Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork, Paleo BBQ

HIckory Smoked Pulled Pork
The Eat Heal Farm Blog 

By Heathar Shepard/ February 1st, 2024

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Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork
Paleo BBQ that tastes good and is good for you

I want to teach you how to make the most delicious, smoked pulled pork you’ve ever tasted.

So many people today avoid eating smoked meats because we’ve been told that eating smoked meat causes cancer.

Sure, if you add nitrates, nitrites or other additives to the meat or, if you dump lighter fluid onto your fire, these methods should set you up pretty well for activating a chronic disease like, cancer.

Or, if your BBQ grill of choice is a pellet grill, you will very likely increase your exposure to carcinogens if you use wood pellets that have been treated with methyl bromide, binders or glues.

Not all wood pellets contain this crap. So do your due diligence when selecting wood pellets to avoid these modern day BBQ pitfalls that are harmful to health.

To smoke meat in a way that tastes delicious, and supports your health, a few things are required which include:

  1. Patience
  2. Learning how to make, maintain and read a fire
  3. Avoiding processed ingredients like fillers in spices (easily solved by making your own spice blend which takes under 5 minutes) as well as GMO ingredients like cane sugar and artificial ingredients like, non-caking agents in spice blends (is it really that hard to break apart salt or onion powder that has caked?!? Honestly.).

Smoking meat really isn’t that hard, but it does require patience and practice.

I’m going to teach you how to do this so you and your family can enjoy delicious, protein-rich meals. And, I can’t tell you how many of my clients are bored with eating the same ol’ same ol’ thing every week - can you relate?

I want to help you change this because eating should be pleasurable AND healthy - this is absolutely necessary on the path to optimal health.

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Historically (try not to yawn, this will be brief and is important to understand so you can put the ‘smoked foods causes cancer’ baby to bed)…

Smoking meat and cooking over fire were the OG (original) cooking methods dating back to when Homo sapiens first lived in caves.

I’m pretty sure cavemen didn’t die of cancer.

One thing is for sure, from cavemen cooking over coals to Native Americans smoking bison as a preservation technique, to Eskimos smoking fresh caught fish to Texans manning and womaning their BBQ pits, smoking meat is the oldest form of cooking that people are still practicing today.

And, there’s one simple reason for this…

Cooking with fire makes everything taste freaking delicious.

And, not only that, cooking with fire reconnects us with the wildness, the primalness, the essence of our ancient roots in which we all come from.

Before you dive into making Paleo BBQ with me, it’s really important to set aside modern day myths that claim eating smoked meats and BBQ increases risk of cancer.

While there are many modern day BBQ methods that can increase exposure to carcinogens (which I'll teach you about so you can avoid these pitfalls) it's important to know that cooking with smoke and fire can absolutely be accomplished without the use of preservatives, chemicals, lighter fluid, treated wood and treated charcoal.

And, food cooked over fire can be enjoyed without the use of Wonder Bread, high fructose corn syrup in your BBQ sauce and can absolutely be made sans GMOs.

Thereby, eliminating the beliefs around BBQ being a cancer-causing food.

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I smoke meat on my off set smoker in my backyard at least once per week.

I use fire to cook my food several times per week in the form of a gas grill, a charcoal grill, a smoker or an open fire.

And, I do so using good ‘ol fashioned, untreated hickory wood or, local fruit wood such as cherry or apple as well as untreated and natural charcoal.

Let’s have a chat about charcoal…

Natural, untreated charcoal is simply wood that has burned in which the water contained in the wood has evaporated during the cooking process. Cooking with this form of charcoal is not harmful to health.

However, cooking with charcoal, that has been treated, is toxic and harmful to health and is a carcinogen.

Toxic forms of charcoal almost always include charcoal briquettes and can include other forms of commercial charcoal as well. These often have added toxic ingredients including, nitrates, limestone, borax, anthracite coal, treated wood, petroleum products and starch - all of which can cause harm to your health and are best avoided.

