Second Smoked Pork Shoulder

This past winter I smoked a pork shoulder for the first time. I learned some lessons, continued to work on getting better with my kettle, and decided it was time for pulled pork again.

Unfortunately, the price of pork was up $1.49/lb from $0.99/lb this winter.

I cut the pork shoulder into roughly equal halves. I had three things I wanted to experiment with:

  1. Would it cook faster?
  2. Would it be nice to have twice as much bark?
  3. I wanted to try a Mexican-ish rub on one to have pulled pork tacos.
The larger pork shoulder half
The larger pork shoulder half
The smaller half of the pork shoulder
The smaller half of the pork shoulder

In my opinion, for a long Weber Kettle cook you can’t beat a snake. If it’s going to go VERY long, it can be a pain as you have to move the water pan to continue the snake. But for medium-long cooks, it’s a nice, perfect way to have a consistent temperature throughout the cook.

Snake or fuse method
Snake or fuse method

This time around I went with Apple wood chunks to see if I could taste the difference from Hickory. Well, without them side-by-side I couldn’t really tell the difference.

Charcoal setup with the apple wood chunks
Charcoal setup with the apple wood chunks

Used the Weber Spirit as a safe place to light the first ten coals.

Lighting the charcoal
Lighting the charcoal

We were expecting rain, so I also setup my umbrella.

With the fire going, I set about to putting the rub on the pork shoulders while waiting for the kettle to get to 225 F.

Pork shoulder rubs
Pork shoulder rubs

It was quite windy and I ended up keeping the lower vents mostly open for most of the smoke.

And here’s a shot partway through the cook.

Two shoulders was just a bit too much side-by-side on the Kettle if you’re leaving enough space between them and keeping them away from getting direct heat from the snake/fuse. Here’s the graph of the smoke:

Pork Shoulder 20170506
Pork Shoulder 20170506

The fajita rub was off the fire first:

Fajita Rub Pork Shoulder
Fajita Rub Pork Shoulder

About an hour later, the Meathead rub shoulder was done:

One pulled pork and one freshly plucked from the kettle
One pulled pork and one freshly plucked from the kettle
Both pulled pork shoulders
Both pulled pork shoulders

First I created a pulled pork fajita:

pulled pork fajita

It was quite delicious! Then it was time for a pulled pork sandwich:

Pulled Pork with Shealy's BBQ Sauce
Pulled Pork with Shealy’s BBQ Sauce

I was reading through Meathead’s sauce page on AmazingRibs.com and saw that Shealy’s was the best South Carolina Mustard BBQ sauce. I ordered some from Shealy’s and …. I did not like it. It just tasted like mustard to me. However, as time passed and I tried the sauce with other pork dishes, I came to taste the subtle difference between this sauce (which is mustard, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce) and regular yellow mustard and I like it quite a bit now.

Finally, my wife had some pulled pork nachos:

Pulled pork nachos
Pulled pork nachos

This time the bark was perfect and my wife loved it. Not sure what’s different. The main difference is that it’s spring now and not winter and Meathead does say that humidity can affect cooks. It’s also possible I overcooked it last time. I’m not 100% sure. Either way, it was a resounding success and I had fun trying all sorts of different dishes with the pulled pork. Also pretty awesome (but I didn’t get a photo) was my pulled pork breakfast burrito.

Grilled Lamb Gyros

We were debating what to eat. There are a lot of dishes we like, but it’s easy to forget all of them when you’re constantly thinking of the half dozen foods your toddlers eat and the dozen or so foods your preschooler eats. Lamb was on sale at Costco, so I told the wife we should have lamb and I would cook it outside and we’d have gyros. Well, modified gyros because we used naan for the bread instead of pita. The image above is Danielle’s wet brine for the meat. Based on the size of the chunks Danielle chopped up, I decided to do a reverse sear.

lamb on the Weber kettle

In the middle of the charcoal there is a chunk of hickory. I wanted to just give the lamb a little something extra as an experiment. I didn’t try to make it 225 or 325 or anything special. I just threw a bunch a probes in the chunks and waited for it to get to about 120 F. Then I put it on direct heat until it got to about 135ish.

