Adapted from Virginia Willis, via Big Green Egg, here is the recipe that got me going with the Big Green Egg.
I have been a fan of Eastern North Carolina pulled pork since the first time I tasted it in 1965 at the legendary Parker’s Barbecue of Wilson, North Carolina. A full discussion of North Carolina barbecue is way beyond the scope of this recipe, but my collegiate and barbecue loyalties both reside in Chapel Hill. Despite the opinion voiced by a barbecue expert in Calvin Trillin’s Alice, Let’s Eat, “There’s no decent barbecue west of Rocky Mount,” Allen & Son Barbeque in Chapel Hill (sadly, now closed) will always be barbecue perfection for me.
When I heard about remote wireless digital thermometers for cooking meat in the Big Green Egg, it seemed unbelievable that humans cooking a hunk of meat over fire needed Bluetooth. However, after 3 cooks of pork butts without this modern convenience, technology wins again. I must now concede that if you cook in a Big Green Egg, a remote wireless meat thermometer will change your life.
6-pound pork butt, bone-in
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup paprika
2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
4 cups wood chips, for smoking, soaked in water
(Mama’s BBQ sauce, for serving, recipe below)
Soak the wood chips in water for at least an hour. Drain and wrap them in a double layer of heavy-duty alumninum foil.
Remove the meat from the refrigerator.
Rub the meat with the canola oil. Combine the sugar, paprika, salt, garlic salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Rub the meat liberally with the spice blend. Leave at room temperature for 45 minutes.
Set the Big Green Egg for indirect cooking at 275°F using wood chips (cherry, pecan, and hickory would all be good but stay away from mesquite). Place the foil-wrapped chips on the coals.
A contrarian point of view from BBQ expert Max Good:
Here’s a trick we learned from Dennis Linkletter of Komodo Kamado: Fill the charcoal basket, bury one Weber paraffin firestarter cube in the pile of charcoal, and light it. It will ignite about five briquettes immediately around it. They will burn slowly, producing very little heat, and the combustion will spread gradually to unlit coals. When shooting for low-and-slow smoking temps of 225°F (105°C), once you get a fist-sized cluster of briquettes glowing, it’s already time to shut down both the lower intake damper and upper exhaust damper to let just a small amount of air in and out. The smart move is to let your kamado slowly come up to the desired temp and stabilize, rather than risk overshooting your mark.
Place the butt on the rack in the Big Green Egg. Adjust the temperature of the Egg down to 225°F to 250°F. The goal is low and slow! Cook until the internal temperature is 165°F. This should take from 3 to 5 hours. If you are fortunate enough to have a remote wireless thermometer, resist the urge to open the Egg and see what is happening inside. To quote Elder Ward, a fabled Big Green Egg expert, “Barbecue will not cook by you looking at it.”
(For the full Elder Ward experience, see The Naked Whiz’s Ceramic Charcoal Cooker Page.)
Remove the meat and wrap in a double layer of foil. Return it to the Egg and cook until 190°F to 200°F. This will take another 2 to 3 hours.
Remove the meat to a cutting board. Cover it with foil and let it rest for about 30 minutes. Shred the meat with forks or meat claws. The meat should fall apart and have a pink, smoky ring. If your meat doesn’t fall apart to your satisfaction, you can cook it in a pressure cooker at high pressure for up to 20 minutes. Let it cool to warm and shred with forks or meat claws.
As you shred the meat, discard the bone and any fat or gristle. In our family, this process is called “separating the bad from the good” in tribute to a lady on the Eastern Shore who gave that phrase as her job title at the chicken factory.
Place the meat on a half-baking sheet and add your choice of sauce to taste. Mix well. You can crisp the meat under the broiler for 5-10 minutes if you like it that way.
Virginia Willis’ Mama’s Barbecue Sauce
This sauce has nothing to do with Eastern North Carolina barbecue. It’s just here because it came with the recipe, and it’s good.
4 ounces unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 sweet onion, very finely chopped
2 1/2 cups ketchup
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and simmer until soft and melted, 5 to 7 minutes. Add ketchup, vinegar, Worcestership sauce, mustard, brown sugar, lemon juice, and pepper. Simmer until flavors smooth and mellow, about 10 minutes. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.