to fall apart during removal.

Big Bob Gibsons Pulled Pork

After a half hours' rest, I couldn't wait any longer and broke into the still pipping hot meat. I pulled as fast as I could, removing any excess fat along the way, until I had filled up an entire pan with luscious meat. The recipe didn't call for it, but I took a cue from the way Chris Lilly prepared his pork at the Block Party and mixed in some of the remaining vinegar mop with the final pulled pork, giving it an extra boost of tangy juice.

Big Bob Gibsons Pulled Pork

Now isn't that a sight for sore eyes? The beauty of it gets me every time, but the flavor put its good looks to shame. Now I won't be saying I've completely matched Big Bob Gibson's pork shoulder, but this came pretty damn close and definitely took my pork sills up a notch or two. Each bite oozes juice that is sweet, spicy, tangy, and, most importantly, porky. Nothing outdoes the natural flavor of the meat, instead the rub, injection, and vinegar mop only seem to enhance it, which is what makes this superior in my mind. It's so good, it needs nothing else, but if you were to add anything to this masterpiece of meat, I'd use nothing other than a NC vinegar sauce—anything else might could have the potential to mask its greatness.

Big Bob Gibson's Championship Pork Shoulder

Adapted from Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book

Ingredients


Dry Rub
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons garlic salt
2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Injection
3/4 cup apple juice
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Vinegar Mop
1 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup cayenne pepper
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
2 slices of lemon

2 pork butts, about 7 pounds each, or 1 whole pork shoulder, 16-18 pounds

Procedure

1. In a small bowl, mix together all of the ingredients for the dry rub. Set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, mix together all of the ingredients for the injection. Using a meat syringe, inject the pork evenly at 1-inch intervals from the top side, using the entire injection solution. Dry the outside of the meat with paper towels and apply an even coating of the dry rub all over, patting it down so the rub adheres. Wrap the pork in foil and let rest in the refrigerator overnight.

3. Mix all the ingredients for the vinegar mop in a small bowl. Set aside.

4. Remove the pork from the fridge while you start the smoker. If using a Weber Smokey Mountain, light using the Minion Method with a mixture of oak and apple wood chunks. Smoke the pork shoulder at 225 degrees until the meat reaches 195 degrees, about 14 to 16 hours. In the last few hours, baste the meat with the vinegar mop ever hour.

5. Remove the pork from the smoker and let rest for 30 minutes. Pull the pork, removing any and discarding any visible fat. Sprinkle on some of the leftover vinegar mop, mixing with your hands to incorporate, then serve immediately.

Comments

  • 01
  • Ben says
    Thanks for posting this. I've been using the Renowned Mr. Brown rub, because it's been one of my favorites, but I think this one has it beat. I'm definitely going to try this my next cook in my WSM, along with your NC vinegar sauce. How could it not come out great!
    Posted Wed, Aug 11 2010 9:30pm
  • 02
  • Mike says
    Look at that bark! I need to try injections next time I do a butt....I've heard good things. I guess I should experience it for myself! Great post!
    Posted Wed, Aug 11 2010 10:10pm
  • 03
  • Josh says
    @Ben I haven't tried the Renowned Mr. Brown, maybe that will have to be next. Have you ever done the mustard slathered one? I always wondered how that turns out.

    @Mike Thanks! I would definitely recommend the injection, it's quick and simple and adds a noticeable juiciness in the end.
    Posted Thu, Aug 12 2010 10:24am
  • 04
  • Ben says
    Josh, I have used a mustard slather, in conjuction with the Renowned Mr. Brown. I cannot tell any difference in the taste, as you don't taste the mustard after it's cooked, but it makes the rub stick much better to the meat. I generally don't use it, since the rub will stick pretty good without it. I find if I inject, then rub the pork butt, wrap and refrigerate it overnight, then re-rub again before smoking works best for me.

    Have you tried an automatic temp controller on the WSM? I'm using a BBQ Guru temp controller with the Nu-Temp wireless therms. It's allowed me to remotely monitor my smoker temps and meat temps and still get a normal nights sleep. Best gadgets I've ever bought for the WSM.

    Keep up the good work, I've got you bookmarked and I like what you're doing.
    Posted Thu, Aug 12 2010 11:33am
  • 05
  • Josh says
    @Ben I haven't tried the BBQ Guru. Personally, I don't sweat the temp. I never have a problem with the WSM running hotter than 250 or lower than 200, unless the coals are out. So as long as it's in that range, I'm good. With such a long cook, I can't image some temp variations making much of a difference.

