In the spirit of the Super Bowl and the Carolina Panthers making it to the big game, we’re sharing some Carolina BBQ love with our fellow Delawareans. Rick Betz of Fat Rick & Son BBQ is the resident expert on barbeque and the mastermind behind this tried-and-true recipe. Try making it yourself—or head to Fat Rick’s 6th Annual Winter Rib Fest on Saturday, Jan. 30 from noon to 5 p.m. (1413 Foulk Road in Wilmington). And now, a lesson from Fat Rick himself …
This recipe has been in my family for many, many years, and it’s never been shared publicly with anyone. Being the good Delawarean that I am, I’m sharing a similar recipe. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s close enough.
Before you get into the ingredients and process, the very first step is to purchase the freshest pork butt possible. A pork butt isn’t actually a butt at all—it’s a part of the pig’s shoulder. I recommend choosing a bone-in picnic shoulder. These pieces of meat average between 8 to 10 pounds each, and come with a “fat cap,” a layer of good fat underneath a thick layer of skin that melts when smoked, providing all that sweet and delicious tenderness.
For the rub:
Mix spices for the rub together very well in a small bowl. Rinse the meat under cold running water and pat dry. Then liberally and vigorously massage the rub (by hand) into the flesh of the meat. (No need to rub the skin; it’s too thick for the spices to permeate anyway.) Don’t be shy about using too much of the rub.
Next, line a roasting pan with aluminum foil (to help with cleanup; you can also use a disposable deep aluminum hotel pan). Wrap meat thoroughly with Saran Wrap and refrigerate (ideally overnight).
If you don’t have a 1,500-pound steel wood-fired smoker, preheat your oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. When the oven reaches 225 degrees, remove the Saran Wrap from the meat and place it in the oven. (Note: Some folks who aren’t fortunate enough to have a smoker resort to using liquid smoke. I don’t. No self-respecting BBQ man should ever stoop that low.)
Courtesy of Fat Rick & Son BBQ
Let the pork cook low and slow for about 6 to 8 hours, depending on the size of your piece of meat. Have your meat thermometer handy, and check the butt’s internal temperature regularly. Be sure to insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, and avoid touching the bone. Your butt is perfectly done every time when that temperature reaches 190 degrees Fahrenheit, guaranteed. Remove the butt from the heat right away, and let it cool a bit so it’ll be easier to pull. You’ll find that the meat will fall away from the bone very easily.
When the butt is cool enough to handle, start pulling off the thick skin—but don’t throw it away too quickly, because there are some really good bits of meat up under there. Next, begin pulling the other chunks of meat apart, with your hands, into long strips and chunks. Don’t overwork it, though—you want nice firm chunks for your sandwiches. Pile the meat high on a fresh-baked burger bun. I’m old-school. (Real BBQ enthusiasts will tell you that the only reason to use bread at all is so you have something to hold the meat.) Smother your sandwich with an authentic Eastern Carolina vinegar-based sauce. Or, if you prefer, that other stuff.