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Recipe: Pulled Pork

July 30, 2010

You too could be eating this meatwich

Time to kick off the recipe section of this blog with one of my absolute favourites!

Pulled pork is one of the most amazingly delicious and economical meals you can make – and it is time for me to share the love with you. I make this recipe about once a month. It’s so simple and really only needs a few ingredients after you’ve set up a spice cabinet, and even better, it can feed you for a few days, and reheats brilliantly. What isn’t to like?

This recipe requires an oven and a large casserole or oven safe pan with a lid (or at least, some method of sealing it). This isn’t a recipe for truly authentic pulled pork (which requires a barbecue smoker), and I suppose it could be construed as a weak analogue, but it is still absolutely worth doing. If you’re vegetarian, I pity you. If not, read on, and I shall show you the light.

Day 1: Spicing

To start, you’re going to need to create a dry spice rub. This is where you get to tweak the recipe to suit your particular tastes, but I’ll give you a guideline. You’re going to need about 8 tbsp worth of dry rub. The one I make is composed of:

My spice rub

2 tbsp dark brown sugar (required)
1 tbsp salt (required)
2 tbsp smoked paprika (strongly recommended)
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground sumac
a small amount of celery salt
a small amount of dried basil flakes

There’s quite a lot there, but you can pretty much tweak it however you want. I like a vaguely jerk-style seasoning (hence the allspice and thyme), but I always add coriander to meat dishes as it makes meat so much better (it is the magic ingredient that makes kebabs so good). Adjust the spiciness and flavour to suit your tastes. After you’ve mixed up your rub, taste it. It should be unpleasantly salty and slightly too spicy to be enjoyable, but the flavour should appeal to you. If not, alter it until it fits. The sugar, salt and paprika form the base of the rub flavouring, with the sugar and salt being required for the marinade to work correctly.

This meat was rubbed. Lovingly.

Next, you need to take your piece of pork. I’m using a pork shoulder (or, what people from the U.S. would call a pork “butt”, which really explains a lot) because it is a cheap cut. Don’t bother using leg of pork for this recipe – the cheaper, the better. Pork neck is one of the best choices, but you don’t generally see it in supermarkets, also, I like using boneless cuts because I am super lazy. First, cut the skin off and retain for sweet crackling. Try to keep a reasonable amount of fat on the meat, as it will keep it moist during cooking. Cover the pre-crackling in cling film and shove it in the fridge. Now for the fun (and messy) part – you have to rub the spice onto the pork shoulder. Rub is perhaps too strong a word, it’s more a matter of pressing it into the pork until it sticks. Make sure you get to every nook and cranny of the meat (there will be many)! You should aim to use all the rub, even if it only sticks loosely.

Once the pork is sufficiently rubbed, roll it up in clingfilm (the tighter, the better), and place it on a plate in the fridge (it will sort of ooze juice) at least overnight, or for up to two days.

Day 2: Cooking

Ready for the oven

By now, the spice rub should have permeated the meat, and if all has gone well, the pork should smell amazing even now. Pre-heat your oven to 140 degrees centigrade (285F). Remove your pork from the cling film and place it in a large casserole pan. Roughly chop an onion (unless you are an onion hating freak) and also shove it in the pan as well. Add about 500ml (17 oz) of beef stock, as well as 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar, 2 tbsp tomato sauce and 2 tbsp barbecue sauce, and plenty of pepper. You need a fairly high amount of sweetness and acidity for it to work correctly – the original recipe calls for cooking it in coca-cola, but it’s just too freaky for me to try. I add garlic at this stage, mainly because my local supermarket has started selling single clove garlic, which I just can’t resist. It’s so round and endearing.

I also try to regain some of the lost smokiness of the “true” recipe at this point by putting a generous amount of my secret weapon into the cooking liquor – liquid smoke. I bought it from a crazy USA food import place located in Melbourne. If you have this, by all means, add it to the liquid. The meat will absorb some of the smokiness, and we will use the cooking liquor to make a sauce later on.

Put the lid on the pan, and place the whole thing into the oven. For four hours.

We can now deal with the crackling! Take the crackling out of the fridge, and score the skin with a very sharp knife. Boil some water, and pour it over the skin side of the crackling. The skin should contract and react to the water. When it stops contracting, it’s ready. This technique of scalding crackling is a seriously retro method, but it seems to work very, very well. Now comes another important part, pat dry the crackling with paper kitchen towels. You must ensure it is totally, totally dry. Place it back in the fridge, uncovered, to dry out even further.

This is now ready to rest.

After four hours is up, remove the pork from the oven. Your pulled pork should look like mine at this stage – and it is time for the acid test. Take a fork, and gently push it into the meat. You should be able to twist the fork with very little force, splitting the meat. If it does that, it is time to raise the oven temperature to 180 degrees (360F). Take the crackling out of the fridge and place on a backing tray you don’t care much about. Rub salt into the cuts you made on the skin – more salt = more better. When the salt is rubbed in, slather the skin generously with a layer of olive oil. Place it in the now hotter oven along with the pork, now uncovered. This is to make a bit of a crust on the meat and start the crackling off. The pulled pork will need will need about 20 more minutes to be completed. When you remove the meat, bump the temperature up to 250 degrees (480F) to finish the crackling.