    With the Minion method, I feel pretty confident going to bed, getting a full night sleep, and waking to see the smoker still running at a decent temp. For these butts, I went to bed when the smoker hit 225, woke up and it was the same. Don't know what happened in the 7 hours of sleep, but I do know it didn't make this pork taste any less delicious :)
    Posted Thu, Aug 12 2010 11:45am
  • 06
  • DGB says
    YES
    I know what I'm doing this weekend.
    Do me like that, cannibals.
    Posted Thu, Aug 12 2010 2:07pm
  • 07
  • Josh says
    @DGB "Do me like that, cannibals." Best comment ever!
    Posted Thu, Aug 12 2010 2:46pm
  • 08
  • Chris says
    I have used Chris' injection for a few years with consistently great results. I have not used his mop sauce (have the book though) so I was interested to hear your thoughts about it. I'll give it a try the next couple of butts I do. Just curious to see what that will do to/for my bark, which is already pretty darn good.

    Thanks for posting.

    (Oh yeah, check out my August giveaway post for a chance to win a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker. They are sponsoring my giveaway this month. Now if I can just get Big Green Egg to sponsor me one month ;) )
    Posted Sun, Aug 15 2010 12:48pm
  • 09
  • JoshGrillsItAll says
    I will have to try this. I have had pork butt on my mind the last week or so. Thanks!!
    Posted Sun, Aug 22 2010 3:18pm
  • 10
  • Chef Jay says
    What an interesting idea. I enjoy reading unique recipes like this one. If you have time, please visit my site as well for more creative barbecue recipes!
    Posted Mon, Aug 30 2010 4:22pm
  • 11
  • woosa42 says
    i have 1 question...after every hr. that i add water or basting the meat i lose my temp...it's a big pain...i use the minion method and this still happens...how do i fix this
    Posted Sat, May 28 2011 8:33am
  • 12
  • Josh says
    @woosa42 With the Minion Method, I don't have too much of a problem with temperature after it's been going steady for a few hours. I may lose 5-10 degrees when I baste, but it quickly recovers. I come from a mindset that that moderate temperature fluctuations up or down aren't much of a worry when you have something cooking for 16 hours.

    How much heat are you losing?
    Posted Sat, May 28 2011 12:58pm
  • 13
  • Michael says
    I also have the Big Bob book. I'm curious about your application of the "sop mop" to the chopped pork. I've seen Chris do that at the Block Party in NYC. I'm interested about the quantity you added though. I'm thinking about 1/4 C vinegar per 4lbs. pork? Anymore than that would overwhelm the pork (keeping in mind that I'll be employing his Memphis-red sauce, and not a Carolina vinegar). Thanks very much
    Posted Thu, Jun 30 2011 2:02am
  • 14
  • Michael says
    I also see that you used apple cider vinegar where Chris calls for colored vinegar or white vinegar (as a substitute). I find that AC vinegar has a particular mustiness to it. Any info on that in the taste test? Or did the NC sauce you used mask the sop mop altogether? Sorry to bombard you with questions.
    Posted Thu, Jun 30 2011 4:00am
  • 15
  • Josh says
    @Michael I wouldn't used a tomato sauce as a mop, you need a thin sauce to penetrate the meat instead of sit atop of it. For a Memphis-style sauce, you can add it in the end, after the pork is pulled and I'd start small and then start mixing in more until you're happy with the flavor.

    I almost never use white vinegar for my barbecue, I personally like the flavor of apple cider vinegar much better, which is why I used it. I never did a comparison between white and apple cider here, so I can't elaborate on how they differ in this recipe. In the end, I added enough vinegar to just give the pork a little extra juiciness and slight tang, the NC sauce added on the sandwich really provided the strong vinegar flavor and spice.
    Posted Thu, Jun 30 2011 10:42am
  • 16
  • randall says
    Is the recipe correct for thr mop. 1/8 cup cayenne is hot. Thats 2 TBSP. I mixed 1 tsp (5ml) and its still very hot. I like habaneros so heat is not a problem but the 1/8 tsp in the injection makes more sense.
    Posted Sun, Jul 10 2011 3:06pm
  • 17
  • Josh says
    @Randall 1/8 a cup for the mop is correct. This is mainly used as a baste when cooking, so it's pretty diluted on the pork, and it adds the heat to the fairly sugary rub, so it all evens out.
    Posted Sun, Jul 10 2011 9:46pm
  • 18
  • kyle says
    you only need to use the injection on an average cut of meat, a good pork butt does not need any injection
    Posted Wed, Sep 28 2011 12:32pm
  • 19
  • Ken says
    My little butts (3 1/2) pounds took twelve hours at 215 to reach pork perfection. Seems kinda long but I did calibrate the thermometer. Will probably turn up the heat a bit next time!
    Posted Tue, Oct 11 2011 8:34pm
  • 20
  • Matt says
    Just completed my first attempt doing 2 six lbs. butts using this recipe and method. WOW, they are perfect! It took some time to get the temp to regulate in my Weber grill, not smoker, but they turned out incredible. Thanks for the inspiration, I'm sure that as my knowledge and experience grows in butts and bounds the butts themselves are going to be better and better! Thanks
    Posted Mon, May 28 2012 12:52pm
  • 21
  • Jonathon says
    Trying my first shoulder as we speak using this recipe. I have a side chamber smoker so I am battling temp regulation. Hopefully if I can manage my heat levels it will turn out as great as it sounds!
    Posted Wed, Sep 19 2012 5:18am
  • 22
  • Jonathon says
    Turned out pretty fantastic if I do say so myself. I did make a few modifications to the recipes, not as much spice because my wife can't eat spicy food...ie even black pepper, also I pulled my shoulder off at 185 degrees instead of the 195 that it recommended. I went through 42 lbs of fuel trying to keep my smoker going last night since it was so cool, but it held up and the shoulder came out moist and tender!!
    Posted Wed, Sep 19 2012 4:37pm
  • 23
  • Josh says
    @Jonathon That's great!

