Pulled pork might just be the perfect food.
Not just the perfect food for eating. It is pretty awesome to eat though. Cook it right and the meat is so flavourful, a mix of textures from tender, succulent meat to the crunchy, salty bark1; the subtle flavour of the smoke playing with the well-balanced sauce. All in contrast to crunchy, garlicky blast of the best coleslaw that’s along for the ride.
Not just because of that. It’s also the perfect food to cook and serve for old friends and family in for the weekend. For the company that you may not have seen for months or years, but after a few minutes it’s like you were never apart. You want to spend some time with them. They’re worth it. Share in cooking some pulled pork for 8 hours with them. It’s time well spent.
But it’s also perfect for getting out of things you don’t want to do. Moving day for the annoying guy at work? Ooh, I’d love to, but I’m cooking all day, sorry. Sister and her new boyfriend who just a got a puppy that they won’t shut the eff up about want you to come see it? Gosh, I can’t: cooking, sorry.
See? So tasty, so versatile, so perfect.
I could tell you put pork on barbecue and leave it for a long time, but there is a tad more nuance to it. Despite the long cooking time, it is possible to screw it up.
Let’s start with the pork itself. You want a pork shoulder with the bone in. It’s also known as a picnic roast, or Boston butt. You can find it in the meat section (duh), but it’s not a common cut so you may not see it, depending on your grocer. Get the biggest you can find. They’ll almost always come with the skin and fat still on, which will be trimmed. I’ve tried to not waste it, by making cracklins, but there isn’t a whole lot there to make it worthwhile. And that’s another post.
Alright, so you’ve got your pork. On the day you’re going to cook it, take that bad boy out of the fridge early. I’ll leave it out up to one hour to reach room temperature. The colder the pork is when it hits the grill, the longer it takes for the heat to get in there and do its job. Make sure to take the plastic wrap off. I don’t know why but it helps.
Next up, your grill. Make sure that you have enough fuel. You won’t blow a whole tank on one pulled pork extravaganza2, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.
Always prepare your grill the proper way. I burn off whatever’s on the grill before I start so I bring the temp up pretty high before getting it ready for indirect heat. Do this often enough and you’ll know exactly where to put the dials on your barby. You can do it in six hours at 400F, but your pork will be shrivelled with lots of bark, and kinda dry. I recommend 4 hours at 350F and then another 4 at 300F – 325F.
Alright, smoke. You can do this sans smoke, but if you’re willing to put in 8 hours to cook dinner, you might as well go all out. You need not get too fancy. Tons of stores have big bags of wood chips of all kinds of trees. I typically go with hickory. Whatever you choose, soak them for about a half hour in water. Make a pouch with aluminum foil. Punch it full of holes. Place it under the grill, right above the burner.
I start the smoke at the half way mark, about 4 hours. I didn’t play too much with the smoke because I didn’t want it to overpower the flavour of the meat. Less is more when it comes to smoke. That’s just good barbecue.
Okay, you’ve waited eight hours for that bad boy to come off the grill. You know it’s ready to come off because the bone can really wiggle. You’re half in the bag, you just want to eat. But it’s not quite ready. Place it in a shallow dish and cover with aluminum foil. Wait 30 minutes. What’s going on here is the aluminum will catch all the heat coming off the pork and moisten the outside, softening it just enough. The outside is the best part.
Alright, the last step: the pull and the sauce. I’ve included my own below, but you can use any sauce you like. Take off your foil, and with two forks or your hands start pulling the pork apart into bite size chunks and long, thin strands. Remove all the bones. The bones should come out cleanly and easily. There may be some chunks of unmelted fat that you should remove as well. Finally, pour on the sauce.
Now it’s time to eat. Put a little slaw on your bun with the pork. So good.
Makes 6 – 8 sandwiches
- 3 tbsp chili powder
- 2 tbsp garlic powder
- 2 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp pepper
- 1 pork shoulder, about 4 lbs (may be called picnic roast)
- 8 kaiser rolls
- 1/2 cup beer
- 3 tbsp Amaretto
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp chipotle chilli powder
- 1/4 tsp pepper
Take the pork out of the fridge for 30 – 60 minutes before grilling.
In a small bowl, mix the chilli powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Get your knife and trim as much fat from the outside of the pork shoulder as possible. They’re often sold with the skin on. Take that off too.
Cover the pork in the rub. Be generous. Gently push the rub into the meat.
Prepare your grill for indirect medium-low heat. Shoot for about 350F. Once ready, place the pork shoulder on the grill. Leave for 3 – 4 hours. Make sure the temperature doesn’t stray too far in either direction from 350F in that time.
Prepare your wood chips, if using. Fill a bowl with 1 man handful of chips and let sit in water for thirty minutes. Lay out a sheet of aluminum foil, place the chips on it and fold it up. Place the foil pouch under your grill on the heated side of your barbecue.
While you place the wood chips, check the pork. If it looks considerably smaller and has some give (about 1 cm) when poked, reduce the heat to 300F – 325F.
At anytime during the day, make the sauce. Place all sauce ingredients in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 3 – 4 minutes. Take off the heat and let cool. Leave it out, you want it at room temperature.
Once you hit the 8 hour mark, wiggle the bone in the middle of the pork. It should be quite loose. Take the pork off the grill, place in a shallow dish and cover with aluminum foil. Let sit for 30 minutes.
Once ready, with two forks, or if you’re tough, your hands, pull the pork apart into little slivers and bite- size chunks. Remove all the bones and any large chunks of fat. Lightly coat with the sauce.
Cut your buns. Bring it all to the table. MUST be served with the best coleslaw.