Holle loves to cook. BBQ and BBQ sauce is something she and others in the Deep South take seriously.
The Perfect BBQ Rub Is an Art
Recently, I tried out a new barbecue rub called Georgia Clay BBQ rub. It was a revelation.
My friends, family, and I enjoy barbecue pork recipes. We all have grills and smokers, and at least one of us barbecues on the weekends. Sometimes it’s done on a gas grill, but more often it’s done on a meat smoker or on a charcoal grill.
We all like barbecue chicken, grilled seafood, barbecue turkey, smoked beef brisket, and steaks, but pork is our favorite meat for smoking. Pork seems to take on the smoky flavor better than other meats, and this is certainly true with a barbecue pork roast. Of course, this is just my opinion, but it’s shared by many of my fellow Southerners. In the South, barbecue pork recipes are huge, and formulating the perfect barbecue rub is an art!
Recipes for Pork Shoulder
I often employ recipes for pork shoulder. Since we enjoy entertaining family members and friends, we go through a lot of pork shoulders, or Boston butts, as we often call them. Pork butts are a tasty, economical way to feed a crowd. We sometimes find them on sale for $1.29 per pound, which is a great bargain. A butt is almost all meat, with just one bone—the blade bone. Even at the regular price, pork butts are a good value.
You can find lots of recipes for pork shoulder, and the meat can be successfully prepared via a variety of cooking methods. They can be baked in the oven, slow-cooked in a crockpot, cooked on a smoker, or cooked on a grill using indirect heat. The pork roast can be seasoned with herbs and spices, covered with a sweet glaze, or immersed in barbecue sauce. Pork shoulder is also the preferred cut for pulled pork and pulled pork sandwiches.
What is it about smoked meat that so many people love? I’ve often wondered about this. Maybe it reminds us of some hidden memory and takes us back to a time when our ancestors cooked everything over or near an open fire. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that smoked meats are cooked outdoors, without messing up our kitchens. Or maybe, since smoked meat is cooked “low and slow” over some type of barbecue wood, the flesh turns out moist, juicy, smoky, and delicious!
Practically any type of flesh can be cooked on smokers. I already mentioned some of the smoked meats we typically enjoy, but in addition to those, we’ve also smoked fish, venison roasts, geese, and doves. One of our favorite smoked meats might surprise you—cured ham. When I first heard of this, I was skeptical, but after trying it, we were sold. My family would disown me if I didn’t include a ham cooked over pecan wood at our annual Thanksgiving feast.
How do meat lovers survive without smokers? Okay, this sounds like a gross exaggeration, but I really don’t understand why every carnivore on the planet doesn’t have a smoker of some sort. We use our Brinkmann all the time! Ours is electric, so it’s very easy to use. We just fill the water pan, place some barbecue wood on the burner, and plug it in. Once the meat is on, we only check it only once, about halfway through the expected cooking time.
We’ve used other types of meat smokers in the past, including charcoal smokers and homemade barbecue pits. An electric smoker, however, is by far the easiest to use. It also delivers regular, consistent heat, so there’s not a lot of guesswork. This is true even if the smoker doesn’t include a thermostat. Ours doesn’t, and we’ve never had any trouble turning out some awesome smoked meats!
You’ll have to decide on a wood for smoking meat, called barbecue wood. The choices are pretty amazing! They range from hardwoods like oak and hickory, to fruitwoods like apple, peach, plum, cherry, and orange. There are also some more exotic types of wood for smoking meat, like grapevine and pieces of whiskey-soaked barrels.
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If you’re new to meat smoking, you’ll probably want to do some experimenting to discover which smoke flavors you like best. We’ve found that pecan works well with just about anything. We cut and dry our own pecan wood for meat smoking, by the way. It gives a wonderful flavor to just about everything, and we especially like to use pecan barbecue wood with our recipes for pulled pork.
If you’re not an experienced meat smoker, be careful with the amount of wood you use. It’s better to have not enough smoky flavor than to have too much. As you get some cooking time under your barbecue apron, you’ll figure out just the right amount of barbecue wood to use.
With a barbecue pork shoulder recipe, you’ll need a good barbecue rub. I usually prefer dry rubs with a barbecue pork roast, but for our July Fourth cookout, I used something different. I’d been thinking about using prepared mustard as a base for my wet rub, so I made one for a butt we cooked. We cooked three butts, by the way.
A wet barbecue rub that uses an acidic liquid like vinegar allows the seasonings to penetrate the flesh. Since mustard contains vinegar, it works as a good vehicle for the dry spices. Once I added the dry ingredients to the yellow mustard, I noticed that it strongly resembled Georgia clay, so now I refer to it as my Georgia clay rub.
I was a little worried that the mustard rub would make my barbecue pulled pork recipe taste too “mustardy,” but it didn’t. The meat was awesome, and almost every shred was gobbled up. Next time you’re planning on some pulled pork or on a barbecue pork roast, give this Georgia clay rub a try!
Step 1: Prepare the Meat and Make the Rub
The first step is to prep the meat, make and apply the rub, and then let the meat cure in the fridge overnight (or longer).
- 5-7 pound pork butt
For the Georgia clay rub:
- 1/2 cup prepared yellow mustard
- 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
- 2 tablespoons mild paprika
- 2 teaspoons garlic salt
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne
- Rinse the pork butt and dry with paper towels.
- In a bowl, combine all rub ingredients; then rub the mixture all over the meat.
- Wrap the meat in plastic food wrap or foil and leave in the fridge overnight (or longer). I left mine in the fridge to cure for around 30 hours this time.
Step 2: Cook the Pork and Pull It
- After the meat has been in the fridge overnight, take it out and leave it at room temperature while you prepare your smoker. Place some barbecue wood that’s been soaked in water for a couple of hours on the burner. Fill the water pan and plug in the smoker. When the smoker has been going for around 20 minutes, place the pork butt on the top rack, fat-side up. Close the cooker. After 4 or 5 hours, check the smoker to see if more water and wood are needed.
- Cooking time for a barbecue pork roast will vary. For a barbecue pork roast that’s going to be served sliced, cook the meat until the internal temperature is 165 degrees. For recipes for pulled pork, however, the meat needs to be cooked longer in order to make the muscle fibers separate more easily. For a recipe for pulled pork, cook until the internal temp is 185 degrees.
- Once you take the pork off the smoker, wrap it in foil. After about 15 minutes, place the pork roast in a large pan and pull out the blade bone. Remove the layer of fat, if you wish. Cut the butt into large chunks. Use two regular dinner forks to shred the fibers of the meat.
Step 3: Make the Tossing Sauce
For this pulled pork recipe, I created what I call a “tossing sauce.” Once all the pork has been pulled, I mix it with my tossing sauce. The recipe is below:
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce or Dale’s Seasoning
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- Combine all ingredients in a jar. Close the lid and shake until ingredients are blended.
- Sprinkle on shredded pork and stir to distribute.
Pulled Pork Sandwiches
The meat is now ready for pulled pork sandwiches—unless you want to take the extra step of combining the meat with a finishing barbecue sauce. For our Fourth celebration, we served the pulled pork mixed with just the tossing sauce. We provided several different barbecue sauces so that our guests could choose their own barbecue sauce for their pulled pork sandwiches, but several chose to eat their pork just as it was, without a finishing sauce. Really, the pork was flavorful enough not to need a thick sauce, at all. The Georgia clay barbecue rub proved to be a big hit!