I first tried jerked smoked pork about 25 years ago. It was at a child’s birthday party. You know the kind of party — with the happy 1-year old surrounded by family and friends, coolers full of adult libations with a few juice boxes thrown in for good measure. We were listening to music more akin to the current Top-40 hits than “the wheels on the bus go round and round”. That was Lauren’s first birthday.
Lauren’s father, Joe, is a chef but rather than having anything chef-y for her birthday, he fixed some crowd-pleasing man food. Specifically a jerked and smoked boston butt.
I’d never had anything like it. The flavors were so intense. The jerk was fiery. The pork was unctuous. I was smitten from that day on.
Since that birthday party, (mind you, Lauren has children of her own now) I’ve been making this dish at least twice a year. Usually on a day when we have a crowd to share it with – like Memorial Day, 4th of July or Labor Day. But frankly, I would eat it for breakfast on Christmas morning if I could. It’s that good!
We made this one while we were visiting my parents at their house in Key Largo over Labor Day weekend. (That’s why you may not recognize my equipment – it was a field trip shoot).
I know what you’re thinking about the jarred jerk seasoning. “Why don’t you just make your own?” Well, I could. But, this was what Joe used, it’s authentic and it’s by far the best I’ve ever had. This rub is loaded with scotch bonnet peppers and spices – so much so that a whiff from the jar will make your eyes water and your nose run. And secondly, I was in the Florida Keys for the weekend, and I was more interested in sipping, swimming and relaxing than sourcing ingredients, chopping and blending.
The beauty of this dish is that it’s not an all-day, tend-to-the-grill affair. You marinate the meat (at least 8-12 hours or overnight), lightly smoke it for 40-60 minutes, then finish it off with a direct grilling method to cook it through. It’s served sliced thin, piled high on those Hawaiian or potato rolls with a little cooling coleslaw and if you like, some of your favorite barbecue sauce.
Lordy, it is good!
Seasoned with a spicy jerk marinade and lightly smoked on your grill, this Jerk Pork is head and shoulders above the rest. The secret is in the marinade.
- 1 5 pound boston butt aka pork shoulder
- 1 jar Walker's Wood Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
- hickory chips
- 1 12-oz bottle beer optional
- grill set up for direct and indirect cooking
- 1/2 head green cabbage
- 1 carrot
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
- soft hamburger rolls we like Martin's potato rolls
- barbecue sauce we like Stubb's or Sweet Baby Ray's
- sliced radishes
At least 8-10 hours before cooking or preferably the night before, trim some of the fat cap off of the pork. Butterfly the pork so that it's in an even layer about 1-2 inches thick. With a sharp knife, poke holes about 1/2" deep all over the pork.
Spread 1/2 the jar of jerk seasoning over the pork, pressing into the crannies. Flip pork and rub the remaining jerk seasoning into the pork. Place pork in a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8-10 hours, or overnight.
1 hour before cooking, soak your wood chips. Place 2-3 cups of hickory chips in a bowl cover with water or half water/half beer. (Scott uses half a bottle of beer and half water to soak the chips. The remainder of the beer, he considers his spoils.)
Create smoking pouches: Pile 1/3 of drained smoking chips in the center of a 12" piece of aluminum foil. Seal the packet by folding over the top and creasing the foil, then fold the ends up. Poke several holes in the packet. Make 2 additional smoking packets using the same technique.
Set the foil packets on one side of the grill, directly on the elements (below the grates). Heat the grill on high until packets begin to smoke. Reduce heat to medium and place the pork on the grill opposite the wood chips - so that it's not getting direct heat.
Smoke the pork for an hour, keeping the temperature between 350-375 degrees. For the last 15-20 minutes of cooking, move the pork directly over the flame at 375-400 degrees. Try to keep the lid closed most of the time, so you don't lose heat, but watch for flare ups. When meat is done (measured at about 185-190 degrees with a meat thermometer, remove to a platter, tent it with tin foil and let it rest for 10 minutes.
To serve, slice pork thinly across the grain. Pile high onto rolls, topping with coleslaw, barbecue sauce, sliced radishes and pickles, if desired.