Yesterday, I told you about some easy side salads I pulled together to accompany our little dinner party on Friday. Today, I will share with you this easy as can be pulled pork recipe and a few shortcut techniques that will have you enjoying the party instead of hanging in the kitchen, pulling your hair out, while everyone else is chatting it up in the other room. This guy was all ready for the party…
I am not sure what pulled me to make pork for this party. I suppose I was craving some summer vibes as the day was filled with rain, wind, sleet and nasty weather. I figured it would be a good idea. Oh, but wait – there is this scenario: three of our dinner guests were natives of the great state of Georgia. I knew of of them, my sweet husband, would be happy regardless. But remember I am originally from the north country – near Canada. I am not sure if I ever had tried pulled pork as a kid. A bit of backstory for your reading pleasure. On with the pork!
I started this pork the day before the party. I figured if it was an epic failure I would still have time to throw together something else. And, if it was a winner? Surely, it would taste better on day 2. It starts with which cut of pork. I was going for the butt (which hails from the shoulder): I had 2 options available to me at my grocery: a boneless, 4-5 pounder or a bone-in 8.5 pounder. Duh, I bought the bigger one mostly for the bone in option. Confession: my other fear at dinner parties? I will not have enough food. Story.of.my.life! I think this might run in my family – Mom?
Day 1: I got this beast home and needed to try my hand at trimming. I wanted to remove some of the fat from this cut before I fired up the slow cooker. I wrangled with this for a time, was happy with my trimming job and proceeded to make a dry rub. Unfortunately, because I was ‘knee’ deep in a pit of alligators, washing my hands and counters at every turn, my camera remained untouched.
The rub: I kept things simple with a recipe from Chow. After reading through the hundreds of comments, ranging from wonderful to chastising for unauthentic, I decided it was best to keep things simple. The rub consisted of dark brown sugar, cinnamon, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. I doubled up the rub ingredients and hefted the pork into my slow cooker where one thinly sliced onion, a few sliced cloves of garlic and chicken stock were waiting.
After 11 hours on low it was time for the next two large tasks – removing the rest of the fat, the bone and shredding up the ‘good’ meat. Friends, this whole process of dealing with a huge cut of meat is not for the faint of heart. It is messy. It might feel ‘gross’. Just dive in and challenge yourself….there is no need to pick up that pre-packaged pulled pork mess they sell at the grocery!
Shredding options: 2 forks with at least a half hour of shredding. I was going to draft Sweet Z in on this project. However, through my research I learned you could use your kitchen aid mixer (with the paddle attachment) to gently shred the meat. What? Just like that in 10-15 minutes I had the pork, beautifully pulled and ready to go. What about the liquids that accumulated, and those onions that cooked down? I strained out the solids from the liquids. The fat in the broth rises to the top – I skimmed it off and set the broth aside. The pulled pork went back into the slow cooker and I added in some broth to make sure the pork stayed moist. I covered up the whole dish and stuck it in the fridge. I also saved the leftover broth for day 2.
Day 2: bright and early I threw together a basic barbecue sauce from Serious Eats. It was a starting point for barbecue sauce and I was not concerned with finding the ‘perfect’ sauce. I wanted to taste the pork, the flavors of the rub with some barbecue coming through.
Into the slow cooker the sauce went, mixed it all up and I put it on low for a few hours. I checked it periodically giving it a stir now and again, adding more broth if I thought it needed it, but it was tender, flavorful and not dried out at all.
Finally it was time for our guests to arrive. The salads were prepped and waiting. The pork was transferred to a large pot and kept warm, the fire was lit, candles were lit and appetizers were ready. I had some crackers, homemade rosemary and sea salt crisps, local cheese, grapes, olives and nuts. Keeping it simple!
I was able to enjoy the pre-dinner talk as everything was ready to roll. The moment of truth arrived as we all sat down to dinner and began eating. I was sort of holding my breath awaiting the verdict of this dish. I passed the pulled pork test!!!! And what is even better since there were ample leftovers, Sweet Z and I packaged up some pork for anyone who wished to take some home! WIN!
Dessert: I threw together a Winning Hearts and Mind cake the day before the party as well and stuck it in the freezer. The texture is just better after freezing. I took the cake out midday the day of the party. I served this with some lightly sweetened whipped cream and sliced strawberries.
I am ready for the next dinner party, friends! Who is coming for dinner?
- For the pulled pork, recipe from Chow
- 1 8 lb bone-in pork shoulder (also known as pork butt), twine or netting removed
- 1 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
- 4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
- Scant 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
- Scant 2 tablespoons chili powder
- Scant 1- 1.5 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- freshly cracked pepper
- 2 cups barbecue sauce, (Makes enough for the pulled pork mixture, you will need additional sauce for serving - I used Sweet Baby Ray's)
- Recipe from Serious Eats
- 2 cups ketchup
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- I also added in some sweet smoked paprika, tumeric and cumin
- For the pulled pork: I removed some of the extra fat from the pork but I left some for flavoring.
- Thinly slice the onion and garlic and add it to the bottom of the slow cooker. Add in 1 cup of chicken broth.
- In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon and salt.
- Rub the entire pork shoulder with the dry rub. Add a few cracks of freshly ground black pepper to the pork as well.
- Place the pork in the slow cooker (I placed it fat side up for the first 9 hours then turned it around for the last 2 hours)
- When the pork is tender and falling off the bone, carefully remove the pork from the slow cooker and onto a plate (or two).
- Place a colander in a large bowl and pour out the onion and broth. You may wish to add the onions back in the pulled pork mixture. (I was unsure of my guest preferences...so I left them out)
- The fat will rise to the top of the broth and this should be skimmed off. Set the broth aside.
- Shredding the pork: you can use 2 forks or use your kitchen aid mixer!
- Separate any remaining fat or gristle from the good pork and start shredding.
- If using the kitchen aid: add a few larger pieces of pork at a time, turn on the mixer (about 2-3) and gently let the paddle shred the meat.
- Add the pork back into the slow cooker and use some of the broth for moisture. I used about a cup or more, I think.
- For the barbecue sauce: In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine the ketchup, cider vinegar, worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, molasses, dijon mustard, hot sauce, black pepper and any additional barbecue seasonings you wish. I used sweet smoked paprika, tumeric and cumin.
- Cook this until boiling, reduce and simmer for 20 minutes, until it turns a darker, rich red color and is thickened.
- Add the sauce to the pulled pork.
- At this point you can probably cook it on low for a few hours (after all it is fully cooked) but I let my mixture go for about 6 hours.
- Serve the pulled pork with rolls and extra barbecue sauce for the side! Enjoy!