When cooking, my charcoal preference include: Rockwood Charcoal or Big Green Egg Charcoal - both products are free of any additives or ingredients other than 100% natural, untreated wood and are both sourced in the USA.

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Next, you have to choose which platform you’ll be using for smoking your meat.

Your choices are:

  • Charcoal grill
  • Offset smoker
  • Pellet grill
  • Open fire
  • Horno
  • Ground oven pit

Personally, I’m a big fan of offset smokers. I like the feeling and practice of splitting my own wood, making a fire and tending the fire to cook something that’s going to nourish me and my family.

I do use a non-bluetooth/wireless (who the F wants their meat to be radiated and cooking under WiFi, hard pass) Traeger to smoke bacon. Bacon needs low temperature smoke at around 145°F which the pellet grill can effectively maintain. For almost everything else smoked meat, I go with my offset smoker.

If you're wondering which Traeger models are free of wireless technology, these include the Pro Series 22 and the Pro Series 34 models.

I will also mention that not only does cooking on my offset smoker bring me into my primalness, but the flavor of the meat cooked in this way is superior, in my opinion.

I have another reason why I like to use my offset smoker over other cooking options (particularly for smoking pork)…

I get to be outside getting my Sunlight Rx on.

So, not only do I get to cook some delicious meat and get a little workout in by splitting wood for the smoker but I also get to do all of this in sunlight. Sunlight exposure further amplifies the amount of healing by body experiences all while making some killer BBQ.

Let’s talk fire…

Learning how to make and maintain a fire is essential if you’re going to smoke meat on an offset smoker.

To do this, you’ll need additive free and 100% natural charcoal from hardwood like hickory or oak.

Next, you’ll need to source natural hardwood such as  hickory or oak (oak, scrubby oak or post oak all work well). It’s important to choose hardwood because if the wood is too soft it will contain more resin leaving your meat tasting funky.

Let’s get to the pork shoulder recipe…

If you don’t have a pork shoulder, you can substitute a picnic roast or a pork butt.

The first thing I do is trim any excess fat from the meat. A boning knife works best, but, use whatever you’ve got.

This isn’t because I’m trying to avoid dietary fat or cholesterol. On the contrary, I’m always looking for ways to get more cholesterol-rich foods into my diet because they’re so incredibly supportive to healthy hormones, metabolic health, immune function and cellular integrity. Not to mention, the nourishment dietary cholesterol provides the brain, heart and mitochondria.

I trim the excess fat from big cuts of meat before I smoke them for a few reasons…

One, is that by removing excess fat, you’ll provide yourself with more surface area to apply your spice rub. Spices and salt cannot penetrate through fat. But, they can easily penetrate through muscle. This will give your meat a lot more flavor.

I set the excess pork fat to the side and render it down to make cooking lard and body butter. Nothing in my kitchen goes to waste.

Especially not with 38 chickens, multiple pigs, a cow and a pitbull.

I recommend seasoning your pork shoulder 15-60 minutes before placing it on the pit.

You want to make sure you allow this 15-60 minute window from seasoning-to-smoking so the spice rub you apply starts to penetrate into the muscle tissue of the meat and so the seasoning adheres to the meat during cooking. You can tell that the rub has penetrated into the flesh when the meat starts to look sweaty or damp.

Bring the temperature of your offset to 275°F and place the pork in the middle of the pit - too close to the fire can dry out the meat. Too far away can increase cooking time. Placing it in the center will give you optimal cooking temperature and smoke exposure.

Smoke your meat at 275°F until the internal temperature reads 165°F. And then, you’re going to wrap the meat.

I like to wrap my meat with unwaxed butcher paper as this allows the meat to stay nice and juicy without exposing you to excessive amounts of aluminum which is found in aluminum foil, the most commonly form of wrapping in modern day BBQ.

Wrapping with unwaxed/untreated butcher paper vs foil can slow the cook time down as aluminum is a greater heat conductor. But, when it comes to your health, it’s absolutely worth the wait.

When wrapping your meat, you need to add lots of butter. Cut the butter up into thick slices and place on top of the meat. This next step is optional, but, I often sprinkle a mineral rich brown sugar on top of the meat at this point. Then, wrap the meat tighter than a swaddled baby.

