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Dinner tonight: slow barbecued pork shoulder

Out last house suffered from a small backyard with no paved area, which meant there was nowhere to put a barbecue, let alone entertain. Thankfully own new house has a large entertaining area, so one of the first things I did after we moved in was invest in a barbecue. This being my “starter” model, I was reasonably restrained (which is unusual for me) and I invested in a six burner version of the Beefmaster, the house brand of Australian franchise Barbecues Galore. I was lucky enough to score a bargain by buying a display model. Thankfully it was fully assembled, and I avoided a scene similar to this one:

Homer Simpson builds a barbecue

It’s had plenty of use over the summer, and I’m happy with it so far.

One of my favourite barbecued things is pork ribs, and I’m yet to find a restaurant here that can cook them properly. More often than not the “ribs” you order turn out to be beef, which I’m sure are great when cooked well. “Barbecue” is a way of life in parts of the USA, but in Australia it is all too often a cliched accompaniment to hot weather and copious amounts of beer. Television seems to be expanding our horizons gradually, but we’ve still got a long way to go.

So not knowing my rubs from my marinades, I hit the web and was lucky enough to find Amazing Ribs, or as it describes itself “the zen of barbecue and grilling”. If you want to know how to barbecue properly, take the time to read through the site – it’s tremendously informative.

One of the best things I found is the recipe for a spice rub called “Memphis Dust” – I now put on just about anything I’m going to barbecue, and is compulsory for pork. The kids don’t like it on their cereal much, though. Here’s the recipe:

3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup paprika
1/4 cup kosher salt     (I use Maldon sea salt)
1/4 cup garlic powder
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons ground ginger powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons rosemary powder

This recipe makes about three cups, and it looks like this:

Memphis Dust

I’ve had great success with ribs, and today was my second attempt at slow-cooked pork  shoulder, a cheap cut of meat that is remarkably moist and tasty when cooked slowly. To prepare the pork, I simply coat it with a few tablespoons of the Memphis Dust on top and bottom, then rub in with a little vegetable oil. I use two burners of the barbecue on low to reach 250F / 120C, and fill my smoker box full with posh-sounding wood chips. The smoker box sits directly above the flame, and the pork in a standard roasting tray to the side. One tip I have learned is not to trust the thermometer in the top of your barbecue hood as they can be very inaccurate; I use an oven thermometer which I place near whatever I’m cooking.

Fancy wood chips

I read on the site somewhere about spraying the meat during cooking with a combination of apple juice and Jack Daniels. Not having a spray bottle or either of those beverages in the house I marinated it with cider last time; this time I used a bottle of alcoholic ginger beer. Here’s how it looks after a couple of hours cooking:

mmm pork shoulder

After some four hours my handy probe reported the pork as being done (170F / 80C), so out it came to rest before carving, just enough time to make the gravy. Being slow cooked you don’t get any crackling which is probably the only downside. On a positive note, I’ve never had roast pork this moist before.

If you’ve got a barbecue with a hood, why not give it a go – and don’t forget to check out Amazing Ribs first.