    42lbs, damn. You should wrap some insulation around that thing. I usually go through 15-18lbs depending on the weather.
    Posted Wed, Sep 19 2012 4:39pm
  • 24
  • kerry says
    The injection made my 12lb. shoulder way to salty and i like salt! I injected and put it right on the smoker.
    Posted Sat, Oct 27 2012 12:10pm
  • 25
  • Todd says
    the wife purchased an electric wood smoker as a gift to me for Christmas, any advice? Differences? or anything I should be aware of/look out for?

    Going to do a 10lb shoulder this weekend for the first time
    Posted Wed, Apr 10 2013 9:01am
  • 26
  • Bobby says
    Do you out the pork on fat side up or fat side down?
    Posted Wed, Apr 24 2013 8:16am
  • 27
  • Josh says
    @Bobby I've always done mine fat side up, but I'm under the impression it doesn't make a big difference either way.
    Posted Wed, Apr 24 2013 8:53am
  • 28
  • Vlperk says
    Kerry says, your BBQ may be too salty because you used table salt rather than kosher salt in the injection solution. You should use only 1/2 as much table salt as kosher salt.
    Posted Sun, May 26 2013 6:24pm
  • 29
  • mike says
    recipe
    Posted Tue, May 28 2013 7:01am
  • 30
  • Tony says
    I was just wondering if you put water in the pan, or if you just foil it out and cook it dry
    Posted Thu, May 30 2013 12:16am
  • 31
  • Josh says
    @Tony I put water in the pan. I only foil the pan if I want to cook something at a higher temp, like when I smoke turkeys or chickens.
    Posted Thu, May 30 2013 6:40pm
  • 32
  • Matt says
    I was watching Chris Lilly on Fox News last Sunday morning, and wanted to know how long he cooked this pork butt on the Weber Grill with indirect heat???
    Posted Thu, Jun 13 2013 12:31pm
  • 33
  • Heather says
    Feeling a little out of place being the only girl on here :-) But I need advice! I am hosting a wedding reception for about 100 people (mixed crowd), how much meat should I use? I was thinking 60lbs, but some sites say 1lb per person and some say 1/4 lb per person. Any thoughts? Also, any recommendations for doing it in the oven. I do not have the means to smoke it even though I would love to.

    Thanks in advance!
    Posted Fri, Jun 14 2013 12:32am
  • 34
  • Gabe says
    Interesting Kris the recipe is similar to the chris lily's on http://www.virtualweberbullet.com/pork4.html except that recipe has quite a bit more rub ingredients and no basting. I am doing pork bytts this wknd and confused which one to use. Were you really only using those measurements you provided? Seems like you would need more rub
    Posted Fri, Jun 14 2013 10:15am
  • 35
  • Josh says
    @Gabe The recipe here should be enough for 2 pork butts. The one on VWB will make more than you need. I personally always make more than I need and save the leftovers to use again. So you can go with either recipe and be fine.
    Posted Fri, Jun 14 2013 1:17pm
  • 36
  • Josh says
    @Heather If you're serving this as sandwiches, figure around 1/2lb or a little more of pre-cooked meat per person. For 100 people, I'd probably do 9 (maybe 10 to be safe) butts.

    You could do this in the oven, but you can't get the smoke, which is a huge part of the overall flavor of the pork.
    Posted Fri, Jun 14 2013 1:22pm
  • 37
  • Heather says
    @Josh Thanks! I know I am bummed about not being able to smoke it, but was thinking maybe I could use a liquid smoke to get a similar flavor. I would like to freeze the meat for the event in 3 weeks, because I will have 1 million other things to do that week, I just won't have a whole lot of time to do it up right the week of. Have you tried freezing this recipe? Would the NC Vinegar sauce freeze OK? I'm thinking if I really lather it on, it should keep the meat nice and tender during the thawing and reheating process.
    Posted Sat, Jun 15 2013 1:41am
  • 38
  • Josh says
    @Heather I avoid liquid smoke at all costs, I hate that stuff. It's overpowering and acrid in my opinion, so I'd rather have the pork sans smoke than with liquid smoke.

