barbecue musings

Smoking Flower Pot — Assembly

Sorry for not getting these up sooner, but I wasn’t able to get to it until yesterday, when I did some more pulled pork. I was inspired a couple blogs when I was figuring this out, but especially Dave Naffziger’s instructions for getting the heating element controls out of the smoker.

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I picked up a 20-inch terra cotta pot at Plant and Pottery Outlet in Sunol, CA, which is just down the freeway from me. Their selection of terra cotta pots is much larger than anywhere else I looked (Home Depot, Lowes, OSH), and the pots they carry are much thicker, which helps them retain heat a lot better. I got a 20-inch bowl to serve as the lid. Total cost: $56.00.

Inside the pot, I got a standard, 18-inch Weber cooking grate, which fits perfectly inside the 20-inch pot. To hold the wood chunks, I used a large deep-dish pie pan from a bygone Chicago-style pizza experiment. The pan sits right on the heating element, which is a deconstructed electric hot plate that I picked up for $10 at Walgreens.

One challenge of this setup is that adding wood chips or chunks becomes an issue because you’re bound to let out a lot of the heat when you remove the lid. I get around this by using only wood chunks, which don’t burn up as fast as wood chips. For meat that needs to cook longer, like pulled pork or brisket, you can simply finish cooking in the oven when the smoke dies down.

The main challenge is figuring out how to keep the temperature steady. I found that by turning the dial to medium high, I could get between 230–240F pretty consistently. From there you kinda have to baby it if you want cook at a lower temperature. I recently ordered a remote wireless thermometer with two temperature probes, which should help me both monitor what I’m cooking, as well as the temperature of the smoker.

barbecue pork recipes sauces

Pulled Pork (and Smoking Flower Pots)

My Lazy Barbecue posts (beef ribs and tri-tip) were an easy and convenient way to make barbecue in an oven, but it also stoked my dormant curiosity about smoking meats…with real smoke. We’re technically not allowed to grill or barbecue where we live, so I started looking for ways to build a smoker that didn’t look so conspicuous. Google eventually led me to an old episode of Alton Brown’s Good Eats where he made a smoker out of a terra cotta flower pot and bowl and an electric hot plate. I’ll write more about the smoker in another post since i want this one to focus on this:

Pulled Pork and Baby Back Ribs

(I’ll talk about the ribs some other time…let’s just discuss the pulled pork.)

Making pulled pork is pretty simple. For this attempt, I coated the entire pork butt with yellow mustard and then sprinkled the meat with a barbecue spice rub and let sit in the refrigerator uncovered for 18 hours. Generally, pork butt is smoked for more than 12 hours at a fairly low temperature (usu. between 225-250F) until the meat reaches a temperature of 195F.

From what I’ve read, the meat stops “absorbing” smoke at around the 3–4 hour mark and any time after that just adds to the smokey bark that accumulates on the meat. Since I was using an electric hot plate and didn’t want to leave it on overnight, I smoked the meat for around 4 hours at an average temp of 240F and then double wrapped it in heavy duty foil and put it in a 225F oven to finish.

The total cooking time was around 16 hours, and after I took it out of the oven, I put it in an empty ice chest where it rested until I was ready to pull the pork and serve it. Here’s what it looked like after removing it from the foil. The “gap” in the meat is where the shoulder bone used to be.

Finished Pork Butt