BBQ 101 – Pulled Pork

Homemade coleslaw and pulled pork sandwich. Ah yeh…

Pork butt is a fantastic piece of meat. It’s quite a tough cut, with a lot of collagen (and fat), which makes it perfect for low and slow BBQ. If you can’t get pork butt where you live, you can try a boned-out ham. However, the best cut for this is the pork butt which is essentially the upper part of the pork shoulder ham cut, here in Norway not a regular cut, but when I tell my butcher I want the upper part of the ham, basically the shoulder-blade, with all the meat and fat on it, I get the right thing. Keeping the bone in there helps the meat become more juicy because the bones contains gelatine, so I always get bone-in when I can. Gives you that lip-smacking goodness feel you get from good ribs. Guess that’s why gelatine is used a lot for making candy, huh… That goes for any meat – bone-in = better. Talk to your butcher and show him some charts and google images, and I’m sure you’ll get it right. Now, to get a historical fact out of the way, they’re not called butts because they’re from the butt (because they’re from the shoulder end of the pig really..), but because this cut was stored in special barrels known as butts, in the olden days. Read more on Wikipedia.

Pork butts ready for pullin’

This is not a good place to start for the novice griller, but if you think you’ve got indirect grilling and temperature control on your kettle or smoker down, you should try it. Pork butt is some of the best eats to ever come out of a BBQ, and it’s a cheap cut, which enables you to feed tons of people for little money. Time for a party, in other words. Let’s get to it.

Serving suggestion:
I serve this dish in a very traditional manner, on homemade hamburger buns, with a creamy coleslaw, a basic Eastern North Carolina style vinegar sauce, and some pickled gherkins. Don’t make it complicated, the meat should be the star.

Total time: 10-14 hours (prep starts the day before)
Skill level: Intermediate/Expert
Grilling method: Indirect, one-zone (some coals on one side, large drip pan filled with water under the meat)
Grill temperature: About 120-140 degrees centigrade (250-285F)

You’re going to need:

  • Time, I usually start around 6-7 AM when I do this and we eat around 7-8 PM. A great excuse to drink beer and “mind the bbq” all day, in other words. Kinda like fishing or golf in that regard (dads will know what I mean…)
  • 2 pork butts (I always make two, because that’s what I have room for on my kettle. Pulled pork freezes well, so if I have leftovers, that just means my wife is going to be happy for the next few weeks eating pulled pork sandwiches..)
  • 1 cup of your favourite all-round spice rub
  • Some yellow American mustard (to be used as a glue)
  • 1-2 bags of charcoal briquettes (make sure you get good ones with no chemicals and food starch as a binder)
  • 4-5 cups of wood smoking chips (I like to mix hickory and some mesquite for pulled pork, read more about smoke wood here. Apple wood is also great)
  • A notebook and a pen, for taking notes during the process
  • An instant-read thermometer like a Thermapen, or a leave-in probe style thermometer

Pork butt, rubbed and ready to go

How you do it, the night before:

  • Prep should ideally start the day before. Cut the skin off the butts unless your butcher did it, but leave a good thick layer of fat on the meat
  • Lay out some lengths of plastic wrap on your workspace, and put a pork butt on there. Put a thin layer of yellow mustard on it, and apply generous amounts of spice rub all around it. I use about 0.5 cup for each butt
  • Wrap in several layers of plastic wrap, and repeat.
  • I store my butts overnight in the fridge. It’s (almost) always a good idea to room temper your meat before it goes on the grill, as long as you’re able to do it in a safe, hygienic manner. However, if you want to maximize your smoke penetration and smoke ring size, you should go straight from the fridge on this one. Experienced BBQ’ers tell me the smoke ring only happens when the meat is below 60 degrees centigrade (140F)

How you do it, cooking day:

  • Taking notes is paramount if you want to learn

    Fire up your chimney starter with 20 briquettes (this is based on my 22.5″ Weber kettle, and your mileage and/or method may vary on other grills and smokers)