At this point, if you need a break from your smoker, you can transfer the meat to your oven. If you choose to do this, place the wrapped meat in a Pyrex baking dish and set on the middle rack of your oven. Cook the meat at 275°F until the internal temperature reads 200°F.

Or, you can place back on your smoker to finish the cook. It will likely take 2-4 more hours to finish cooking, depending on the size of your pork shoulder.

I cannot recommend enough to get a ThermaPro lightning thermometer. This is one of the most reliable thermometers and you can stick it right into the butcher paper to get a read on your meat.

Once your meat is done at 200°F, it needs to rest.

Please don’t rush diving into your meat. I know it’s hard to resist the urge, but try hard to do so.

Here’s why…

Resting your meat after you cook it is one of the most important things you can do for your meat with regard to flavor, texture and moisture of the meat.

When muscle tissues are exposed to high temperatures, they seize up. So, if you were to cut into it as soon as it came off the pit, the moisture would be towards the surface of the meat and the meat would have a tougher consistency.

Resting your meat allows the moisture to move from the surface of the meat to the center of the meat making it much more tender and flavorful.

It is wise to implement a rest time with grilled meats in general. And, the rest time will vary depending on your cooking time. The shorter the cooking time, the shorter the rest time. The longer the cooking time, the longer the rest time. For example, when I grill a steak, it takes about 8-15 minutes to cook, the rest time is about 5-10 minutes.

You cooked this pork shoulder for 6, 8, maybe even 10 hours depending on the size of the shoulder. So, you want to bump up the rest time to 30-60 minutes in this case. Of course, you could absolutely rest the shoulder for longer if you’re able to resist for that long. I am not patient enough to wait longer than that and there really isn't any need to.

Be sure to keep the meat covered during the rest time. Don’t uncover during the rest phase!

Which brings me to another reason why I suggest using untreated butcher paper…

When you cover with aluminum foil, the bark or crust on your meat can be reduced because aluminum foil is dense and doesn’t allow oxygen to penetrate through.

However, when you use untreated butcher paper, this is a much more porous material, allowing oxygen to move freely through the meat during the rest phase keeping the bark more intact.

Don’t forget to make a homemade BBQ sauce to dip or smother your pork shoulder in. I will post my BBQ Sauce recipe very soon for you all!

Here’s to healthy BBQ, Paleo Style,

~Heathar

Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Recipe

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Ingredients

  • 8lb pork shoulder, fat trimmed
  • Chipotle spice blend (recipe coming soon)
  • Apple Cider Vinegar Spray (1 part ACV, 4 parts water; avoid Braggs ACV, Katy Perry and Mr Gates have their hands in this pot and we know how that goes)
  • 1 stick butter, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons Organic brown sugar

Directions

Take your pork shoulder out of the fridge and bring to room temperature. If you forgot this step, set it out for as long as you can before cooking - 30 minutes minimum.

After your pork has come to room temperature, apply the Chipotle spice rub liberally, on all sides of the shoulder.

Let set for 15-30 minutes and up to an hour. This allows the spice rub to penetrate into the muscle tissues. You’ll know your meat is ready to go on the pit when it starts to look “sweaty”.

Prepare your fire. I recommend using a charcoal chimney to start your fire. When the coals are nice and hot, place in your smoker box, add some newspaper and some hickory wood. Bring the internal temperature to 275°F. At this point, it should be perfect timing to place your meat on the pit.

Set the meat in the center of the pit and maintain a temperature of about 275°F. If you go lower than that, nothing bad will happen. It will just extend the cook time of your meat.

Spray the top and sides of your shoulder with the ACV spray every 1-2 hours.

When the internal temperature reaches 165°F, pull the meat from the pit, add the butter and brown sugar. Cover tightly with your untreated butcher paper and either place back on the pit or place in your oven at 275°F.

Cook until the internal temperature reads 200°F.

When your shoulder is done, pull from the pit or oven, keep covered, and let sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes.

Enjoy!

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