Take the pork out of the oven. Remove the pork from the cooking liquor and place on a chopping board. Cover it with aluminium foil, and resist the urge to touch it for 20 minutes. It is critical that meat rests, don’t believe anyone that says otherwise.

Completed sauce

While the meat is resting, heat the cooking liquor on the stovetop. Aim to reduce it by one half, remove from the heat and cool slightly, then add a tablespoon (or potentially two, if your spice rub is crazy hot) of double cream and stir it in.

After the meat has rested, remove the foil and get two forks. This is the mystical pulling we have heard so much about. You should be able to use two forks to pull apart all the bits of the meat – anything that doesn’t become delicious looking pork fibres is fat, which can be discarded at this point. Place all the sweet bounty into a large dish. Spoon a few tablespoons of sauce over the pulled meat – it will keep it moist. Serve immediately with good bread and whetever sandwich toppings you want. It can be reheated very reliably in the microwave, and kept for about a week if you have a good fridge (as if it would last that long).

I shall end this post with a picture of this wonderful creation, sitting there. Ready to be eaten. Dirty. Oh, I also have a picture of the finished crackling too. Mmm.

Final, delicious results.

From → Food, Recipes

  1. Raul permalink

    Great…now I’m hungry…really hungry!

  2. Your pulled pork looks delicious. Whenever I head down south, I always make sure to eat some pulled pork. Sometimes the diners around here carry it, but you can’t count on it.

    The Codger

    • The weird thing is, here in Australia (and the U.K., for that matter), it’s pretty much unknown. Buggered if I know why, though.

      • Really? In the USA it is typically slow roasted with wood/smoke heat. Generally it is found in a few regions in the USA, and the rest of the country is all about ribs or brisket.

      • That’s a shame. Maybe you could try the fair and carnival circuit. They tend to be good places to find it. At least Australia, from what I hear, has an abundance of pasties. For the longest time, I thought they were exclusive to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. They’re hard to find around here.

        The Codger

  3. How many pounds is the pork shoulder you used–sorry, I didn’t see it if you wrote it up there 🙂
    It looks so good I might make it this weekend!

    • It was 1.43 kg (3.15 lbs). I didn’t mention it because normally you can only get them around that size and when you’re dealing with 4 1/2 hours cooking time it doesn’t matter so much =)

      • athenapearl permalink

        Thanks! I made it this weekend and it was GORGEOUS!

  4. This looks delicious!

  5. Do you think these ingredients would work with chicken? I’m not so big on pork, but I love chicken.

    • I don’t know – I don’t think you can cook chicken the same way really. You may be able to do something with beef or lamb, but I just don’t think chicken is ever going to have the right texture sadly.

  6. Looks yummy!

  7. Peter permalink

    Just drooled all over myself, thanks a lot.

    Can’t wait to give this a try!


  8. Thanks for all the feedback, people! Good luck to anyone who wants to try it for themselves! I am totally going to sleep now (since it’s 3 AM over here), so forgive me for not being able to reply to any questions until tomorrow.

  9. I am the onion hating freak that would leave it out, but I love the method of the 24 hour soak of the dry rub. I am lucky, my store routinely sells pork shoulder for .99 a pound! Jealous?! 😀

  10. lifeinarecipe permalink

    A gamer who cooks…I’m impressed! My son is in the gaming industry too and could never be drawn away from the games long enough to learn to cook when he lived at home…thanks to take-out food he is still alive.

    I have recently been trying many different recipes for pulled pork to try and come up with the perfect one, and judging by the ingredients of your rub recipe, I have now put it on the top of my list to try!

    Great blog and thanks for sharing.

  11. Here in the Deep South USA a pulled pork sandwich (and your recipe looks yummy!) is served with cole slaw:
    4 cups shredded cabbage
    1 shredded carrot
    1/4 cup mayonnaise
    2 tablespoons yellow mustard
    2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
    1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
    1 tablespoon sugar
    …or whatever recipe that your mother always made.

  12. Wow, this looks awesome! I tried a pulled chicken before inside of a crock pot for several hours and you’re right, the texture I don’t think is as good. It’s a little gummy after all that time, so this looks like it’d be much better, I’ll have to try it out.

  13. I have NEVER liked pork. EVER. Not sure why, guess my childhood ruined it for me…
    But this recipe, and the pictures… Ohmotherofallthingstasty, this entry makes me want pulled pork like nothing else. And I JUST finished my lunch, so I’m not even hungry…
    Amazing. I will quite possibly be trying this in the near future…. 🙂

  14. Pulled pork is so god damned delicious!

  15. Darlene permalink

    great article. I have a recipe similar to your’s, but this one sounds much better.

  16. Sounds good! I use bacon in my barbecue recipe to get that smokey flavor. I’ll bet this would work really well in a slow cooker — prepare everything the night before and turn it on before going to work.

