Closing Out the Old Year….

1 Jan

No. I’m not nursing a hangover this morning – I learned long ago to, as my long-time assistant puts it, “Leave New Year’s Eve to the amateurs.” I relaxed and watched the Texas A&M – Northwestern game (Melissa is an Aggie and Texas A&M is so similar to Auburn that I’ve adopted the University as my second school) and watched Auburn – Virginia in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl (one does not “relax and watch” an Auburn game – Auburn games are only relaxing at the tailgate) and enjoyed the fruits of my day-long “tailgate on my patio.”

I decided that I wanted pulled pork to go with my Hoppin’ John for New Year’s Eve and since I was going to be firing up the Weber Smokey Mountain cooker (“WSM”) anyway, I offered to cook butts for our friends the Cooks and the Rawls.

I didn’t want to come in from our Friday night Sabor Latino festivities and start an overnight cook, so I decided to start early Saturday morning and shoot to have the butts done around 4:00 for dinner that night. That’s always a tricky proposition since butts have a mind of their on, metaphorically speaking, so there was no assurance they would cooperate and be ready by 4:00, but I figured that I had a couple hours cushion before my friends would be sitting down and staring at an empty dinner table.

The cook was a good one, with no surprises – which in and of itself is a bit unusual. I fired up the WSM about 7:00 a.m. with a bag of Stubbs briquettes, Minion-method of starting, clay saucer in foil sitting in the water pan, and the BBQ Guru Nano set at 250 degrees.

The fire was ready, WSM assembled, and meat on by 7:30 and the WSM temp started climbing. The Tru-Tel in the dome was setting steady on 225 but the Guru was seldom puffing into the cooker, so I figured I had a but of a discrepancy between the grate temperature and the dome temperature, due probably to the fact that the three large butts I had put in the smoker had pretty much come right out of the ice chest, were rubbed and tossed on the smoker so the butts were eagerly soaking up the heat rising to the top of the smoker. No problem…. more coffee.

I kept checking the cooker every thirty minutes or so and things stayed pretty steady. The game began. Aggies looking good. Around half-time, I added the Maverick ET-72 to the grate and popped the food probe into the biggest of the butts. Butt temps were just north of 140 and the Guru was holding the WSM temps nice and steady. Time for lunch…..(Hamburgers on one of the Weber kettle grills for Meredith and me – it is a patio tailgate after all).

About 1:30, the Maverick’s food probe told me the butt temp had just crossed 160 so I foiled all three butts in two layers of heavy foil (those of you who think foil is sacrilege, don’t judge) and tossed them back on the WSM. I bumped the Guru temp to 275 and noticed pretty quickly that the cooker temp at the grate and the dome temp were evening out.

About 2:00, friend Andy came over and we engaged in traditional tailgate food and drink, watched some football and I pontificated on BBQ theory, fueled, no doubt by the traditional tailgate drink.

Around 3:30, I checked the temps on the butts and they were getting close, but still no wabba-wabba on the two larger butts. I pulled the smallest of the three – it was designated as “mine” since I was feeding fewer folks than my buddies. We left the other two on for about half an hour, then pulled them, declared them “wabba-wabba”, reveled in the abundance of “pure pork goodness” in the form of the jus that gathered in the bottom of the foil, discussed the best way to use that wonderful elixir, and I prepped the butts for travel back to my friend’s house.

Fast Forward – Auburn wins, friends and family well-fed, Hoppin John a success, in bed by 11:00 (it was New Year’s somewhere – London, or Australia perhaps),and up this morning without lingering and painful recollections of the night before. Age and its accompanying experience does have its benefits.

The butts? Oh, yes – both friends checked in to let me know they BBQ was most enjoyable – one friend in particular declaring in a most exuberant tone that it was the best I had ever cooked – the best he had ever eaten! I would have blushed, but I think he may have been accelerating rapidly toward his New Year’s celebration. In any event, happy friends and family enjoying my BBQ is why I do it and what makes it all worthwhile.

And to all of my friends who may be nursing lingering memories of the night before “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” (I can hear you not – “why are you shouting?)



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