As promised, the missus, the pork butt (see?) and I headed to the lake. In addition to entertaining us for the weekend, my step-brother was planning on having folks over on Sunday for Father's Day and a birthday party for his wife (There are clunkier titles than step sister in law, but not many.). To have the pork ready for Sunday supper, I put the rub on it Friday night and popped it in the smoker Saturday morning. A mere 26 hours later I had several pounds of beautifully succulent smoked pork.
For the most part, that's it. Once the pork is in the smoker it doesn't need to be touched for the next 24 hours (I tent it in aluminum foil for a final 2 hour steam.). The smoker, however, is terribly needy. I don't have kids, but I do have an idea of what it's like to feed something every three hours, even throughout the night. Admittedly, my small smoker can't hold much wood at once, but I figure even the big ones need tending.
Regardless, when you're pulling apart that soft mass of juicy pork, all that time and effort spent tending and feeding the smoker -- not to mention the stink of smoke that permeates your skin and clothes -- will be well worth it, I promise. And when you mix that pork with your own barbecue sauce, you may well love that meal more than you love your kid. (It might also bring you more joy, but that's between you and your kid.).
1 pork butt (Shoulders run anywhere from 5 to 8 pounds, but make sure to factor in the bone.)
1.5 cup of rub (As I've said before, I like Steven Raichlen's barbecue rub. But don't be afraid to play with the ingredients if it's not to your tastes.)
1 gallon apple cider
4 cups of barbecue sauce (I did a 60/40 split between my homemade sauce, which is a Memphis style, and a bottle of Eastern Carolina sauce. Use what you like, but consider making it yourself. It always tastes better when you cooked it.)
Enough aluminum foil to wrap the pork butt
Wood, lots of wood (or about four bags of large wood chunks and three bags of wood chips available at any hardware store in the barbecue section: we used mesquite and hickory)
The night before you get started, add the rub to the pork butt, cover and return to the fridge. The next day, pull the pork out of the fridge and inject it with as much apple cider as you can (should end up being about a cup of cider). When you're done, leave the pork on the kitchen counter and get started on lighting the smoker.
I like to begin with charcoal and then add the wood chunks. This gets the wood burning really well. When the fire is out and the wood coals are hot, fill the liquid tray 3/4 full of apple cider, put the top grate back in place, stick the pork in the smoker skin side up and close the lid. It will be the last time you see the pork for the next 24 hours.
At this point, all doors and lids should be closed and the smoker should be doing what it does (smoking).
I find that my smoker starts cooling off about every three hours. It's a long, slow cook, so you don't want the smoker to run very hot (250 degrees at most, or between warm and ideal if you have a gauge like mine.). When your smoker begins cooling off, add a few more big pieces of wood and a few handfuls of wood chips. Not only will this bring the temperature back up, but it will start the smoking again. Also, check the liquid tray every time you add wood. Using a baster or funnel, add apple cider and/or a mix of cider and water as needed (The apple cider keeps the upper area of the smoker humid and the pork moist.). Do not, under any circumstances open the lid.
(Tip: The smoker shouldn't billow smoke for the entire 26 hours. I find that mine smokes for about an hour and a half every time I feed it new wood. That amount of smoke is plenty. The smoker does, however, cook the pork for the entire 26 hours. Also, invest in bellows unless you like sticking your face in the smoker to blow on the embers.)
After 24 hours, remove the lid and wrap the pork butt in aluminum foil. Put the lid back on for the final two hours.
When the 26 hours are up, pull the pork off (it'll look like a soft lump of coal -- which is a good thing) and let it rest for about 30 minutes.
Once it's cool enough to handle, pull it, sauce it and eat it.