So it was New Year’s Day and time to cook pulled pork. I have tried many recipes for cooking pulled pork over the years. The tastiest way to prepare the meat is to cook it outside in a smoker. That is all fine and good when it is summer and you can sit outside and have a cocktail and enjoy the weather, but when it is dreary and cold, it is not so fun. So, then, how do you cook your pork on these cold, Winter days?
Well, I have made many attempts to find that perfect indoor recipe over the years. I prepared one that included ham hocks to add that smoky flavor that you generally do not get cooking inside. It simmered all day in the crockpot. Let’s just say that the ham hocks pretty much grossed me out, so I will not be including those in any food preparation in the future. The pork was tasty, but no ham hocks for me!
I have also tried a few recipes that sounded like the right mix of seasonings to get that smoked meat flavor. They included some regular and smoky paprika. They were prepared in the crockpot (and they were minus the ham hocks). They cooked all day and smelled so good. Although the meat was well seasoned to start and and moist every time after cooking, it was missing something. I think all the good flavors end up in all those juices at the bottom of the crock pot. You need to infuse the meat with the seasonings and not cook them out. By the way, if you are thinking liquid smoke…just can’t do it! It has a weird taste to me.
So, after many attempts at pulled pork and way too many piggy sacrifices in the search for the perfect sandwich, I have to say that I find the second best way to cook it (next to the smoker) is in the oven. I have had many great pork sandwiches (both pulled and chopped) between North Carolina and Tennessee over the years. This method of preparation has the best overall flavor for cooking indoors and is closest to what I have had in places that are best known for their pork sandwiches.
The seasonings penetrate the meat better in the oven than in the crock pot, especially when slow cooked for 6 to 8 hours. Just serve it up with your favorite coleslaw (if you like) and a great barbeque sauce and it will be one of the best pulled pork dishes you have ever had! I will use Williamson Bros. barbeque sauce if I am not in the mood to make my own. It has the right texture ( it is a slightly thinner sauce) and a little bit of tang (suited to the Carolina pulled pork palate). To me, barbeque sauce is really a big deal. Some people prefer thick and sweet. Others like thin and vinegary. Whatever you like will work to top the pork. We have to serve several sauces in the house since everyone prefers something slightly different!
This has been a staple in my recipe box since I first tried it. I may occasionally give another recipe a try, but I will always go back to this when I want a truly good pulled pork sandwich.
Here is the recipe adapted from Michael Chiarello:
Slow Cooked Pork
1 cup Roasted Garlic Rub, recipe follows (The recipe is for 2 cups of rub. Be sure you only use one cups per 6 lbs. of pork.)
1 (6-pound) boneless pork shoulder or butt roast (not tied) (I use a Boston Butt)
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
If necessary, trim fat from top of pork, leaving a 1/8-inch thick layer of fat. Spread Roasted Garlic Rub all over pork and inside any cavities, concentrating on boned side. (I will even slice a few spots in the pork so there are more nooks and crannies for the rub to go. I put the rub on the pork for several hours or overnight before cooking.)
Put pork, fat side up, in a roasting pan and roast in middle of oven 6 to 8 hours. Transfer roast to cutting board and let stand 15 minutes. Pull shreds apart with tongs into chunks. (190 degrees will be the perfect temperature to achieve that “pulled” texture.)
2 cups roasted minced garlic
5 tablespoons salt (use Kosher)
1/4 cup coriander seeds, ground and toasted
2 tablespoons mustard powder
4 tablespoons dried chipotle pepper, ground
2 tablespoons dried thyme
5 tablespoons dried rosemary, finely chopped
5 tablespoons lemon zest
2 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Can also be mixed by hand in a bowl, but make sure to combine well. (I use the food processor. You get a finer rub.)
* You can purchase the large size container of chopped garlic by Spice World in the produce section. Otherwise, it might take you until 2011 New Year’s Day to chop all that garlic). I put it on a small baking sheet and spread it out in a 350 degree oven for about 5-10 minutes (depending on your oven). Keep watching it. You just want it to dry out (since it is preserved in liquid) and not burn it to be “roasted”.
In addition to the slaw, my husband makes his baked beans and it is a perfect meal for College Football Game Day. You get the smells of all the spices cooking all day long. Yum!
New Year’s Day food has traditionally not been for the health conscious. Some of the other foods we are serving are soon to be on the forbidden plan as well. I guess we all consider this day a given for good, but bad food and the next few days is the beginning of the New Year and all the resolutions to eat wiser and healthier (for awhile anyway)!