The Executive Summary:
1. I cooked four butts four different ways.
2. Injected butt looks and tastes different.
3. I prefer cooking fat cap down.
4. Big’un’s new Carnivore Bark Builder shows promise.
The local Piggly-Wiggly had a $0.99/lb sale on pork butts last week:
So, I thought it would be a good time to explore some questions:
1. Can I jump from cooking two butts to four on my large BGE?
2. Do I like the new Carnivore “Bark Builder” rub from Big’un?
3. Does injecting a butt (per Dr. BBQ’s alternative recipe) improve it?
4. Do I prefer cooking fat cap up or fat cap down?
5. Will I notice much difference in results making subtle changes from my previous Elder Ward approach to the Dr. BBQ approach (as expressed in Dr. BBQ’s Big-Time BBQ Cookbook
The LBGE was rigged as follows (bottom to top):
—Royal Oak, poured in from bag up to level of spider
—tjv Spider in drop-down position
—BGE pizza stone as diffuser
—Dry foil-lined pizza pan to catch drip
—tjv’s stainless steel grill, holding the two smaller butts
—tjv’s adjustable rig
—BGE ceramic grill, with the two larger butts
I had hoped to cook all four butts in the adjustable rig, but unfortunately even with the bottom rack set on the lowest level the smallest butts were too thick to permit the top rack to sit flat. Had this been possible, the cook would have been a bit easier.
I installed all pieces in reverse sequence for preheat as tjv suggests. Fire was lit with propane-powered weedburner at 11, 3 and 7 o’clock positions and allowed to preheat for 30 minutes after achieving temperature, which was maintained at Dr. BBQ’s preferred 235ºF with a DigiQ II. Just before loading butts, I added a cup (50g) of cherry chips and 2 lumps (75g) of hickory.
The injection fluid was the “Big Pig Pork Injection” recipe provided by Dr. BBQ in Dr. BBQ’s Big-Time BBQ Cookbook
. His book says injecting is not his preferred method but that other competitors on the circuit are doing well using it. The ingredients include pineapple juice, apple juice, brown sugar, salt, Worcestershire, soy sauce, hot sauce of choice (I used Tabasco) and dry mustard. I whisked all ingredients in a heated saucepan until well blended and then cooled before injection. The injection mix is pungent while cooking and I needed to use the exhaust hood over my range. I used a Spitjack Magnum meat injector fitted with a 12-hole syringe tip to inject 1.5 cups into a 6-lb butt that was double-wrapped in cling wrap. The process was messy, and despite the wrapping I had sticky spray squirting all over my counter.
Butts were rubbed with either Carnivore Bark Builder or Byron’s. I had a pre-release sample of CBB that Big’un provided with a Carnivore sauce shipment. It was about a quarter-pound, and I applied all of it to a 5.75-lb butt. I applied a light layer of mustard thinned with Worcestershire before applying rub, as it had been suggested on prior cooks that my mustard might be too thick (I prefer lots of bark).
Here was the test matrix:
I made several deviations from Dr. BBQ’s injection recipe technique. He specifies a 260ºF cook temp for the injection version, but I used the same 235ºF for all four butts. He wants the injected butt pulled at 160º internal (about six hours) then foiled with another half cup of injection fluid poured over top and cooked in foil for another 2-3 hours to an internal temperature of 195ºF, then a half-hour rest before serving. Call it the 4/2/0.5 technique. Unfortunately, I overshot that temp and pulled and foiled at 180, so Dr. BBQ’s injection recipe may not be fairly represented by my test. I also lost fire twice and had to reload lump after about 10 hours and then at 18 hours. Using the drop-down spider does reduce the amount of charcoal that fits in the Egg. I pulled each butt as it reached 192º internal as measured by continuous Polder-style internal thermometer or DigiQ probe.
Butt A (Carnivore Bark Builder):
Butt B (Injected):
Butts C and D (Fat caps up and down):
The Carnivore Bark Builder ("CBB") rub is much paler in color than Byron’s. The flavor is more subtle. Byron’s flavors to me are dominated by salt and pepper, but with the CBB there’s more going on, just not as loud. If Byron’s is album-oriented rock, the Carnivore seems more like chamber music. I wasn’t sure I liked the CBB at first, but it grew on me and I think at this point I slightly prefer it to the Byron’s. Big’un tells me he is still tweaking the formula for his rub and is considering amping up some of the flavor ingredients, so my remarks should be considered just a preview and not a taste test of the final product.
Injecting had a significant effect on final product. First, the cooking seemed more uneven across the butt. I ended up returning some of this butt to the cooker because it initially did not shred easily and it seemed to need more time on the fire. The meat color was several shades darker, with a noticeable flavor kick from the injection fluid. I can’t definitely say that I liked it better, but the flavor was different. The meat was probably a little moister but the injection flavors were close to dominating the pork flavor. No clear winner here, just different. This next picture shows bags left to right with CBB Dry, Byron’s Dry, and Byron’s Injected. The injection difference on the final product color is dramatic, with the injected product looking more like braised pork:
Finally, I am persuaded by this test that I prefer fat cap down cooking of butts. I find two reasons for this. First, if you like bark (as I do) then putting the fat side down will leave more rub-covered surface undisturbed by contact with the grill and thus give more chance to develop bark undisturbed. Second, having the fat cap up tends to melt the fat into the meat. For me this made it harder to pick the fat out of the meat as I was pulling it. Trying to separate goo from edible pork got old fast. When I put the fat cap on the bottom I had a stable sheet of fat that I could pull off in one fell swoop. I prefer that. It’s true that the meat gets more “basting” with the fat cap on top but I can adjust any issues of slight dryness with added liquid, whereas it’s hard to get excessive grease out of the cooked product.
1. Injected pork tastes different, but I don’t know that I’d go to the extra trouble and mess unless my goal were novelty for a crowd that had grown weary of ordinary butt. It’s not clear that it tastes better for the extra work and mess. Not better, just different.
2. My preference is for fat cap down when cooking butts. It’s easier to shred the meat, gives meat that is less greasy, and gives more bark. The meat will be slightly drier, but this can be adjusted with added liquid.
3. The preliminary sample (pre-release) of Big’un’s Carnivore Bark Builder rub shows promise and I look forward to its final version.