Perfect Pulled Pork Recipe

Perfect Pulled Pork

I’ve been spending some time perfecting some of my favorite dishes and will be posting all the recipes. These recipes will focus more on technique than exact recipes which is really how you should cook anyway. The most recent entree I attempted to master was pulled pork. Now BBQ enthusiasts will tell you you need a smoker among other things, but most of us don’t have access to a smoker—I certainly don’t! Almost everything in this recipe can be substituted for something else. The secret to this preparation is that you sear the meat first and use a smoked salt in the dry rub.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Slow cooker
  • Skillet
  • Pork shoulder (bone-in)
  • BBQ sauce
  • 1 can chicken stock, or homemade if you have it; about 2 cups
  • 1 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 fresh jalapenos, chopped
  • 8 or so cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Onion, chopped

You’ll also want a bunch of spices, but these will surely vary based on your personal taste and availability.

Here’s what I recommend:

  • Smoked salt (this can be hard to find, but it’s oh so important)
  • Brown sugar
  • Cumin
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Black pepper
  • Ground ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • Cinnamon
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • Cloves
  • 1 bundle fresh Taragon, Sage, Oregano, and Thyme (optional)

Phase 1

  1. Mix all of your dry spices together in a bowl EXCEPT for the cloves, bay leaves and herb bundle. Use about the same amount of each spice, but about 5 parts brown sugar. This really depends on how many spices you use as well as personal preference.  How much to make is up to you, but it’s hard to over-season this so don’t be shy.
  2. Trim off any excess fat on the pork shoulder, but be sure to leave some. You don’t always have to do this, it just depends on the cut. You want about 1/8 inch of fat.
  3. Score the fat side of the pork, making a diamond pattern
  4. Apply the dry rub evenly to the pork shoulder, and press into the grooves you just  scored.
  5. For best results, stick this in the fridge overnight to soak up all these flavors.

Phase 2

  1. Place the pork shoulder into a heated skillet, over medium heat.
  2. Sear the pork on all 6 sides until it is nicely browned.
  3. Place the chopped onion, jalapenos, bay leaves, herb bundle, and the garlic into the bottom of the slow cooker. Puncture the pork with the cloves an all but the fatty side.
  4. Place the seared pork on top of the vegetables, fatty side down.
  5. Pour in the can of chicken stock AROUND the pork so as not to wash off the dry rub.
  6. Cook on low for 10–12 hours or 6 hours on high if you’re low on time.

Phase 3

  1. Resist opening or stirring until the pork has cooked for the minimum time.
  2. The pork is done when the meat “pulls” almost effortlessly with a fork, but DO NOT pull it yet.
  3. Carefully remove the pork and place it on a cutting board.
  4. Remove and discard any excess fat and bone then pull to shred. The fat should separate easily from the meat at this point.
  5. Drain the vegetables and discard the stock as this is where all the rendered fat has gone. Retain just a little bit of liquid for moisture and flavor.
  6. Discard any cloves.
  7. Put the pulled pork back into the slow cooker and taste. Add in some more of your dry rub if it lacks punch. At this point you can season to taste because the meat is fully cooked.
  8. Mix the vegetables back in and add some of your favorite BBQ sauce.

Before you add BBQ sauce I recommend tasting the pork first. If you wait to add sauce until right before you eat you can leave your options open. For example you could use teriyaki sauce for a Korean spin or a jalapeno aioli for a Cuban theme. Fresh cilantro goes really nicely with this as well.

I’ll add in a recipe for coleslaw that goes nicely with this. The slaw I make doesn’t use mayo. It’s for people who don’t like coleslaw.

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