“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cash the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” Stephen King wrote that. I am now going to relate it to BBQ.
As one of the Chicks In Charge competition BBQ team, Stephen King would consider me talented. I have, indeed, won money for my BBQ, the checks didn’t bounce and I did pay a bill or two with the proceeds. Modest proceeds. Very modest. But I know enough about BBQ to tell you that what I am about to write will immediately send several of my BBQ friends into cardiac arrest. I tried liquid smoke.
It is 20 degrees here in the sunny South, I could not pass up the pork butt at the Publix for 78 cents a pound and Cook’s Illustrated had an article on indoor pulled pork using liquid smoke. And I thought…what if? What if liquid smoke really works? It is all natural. Kind of.
The recipe calls for cutting the pork butt in half, which you could never do in a competition but I was going to worry about that little detail later. Then you make a brine with water, salt, sugar and liquid smoke and brine the butt for two hours. You rub it with mustard, more liquid smoke and a rub that has smoked paprika in it for even more “smoky” flavor. After that you put it on a sheet pan with a rim, cover it with parchment paper and then with foil. Into the oven at 325 degrees for three hours. Then you uncover it and let it finish cooking to 200 degrees internal temperature for another hour and a half.
This is what it looked like when it was done. Not bad. I was beginning to get encouraged. Let’s see. I somehow figure out how to cut a pork butt almost in half at a competition so that it’s legal. Then instead of cooking the butt for 15 hours like normal, I get some shuteye and show up at the cook site at about 5 in the morning with my bottle of liquid smoke carefully concealed in my bag of wine (for later, of course). This could work.
My fellow competitors might wonder why there is no smoke coming from my cooker, like there was actually real wood in there, but I would make up a clever lie to conceal the truth. Here’s what the pork looked like after it was pulled. Nice and pink. Juicy. I was almost giddy with excitement! Until I tasted it. It was…well, it was not at all smoky.
Well, the whole day was not lost. I also did an experiment with cole slaw. Everyone in the South loves cole slaw on their pulled pork sandwiches. But there’s two kinds – Carolina slaw, which is vinegar-based, and regular slaw, which is mayonnaise based. So I made both kinds. You can figure out which is which.
I have to say I loved them both.
I made cute little sandwiches with Sister Schubert yeast rolls and some barbecue sauce I’ve had in the icebox for over a year (didn’t you know that barbecue sauce never goes bad?). Very tasty, if I do say so.
Here’s the recipe for the Carolina slaw. It’s worth the effort.
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
6 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon celery seed
2 bags slaw mix
1/2 minced green pepper
1/2 minced sweet onion
Combine the first five ingredients and whisk thoroughly. Chop up the slaw mix until it is in small pieces and add the green pepper, onion and dressing. Let sit in the icebox for at least two hours.