I like the dry heat of an oven for roasting meats and use my covered roasting pans a lot. Then I found a good slow cooker recipe for pulled pork that gave me another option when I didn’t want to turn on the oven. Unlike a lot of slow cooker recipes, this one did not suck the life out of the meat, but kept it moist and flavorful. Last winter, that slow cooker crock cracked and put an end to that method until I get a replacement, but today, I’m using my newly purchased cast iron Dutch oven to recreate the recipe on the grill.
As I’ve noted in a recent post, the Dutch oven sits into the cooking grate ring on my Weber® grill, almost down to the charcoal grate, so the only option for arranging the coals is in the snake pattern, where the briquettes are placed around the inner edge of the kettle in a ring, except for one opening, so that the snake has a head and tail and doesn’t burn from both ends. You set some lighted, ashed-over coals on the head, and let the snake body light up slowly, keeping the temperature low (as in a slow cooker) for a long cooking period. I ended up using exactly 100 coals, which seems like a lot to me, except for the fact that I expect to cook my pork roast for at least 6 hours. My snake is 2 briquette rows wide and 2 rows tall, with 12 briquettes left over to start the fire. I’m hoping the temperature stays between 225°-250° for the whole time, and like a slow cooker, I don’t plan to open it unless the temperature goes too low and needs more fuel.
- 3 hours: The temperature is about 290°, so I could adjust the top vents a little to lower the temperature. I have to wonder how much the heated cast iron adds to the overall temperature.
- 5 hours: Hovering at about 250°. I hope something good is going on in that pot.
- 6 hours: I just have to look. Oh, wow, it’s beautiful and just falls apart with the touch of a fork. Nothing is burnt or dry; the end result is pretty much like the result from the slow cooker, if you stop the cooking at about 6 hours. Any longer is when meat often loses its flavor in a slow cooker. As with all cooking of meat, you want to hit that right moment of doneness.
About 12 unlit briquettes at the end of the snake tell me the grill could cook for at least 1-2 more hours, while the spent coals have turned mostly to dust. Just a 6-8 inch portion of the snake is glowing, to give you an idea of how many hot coals go in to maintaining the 250° temperature.
I put the dish together exactly as the CHOW recipe says, with onions and garlic and chicken stock on the bottom and the pork roast with rub sitting on top. The only changes I made to their rub is adding a half tablespoon of smoked paprika and increasing the cinnamon to 1 teaspoon. It’s a very good rub, useful for a lot of meats with a little adjusting for your recipe taste.