Grilling and smoking is one of the things that Tony took the lead on during our marriage. I was a passive bystander at best. One time he put me in charge of watching some jalapeno poppers he was grilling while he ran down to help a neighbor. I managed to catch one on fire and break a flip flop. The night before any big cook I found myself trying to watch a show or go to bed and he’d want my help squirting mustard or shaking rub on the meat. I had never even made a hamburger patty before Tony died. So, my outdoor cooking skills were not what I would call top notch.
I also feel compelled to make sure you know that grilling and smoking are not the same thing. Tony would want me to clear that up, you grill a burger, and you smoke a brisket. He also believed it was a sin to cook ribs, brisket and pork butts in the oven and don’t even think about busting out the crockpot!
When Tony passed, I had four bone-in pork butts in the deep freeze. Two of them he had pre-trimmed and vac-sealed. The other two were still in their double pack straight from the grocery store. What’s a girl like me going to do with all this?
The answer had to be, figure how to smoke it.
I started with the trimmed ones over the last year. Making an injection I knew he didn’t use but knowing I should inject them with something and guessing on what seasoning to put on the outside. Googling how to start a Traeger and learning that you have to keep filling up the pellets during the cook the hard way. I smoked that first pork butt before I even grilled a cheeseburger. I legit went from grilling hot dogs to smoking a pork butt.
This weekend it was time to tackle the big ones, trimming and all.
Friday evening, I whipped up another batch for the injection and got to work on trimming the fat off the pork. I wasn’t sure how much I should really trim off, but I just went with my gut. After they were both trimmed, I injected them and put them in the fridge to marinate overnight. Saturday morning, I got up early to start the smoker for my 12-hour cook. I made sure the drip pan was clean – didn’t want to start a grease fire in the grill! Then I got out my mustard and seasoning for the final stages of meat prep. As I started to squirt mustard on the first one, I realized I had missed trimming a section. I had this vision of Tony lifting a hunk of the meat up so I could sprinkle the seasoning in this crevice.
So, I got out a knife and finished the trim. It’s funny how our minds can conjure our loved ones sometimes. If you had asked me how to trim this cut of meat, I would have told you I had no clue. However, when I set out to do it by myself the vision and muscle memory of helping him, helped me.
12 hours later I pulled off those two pork butts, perfectly done. It helps that it’s a forgiving cook. Then I shredded them, and this time Asher was the one to help me season, sauce and taste test the final product. The next day, I heard him proudly tell his brothers that he helped make it. Tony helped me and I helped him. We are always passing down our knowledge when we don’t even realize it.