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By Ryland Motley

I place a lot of emphasis on this subject for a very simple reason...the QUALITY of the finished product is in direct proportion to the QUALITY of the ingredients it's made of !! This holds true whether the finished product is meat, bread, vegetable, or dessert.

So, in 20 years plus of specializing in Eastern NC Style Pork Barbecue in my four restaurants, I discovered the "perfect" cut of pork for barbecuing which consistently produces a high quality barbecue. It is known in the commercial meat packers industry as the "long cut shoulder". For the uninitiated, a long cut shoulder is the "Pork Picnic" and the "Boston Butt" still joined together.

The reason this cut of meat is perfect for barbecuing is the ratio of fat to meat (or muscle if you will). This ratio is ideal because when the proper doneness is reached (170 degrees internal temperature) and the meat is pulled from the bone (called "boning off"), there is always a sufficient amount of grease, which was fat at the start, to give the final product plenty of moisture. This is due mostly to a layer of fat between the skin and the main body of the shoulder.

The amount of this grease used is one of judgment by each barbecuer. My position has always been to save and use every drop of it. My reason, as I explain to novices at barbecuing, is that this melted down fat absorbs a tremendous amount of the hickory smoke during cooking and therefore imparts it to the finished barbecue. Later when the barbecue is heated for serving, any extraneous amount can be dipped out, however if its not used to begin with the entire batch of barbecue could end up dry. There's nothing worse than dry barbecue!! Conversely, the same is true if its too greasy.

Additionally, the skin left on a long cut shoulder plays a big role in the finished barbecue if used properly. During the cooking process the skin will become brittle and crumbly at its edges. When this portion is separated from the rest of the skin and ground/chopped to a mush, it gives the barbecue a flavor that is absolutely heavenly!!

So to all you barbecue enthusiasts out there, the next time you barbecue pork, try using "long cut" pork shoulders. If you can't buy from a commercial meat packer, buy the picnic and the butt as separate cuts from the super market. Results will be the same.

Bless us oh lord, for these gifts which we are about to receive, from thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen. Visit Hickory Works!

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