Then my wife sliced it nice and thin:

lamb and the gyro fixin's
lamb and the gyro fixin’s

The wife put together a tzatziki sauce sauce and we created our delicious gyros:

gyros!
gyros!

My boss, who happens to be Greek (and not from generations ago) said it was among the best lamb she’d ever eaten. She loved the hickory flavor as it was different than the usual way she’d eaten it before. I shared the marinade recipe with my grill/BBQ buddy at work. He said it was great and his entire family loved it.

Bacon Cheeseburger

I’ve been perfecting my diner style hamburgers (aka quarterpounders) thanks to the tips from Amazingribs.com. But there’s a guy at work I talk to about grilling, BBQ, and smoking. He was telling me about his bacon cheeseburgers. I thought about how I tend not to like bacon cheeseburgers in restaurants. Usually either the bacon or the cheese is substandard and I end up just preferring a hamburger. But then I thought about one key thing – when I make the burgers I decide all the ingredients.

Ground Beef, bacon, and cheese
Ground Beef, bacon, and cheese

My wife likes Kraft singles for her cheese, but I prefer melting some grated cheddar cheese. If I was going to be making dinner, I didn’t want to make more work for myself or the wife by cooking the bacon indoors. So I put those on the cast iron skillet first:

bacon on the cast iron in the Weber Spirit

I use good quality bacon and I can cook it to my desired crunchiness level. It’s bummer I can only fit 2 burger patties at a time if I’m making diner burgers.

Burger patties
Burger patties

Then toast the bread and add the condiments:

Bread, meat, and condiments

One thing Meathead suggested that has made eating hamburgers easier for me to eat is to have the condiments on bottom with the thumbs and all the rest up with your eight fingers. It makes it a lot less slippery to keep everything in. It also allows the meat juice to mix with the condiments.

DELICIOUS BACON CHEESEBURGER!
DELICIOUS BACON CHEESEBURGER!

Sam mows the lawn

Each of the three kids is a little different, of course. Sam LOVES loud things. He loves cars and trains and planes and …. lawnmowers! When I cut the grass he follows me around. When others cut the grass he wants to follow THEM around.

Scarlett liked to imitate what the adults were doing, but she never reached the same levels of obsession with the lawnmower as Samuel has.

 

Review: Black Mercury

Black Mercury (The Drifting Isle Chronicles #2)Black Mercury by Charlotte E. English
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book started off seeming as though it would be some sort of Victorian, Steampunk Speed Racer. But that turned out to just be a red herring to introduce us to the characters and set up some of the conflicts. I also thought it would focus more strongly on the floating island, Inselmond. It seemed as though it would be one of those islands that feature in many anime and JRPGs where the rich or magical live. Nope, that served as a McGuffin of sorts – although in a lot of ways the Black Mercury of the title is practically a McGuffin, but there might be some debate about that.

In actuality, this ends up being a Victorian Steampunk thriller. Like many of the steampunk novels I’ve come across, the main theme is that of a world in which women do incredible things, but have to fight for recognition and prosperity. The world as conveyed by Ms. Charlotte English is a fascinating world full of many characters I’d love to see again. I’ve come to find out this was a Kickstarter-funded series. I hope it did well enough to convince the authors to return to their characters.

On the assumption that Ms. English is not writing under a pen name, I don’t know if it’s because she’s a woman or if it’s inherent to the steampunk genre, but it was nice to read a story that focused strongly on relationships and how people react as the relationships change. Sure, that’s story-telling 101, but it’s not always as believable as it works out in this novel.

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Review: Massively Multiplayer

Massively MultiplayerMassively Multiplayer by P. Aaron Potter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t really think this book was “AMAZING”, but I gave it an extra star for doing a good job of messing with my expectations. I’ve been reading nearly 30 years now so it’s very hard for an author not to fall into the trap of various tropes that leads me to be able to guess the plots of most books before they get to their twist. (With the exception of noir or detective novels and some POV books like ASOIAF because the characters have an extra-limited perception of what’s going on)

This book, however, was quite timely for me to read now as I just heard the Fresh Air interview about the book Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked in which he mentions how some MMOs like World of Warcraft use psychology to keep us coming back to the games almost against our wills. That’s not exactly the plot of this book, but it’s not too far off.

