Taking a tough cut of meat and cooking it until it is flavorful, tender and moist takes hard work, planning and practice. But your technique is only part of the equation. Choosing the right piece of meat can really make a big difference. Here we will look at what to consider when picking you pork brisket.
Boston butt or pork butt
These are the most common cuts used for pulled pork or as pork brisket. It comes from the shoulder of the front leg of the pig and may have a bone or not. These usually run between 5 and 10 pounds.
Another similar cut you may find is a picnic ham. This is not really a ham, being from the hind leg, but is found below the shoulder on the front leg. The picnic ham is great when cooked long and slow but is not as tender as the Boston butt.
Depending on your region you may find cuts called Boston shoulder roast, Boston roast, Boston butt, Shoulder butt or Shoulder blade roast they will all be great when cooked long and slow.
You can smoke meat on most types of barbecue grills but using a smoker, designed for smoking meat, will make your life so much easier and the end results will be much better. Like all barbecues, smokers come in a wide range of prices and different designs, shop around and see what is available.
The most popular smoker over at Amazon is the Masterbuilt 20070910. It is relatively low priced, thousands have been sold and has a 4+ review rating. This smoker would be considered a starting place as far as smoking meat goes. Once you have a couple of years experience you will know what you want in a smoker and can upgrade from there.
Check the Marbling
When you are buying pork you want to buy the best marbled piece you can find. The flavor, tenderness and moisture in your end product is determined by the marbling in the meat.
The easiest way to find the best marbling is to have a couple of pieces to compare. Pork is not graded like beef is, i.e. prime, choice, and select. When selecting your piece pay .attention to the color of the meat, it should be reddish pink not light pink, the fat cap should be pearl white and there should be plenty of internal fat.
When shopping in a food warehouse pork butt is usually sold in packages of two which are tightly wrapped making it difficult to exam the pieces. Also one piece is usually larger than the other so keep in mind the smaller one will cook faster. Since you are cooking one you might as well cook both, cooked pork can last in the freezer for up to 6 months and taste great.
Is Your Pork Brisket Natural
Make sure your meat is all natural. The easiest way to ruin your barbecue is to purchase an enhanced piece of meat. Avoid anything that says “self basting” or “injected with a solution”, “moist & tender” or something similar. Check the label the processor must disclose any additives and how much. You are paying for the enhanced product which is mostly water that will be cooked out.
Non-enhanced product will often say “all natural” on the label or nothing at all.
If you have no choice you might want to cut back a bit on the salt because some has been added in the enhancement solution.
How much to cook?
This of course depends on who is eating and what sides are being served. The rule of thumb is 1/3 to ½ pound per person. When cooked, a bone-in pork shoulder will lose about 40% of its weight, so 10 pounds of beginning meat will render about 6 pounds of finished product.
Always plan for left overs. You’ve got the grill going and spent the time cooking, you might as well enjoy the meat twice. Pulled pork is good kept in the refrigerator up to 4 days.
When cooking pork brisket use low heat and cook it for a long time and a popular smoker like the Masterbuilt 20070910 is a good place to start. The brisket you have chosen contains a lot of internal fat and connective tissue which will provide the moisture to allow you to cook it for a long time.
Either pork butt or picnic ham will give you great tasting barbecue. Both cuts contain a lot of fat and connective tissue which will let you do a low temperature long cook giving you a flavorful, moist and tender end product. The pork butt is easy to find in stores and has a little less waste compared to the picnic ham. Both cuts are very forgiving when cooking low and slow and both are fairly inexpensive.