North Carolina Pulled Pork – Project Smoke Book Review
Project Smoke, the latest book by Pitmaster Steven Raichlen was delivered to me by Gereon from the dutch blog Gereons keuken thuis. He got the book that was published in may for a review on his blog. Since he’s cooking on an appartment he asked me to write a guest post about it for his blog about the book. The “North Carolina Pulled Pork” is one of the classic recipes in this book besides some pretty creative ones. Find out more about the North Carolina Pulled Pork further in this post. First some things about the book.
Disclosure: "This post contains test products and affiliate links, which means that if you buy one of the products through the mentioned links, I'll get a small commision to keep this blog running. All opionions shared are my own."
Project Smoke – Steven Raichlen
American pitmaster Steven Raichlen is well known for his BBQ television show “BBQ University“. Before that, he already was a renowned cookbook writer focussing on our favorite subject: “Barbecue”. With almost 30 books on his account, including the scene’s encyclopedias “The BBQ Bible”, “Best ribs ever (read about it here)” and “Planet BBQ” you can call him a BBQ expert. Most of his books contain tons of information but are compromised with pure functional rather poor quality pictures (if there are pictures at all). With “Project Smoke, Seven steps to Smoked Food Nirvana” there has obviously been given more attention to the lay-out and overall reading experience. Leading to an appealing book breathing the BBQ attitude.
Improvements vs. Minor mistakes
To name a few improvements on the lay out, the book is accompanied by some good quality photography and recipes have been put in a clear peaceful looking structure. Where you can easily find the information you need before you start cooking. Alas the improvement comes with some critique too… While testing some of the recipes I stumbled on some problems. First of all I had a hard time finding out what piece of meat I exactly needed. The picture shows short ribs, just like the ingredients list. The introduction text on the other hand talks about chuck short ribs (not sure about the translation of this part). Moreover the weight they talk about fits better this part than the other. Besides this first challenge I also found out there was a mistake in the translation of the ingredients list. This way I added 2 Tbsp. chili flakes instead of 2 tsp. I can tell you there’s a big difference… I’m still cursing I didn’t realise this before I started cooking the ribs and was left with a barely edible piece of beef.
Decent source of info and recipes
But as I told before that’s the only minor part (in the dutch translation). The North Carolina Pulled Pork at the bottom was awesome and well explained. I guess I just picked out the bad recipe… (at least I hope there aren’t more of these haha). The fact that I still love the book proves the quality of the rest of it’s content. For example there’s a decent introduction to smoking telling you what tools are useful, how wood-pairing works and so on. This part on it’s own makes it a book worth buying.
But there is even more!! The seven steps to Smoked Food Nirvana only point at this big introduction. Besides that there are more than 100 recipes written down each explained thoroughly in a step by step procedure. Preceded by an explanation on the recipe origin, the estimated smoking time, serves, … The recipe list is well variated ranging from BBQ classics like “Ham glazed ribs”, “Norht Carolina pulled pork” and “Big bad beef ribs”, to the more experimental recipes like “honey lemon bluefish”, “smoked Manhatten cocktail” and “smoked mushroom bread pudding”.
North Carolina Pulled Pork
Pulled Pork is one of those recipes that can make you a BBQ legend among your friends. What most people don’t know is that it’s not as hard as it looks! Once your meat is smoking you barely need to do a thing to end up with a delicious piece of meat. Actually I went to the center of town to watch a biker rally with the kids. They loved to hear those engines roar while daddy was cooking his evening meal. At least that was the intention. But I woke up to late, started to late and ended up eating pulled pork the day after. Cause what’s making this recipe look pro: “the time it needs to prepare this beautiful piece of meat”. This pork shoulder took me exactly 12 hours to cook. But that’s no problem at all since I save most of the meat for other moments where I have less time to cook a decent meal. I put the pulled pork with some of the sauce in a vacuum foodsaver machine and put it in the freezer.
What’s making North Carolina Pulled Pork special?
