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Chef Heon Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork

Posted on in Cooking by Kyle Heon

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I've previously blogged about my Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce which accompanied my pulled pork this past Labor Day. Unfortunately I didn't take any photos of that cook so I couldn't write about it. That changed this weekend. I prepared a pork butt for the first time in my new Primo XL and made sure I took photos this time. The Dr. Pepper pulled pork came our really good last time so I wanted to try it again.

My usual process for pulled pork is to start with a Boston butt. For this cook I picked up an 8+ pound boneless butt. I remove from the cryovac packaging, rinse off and pat dry. Using yellow mustard as my binder I slather the entire pork butt followed by a liberal coating of some homemade rub (recipe bought here).

Rub applied

I try and make sure that I prep the meat well in advance of the cook. In this case I had prepped the meat by dinner time, with plans to start the cook around 11PM. Once prepped the meat sat uncovered in the refridgerator till 10PM. I always let the meat rest outside the refridgerator for 30-60 minutes before the cook starts. While the meat came up to room temp I got the Primo going. For this cook I decided I was going to shoot for 250 degees. I have typically aimed for 225 degrees but recently began using 250 degrees as my low and slow temp and it has worked out pretty good.

It took a little longer to get the temp where I wanted it so it wasn't until about 11:30 that I felt comfortable putting the pork butt into the Primo. When doing a long smoke like this it's always important to have a moisture source. I added a drip pan below the pork butt (sitting on the heat deflector plates). For moisture I added a bottle of Dr. Pepper. You can use almost anything here, with pork I generally use apple cider vinegar, but using soda you not only adds moisture but also a slight sweet flavoring as the meat is smoked and cooked.

With this cook I struggled to maintain the temp, either it was blowing past 260 degrees or dropping below 230 degrees. I'm not quite sure why but this was my first low and slow cook using the Primo, I'm also new to cooking with lump charcoal. Going forward this will get easier, practice makes perfect. I also think I was running a bit hotter then I should have been, the iGrill ambient probe which was at the grate level indicated a temp where I was shooting but the dome temp was 30-50 degrees higher. I think maybe in the future I'll shoot to have an overall dome temp of 250 degrees and not go off the grate temp.

Some proof that the coals were too hot for this cook is seen by the solid block of leftover soda sugar in this photo below. Next time I'm going to lower overall temp and I think I might thin the soda with water.

Cooked soda

Around 5:15AM in the morning the internal temp had reached 165 degrees. This meant it was time to pull and double wrap the pork butt. Once wrapped, I put the wrapped butt into a foil pan and placed back in the Primo where it stayed until the internal temp reached 200 degrees. Next thing to do is wrap the butt in an old towel and put in a cooler. I try and plan things so that the meat can sit in the cooler for at least 2 hours. It can sit for much longer if needed as long as properly wrapped and insulated. The benefit to letting the meat sit is that the juices redistribute back throughout the meat.

Overall cook length was in line with expectations. Typical estimates are an 60 to 90 minutes per pound. In this case the cook was between 8-9 hours.

About an hour before my company started to arrive I pulled the wrapped pork butt out of the cooler and placed it back into the foil pan. It's important to do this because there is a lot of juices that will spill everywhere. You also want to capture this juice, as it makes fantastic au jus which you will want to strip off the fat content and mix back into the shredded pork.

Unshredded pork

Once unwrapped I used my handy dandy Bear Claws to shred the pulled pork. I usually put the pulled pork into a crock pot that I set to low. This helps keep the food warm until it's time to eat. Once the crock pot is warmed up I drop it to warm to make sure that the meat doesn't get dried out too much.

What's next?

Well I certainly want to do better, this wasn't my worst atempt but it wasn't my best either. I also want to try some different types of rubs. One of rubs I would like to try out is a coffee rub; I did this recently on some porterhouse steaks and it was good. Unsure how it'll work on pork but won't know unless I try it.

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Dust Collected was founded in 2014 by Kyle Heon and is a play on a series of words that have meaning in both software engineering and woodworking.