Friday, November 26, 2010

Perfect Pulled Pork

(photo: Arif Ansari)

In the back of an unassuming cinderblock box in a southwest Calgary industrial zone, chef Torin Shuster is making some of the best pulled pork Calgary’s ever tasted. Business is booming at Holy Smoke Barbecue and Smokepit, and he’s now talking of expanding service into the evening hours so the rest of us can get a bellyful of the pulled pork sandwiches that are driving the blue-collar lunch crowd wild. Below, Shuster elaborates on the magic of pulled pork. Below that, he’s kindly provided a home version of his popular pork recipe. It presupposes that you own a meat smoker, but that, dear Slop Press reader, is your delicious problem.

Slop Press: How much pulled pork does Holy Smoke go through in a week?
Torin Shuster: About 100 kilograms a week is our minimum. It’s more and more all the time.

Where does the recipe originate?
That would be North Carolina. Trial and error based on what’s been done for over 100 years. You tweak things as you go.

What’re the best accompaniments to pulled pork?
Vinegar-based things like coleslaw. The coleslaw has that crunch to it, that texture difference, but it also has some sweetness and some sourness to it to cut the fattiness of that meat. [Ours] is a traditional North Carolina coleslaw recipe. It’s very simple: oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and mustard.

What’s the secret to making superior pulled pork?
 It’s not necessarily the rub, it’s the quality of the wood you use to smoke. It has to be nice, clean hardwood, preferably a fruitwood like apple or cherry. And watching your temperature constantly. You don’t want it fluctuating. And full cooking. You want to break down all those tough collagens and muscle fibres.

Holy Smoke aside, where have you eaten the best pulled pork?
Rockin’ Ronnie Shewchuk and the Butt Shredders. He’s the one that taught me. I remember tasting his pulled pork for the first time: that buttery quality and the smokiness of the meat, it was just perfect. He teaches barbecue, but he’s never sold it per se. He does have a line of barbecue sauce that he’s come out with recently.

Here's Torin Shuster's recipe for your own pulled pork:

Back Yard Pork Butt
2 pork butts – about 3 kilograms each
¼ cup kosher salt
¼ cup ground black pepper
¼ cup paprika
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup to ½ cup yellow mustard

1. Brush the pork butts with the yellow mustard. This acts as a sticky coating for the rub.

2. Combine the salt, pepper, paprika and sugar. Sprinkle and rub the spice mix over the butts as evenly as possible.

3. Let the butts sit while you prepare the fire.

4. Start your smoker the way you normally do, and when the fire is right, place the butts in the smoke. Try to maintain a temperature of 225 F.

5. After four to five hours in the smoke, the butts can be put into a roasting pan and covered with foil. Finish them for about eight hours in your oven at 225 F.

The butts are ready when the thermometer reads 186 F. Go by the temperature, not the time. Some butts are bigger than others, just like people. If they are closer to three kilograms each, start checking the temperature after six hours in the oven. If they are four or more kilograms each, check them at the seven or eight-hour mark.

6. When they are done, put on some heat-proof rubber gloves and pull the pork into small pieces.

7. You can do what most men would do at this point: just stand over the oven and eat it with various sauces you find in your fridge. Or, if there are women and children present, you can place the pork on a platter and sprinkle it with a nice North Carolina butt sauce. Serve it with buns and coleslaw and let everyone assemble their own sandwiches.

4 - 4640 Manhattan Road SW
Calgary, AB
Holy Smoke Barbecue and Smokepit on Urbanspoon

Ian Doig.
Ian Doig Web Developer