An acquaintance asked me to smoke some pulled pork for her son’s high school graduation party. She said there would be twenty to thirty people attending. With that said, I rushed to a couple of trusty barbecue communities (forums) on the internet to look into just how much pork would be needed for that amount of people, and when it comes to pork I’ve come to find that it is a given average that there will need to be about one pound of finished product per 2.6 people (without knowing each person’s individual appetite).
So I headed over to my local Food Lion, bought roughly 35 pounds of pork butt and, at about 10 p.m. I got the smoke rolling in my 22.5″ Weber Smokey Mountain cooker.
I used a mix of hickory and apple wood. Personally, my favorite fruit wood to smoke with is cherry, especially for ribs and bologna. However, I feel like pork butts cry for hickory; there is just something about it when it comes to smoking pork butts where it fits the bill perfectly. As for the apple wood, it is the first type of wood I ever used to smoke anything with when I began my barbecue journey, and you can never go wrong with it.
One might say that pork was shoddily rubbed, particularly on the sides, and that one wouldn’t be wrong, but you really don’t need to go all out, especially if you are doing more than one pork butt at once. Let me know in the comment section if you think I’m wrong about that. I used the tried and true Caribeque Honey Heat Pork & Pultry rub by the man, the myth, the legend: Kurt Halls. Kurt released a brand new pork rub at the end of last year, as part of his Caribeque Signature Series, a dedicated pork rub that features more sweetness than anything. The Caribeque Signature Series Pork Rub is fantastic, but I still like Honey Heat on any and all kinds of pork as my go-to.
I woke up at around 8 a.m. the following day and the temperature of my WSM was sitting pretty at around 230 still, riding high on the Kingsford charcoal briquettes from the night before. Checking the temps of the pork butts, they were all in the 170-175 range and had a little ways to go, so I began cranking up the heat by opening all three of the intake vents as well as adding a little bit of fresh Cowboy lump charcoal to the charcoal ring.
I was curious about how much meat you could add to this big cooker. Back in November, I competed in my first ever barbecue competition in Castlewood, VA at Gent’s Farms, hosted by Brandon and Victoria Gent, the fine folks who run Appalachian Meats in Lebanon, VA. It was a blast and I had a fantastic time. There was another competitor there who was actually using a 22.5″ Weber Smokey Mountain (I used the Barrel House Cooker 18C on that day); he won the smokeoff for the ribs. Anywho, he told me that he had smoked 80 lbs. of pork butt in his WSM one time, and I can imagine that. As you can see, I had my WSM full on the top grate; it would have likely been more optimal for me to use both the top and bottom grates to my advantage, but I didn’t want inconsistent temperatures for my meat (even if that wouldn’t have been the case), so I opted to arrange them on the top grate. I can see how 80 lbs. could easily go down in the WSM, tight as a fit that it may be, however, with the pork butts arranged properly.
By the time the pork was ready to pull, I would estimate the overall shrinkage to be about 40 to 50 percent of the original weight of the pork.
I needed to have the pork finished by 3:30 p.m for their party that began at 4; it was picked up at 3 by two happy campers who walked away after giving it a sample first. “Awesome!”, they both said in unison.
If you are in the southwest Virginia area and interested in having fresh barbecue catered, contact me!