A celebration of BBQ Pit Beans
I want to celebrate a class BBQ dish today. It is one we cook an awful lot here in GNL HQ. It is a dish that is so simple and so easy to cook, but when you get it right it is simply one of the best meals there is. Pit beans, with pulled pork.
You need good pork, and preferably the shoulder. It should be slow cooked over a very low heat for anything up to 16 hours. Temperature is critical - low heat means less moisture evaporates and the fat renders, but ultimately the pork has to reach a very high heat of mid to high 90s (centigrade) to become pullable.
When you cook for that long you need really good charcoal and the wood you use becomes critical. Cherry will give you colour and a mild flavour, oak will give you robust notes that will compliment the sweet tomato sauce in the finished dish, and silver birch will give you an intense flavour that in our opinion is magic with pork. Do you use all 3 varieties of wood, stick to one, how much is too much?
You will need a great rub with this dish. The pork will be shredded and covered in tomato sauce. Pork meat is not full of flavour like beef, but rather it is about fattiness and texture. It is an excellent conduit for flavours. A good pulled pork should have lots of bark or chewy bits that explode with spices and sugar. At a very minimum you want demerara sugar, paprika, garlic, onion, and of course salt. Our Pork rub also has ginger and rosemary - they just cut through the sweetness and the fat and really make your tongue sing.
Then there is the beans. They need to be cooked over smoke and in our experience if you don't cook them in cast iron they just don't work. Some people cook then for the same time as the pork. You can use almost any beans - haricot are the classic, but we are partial to just up ending a tin of full sugar baked beans. Stir in some really good BBQ Sauce - not the sticky smoky crap you get in the supermarket - but a proper BBQ sauce from a proper BBQ sauce company - we might know one. Cook slowly and stir plenty.
These beans deserve an enamel bowl. Don't even begin to tell me that beans don't taste better out of enamel. If you don't feel like Clint Eastwood taking a break from rounding up cattle (or bandits) then you are not doing it right. A wooden spoon that you carved yourself might be a step too far, but then again...
Serve with pit coffee and crusty bread. You have just made one of the simplest meals that can be made on a BBQ, and yet we believe that if you can make it right you have probably mastered the craft of BBQ.
Please comment below if you have any hints or techniques for pit beans.