Early Retirement Frugal Food: Pork BBQ

I love the beginning of fall in the South.  The humidity starts to evaporate.  A slight breeze wiggles the leaves from the trees.  We can finally open up the windows and shut down the AC for season (and save money!)  The kids play out in the backyard without risk of overheating.  Our oversized Boston Terrier has unrestricted time in the yard.   He lays on the steps of our paver patio with the breeze whipping through his ears as he sniffs the aromas coming off my wood fired smoker.

And college football starts.

My Expensive Purchase

I have a confession to make. A few years ago around Thanksgiving I splurged on a new grill.  This wasn’t your every day Weber propane grill.  My sites were on a smoker.  After much research I narrowed it to two, a Traeger Lil Tex Pro and a Big Green Egg.  On Thanksgiving, Traeger ran a sale and the rest was history.  This wasn’t a practical choice.  This was about great tasting home cooked food.

Before moving to the South, I never appreciated barbecue.

  • I never ate of collard greens.
  • I didn’t know what really good Mac and cheese was.
  • I absolutely never ate cheese grits.  
  • I didn’t appreciate great pork barbecue.  

The rich smokey taste.  The crusty bark that forms around the edges.   The way the meat just falls apart.

I was hooked.  The greatest part, this protein is relatively cheap If you prepare it yourself.  The sides are even cheaper.

Cost of Takeout vs. Homecooked

My favorite neighborhood BBQ joint has pork selling for $14.99 per pound of cooked meat.  A pound of pork is usually enough to feed the family and have some great leftovers for lunch.  Add in collard greens, Mac and cheese, grilled vegetables and maybe a cup of Brunswick Stew and you are talking about $40 all together.

The cost of making this is a fraction of the cost.

It takes time.  An abundance of time to cook the pork right.  But that is part of the fun. Enjoying your time playing at home or maybe sipping and IPA as you prepare deliciousness.  The best part about the Traeger, you can let it do its thing for hours and you don’t need to keep adding charcoal or making sure the temperature is right.  With the Traeger you can set the and walk away.  Once in a while I check that the auger didn’t clog or the heating rod didn’t shut off, but thats it.

How much does it cost?

I picked up two Boston butts from Costco totaling 24 pounds of meat.  At $1.49 per pound it cost about $35.  For the less than the price of one take out order, we have over 20 meals.  What a deal!

Usually I burn about 5 lbs of wood to cook the pork over a course of 8 to 10 hours.  This costs about $5.  So all together about $40 and we will get 20 or so delicious meals for the family.

How to Cook the Pork BBQ

Dry Rub

A few hours before starting the smoker, I sprinkle it with a dry rub.  Sometimes I create my own with various spices in the house.   However to save time, I used a commercial rub below.  This time I smeared yellow mustard before applying the rub.  This is totally optional but helps the rub to stick.

After its seasoned, I wrap it up and store the butts in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

Grill Preparation and Cooking

When ready I start the Traeger grill and raise to temp to about 225 degrees.  This is great temperature to slow cook the meat.  The Traeger throws off a good amount of smoke at the temp.  After about 5 minutes of start up, I put the pork on.  Pictured here I also cut up some tomatoes from our garden, added some zucchini, squash and an onion.  I drizzled them with extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. The vegetables taste wonderful after an hour or so of smoking.

About every hour I spray the pork with a down to keep it moist.  Usually I mix together a little of my favorite Kentucky Bourbon (Brown Forman’s best of course,) Apple Juice or Cider and a little Worcester sauce.  It’s not mathematical by any means, just whenever I have a spare moment I spritz it down.

Alternatives to spraying include brining or injecting.  I usually don’t bother with these methods.  Spraying usually keeps it moist enough for me but I have injected and it tasted great.

Another optional step I take is transferring it aluminum tray to hold the juices.  Again, depending on how moist you like your pork or how hard you like the bark that forms around the edges of the pork.

Once the internal temp of the pork reaches 205 degrees it is ready to come off the grill.  This one I left on the grill and only transferred it to a tray for the resting period.  It formed a nice bark that was loaded with smokey flavor.

Preparing the Final Product

Once the resting period is over the pork can be pulled.  You can pull the pork with forks but I found bear claws are essential for shredding the pork.  They save a few minutes when pulling the pork and for a few bucks they are worth the investment in my opinion.

The Barbecue Sauce

Homemade Barbecue Sauce is best in my opinion.  I love a simple sweet and spicy Carolina style sauce.

  • 3 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce
  • 3 Tbs. Cayenne
  • 1Tbs. Red Pepper Flake
  • Salt to taste

Sides

  • Healthy Collards with mushrooms
  • Wood Fired Vegetables
  • Sweet Potato

Final Product

Food Storage

We cooked way more our family of four could eat.  Its more economical to fill the grill for each usage.  I want my time and moneys worth.

After cooling, wrap the meat in plastic wrap for portions.  I package enough so our family can have a dinner and some left over for lunch.  Then I seal it in gallon plastic bags and store in the freezer.  These make great weekday meals after a busy day playing with the little ones. Pulled pork freezes remarkably well.

 

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