Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Treatise On Pulled Pork

Pulled pork is one of my absolute favorite meals. The pork is slow smoked, cooked through, and drenched in BBQ sauce. It is a great meal because it is flavorful, easy, and it's simple to add variety through sauces, preparation and adornments. In the south there is controversy on what type of sauce is right, which cut of meat is correct, and if pulling or slicing offers more taste. I am here to tell you that there is no wrong answer.

After you make it for yourself one time you'll see how indispensable it is. It is an easy way to add depth to your BBQ menu past the standard hot dogs, hamburgers, and bratwurst. You already should have the tools, sauces, and buns you'll need on hand, all you need to do is a little planning and you'll look like a pit master in no time.

(please read more about the pulled pork and this recipe after the break.)

Types of Pulled Pork:

In Tennessee they make pulled pork from shoulder meat with a tomato based BBQ sauce, this is served on a bun. In the Carolinas the pork is prepared from a whole hog. The meat is served with a vinegar based sauce or no sauce at all. Side dishes vary as well as regional specialties displace each other. My advice would be to do what you like, and to never get between two BBQ officiantos when they're arguing about 'real BBQ'.

Pulled Pork:

Pulled pork comes from the front shoulder of the pig. The two best cuts for a traditional pulled pork are the Boston Butt & the Picnic Shoulder. Other less traditional cuts I have seen on the food network include the pork loin, and tenderloin. Pork pulls best when the internal temperature reaches 180-190. The magic numbers are 170 when the connective tissues in the meat begin to soften turning into gelatin, and 200 when the muscle tissue begins releasing its moisture. You want moist succulent meat, so don't let it get to 200 degrees. 

My Methods and Recipe:

I start by taking a boston butt, or a bone in shoulder, and dry rubbing it with McCormick's Sweet and Smokey rub. The amount of rub varies with how much it takes to get a good crust of spices. Overdoing it at this point is a mistake; you can in fact put on too much dry rub. Then I let it sit overnight in the fridge. When it is ready to go I place it in the smoker, and let it go until the internal temp is 185-190. Once it is the right temp internally it should be removed from the smoker, wrapped up in aluminum foil and put in a plastic bag to hold the moisture. Later it should be easy to shred or slice. I serve it on a roll with sauce.

Favorite Sauces:

Sweet Baby Rays is a great sauce, the light spiciness, and overt sweetness are a good compliment to pork. Don't be afraid to make your own BBQ Sauce; find a recipe and start working with it. People are impressed with the idea of making your own BBQ sauce, double points if it tastes good. My spicey Siracha BBQ sauce recipe tasted familiar to my friends and when I told them which sauce it was cloned from they all said it was just right for pork.

Pulled pork is great. It's almost criminally easy to prepare for how great it tastes. If you have a large smoker, or an oven you can cook for a feast fairly easily. Try it this weekend and you'll be able to feed your friends and then some!

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