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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Pork Shoulder Rub and Sauce by Bits.Bytes.Brews

Instagram has become our office space. Without guilt, Jana and I both spend much time and energy exchanging pictures, ideas and sentiments with people around the world as @dragonknuckle_jana and @dragonknuckle_david. We've become those dorks who can't eat without posting it first.

Don't be disappointed. We're building a brand. If we weren't truly artistic spirits who love people and food, we'd be fake.

One of the more interesting cats I've run into is @bits.bytes.brews. He asked me about our gloves and we got to talking about pork shoulders. It's Pork Shoulder Month. I've been asking everyone for their shoulder technique.

So Woodrow (that's his government name) sent me some background along with his recipe for pork rub and barbecue sauce.

How universal is barbecue? Woodrow builds competition-speed computers that run zillions of computations per second, then goes home to cook slow and low. Don't think your PC guru doesn't know his way around the smoker, too.

Here's a little piece of him:

My passion for BBQ started many years ago. In a small town called Charlestown (in the small state of Rhode Island). I was very young, maybe nine years old when I really started watching my Dad work his magic on the ‘Que. In all honesty – it was very rare that my Father wasn’t barbecuing something. Mind you, his pit was nothing spectacular – but he made it work. From burgers to wings, ribs to chops – he did it all and I fell in love…

Fast forward a couple decades – I found a cheap offset smoker at a local department store and figured; why not? I’m married and have a beautiful daughter with one on the way. Why not start doing something that I loved when I was a small boy? Well… This purchase ignited something big. I barbecued nearly every single day until my cheap offset just wasn’t doing it anymore. My wife and I hopped in the truck, drove 2 hours to a small town in New Hampshire and picked up my current pit – A Yoder Loaded Wichita.

Barbecue is an amazing thing. It builds attention to detail, teamwork and brings people closer together when it’s time to finally reap the rewards you worked so hard on. If it wasn’t for my father, my long days of trial and error and for my wife for helping me get what has become an essential part of family gatherings – my life in barbecue wouldn’t be where it is today.

Pork Rub
The base of my pork rub (mainly for my pulled pork) is roughly a 50/50 blend of kosher salt and table grind black pepper. I truly recommend pre-ground pepper due to the fact that it’s a bit lighter in the bite, but still has a great flavor.

For a 8-10lb shoulder
1 Cup Kosher salt
1 Cup table grind black pepper
3 Tablespoons of paprika
3 Tablespoons garlic powder
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1 Teaspoon Cayenne pepper

When applying the rub; use a shaker with large holes and let your wrists do the work. Salt is MUCH heavier than the rest and tends to settle.

Wood’s Killer ‘Que
¾ Cup finely chopped onion
1-2 Habanero Peppers, seeds removed (Or Jalapeno if you’d like it less spicy)
½ teaspoon of Ghost Chili powder (If you’re feeling brave)
2-3 Cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
32oz of natural ketchup (homemade is the best!)
1 Cup of apple cider vinegar
1 Cup of brown sugar (I prefer the light stuff)
¼ Cup of agave nectar (or honey if you’d prefer)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire
1 teaspoon of cumin
¼ cup of Brisket or Pulled Pork drippings

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan and heat until nearly bubbling. Use immediately or let it cool and store for up to 5 days.

When it comes to cooking, everyone's machine is different. You know your smoker. Cook without hurry and you'll be fine. Pork shoulders are forgiving.

Next time, give Woodrow's sauce and rub a try. I find it unique that his rub has no sugar in it. For mine, turbinado sugar is the #1 ingredient.

The more you share with people, the more you learn. That's your barbecue lesson for the day.

And when it comes to pulling apart that shoulder, we suggest our own claws. Not just because we sell them. We tried multiple variations and found this aggressive curve dug in best and caused less hand fatigue. They're tough and clean up well. That's why we chose this design:

Pulled Pork Month barrels on. Currently I have a shoulder in my Three Shadows brine. I'll be cooking it overnight on Wednesday. Stay tuned.

Until then, keep it slow and low.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Brahestad Butt by Arctic BBQ

Image via

Perhaps "butt" is a funny word in Finland, but I don't get it.

Johannes at Arctic BBQ begins his post on pulled pork by stopping everyone's giggles. He explains that "butt" refers to barrel, as in the barrels used to transport pork shoulders and hams during the American revolutionary war.

I'd read that the term came from Old English, meaning "the widest part." My widest parts are my shoulders (for now) unless you count the distance between my self image and reality, which is spacious.

