There's No Pork Like Home....

Barbecue Pork Grill

When we’re in the mood for North Carolina pulled pork – the only meat recognized as true “barbecue” in that state – nothing stands in the way of my husband including alternating rain, sleet and snow, all of which were bouncing off his unprotected head, a few weekends ago, as he rolled the Traeger wood pellet grill from the garage into the driveway, announcing we were “good to go”.

Firing up the grill, giving it a chance for a good preheat, gave him time to throw together the mop sauce and also let the pork shoulder – rubbed down the day before with his special spice blend and refrigerated over night – come up to room temperature. Some interesting research shows that spice blends, marinades and mop sauces play a protective role, reducing mutagenic compounds –

Heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAs) are mutagenic compounds that are formed during heating of meat and fish. These substances are reaction products of creatine with amino acids and carbohydrates. It is recommended that exposure to these probable human carcinogens should be minimised. Five heterocyclic aromatic amines which occur in beef were investigated: 2-amino-3-methyl-imidazo[4,5-f]quinoline (IQ), 2-amino-3,4-dimethyl-imidazo[4,5-f]quinoline (MeIQ), 2-amino-3,8-dimethyl-imidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline (MeIQx), 2-amino-3,4,8-trimethyl-imidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline (4,8-DiMeIQx), and 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenyl-imidazo[4,5-b]pyridine (PhIP). The application of spices (rosemary, thyme sage, garlic, brine) reduced the content of the HAs below 60% of the amount found in the control. Zeitschrift für Lebensmitteluntersuchung und -Forschung A

Between the smell of the flavorful rub, mop sauce, and the hickory smoke, our mouths were already watering, craving the barbecue before it was even on the grill! The children danced around exclaiming, “Oh, that smells so good. I don’t think I can wait!”. It was like a barbecuing version of the road-trip game, “How long before we’re there.”

The most important ingredient needed, when making authentic barbecue, is patience. Learning to wait while the low, slow heat breaks down the collagen, is the key to juicy, tender meat, something settlers, pilgrims and slaves learned in the early days of America. Barbecue is the original “slow food” which fits right in with today’s sustainable, “buy local” food movements including the Weston Price Foundation and Slow Food USA, emphasizing those meats which are grass-fed and pastured – not grain-fed factory-farmed – are the healthiest.

When we first began making our own pulled pork, we were confused by the many different cuts that were available: Boston shoulder roast, Boston roast, Boston butt, shoulder butt, pork butt, pork shoulder, picnic and shoulder blade roast.

Despite the name, pork butt does not come from the rear end of the hog—it is cut from the shoulder. The pork shoulder weighs 12-18 pounds and consists of two portions: the butt, which is the upper portion of the shoulder, and the picnic, which is the lower portion. The whole pork butt is a rectangular roast weighing 6-10 pounds and containing a portion of the shoulder blade bone. It is sold bone-in or boneless; if boneless, a whole roast may be cut into half portions. The whole picnic weighs 6-9 pounds. It contains a portion of the foreleg and is usually sold with some skin attached. Pork Butt Selection

Mark’s North Carolina Pork Barbecue

Juicy BBQ Pork This is the basic recipe for 15-lbs of meat. They don’t come any easier, as far as recipes go. The success is giving the meat enough time to absorb the flavors of the rub, and then making sure you’re not running your grill too hot. I’ll start with the directions, and after that, include the rub and mop sauces. This is my husband’s tried ‘n true recipe – a compilation of a number of different recipes and techniques, out of which he picked favorites.

  1. We set our Traeger wood pellet grill to 180f for the first 7 hours.
  2. Start wet-mopping after the first 2 hours, continuing to wet-mop every 45-minutes.
  3. After 7 hours, turn the heat up to 225°F until the meat’s internal temperature reaches 190°F.
  4. Remove the meat from the grill and allow to cool for 10-minutes.
  5. Shred the pork with a fork, pulling it across the grain. Most of the time, the meat is so tender, that all it takes is simply pulling it apart by hand.
  6. For an extra special richness, we drizzle about 1/2-cup of apple cider vinegar over all the pork, tossing it with our hands until it’s all coated.

North Carolina Pulled Pork Mop Sauce

1 Boston butt (bone-in shoulder roast)
3 to 4 T Basic Barbecue Rub

For the Mop Sauce:

  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 small onion, thinly silced
  • 1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1 T coarse salt
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp hot red pepper flakes

Basic Barbecue Rub

Great for use on pork shoulders, chickens – anything to taste like American barbecue. Use 2 to 3 tsp per pound of meat. A 4-lb chicken will take 1 1/2 to 2 T. You’ll find hickory-smoked salt available in the spice rack of most supermarkets. To make a spicier rub, substitute hot paprika for some or all of the sweet paprika.

  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika
  • 3 T black pepper
  • 1 T hickory-smoked salt or more coarse salt
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp celery seeds
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper

Combine in a mixing bowl and stir to mix. Hands work better than a spoon or whisk. Use fingers to break up any lumps of brown sugar. Store in an air tight jar away from heat or light for up to 6 months.