Secrets of the pulled pork

porkshoulderJust for the record, pulled pork is best when it’s made in a real smoker, but excellent results can be achieved from your oven too.  It’s just a matter of applying some of the same smoker (smoker as in BBQ, not puffing cigarettes) rules; preparation, TLC, ingredients, roasting and mopping.

I have tried a few recipes in the past few months, but I always end up spicing it up a little or perhaps changing some of the techniques used to personalise it to my palette.

The three main items you need for a great pulled pork are:

  1. A nice pork dry rub
  2. Your mopping juice
  3. 4-6 lbs of pork shoulder, with or without the bone

Ok, I’m no Jamie Oliver (obviously) so my way of describing the recipe or what to do can be fairly flaky at times, but I hope the results will be according to your own liking.  I can only share my recipes, but not produce the pulled pork for you 🙂

First we need to do the pork dry rub, which is the secret ingredient that if made right it can give your pork a wonderful flavour.

Take one of your famous 20 oz Tupperware boxes (with lid) and add the following ingredients in no particular order.

  • 8 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons of garlic powder (not salt!)
  • 3 tablespoons of Kosher salt
  • 3 teaspoons of Paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of Cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper (ground)
  • 2 teaspoons of dried coriander (Cilantro in the US)
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds

Mix it all very well in the blender, so it becomes a nice dry mixture.  Some people like to taste the rub, but I don’t really like doing so.  I’m more into using the flavours I like to cook with, and the flavours that goes well with pork.

When done with the dry rub, put aside and get the pork shoulder on the cutting board.

You need to make sure that the pork shoulder is fully defrosted or fresh from the butcher.  Again, some people like it with the bone or without the bone in, so it’s really your choice.  For me, I think the bone adds some extra flavour to the roast and leave it in.

I just remove some of the excessive fat and other none meaty thingies, but keep most of it on the pork shoulder to retain and add flavours.  If you have noticed, for me pork shoulder is all about retaining and using the flavours of the pork 🙂

Next, take a very large bowl, place the pork shoulder in it and start massaging in the dry rub – all over and into each little corner of the pork.  The more you get is covered the better it tastes … afterwards.

Wrap the pork shoulder in food plastic and place it in the in fridge for about 12 hours.  This ensures that the flavours of the dry rub gets sucked into the meat.

I would recommend waking up early the following morning, as the roast will be in the oven for many hours.  I just finished a 6 lbs roast and it was in the oven about 7 hours!

— day 2 — (or 12 hours later)

Heat up the oven to 260F or 125C.  Place the roast in a tray and when the oven is at the prescribed temperature, insert it into the oven at the 2nd lowest position.

DO NOT open the oven or touch the roast for the next 3 (three) hours!  I mean it!

While waiting anxiously for the next few hours, you can prepare the awesome mopping juice.  You might wonder, what’s with the juice?

Well, the juice is going to be applied by a mop or brush every 30-40 minutes, after the 3 hour mark, and the main reason is to prevent the roast from drying up; and providing the necessary liquids to get it nice and tender.

So, here’s my mopping juice.  Grab another of your amazing Tupperware boxes and add the following ingredients.

  • a pint of apple juice
  • 3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • a sprinkle of pepper

Close the box with the lid and shake the juice well, until it’s nicely mixed.

Your first time to apply the juice is after 3.50 hours (three and a half hour), and then every 30-40 minutes until the roast is ready.

How do you know if the roast is ready?

The absolute best way is to have a cooking thermometer.  Insert it into the roast and when it reaches about 190F / 90C at the centre (by the bone), then it’s ready.  Other thumb rules mention that it’s about an hour per lbs.

When it’s finally ready, then you leave it on the cutting board for 15-20 minutes, and then you pull it apart using two forks, and place the meat in a bowl.

Enjoy it with home-made coleslaw, oven roasted potatoes, rice, salad or just on a burger bun.

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