  17. That looks amazing, and I really like your description of how to test/adjust the spice mixture.

    How much liquid smoke do you use? It’s been a long time since I’ve cooked with it, but we used to have it at home when I was growing up, and I seem to remember a little going a long way (perhaps a few drops in a meal that served 2-4 people).

    • I think I put about a 1/4 tsp of liquid smoke in, but I’m not sure if it’s the brand or cooking method, because it doesn’t end up overpowering by the end. I would be pretty wary about overdoing it though, as it can taste very unpleasant if you have too much, so maybe give it about four drops and go from there. You can, of course, add more to the sauce when reducing it, should it end up being too little.

  18. Good lord do I want that in my mouth immediately, or maybe just fill a bath with it and get hedonistic on the sucker. Man, awesome post. Some day I will actually do this.

  19. This looks wonderful.

  20. That looks good enough to eat! Oh no I mean looks like it might not be so good…. might make you sick… best to just send it to me and I’ll take care of disposing of it properly so as to not adversely effect the environment….he he he….

  21. yasdr permalink

    That really looks good. I like the meatwich idea.

  22. Wow, that meatwich looks delectable. Perhaps a cocktail would be in order before dinner? Just wanted to share right back to ya!
    Congrats on your feature!!!

  23. This looks fantastic! I love eating pulled pork and have always wanted to make it, I may use this recipe!

  24. I LOVE pulled pork or pulled chicken. I make the chicken a lot more often because I don’t have all that many people to feed, and they all hate leftovers but I would love to try something like this for say a barbeque or gathering

  25. lovepalmy permalink

    OMG! that looks delish! i have never made pulled pork but i use a similar recipe for my brisket with altered spices…I have to try this over the weekend.

  26. Wow! That looks amazing!

  27. Pulled pork is my all-time favorite barbecue meal. I order it every time. But, now I don’t have to. I have a new recipe to make it myself! Thanks!

  28. I love Pulled pork and look forward to trying your recipe – perhaps this weekend – I’ll be back to let you know how much weight I gained 🙂

  29. I love pulled port. My daughter makes it quick frequently. You picture makes my mouth water ummm good!

  30. OH! This looks so fabulous…I can’t wait to try it!

    Congrats on making Freshly Pressed!

  31. YUM! I’ve only tried pulled pork (or as you state, a variation of it since I didn’t use a smoker) in the slow cooker. It was delicious and yet so much simpler than this method. I’m really looking forward to trying it because I can only imagine how much greater the flavours will be in this version!!! THANKS! Also, I’ve never had “crackling” before…it’s dehydrated, salty pig skin? Pig fat?

    • It’s the crunchy result of roasting pork skin at a high temperature. I love crackling, but because of the low cooking temperature, you have to make it separately.

      • Very interesting. I’m mentally grossed out, but I know damn well I’ll freaking love it…I’ll love it in the same way I love the salty-crunchy-fat on a prime rib!!! MMMMMMMMMMMMMeat.

      • You can also buy it in most groc. stores depending where you live…. here in the south east u.s. I can find it near the fresh meat counter…. but cooking it fresh is the best! You can break it up into small pieces after cooking it and then add some into a sweet butter milk corn bread mix and it is sooo good….called crackling corn bread!

  32. hmmnnn… looks so good!

  33. Oh my goodness…I LOVE pulled pork…this looks delicious!

  34. That does look good.

    I make something similar (we don’t eat pork) with turkey and lamb.

    Lots of shwarma spice and eat it in pitas.

    For another all American mid-west foodfest check out…

  35. Fantastic! I love your writing style. I’m going to cross post this to my blog!


  36. Spidr permalink

    p.s. I just noticed one of your tags is “food porn” ! Great humor!

    Sarah, aka Spidr

  37. This looks delicious!

  38. I just can’t understand those vegetarians, especially after looking at the pics you posted.

    Great job, off to eat now.

  39. I read your recipe and it looks me so delicious but i think all the things are not available in US can i tried without them??

  40. Do you have a recipe for the vinegar sauce to put on this?

  41. That pork certainly looks delicious and seems so easy to do. Now I love pulled pork sandwiches and I think when I get the time and money for ingredients, I will give it a go.

  42. buytupperwarebangalore permalink

    I had never heard of pulled pork before this but the meat in the picture looks so
    delicious…I feel I will try it. thank for sharing

  43. Twan permalink

    Looks so yummy!

  44. The pork looks magnificent, must be tender and moist.

  45. This looks great. I love me some pulled pork. The sumac might be the thing that pushes this into the realm of general awesomeness.

  46. Yum! What time should I be there for dinner? 🙂

  47. I love pulled pork. It’s been awhile since I’ve had any, though. This post kinda makes me want to go out and buy some. I’m not sure I have the skill to make it properly. I could try I guess.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Weekend of the Semi-Finished Kitchen, Pulled Pork, and Fruit Pizza « Athena Pearl
  2. Thanks Papa for pulled pork! « Hannah's Psalms

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