  • In the meantime, put a briquette basket on one side of the grill only, and a big water pan covering the whole middle part of the grill. Why water you say? The mass of water (I use a stainless steel pan from Ikea that holds about 4-5 liters or one US gallon) helps me maintain a steady temperature inside the kettle, because water stores (in this case) heat pretty well. It also helps the meat retain its moisture during the long cook by increasing the general moisture in the cooking environment.
  • When your briquettes are white hot, put them in the briquette basket you put on the one side of the grill.
  • Put two smokebombs (a handful of soaked wood chips wrapped in aluminium foil) on the briquettes. Putting them out towards the edge of the fire makes them last longer. Wait 5-10 minutes until they start smoking. Replace these as often as you please once they are smoked out. This is especially important the first 4 hours, after that the meat won’t really soak up the smoky flavours anymore.
  • Put the grate on, pork butts on the grate away from the fire, and put the lid on
  • Next is 10-12 hours of temperature watch. You should try to adjust your temperature using only the bottom vent(s) on your grill. The top one should stay at least 50% open. If you close the top one too much, you can get a soot buildup, which will not taste nice.
  • Eventually, usually after 4-6 hours you may run into something BBQ’ers call “the stall” – The temp of the pork butt will stabilize or plateau at about 68-70 degrees C (154-158F) – sometimes it will even drop a little. This can go on for hours and really f up your dinner schedule. Read up on the stall in this great article, it’s got useful, common sense information you need to be aware of if you do low and slow.
  • A lot can be said on how to do this on a kettle style grill, but it should be possible. However, there are a lot of factors that come into play when doing a long cook on a kettle or smoke. Wind. Rain. Sun. Shade. Air temperature. Humidity. Which is what makes this fun, and exciting, and a skill that is learned from experience.
  • If it gets too hot, I take my tongs and dump a briquette or two right in the water pan. You can take them out too of course, just don’t put them on your wooden deck…
  • If it gets too cold, you might need more briquettes. I put in 6-8 unlit briquettes every hour when I do this. If you get a strange dip in temp and really need to knock it up quickly, you can use unsoaked wood chips or chunks, or you can put on some lump charcoal which burns a lot hotter than briquettes. Just be patient and don’t overdo it.
  • I will not go on in lengths on all the different ways to get there, you shold keep a log of times, kettle lid temp and meat temp, so you’ll have something to learn from for your next cook. The important part is to have fun, and reach a target temp of about 87-90 degrees centigrade (that’s 190-195F). The other important part, is to get there slowly.
  • If you get to the target temp too early, don’t worry. Wrap the meat in aluminium foil, and a couple of kitchen towels, and put it all in a cooler, and it will stay warm enough for hours.
  • When you’re ready to serve, it’s time to pull the pork. If you did everything right, it

    Two butts, a ham and a cow chest

    should be easily pullable by hand. Here’s a neat tip, get some thin carpenter’s gloves from your local hardware store, and buy some vinyl gloves one size up at the supermarket. Put the builder’s gloves on first and then the vinyl gloves (duh!), and you will be able to pull two pork butts without burning off your fingers (I’ve tried, not fun). If it’s not easy to pull by hand, you took it off the grill prematurely. Don’t worry, use a knife to assist you, it should still taste great. If it does not taste great, you have failed, and consequently brought shame upon your house and family.

  • Once all the pork is pulled, drench it in the North Carolina style vinegar sauce, and serve. Enjoy the taste of a fantastic dish, knowing it tastes even better for you, because you’ve been outside working the BBQ all day. NICE!
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Bacon-wrapped tenderloin and grilled vegetables

Grilled, Bacon Wrapped Tenderloin with Zucchini and Tomatoes

There’s some real nice South American tenderloin to be had at my local store here in Oslo this year, thanks to the Rema 1000 chain of food stores. This meat is of much better quality than what you normally can get here in Oslo for a decent price. So I plan to take advantage of that this summer. So, I went and bought myself a piece of tenderloin, cut it into some nice large steaks and gave it a quick sear on the grill. This is what chef/author Steven Raichlen likes to refer to as “millionaire grilling”. You’re really buying yourself success, because you have to be an idiot not to get tenderloin right on the grill, all it takes is quick sear, to serve this meat done anywhere over medium rare would be a crime to bovines everywhere.

Time: 60 minutes total
Skill level: Easy
Grilling method: Direct
Grill temperature: About 250 degrees centigrade, or more  (480F)
Equipment: Hickory wood chips for smoke

Serve with:
Ember-roasted yams
Grilled zucchini and vine tomatoes

You’ll need to get hold of:
A piece of tenderloin, two pounds should easily serve 4
A squash
4-6 Vine tomatoes
Some strips of quality bacon
Some hickory wood chips for a quick smoke
Some yams, 1 for each person eating
Weber’s thin, double-pronged skewers, or some wooden skewers

How you do it:

  • Have a hot grill waiting, for this I use a two-zone setup
  • Chuck your yams on the coals as described here, and turn them every 10-15 minutes or so
  • While the yams are cooking, cut your tenderloin into nice tall steaks, wrap them in

