Pulled Pork Two-Rub Throwdown!

As summer begins to wind down here in Livermore, CA, I’ve been reflecting on the meat-smoking learning experiences picked up over the last few months.  While the results have steadily improved, I’ve realized the successes are more attributed to learning to fine-tune my heat and smoke management skills, and less about specific rubs or cuts of meat.  The Weber Smokey Mountain smoker is a pretty forgiving platform for the first-timer, making airflow a pretty easy thing to manage, but I really didn’t feel like I’d snapped-in until after I’d learned how to achieve & maintain a good 225-degree burn for several hours without having to fuss with the vents every 15-30 minutes. Took about 60 hours of actual smoke/cook time since June, but I’ll feel very confident going into next summer’s meat smoking.

Last weekend I smoked a couple racks of baby back ribs. Nothing too crazy with the rub, and stuck with what’s become my standard (75/25 apple & hickory).  I got through half of one rack myself for dinner, but decided to take the remainder in to the office to get some feedback from co-workers. Kinda tricky when you’re essentially feeding people 18 hour-old leftover pork ribs, but they retained good moisture and tasted just as good as they had the night before.

After inflicting my cooking on co-workers, I decided to do one more round, only this time with two differently-rubbed pork shoulders. I had a 5 pound boneless shoulder in my freezer, and bought another 4-pounder last Friday. I really wanted to see how much impact two different rubs would make when cooked in one heat/smoke scenario.

For the rubs, I went with the following:

Sweet Rub O’Mine, from the Sweet Swine O’ Mine folks.  I recently watched them compete on a BBQ competition show and after running across their rub in the store, I really wanted to try out their flagship rub.

KC Butt Spice.  I ran across this early this summer when prepping for the first round of baby back ribs.  I’ve used it on a previous pork shoulder, adding in a bit of extra brown sugar. Not too salty or spicy, but a good all-around base rub.

I prepped with my usual mustard bath, applying an even layer of French’s yellow to the meat, then dusted each shoulder with rub.  Instead of wrapping in plastic, I opted to seal them in gallon-sized freezer bags, pushing out all the air. They went back into the fridge late Friday night for some rub-soak time.

Fired up the smoker Saturday morning around 9AM, sticking with the Minion process.

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The shoulders went on at 9:30AM, both hooked up to Maverick ET-733 Wireless Thermometer. I couldn’t recommend this thermometer more.  Super-simple to use, and gives a real-time wireless temperatures in up to two different meats.

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They smoked at a perfectly-stable 225 degrees for the first four hours.  I started mopping with a 100% apple juice spray at two hours, and every hour after that.  Observed a brief stall at 160 degrees between the 3 and 4 hour mark, but saw good temp progression through the 6 hour mark to 202 degrees internal temp, coming off the grill at 3:30PM.

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I let them rest for about 15 minutes, and shredded them separately after trimming off a larger portion of surface fat than I had in the past.

I’d considered making my own finishing sauce this time around, but when I picked up the Sweet Rub O’Mine rub, I also bought their Sweet Sauce O’Mine Original, and was really glad I did.  It’s a great sauce, not too rich, with excellent overall sweetness & spice, and a tangy vinegar kick. So good that I will definitely use with future smoked pork projects, without question.

I didn’t take any plated pics this time around. I was starving, smelled like I’d been rolling around in apple and hickory charcoal all day, and just wanted to get this into my belly. I brought the large remainder of meat to work today along with the Sweet Sauce O’Mine to get more co-worker feedback on the two rubs, and planned to take some plating pics from that, but it was *all* quickly decimated by an office of intrepid Android developers.  They said the Sweet Rub O’Mine pork was really good, their favorite, but also said the KC Butt Spice pork was good, but had a spicier kick.  Both paired really well with the Sweet Sauce O’Mine.

I still have a few more smoker projects planned for fall (Thanksgiving turkey over pecan smoke?), this two-rub throwdown wraps up my pulled pork outings for the rest of the year… unless the Seahawks repeat with another Super Bowl appearance.

Thanks for reading!

Colin

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