In classic Arctic BBQ style, Johannes takes a thoughtful, controlled approach to his 4.5 pound shoulder. He removed it from the fridge 2 hours ahead of time. He seasoned it with 7 tablespoons of rub composed of black pepper, paprika, onion, thyme, ginger, lemon and 23% smoked salt (he probably counted the grains).

He built a briquette snake and added some apple wood then monitored the whole affair with his iGrill2 iPad app.

His temp was 192ºF after 6 1/2 hours then he let it rest for an hour. That's faster than I do it. It's always enlightening to see another's take on a classic meal.

He used a couple of other tricks and techniques. What was he spraying it with in the picture above? Read his complete pulled pork study here and tease him about his non-Dragon Knuckle claws in the comments.

Image via

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Chef Martin Lopez's Carnitas de Michoacán

When I was sixteen, I needed a job. I went through the classified ads and found a gig bussing tables at a Mexican Bar and Grill.

My life changed forever.

Not only did I realize there was good money to be made earning tips in the restaurant business, but I got to be around different people all the time. I listened to them, talked with them, watched them interact, saw how they ate, observed how they ordered and picked up on the many fascinating details of being human.

And I fell in love with Mexican flavors. Cilantro, chilis, lime, cumin, avocado, pollo borracho, carne asada, tequila and anything wrapped in a tortilla are close to my otherwise suburban gringo heart.

So for Pork Shoulder Month, I had to think about Carnitas. I was so glad Chef Martin Lopez shared his recipe with us.

Chef Martin grew up in Mexico City in a large family run by his hardworking, dedicated Mother. At the age of seven he was already a big part of feeding the family. He earned a degree in Tourism and Languages in Mexico City in 1988 then went back to school for a degree in the Culinary Arts. He has travelled all around Europe and South America, adding multicultural elements to his style that he calls Mexican Novelle.

He is a professional chef, food writer, blogger and culinary ambassador for the Hispanic and Latin community.

Here's his version of the classic Carnitas recipe:

There is nothing better than to take a walk around the plazas in Mexico for lunch or dinner and smell the amazing aromas coming from all the food vendors.

One dish that you will see almost in every corner is the amazing Pork Carnitas. This delicate tender meat is used to fill tacos, and every one claims they have “the best secret recipe” as these recipes and cooking methods are passed from generation to generation.

I am bringing you a small taste of Mexico with my version on how to make slow-simmered pork, with a quick fry at the end. Carnitas!

Carnitas are easy to make, but do take some time so plan accordingly. They are the perfect dish for a family event as you can have it ready and let your guests assemble their own tacos.

So have a big fiesta and serve Carnitas!

Your friends will remember them for years to come!


Half a white onion peeled and coarsely chopped

1 1/2 cups water

6 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon dried marjoram

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 stick of Mexican cinnamon

4 whole cloves stems removed

1 tablespoon kosher or coarse sea salt or to taste

1 cup of pork lard

4 to 5 pounds boneless pork shoulder or butt cut into 4-inch chunks, fat on

1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt

2 bay leaves

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice and half of a whole orange

½ cup of sweetened condensed milk


Place the water, onion, garlic cloves, marjoram, thyme, black pepper, cinnamon, stemmed whole cloves and 1 tablespoon salt in a blender and puree until smooth.

Set a large Dutch oven or heavy casserole over medium-high heat. Add the lard and once it has heated up, add the pork chunks and sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Brown the meat on all sides, stirring and flipping as each side browns, about 10 minutes.

Pour the onion mixture over the meat, let it come to a simmer and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Pour in the orange juice, the half orange and sweetened condensed milk, add the 2 bay leaves, and give it a good stir. Let it come to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low to low and cover. Cook covered, stirring and scraping the bottom of the casserole a couple times and until the meat is completely cooked and coming easily apart if you pull one piece, about one hour and a half. Remove the lid, cook for another 4 to 5 minutes on high heat to give the meat a fast high heat fry.

Turn off the heat and let it cool down, scoop out the Carnitas with a slotted spoon, leaving any fat behind, and serve the meat in a bowl or platter. Shred with a fork, if desired, before tucking into tacos. Serve with warm corn tortillas and chopped cilantro, fresh onion, pickled jalapeños, carrots, guacamole, Pico de Gallo and salsas on the side.


Humongous thanks to Chef Martin and John Schell for sharing this. I'll put this together for my family soon.