    Griled tenderloin with Zucchini and Tomatoes


    good bacon, and put a skewer through the whole thing to keep the bacon in place during cooking
  • If you want your steaks rare, keep them in the fridge until grilling, if you want them medium-rare, you can take them out of the fridge 1-2 hours in advance
  • Slice tomatoes in half and zucchini in thick slices and skewer them. I use Weber’s double-pronged thing skewers for this, they’re great. If you don’t have those, use two wooden skewers soaked in water
  • Season the vegetables with salt, pepper and marjoram, and brush them lightly with canola or rapeseed oil. When they’re seared leave them in the indirect/resting area of the grill
  • Let your grate heat up until it gets that white-gray colour, so you can get a good sear
  • Season the steaks (I use salt and pepper only for this one), and sear the steaks about 2 minutes, then turn them 45 degrees to get nice grill marks, another 2 minutes, flip, and repeat
  • Take the steaks off the grill to a plate (not the one you kept raw meat on), and let them rest under foil for 10 minutes while the vegetables finish
  • Plate everything, and serve. I just slice my yams in two and serve them on a separate plate to not get yam coal on my food, with a herb butter

BBQ Viking’s Turbocharged Canned Beans

Turbocharged can beans!

Beans are real good eats. They’re also a side that work well with almost any BBQ meal. Great on burgers, hot dogs, with steak, pork, chicken… Yup, definitely an essential BBQ side dish. Now, you can make your beans from the ground up, using dried beans and making your own chilli or BBQ sauce from the ground up, that’s phenomenal. But sometimes there’s just not enough time for doing it that way. That’s when I turn to my turbocharged canned beans recipe. It’s basically about going to the store and buying some quality canned beans, and then doctoring them with some fresh chillies and some other stuff, to get to a great side dish with little time and effort. This should recipe is for 4-8 people, depending on what else is being served. Here’s how I do it.

Time: 45-60 minutes + some baking time (optional)
Skill level:Easy

You’re going to need:
3 cans of quality beans (I use S&W’s Texas Ranch Recipe Barbecue beans)
4-8 Fresh chillies of your choosing
4 Scallions, spring onions or even some leeks
A good chunk of quality bacon (about 250 grams or 0.5 pounds)
A couple tbsp of your favorite BBQ rub (optional)
1/2 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (optional)

How you do it:

  •  Usually I will do this a day ahead, to let the flavours really combine in the fridge overnight. Also, that makes for less side dish focus on BBQ day, and more time to focus on heating meat and drinking beer. Important.
  • Dice your bacon chunk, and heat in your pot on low, so you render as much fat as possible
  • When the bacon is starting to crisp up, finely slice your chillies and scallions, removing chilli seeds and stems if you like less heat
  • Chuck them in the pot and continue frying until everything’s nicely golden, making

    S&W Barbecue Beans cans

    sure not to burn the chillies and scallions

  • Open up and pour in your three cans of beans. Add 0.5 cup of your favourite BBQ sauce. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes. Let it cool and store in fridge overnight, or optionally if you’re short on time, serve as is
  • Next day, I put the beans in a grill-proof vessel, or just leave in the cast iron pan if I have enough space on the grill, and bake the beans with whatever I’m cooking. Before I put it on the grill, I sprinkle with my favourite BBQ rub, which helps form a nice crust on top. Put some wood chips on the coals and you’ll have fabulous baked beans with great flavour in about an hour.
  • Enjoy!

Eastern North Carolina style vinegar sauce

Eastern North Carolina style vinegar sauce

This is one of the most basic, old-school barbecue sauces you can make. It comes from the Eastern parts of North Carolina, where they’re pretty adamant about how this sauce should be meady. Those Western North Carolinians put some ketchup in theirs, which I hear is a big no-no in the eastern parts. It is specifically designed with pulled pork in mind, and that’s really the only thing I use it for. Just whisk these ingredients together until the sugar is dissolved in the vinegar. You can always give it a quick boil if you want to, I normally don’t:

  • 1 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp ground chili flakes
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

This should be enough for two pork butts. Just mix it in with the meat before serving. Enjoy!

All-round spice rub without sugar

Pork butt, rubbed and ready to go

I’ve decided to move away from rubs that contain sugar, largely because they’re not that all-round (sugar starts burning at higher temperatures) and also because the sugar makes them stick to my grate, which means more cleanup.

Also, I’m sure I get enough sugar in me during an average week, so if I can do without it in rubs – great!

So why not try this good all-round rub with some kick to it, which goes well with chicken, pork, beef, and even fish. Just mix all this together.

