Sunday, August 06, 2006

Contest Pork Butt Recipe Test Cook

I'm in the mood for an experiment, so Linda headed out to Sam's and picked up a two-pack of pork butts. The two weigh 12 lbs. and appear to be the same size, so I'm guessing they're 6 lb. butts. Just the perfect size for what I've got in mind.

I'm going to be comparing a couple of well-known receips from two of the most popular cooks in America. Alton Brown from Good Eats and Feasting on Asphalt cooked a brined pork butt using some flower pots and an electric hot plate on one of my favorite Good Eats episodes of all time. Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q restaurant in Decatur, AL has a recipe that's been published in several books and is all over the Internet for his competition pork shoulder injection.

Alton Brown's recipe specifies letting the butt set in the brine solution under refrigeration for 8 hours minimum and ideally for 12 hours.

Ingredients: 3/4 cup molasses, 12 pickling salt, 2 quarts of water

Chris Lilly's pork injection is injected into the meat and is also refrigerated for several hours prior to cooking.

Ingredients: 3/4 cup apple juice, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup kosher salt finely ground, 2 TBSP Worchestershire

I brined one and injected the other and refrigerated them overnight. I put them on the cooker at 9 a.m.

It's a funny thing about those pictures above taken as I put the butts on the cooker. Have you already noticed it? Does it seem like something is missing? Yep, you guessed it--no bbq rub.

When downloading these pictues from the camera to the BBQ Blog, I noticed the rub was missing and quickly headed back downstairs to apply some. I've never used it before, but I applied some of Billy Bones' rub. It'll be a nice test because I've never used anything quite like his rub before. It's quite different than what I normally favor. Hey, maybe I've hit on one of the reasons I've never won the pork category. Maybe my tastes for pork rubs and sauces are different than what the judges are looking for. It's a good thing I'm testing some new stuff. It sounds like I need the practice.

Results (updated at 6:58 p.m.):

I just finished the taste test from today's experiment.

Injection: I may have done something wrong with the injection solution recipe that is attributed to Chris Lilly, but it did not obtain the anticipated results. In his book, Peace, Love and Barbecue, author Mike Mills mentions that the injection technique is very important when injecting pork. I've seen videos and clips on Food Network of Chris Lilly injecting shoulder and I have to admit that he makes it look easy. My results today will prove that it isn't the least bit easy because the injected pork had almost no flavor, except in the pockets of the pork butt that was injected, and those weren't very hard to find because the Worchestershire sauce left dark streaks in the meat at each injection point.

In my 6 lb butt, I injected 3 oz. of mixture in small 1/2 oz portions. I attempted to space the injections evenly throughout the butt, but in the end my experiment with the Chris Lilly injection did not yield acceptable results. I may try it again sometime, but for now I'll stick to my tried and true apple juice and honey mixture that I've been using for the past 4-years. I'm not saying the recipe isn't good, I'm just admitting that I apparently don't how to implement it correctly.

Brine: I followed Alton Brown's recipe for the molasses brine solution and left the meat in the solution for 12 hours. Although much, much better than the injection results, the pork turned out a little on the salty side for me. When judging I definitely recall that many of the pork entries come in with a salty flavor, but my personal palate finds a strong salty flavor undesireable. I'll definitely try the brine again and instead of the 12-hours suggested in the recipe, I'll cut the brining time back to 8 hours with hopes of toning down the salt slightly.


Sylvie said...

I'm interested to see the resukts. Will check back.

Sylvie said...

Too bad it didn't turn out better than your own method. I also watched Chris Lily inject and it does take some practice. I saw him on some other show where he mentioned that the resaon for the jagged method of injecting was to keep from getting those pockets of flavor.

Curt said...

The Chris Lilly thing, if I remember... doesn't he just jab it all over the place really fast? I think if I tried that, I'd be injecting my left hand holding the pork!

With the brine, did you use your same rub? I've found that when I brine, I do ok if I cut at least half the salt out of the rub, even after rinsing the brine well. Otherwise, salt is all I get... And I'm with you; too much salt is not a good thing.

gwtgator said...

how long did you leave it to smoke? using the same smoker and cut of meat, i'll let it go for at least 12-14 hrs or so.

The BBQ Guy said...

I leave my pork butts unwrapped in the smoker for about 5 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 165-170 degrees. Then I wrap them in aluminum foil. They usually reach 198-200 degrees in about 8 hours.

On my smoker, pork butts wouldn't be edible after 12 hours.