Luke has been playing video games and reading comic books since childhood. He's a bearded family man in plaid.
Becoming a parent was and still is the highlight of my life. The joy that children can bring is unfathomable. But then there are days where the baby won't let you sit down without screaming while her older brother asks me questions about who Pikachu's parents were and what does the inside of a Pokeball look like.
Here are a few tips on how to smoke a pork shoulder with a toddler on your hip who won't nap.
Instructions: Overview (Details Below)
- Brine your meat. Prepare a brine by mixing 1 cup of salt into 4-5 cups of water. Leave the brining meat in the fridge for at least 8 hours.
- Dry meat off. Add a rub or seasoning (optional).
- Get your smoker preheated and smoky before placing meat inside. Add more wood chips when necessary.
- If using the Texas Crutch method, wrap up barbecue in butcher paper or aluminum foil when temps hit 150-160 degrees and put back in smoker.
- When temperature of meat reaches desired doneness, remove from smoker and let it rest for at least 10 minutes to ensure juiciness. Eat and be merry, for tomorrow you may be sleep-deprived!
1. Start the Process Before the Screaming
Always brine your pork or poultry for at least eight hours. It's easy and extremely effective. All you need is some salt and water. A good brine adds flavor and moisture to meat before it's cooked.
There are very complex brines that include honey and molasses, but for the busy parent, just throw that pork or poultry in some salty water and you will reap the juicy, flavorful benefits later. I use one cup of pink Himalayan sea salt and around 4 cups of water in a large plastic bag that won't leak salty pork juice in my fridge. This not only tenderizes the meat but it also puts extra moisture into the meat, saving you from eating tough, dry barbecue. Leave in the fridge for at least 8 hours.
This step is nice to do when your kids are distracted, especially when your 15-month-old wants to drop your phone in the dog's water bowl because Baby Shark wasn't playing again for the twelfth time in twelve minutes.
2. Get a Good Thermometer/Probe
These thermometers will help save your barbecue from turning into something with the texture resembling your dad's braided belt. What's great about the electric smoker/thermo probe combination is the low maintenance factor. There are even some with a wireless second screen so you can regulate your smoked meat while your kids are literally emptying their entire dresser trying to find a glove that might be in the toilet. I use this when I'm grilling chicken breast or making baked potatoes to make sure my food is ready and safe to eat.
I use a ThermoPro TP-07; it's accurate and easy to use. I gave one to my father-in-law for Christmas. Smoking times vary depending on weight and preference. This is why I depend so much on my ThermoPro because the internal temperature is the best way to know if it's fully cooked.
3. Dry. Season. Preheat.
After being in a brine for any amount of time, take it out of the bag and dry it off with a towel or let it air dry in your fridge. I use a paper towel because it's quicker.
While the meat is drying, get your smoker hot and, well, smoky. When I smoke pork, I preheat to 225 degrees with a combination of hickory and applewood chips.
As the smoker gets ready, it's time to season. I use a homemade rub that has garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, coriander, and chili powder. Season all the sides on the meat. Use a little or a lot, it's a matter of preference.
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3. The Stall
When your barbecue has reached the temperature of about 150-160 degrees, it is in what pitmasters call "the stall." The internal temperature might not increase for hours at a time, which might not be conducive to dinner plans and sleep-schedules. Now there are two options for you.
- Keep it in the smoker until it reaches the optimal temperature
- the Texas Crutch.
If you don't mind waiting 12+ hours, by all means, leave it in the smoker. Your end results will be a smoky masterpiece. You might be awake all night anyway because the baby's mouth decided to grow all of the molars at once.
I use the Texas crutch method. When my barbecue hits the stall, I take it out of the smoker and wrap it in either aluminum foil or butcher paper. The wrap speeds up the cooking process with practically no sacrifice to flavor. Butcher paper allows some smoke penetration while foil does not.
Afterwards, just put your thermometer probe back in and place your meat back into the smoker to finish up the cooking process. You can even finish it off in the oven!
4. Be Sure That It's Done
If you want to turn your smoked pork into pulled pork, you have to know when it's ready.
- 200-205 degrees is the magical temperature for pork.
- For chicken, as long as the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, it is safe to eat.
If the kids get food poisoning from a smoked chicken leg, they might never eat anything but chicken nuggets and Goldfish crackers for a minimum of eleven years.
5. Let it Rest!
We all want to just tear into that barbecue as soon as it comes out of the smoker, but resist! Letting it rest will save all the juices that your brine put into it. Just wrap your new smoky baby in some butcher paper or aluminum foil and let it nap for at least ten minutes. That will give your kids time to find all 5 sippy cups that they've lost in the time that your pork has been smoked to perfection.
6. The Final Step
Eat it! You've followed all the steps and you are reaping the smoky fruits of your labor. The prep work has paid off with some juicy barbecue that will feed your whole family. Put it on a bun with some pickle slices! Warm up some corn tortillas and eat it carnitas-style! Eat it over the kitchen sink with your bare hands like a wild opossum because you're a parent trying to stay alive!
Just be aware that if you give your kids some, they will not appreciate the hard work you've put into their dinner and just feed it to the dogs under the table.