Liz Biro: 10 reasons why Big Woods’ pulled pork nachos rockSRC Member
Big Woods Brewing Co. in Nashville, Ind., is known for its pulled pork nachos. Of the 900 pounds of pork the place blows through each week, 75 percent lands on tortilla chips, head chef Steve Beauchamp said. About 400 orders leave the kitchen over weekends.
When Indy Star beverage reporter Amy Hanelinewent to Big Woods to talk about the company’s Speedway location opening in spring 2016, I tagged along to find out what the nacho fuss was all about.
I grew up in eastern North Carolina, where pulled pork was born. I’ve seen fights break out and friendships ruined over botched “barbecue,” which is what North Carolinians call pulled pork. Most of what I find outside the state hardly matches the real thing. I usually politely decline the overseasoned, oversauced rag piles I’m offered.
Beauchamp surprised me.
A smoky accent and mild pepper spice puts the tender pork’s flavor forward, making me think Beauchamp might have a N.C. pedigree. Turns out, he’s from Detroit. Lots of pork, ribs and turkey smoking went on in his family’s backyard. “I started cooking for my parents when I was about 6,” Beauchamp said.
Here’s the effort he puts into all those nachos.
1. Pork butts, around 10 pounds each, are scored on the top and bottom ends.
2. Big Woods seasoning blend is rubbed all over the meat. The 12-ingredient recipe is a secret, but prominent flavors include garlic, onion, paprika and pepper.
3. The butts rest in the refrigerator for 24 hours, allowing the rub flavors to tenderize and permeate the meat.
4. Seasoned butts are loaded into a rotisserie, hardwood smoker that holds up to 300 pounds of pork butts. Hickory, cherry and sometimes pear wood goes into the smoker. The ratio is two parts hickory, one part cherry. The cherry and pear lend a little sweetness to the meat, Beauchamp said.
The pork butts cook at 275 degrees for 12 to 14 hours. “The crucial part is to evolve that smoke flavor. The key to low-and-slow cooking is you melt the fat so that the fat melts back into the meat, but you still get the spice blend. You’re not going to get a super-crunchy outside; it just kind of melts in your mouth,” Beauchamp said.
5. Cooks “enhance” Big Woods favorite barbecue sauce and prepare their own garlicky peppercorn Ranch-style dressing for the nachos’ garnish. Recipes are exact and never altered. Diners know when something is off, Big Woods co-owner Jeff McCabe said. When a past chef subbed in Hidden Valley Ranch, McCabe heard complaints. The chef found work elsewhere.
6. Cooked pork butts are removed from the smoker and pulled, not chopped, by hand while they’re hot. “We throw gloves on and just start pulling it, shredding it.” A single cook can pull a 300-pound batch in about an hour, Beauchamp said.
7. The shredded meat is refrigerated. For service, portions are gently reheated and seasoned with a little more of the dry rub before going on a bed of red, blue and yellow corn chips. You may also order a pulled pork sandwich or taco.