    The pulled pork freezes well, but it will certainly be drier after reheating and the texture of the meat is never as luscious as it is after being freshly pulled. I like to reheat mine with vinegar sauce added in to give it extra moisture.

    Also, there's no need to freeze the vinegar sauce, it should keep in the fridge for a long time.
    Posted Sun, Jun 16 2013 8:28pm
  • 39
  • John says
    Are you using bone-in butts? And why did you use two butts instead of one whole shoulder?--Just because of the added marbling? Thoughts on differences between the two, or on bone-in vs. de-boned? Thanks for your help; can't wait to do this this weekend!
    Posted Sat, Jun 22 2013 12:36pm
  • 40
  • Josh says
    @John I use bone-in butts. I use them rather than whole shoulder because they're much more readily available in my neighborhood--I think I'd have to special order a whole shoulder.
    Posted Thu, Jul 4 2013 12:44pm
  • 41
  • Jeff zorich says
    Thank you for making me look like a hero in front of a party I had to cook for.No left overs on a 12lbs pork butt.Thank you again Jeff from buffalo ny
    Posted Mon, Jul 15 2013 1:10pm
  • 42
  • denise says
    how do you join ~~MEATWAVE.COM/BLOG/BARBECUE ~~???~~I am trying to find a place to sign up via email ~~~
    Posted Sun, Jul 21 2013 4:58pm
  • 43
  • Alisha says
    Okay Another Lady here, and I am diving into this big time. I have a family reunion I am cooking for 80-100 ppl high %kids too. I have 10 7 lbs pork butts I am going to cook up in a Traeger, well actually going to have to also cook two of them in a stand up propane because they wont all fit into the traeger. I will start them the night before and let them go though the night. I have a wireless thermometer that I will set up and I imagine it will be like sleeping with a newborn baby every peep that thing makes will wake me up. I have settled on your recipe here and I will let you know how this turns out.. Standing confident and praying it all turns out!
    Posted Fri, Aug 2 2013 12:46pm
  • 44
  • Jason says
    16 hours for 7lb butts?!?! I am doing two 6 pounders tomorrow and was planning on about 9 hours (1.5 hours per pound). Will probably wrap it when it reaches 160 degrees to speed things up. Is my math totally off here?
    Posted Fri, Aug 9 2013 9:31pm
  • 45
  • Josh says
    @Jason Mine did take 16 hours at 225 to reach 195 degrees. If you wrap, it'll take significantly less time.
    Posted Mon, Aug 12 2013 10:01am
  • 46
  • Hippiedave says
    Great recipe!!! I made a fantastic Brisket last weekend
    and then read this for Pork Shoulder which I have never tried to make.
    I did the injection method and the rub and have it on my Brinkman charcoal smoker.
    I cut some 2" thick apple branches out of the orchard behind the house and then used a miter saw to make applewood disks.
    I am also trying the minion method with the charcoal and the injections for the first time. I cannot wait until this is done for the Buckeyes football game tomorrow.
    Thanks again for the great recipes and comments from the other grill masters out there.!!! Time for a little Guinness Beer and watch the smoker haha.
    Posted Fri, Sep 6 2013 4:22pm
  • 47
  • Troy says
    This was the first major smoking project for me. I have a lot of friends who smoke meals. Most of them offered to come over and help but I declined. We had about 15 people over most of the guys considered themselves expert smokers.

    Every person said this was the great pork they have ever ate before. It was amazing. Thanks so much.
    Posted Wed, Dec 11 2013 2:09pm
  • 48
  • Joe Gill says
    I made this recipe up yesterday on my old school dump rescued grill and smoke. The propane attachment doesn't work so I just load it up with coals and use the minion method. The temps yesterday here in Montana were only a high of 9 above. I started at 5 and ended up moving the pork to the oven after 6 hours of smoke, just because I had some fish to do and it was too cold for my Little Chief. That said, I was able to keep my smoker temps between 200 - 300 without a blanket in that extreme cold. I smoked from 5 AM till 630 PM and didn't even use an entire bag of Kingsford.

    The pork turned out awesome. I ended up using 2 7 LB Boston butts. I followed the recipe only I put everything in a food saver bag sealed over night. I also spaced re-rubbing the pork before smoking. I also reduced the hot pepper to 1 teaspoon for the mop.

    Thanks for posting this! I'll be making it again sometime. :)

    Cheers!

    Joe
    Posted Mon, Jan 6 2014 11:02am

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