Casual Late Summer Supper
Pulled pork is an American term for slow cooked pork that is soft and so tender that it is easily pulled apart with a fork, separating into chunky strips of succulent meat that has absorbed the flavors of the broth and seasonings it was cooked with. The origins are associated with the American south and cooked traditionally as a barbecue, either in a pit, smoker, on a grill, or for more practical purposes on the stove top or in the oven.
Flavors vary from region to region and include bases of broth that may include tomato, vinegar, beer, bourbon, or even Coke-Kola along with regional seasonings. Cooking the pork at low temperatures for a long period of time is really the essence of making pulled pork. What it is cooked with is the added signature of personal regional tastes.
The recipe that follows is a basic cooking procedure to which you can season the pork as you like adding your own personal touch. I have chosen to use the oven method, but the same basic procedures apply to slow cooking in a pit, a smoker, or on the grill.
Pulled pork is usually served with slaw either on the side or tucked into a pulled pork sandwich! A recipe for a favorite and very easy Sriracha mayo to slather on toasted sandwich rolls is also included below. Creamy Lemon Slaw recipe precedes this recipe (scroll down).
Pulled Pork Best prepared a day in advance.
Preheat oven to 425F/220C
- 6 pound (2.7 kilo) pork shoulder, bone out
- 1 ½ tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, bashed
- 1-2 teaspoons chili flakes (optional)
- 1 to 1 ½ quarts water or stock
- ¼ cup cider vinegar
- 1 large onion, diced
If the pork shoulder is in one piece, cut it in half or into three pieces.
Mix together the salt, brown sugar, smoked paprika, garlic powder, fennel seeds, and chili flakes (optional). Rub the pork with about half of the seasoning mixture/rub, massaging it into the pork with your hands for several minutes.
Lightly oil the bottom of a deep roasting pan or a cast iron Dutch oven with a lid, which works beautifully if you have one. Place the pork into the pan and place in the oven, uncovered, and roast about 40 minutes to sear the pork and brown the surface.
Remove the pork from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 250F/120C. Add the stock or water, cider vinegar, and onions to the pot, adding additional liquid to cover about two thirds of the pork. Cover the pan with foil, tightly sealing the foil around the edges, or if using a Dutch oven place the lid on top. Place in the oven and slow cook for an additional 3-4+ hours. Check the pork after the first two hours, adding the remaining rubbing mixture over the pork and stirring it into the broth. Add additional liquid if needed. Cover and continue to cook for at least 2 more hours.
To test the pork, slip a fork into the center of one of the pieces of pork. If it pulls apart easily and the meat is very tender, a taste here is essential, the pork is well cooked. If the top of the pork needs additional browning, turn the oven temperature up to 425F/220C and cook an additional 15 to 20 minutes. This will not be necessary if you are using a Dutch oven.
Remove the pork from the roasting pan and set aside on a tray and let it rest until it is cool enough to handle. Set the roasting pan with juices to the side. Once the pork is cooled down begin to pull the pork apart. Hands work best for this, but use a fork if you wish. You will find the pork pulls apart very easily into long succulent strips. Remove any fat pockets you come across while pulling the pork and discard. Place the pulled pork in a large container uncovered but with a lid for storage later.
Skim as much excess fat, and there will be plenty, off the surface of the cooking liquid and pour the skimmed cooking liquid over the pulled pork. Discard the skimmed fat or save for another use. Set the container aside until completely cool before covering with the lid. Place the covered container in the refrigerator overnight or for 24 hours. This allows the pork to absorb the flavors in the cooking liquid and moistening the meat.
Reheat the pork with plenty of cooking liquid and taste, adding additional salt if needed. You can serve the pork as it is or pile it into a toasted bun along with additional broth and topped with Sriracha mayo or slaw.
Sriracha is a Thai red chili hot sauce, which has earned cult notoriety and available worldwide.
- 2 parts mayonnaise
- 1 part Sriracha
Mix and you are ready to go. You will never use another sandwich mayo again!