Use a mortar and pestle or your electric coffee grinder to get everything pretty finely ground:

  • 1 cup paprika powder
  • 0,5 cups hot, smoky paprika powder (Spanish or Hungarian variety)
  • 4 tbsp ground chili flakes
  • 4 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup celery salt
  • 4 tbsp smoked sea salt
  • 2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp marjoram
  • 2 tbsp onion flakes
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp dry mustard

Mix it all together and you’re ready to go! This recipe should make somewhere between 3-4 cups of rub, which should last you a couple of weeks or months, depending on how much you BBQ… Enjoy!

Tasty, creamy coleslaw

Homemade coleslaw. Ah yeh…

Coleslaw is my go-to side for a lot of BBQ and grilling meals. It’s a must for me with any BBQ sandwich, like pulled pork, hamburgers, sliders, steak sandwiches, brisket… It also works great with hot dog, as a side for BBQ chicken, fish…. Coleslaw – what can’t it do! So here’s my standard recipe, and I will get back to you with some more exciting varieties once you’ve got this nailed. Not into the creamy coleslaw? Lactose intolerent? Check out my spicy slaw instead!
Time: 20-30 minutes
Skill level:Easy

You’re going to need:
1/2 head of a large cabbage (or 1 whole medium cabbage)
2 carrots
1 cup of mayo (I suggest the homemade one found here, without the Chipotle)
1/2 cup of sour cream
4-6 tbsp vinegar (I use clear, no-taste vinegar for this)
2-3 tbsp sugar
1 clove of minced garlic (optional)
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
Salt/pepper

How you do it:

  •  Put the mayo, sour cream, vinegar, sugar, optional garlic and cayenne pepper in a container large enough to hold all your slaw. Whisk it all together, season with salt pepper, and adjust vinegar vs sugar levels to your tastes
  • Peel the carrots and grate them into the dressing
  • Thinly slice the cabbage (leave out the middle white stem part, it can be quite bitter)
  • Put on some vinyl gloves (indispensable), and mix it all well together
  • I like to make this some hours in advance, I think it tastes better when it sits a little bit. It will also keep well in the fridge for some days if you have leftovers.

BBQ Gallery – II

Last week’s escapades in grilling and BBQ here at BBQ Viking’s house

BBQ Viking Sliders with caramelized onions

Sliders, homemade chipotle mayo, shakey taters and caramelized onions

These sliders are tasty, juicy (even when you have to cook them through), and are real popular with the kids. They’re easy to make too, and require only a quick sear on the grill. You could always buy some slider buns, but I really suggets making your own, see my recipe for buns here. I realize some of you are going to find it extremely controversial that I put bread in my sliders. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. I mean it. If you grind your own beef, and have a hot enough grill to get a sear on these while they’re still pink in the middle, you can skip the bread. But I often have to use storebought ground beef, and that means it has to be cooked all the way through. That’s where the bread comes in, by soaking up the juices and fat, it makes these sliders a real, juicy treat.

Time: 60 minutes total
Skill level: Easy
Grilling method: Direct
Grill temperature: About 250 degrees centigrade  (480F)
Equipment: Hickory wood chips for smoke

Serve with:
Homemade chipotle mayo
Homemade slider buns
Shakey potatoes (recipe to come)

Sliders and Texas style BBQ sauce

You’ll need to get hold of:
Ground beef, about 500 grams makes about 15 sliders
2 slices of bread
4 tbsp of your favorite, preferrable homemade, BBQ sauce. I used Rocket Fuelled Bull BBQ Sauce
Some meltable cheese (I prefer orange cheddar)
2 large yellow onions
2 tbsp butter

How you do it:

  • Have a hot grill waiting, for this I just cover the whole grill grate in white hot coals
  • Slice your onions the way you want them, and caramelize them in a frying pan with the butter, some salt and pepper, and about a tbsp of sugar, on low heat for 30-45 minutes. You can do this the night before, store in the fridge and just reheat.
  • Cut away the crust from your two slices of bread, and let it soak in cold water for ten minutes. After soaking, squeeze all the water out of it
  • Mix the ground beef carefully with the BBQ sauce, the bread and liberal amounts of salt and pepper
  • Form the slider patties. Remember to make them flatter and larger-diameter than you want to be finished product to be, because they will change size when they’re being grilled. Each patty should be about 33 grams
  • Get a good hickory smoke going on the grill before starting grilling, I use water-soaked chips for this to maximize smoke, since they’re only on there a couple of minutes.
  • Put them on the grill. About 2-3 minutes should be enough, flip them, put the cheese on the finished side, and give them another 2-3 minutes. Serve!