Speaking of that, I got this book as part of a bundle and most of the other books in the similar vein focus on either the players or the designers. This one focuses on both and actually does a good job of not drowning under too many characters. Everyone’s set up well and has a pretty good arc. Even the most one-dimensional character, CEO secretary Mrs Hernandez, ended up being one of my favorite characters because of how her portrayal made me think of secretaries differently. It was also neat to get glimpses of the side characters’ real lives because it gives an idea of the diversity of gamers and how their real lives affect their gameplay.

I also like how the book is layered – both the players of the MMO and the employees are playing games and in each case, those who understand the game mechanics best do the best in their respective games.

Finally, let me add that P. Aaron Potter (hopefully old enough not to have been teased about that surname) has done a pretty good job on the realism of everything and everyone. The parents are pretty realistic parents, not YA book parents. The gamers seem pretty realistic compared to gamers I know. The feds are portrayed pretty realistically as far as fiction goes. Shoot, the author even avoids all the stupid NSA tropes and more or less seems to understand what the agency does (and how it differs from the CIA and FBI).

Excellent all the way through and so far the best of this genre that I’ve come across.

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Review: Hunt at the Well of Eternity

Hunt at the Well of Eternity (Gabriel Hunt, #1)Hunt at the Well of Eternity by Gabriel Hunt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m pretty dang sure I got this book during one of B&N’s free ebook fridays. I don’t know if they still do that, but it’s something they used to do when I first got my Nook. There’s no way I would have bought this book on my own. That said, this book is just as pulpy as you’d expect from the cover – a painted look from back when they would use illustration rather than photos for book covers and a mostly naked woman watching a muscular man dispatch someone else. This cover’s pretty accurate to a scene in the book except that the woman isn’t wearing a bikini – she’s fully clothed, but her recently ripped shirt has exposed her bra.

Reminding me of the action of an Indiana Jones movie mixed with Johnny Quest, it was a blast to read this action-archeology fiction. It’s like The Da Vinci Code, but without its head up its arse trying to seem all conspiratorial. To keep the comparisons going, the main characters – the Hunt Brothers – reminded me of Batman and Oracle. Not in the sense that an animated version of their most famous story ends up with an awkward sex scene, but in that they’re rich and well-connected in society, but one also can do battle with bad guys and survive despite the odds while the other stays at home and does all the research and smart guy stuff.

As for the plot, again it’s nice and pulp and McGuffin-y. A woman tries to give the Hunt brothers a historical artifact and is kidnapped. One of them tries to save her and that chase leads all over the world. There’s sex (but no sex scenes), action, adventure, ruffians, rich people who are pure evil, and bad guy Russians. Oh, and despite the cover and pulpy nature – it was written in 2009 and takes place in modern times.

If you want some pure dessert as a break from more serious fare, this is a good book to read.

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Review: Augie and the Green Knight

Augie and the Green KnightAugie and the Green Knight by Zach Weinersmith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I was a kickstarter backer on this book

I Kickstarted this book because I liked Weiner’s work on Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal and because the description sounded appealing to me – create a book that would appeal to a young, nerdy female. I’ve two daughters and the one who can talk (the other is only 15 months old) appears to be genuinely curious about the world around her and might relate to Augie in this book.

I think I would have reached peak enjoyment of this book around middle school age. I think it has a good plot for a kid’s book and I like the logic, math, and ethical problems it asks the reader to consider. However, it has a certain level of absurdity that I’ve outgrown – I can appreciate it from a distance, but it doesn’t tickle me as it once did. And that’s OK, our tastes change as we grow older – I can still appreciate Dr. Suess, but a lot of it was also way more appealing to me when I was in elementary school.

Depending on your child’s reading level and understanding of concepts like fractions and logic, I’d recommend somewhere around 7 years old and up as a good age to share this with a budding nerd in your life. Augie’s a good role model and while the number of female protagonists continues to grow, it’s nice to have one for girls (and guys) to read.

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