Festing in Place

This past weekend was supposed to be the first weekend of Jazz Fest in New Orleans which is a huge music festival that happens here. Just 500,000 of your closest friends to see amazing music and eat delicious food (I mean, it’s NOLA, what other kind of music and food is there here?) And since it’s New Orleans, even if we can’t have Jazz Fest, we’re committed to having our music and food! #festinginplace was a thing. Melanie asked me last week what one food I would most miss eating there this year and I had to go with a cochon de lait. So, of course, the only choice I had was to make it.

The plan was to start with Emeril’s recipe but cook it low and slow on the Big Green Egg rather than in a slow cooker. Saturday afternoon while the little bananas were sleeping, I put together the rub and got the pork butt all ready for the main event on Sunday. That was the easy part!

Sunday morning I set my alarm for 6am to make sure I could go and get the Egg prepped. I’m not sure why since we’re always up at 6 anyway but just to make sure. It didn’t take long to get everything set up and then I gave it about 30 minutes to make sure I had the temperature stable. My plan, since it was a fairly small pork shoulder (4.6 lbs), was to cook at 225 for 8 – 10 hours and get the internal temperature to around 200F. I got the temperature dialed in and off we went!

I was surprised as the day went on that the cook seemed to be going slower than I expected. I finally got to around 155F around 1pm and that’s when the stall happened, as I expected. I was expecting the cook though to be done no later than 5:30 or 6pm and it wasn’t until 4:30 when I finally saw the stall end. At this point I figured it would more likely be 7:30 when I finished. What I didn’t expect was to hit another stall at 177F! It stayed there for another 2 hours when it finally started to creep up again at 8:00pm.

Given than Melanie and I really wanted to eat dinner, we decided to pull it off the grill at 8:30 when it was at 180F. Everything I read was that it wouldn’t be able to be pulled at that temperature but it actually was incredibly tender and pulled right apart. I think even though it was a lower temperature than ideal, the fact that it was at that temperature for WAY longer than it would normally be tenderized the meat really well.

And it was DELICIOUS. We didn’t put the mayo on our poboy and the rolls were just from the grocery store so not quite as good as where we’d prefer to get them from but we had to make do with what we could get. The slaw and slightly spicy, smokey pork went great together. I’ve done a lot of grilling and bbq and this pork was possibly one of the best things I’ve ever made.

And I think I know what went wrong with the timing. I have a dual probe thermometer which has a clip to put one probe at grate level. I was very proud that I got my temperature dialed in so well all day. Except the probe, which is very accurate, was measuring the wrong temperature basically all day long. I had put the probe all the way at the back to keep it out of the way but that also meant that rather than sitting over the plate setter, it was sitting where the hottest air was coming up from the coals. I think there was a 20 – 30F gradient. So when I thought I was cooking at 225, it was probably closer to 200. And when I bumped it up to 250, it was still only 220 – 230.

And of course, since we were festing in place, I had music playing all day!

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