Techniques : Grill setups for direct, indirect and rotisserie grilling

So, I get some questions on how I do different things on the grill, among other things how to keep a steady low temperature for low and slow BBQ on the standard Weber kettle. I have made the attached drawings to help me explain this better. Feel free to print and use this diagram as a reference, but don’t steal it and use it on your own webpage without asking me first, it took me some work to make it. Take a look at the diagram first, and below I will explain the different setups and what I use them for.

Grill setups for direct, indirect and rotisserie grilling

Okay, let’s start top left:

    • Indirect, two-sides: I use this when making roasts and other large pieces of meat. It’s good for a medium-low temperature, but can also go up to medium-high, just make the fire mounds on both sides bigger. I use this type of setup for instance for Whole, Smokegrilled Trout
    • Indirect/direct 50/50: This is perhaps my most used setup. It can go from medium to high heat, and it’s very versatile. You can grill indirect sides on the right side and have heat for searing meat and other thing on the left side. You have large safety/resting zone too, if you have larger piece of meat you want to sear first and then finish indirectly. I use this type of setup for instance in my Smokegrilled Mackerel recipe
    • Indirect/direct pile: This can be a good setup if you need a quick sear on something and then need to rest it a while after. I can see that it would be useful for thick t-bone steaks, for instance. You can also start with this for searing a roast or similar large piece, and then rake it out to both sides after for a long indirect cook.
    • Ring of fire: Haven’t experimented much with this one either. I can tell you I put it in there mostly for the name. I guess it could be good for indirectly grilling a very large piece of meat, it would give you a more even heat than some of the other options
    • Indirect, one-sided (low and slow!): I use this method for two things. Firstly,I use it when doing beef short ribs and pulled pork, in 12-16 hour sessions. I will then use a very minimal amount of briquettes, all on one side, 12-20 briquettes at a time, depending on the weather outside, and I use a large steel drip pan filled with about 4 litres (a gallon) of water in the middle of the grill. The purpose of the water is primarily to store heat and help me keep the temperature stable, but it also makes for a moist environment inside the grill. Adjust temperature using the bottom vent only, always leave top vent open. The second thing I use this for is rotisserie grilling chickens, ducks and other things. I will then use charcoal normally, and much more of it. No problem getting to 200-250 degrees centigrade (390-480F) with one big pile up against the side wall
    • Direct, all: I’ve only used this setup for one thing, but for that it’s very useful. We were having a big party, and I used the kettle for making a ton of chicken wings (only the small, outer wing part). For that, it was ingenious. A thin layer of coals over meant I could do 30-40 wings at a time on the grill as they needed no indirect grilling, only a good sear. Very efficient for making lots of sliders too I would imagine
    • Direct/indirect, two-zone fire: This is really a lot like the 50/50 setup, just with a smaller safety zone. Use when you need more sear space and less resting area.
    • Direct/indirect, three-zone fire: This is the most complicated setup. On the left 1/3rd of the grill there is a thick layer of coals for very high heat, the middle third has a thinner layer, and then there’s a safety zone to the right for resting. It’s just another option that might suit you depending what combination of food you’re grilling.

Yeah, that was a lot wasn’t it? I primarily use only 2-3 of these regularly, but it’s always good to know your options. Some common things to remember; always put a drip tray under your meat/fish when grilling indirect, you don’t want all the fat to drip and stick to the bottom part of your kettle. Another important point, when you set up, try to keep your coals away from the handles when you can. It will just be easier if you need to move the grill around during cooking if the handle sides don’t get too hot.

Spicy Bacon Potato Salad

Spicy Bacon Potato Salad

A good potato salad is a great side for almost any BBQ dish. It’s also something that can be made the day before, stored in the fridge, and served cold.

Which in turn means you can focus on the preparation of meat when you need to, which is good. It also means it’s a great side to bring to the park, the beach or camping.

Time: 20-30 minutes
Skill level: Easy

You’re going to need:
12-15 Medium-sized red-skinned potatoes
About 1 cup of Homemade Chipotle Mayo (you can always substitute for store bought mayo mixed with chipotle hot sauce, but it won’t be as tasty then)
4 tbsp of Honey Dijon Mustard (I use Maille brand, the French know their mustard)
4 Scallions
6 thin strips of quality bacon
Salt/pepper

How you do it:

  • Slice your bacon in small slices, and fry in a pan over low heat. I like to grind some pepper on it while frying
  • Wash and dice your potatoes (I leave the peel on, it looks nice, and I’m also lazy)and boil them until they’re just about soft, not too long. Rinse in cold water and let drain in a colander
  • Whisk the mustard into the mayo
  • Slice your scallions in thin slices
  • Put potatoes in a bowl and mix with scallions, bacon and the dressing
  • Serve lukewarm of refrigerated and enjoy!