I made some pulled pork before but this time was different. In comparison with the pulled pork I made before I didn’t inject the meat, nor did I wrap it halfway to fasten the procedure. The other difference this recipe brings is the BBQ Sauce used to enhance the juiciness of the meat. Instead of the more common known heavy sweet BBQ sauces this sauce is a light vinegar based sauce that brings more balance to the recipe. A different approach with a different result. This North Carolina Pulled Pork took 4 hours longer to get ready (two stalls are killing the time it takes haha) but ended up with a delicious dark bark. The juiciness of the meat was comparable to the other version so to me there’s no argument for wrapping other than time. And if I have to chose between time and bark I’ll always opt for more bark!!
The Smoking process
I used whisky barrel oak wood from smokewood germany for the smoking process (If you’re not from Germany you can find whisky barrel chips over here too). Look at the nice smoke ring in the picture below. Btw these pictures were made before adding the Carolina style Vinegar sauce. You say juicy? But most important is the taste. Well I have to say this version brings a pretty pure piece of pork. The North Carolina pulled pork rub and BBQ sauce are characterized by spices used to enhance the meat taste instead of completing/overruling it. The smoke and fire do the rest of the work. If you ask me both this way and the more common heavy bbq sauces each have their own charms. I guess I’ll variate between these types more often.
More pulled pork recipes
Pulled Pork like recipes
How to use pulled pork leftovers?
- Pulled pork taco’s with apple fennel slaw
- Corn cookies with chorizo con pimientos del pequillo
- Sweet potato pulled pork nachos
- 1 Boston Butt or pork shoulder/neck from about 2.5-3kg
- Whisky soaked oak wood chunks (+-4 for a kamado cooker)
- 4 Tbsp. coarse salt
- 4 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tsp. garlic powder
- 2 tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. cayenne powder
- 3.6 dl. or 1.5 cups cider vinegar
- 1.8 dl or 3/4 cup water
- 2 Tbsp. sugar (or at taste)
- 1.5 Tbsp. coarse salt
- 2 Tbsp. strong chili flakes
- 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1. Mix the rub spices thoroughly and rub them on the meat with your fingers. Put aside while preparing your smoker for indirect cooking at 110°C/230°F.
2. When your smoker gets it's temperature add the wood chunks. Make sure some of them are in a zone where the coals aren't very hot yet. This way you can spread the smoking time.
3. Wait until the smoke turns slightly blue, meanwhile put an aluminium tray on your platesetter (or below the place where you want your meat) to catch the juices. Add some liquid if you don't want the juices to burn. It also helps to keep the meat juicy (not necessary in a kamado smoker).
4. Put the Pork Shoulder in your smoker with the fat side up. Smoke until you get a nice dark crust (The bark) and the internal temperature is 92°C/195°F. The time it takes can variate in time. If you're using a regular smoker you need to add some wood or coals halfway the process. Mine did 12 hrs before it reached that temperature. Don't worry if the temperature doesn't climb for a while at about 74°C/165°F. This is "the zone" where the temperature stalls until the juices on the surface of the meat are evaporated. I had a second zone at 82°C/180°F. If you want the meat to be done faster you can wrap it in the first stall (this is called texas crutch, read more about it here). This way it reduces the time it takes to get the pulled pork ready but you pay with bark...
5. When done put the shoulder in your baking tray and remove it from your smoker. Loosely cover it with aluminium foil for about 20 minutes. Don't wrap it in foil or your meat will steam inside and soften the bark.
6. While the meat is resting prepare the Carolina vinegar sauce by mixing all ingredients thoroughly.
7. 20 minutes later you can start pulling. Remove the bone if you used a bone in piece of meat. Pull the meat while it's hot and stir in some Carolina vinegar sauce at taste.
8. Serve with these delicious roasted buns or along some baked potatoes. You can even go creative with the result it's will all turn out delicious.
Disclosure: "This post contains an affiliate link for the book Project Smoke! by Steven Raichlen: This means I'll earn a small commision if you buy the book through the affeliate link above. The book was given to me in order to write a review about it. All opinions shared are my own." "For this post I used Smokewood I received as a testing sample by smokewood Germany. Besides the product I do not get payed to promote their product."