You can keep your burgers and your soy glazed salmon. Pulled pork is where it's at. Succulent, hearty, and enough to make a grown man weep into his apron. Here's how it's done..
Radical stuff going on at MBFBY? in this post. Not a lazy restaurant review like usual but a recipe, like a proper food blogger would post. Pulled pork. Some of you are probably sick of hearing about pulled pork. Well, you can ‘do one’ as they say in Manchester. The reason people are all over it is because it’s so bloody good. Plus, if you’ve let yourself get annoyed by a flash-in-the-pit food trend like pulled pork you should probably read less food blogs and stop eating out at trendy restaurants so often. It’s not important in the grand scheme of things. If people want to pull their pork, let them. They don’t raise the subject of pulled pork at PMQs, though when this recipe goes live it may get a mention when the government notice the spike in cases of gastroenteritis.
A bit of background – In what I can only assume was a drunken stupor, earlier in the year I foolishly offered to host a party for Mrs MBFBY’s family (her gran was from the States so they have a big get-together each year on or around the 4th of July). We needed to feed 20-odd people. We needed something American, and something relatively simple to cook.
For pulled pork you need bone-in pork shoulder, we got 9KG of Old Spot for £7.50 a kilo, which is a total bargain for meat of that quality.
Pulled pork sprang to mind as it’s slow-cooked overnight and it’s bloody delicious, yah? After much googling I was struggling to find a definitive recipe (especially one with temps, weights and ingredients translated from American), so I turned to the mighty Twitter and sent out a request for tips. There was a very helpful response, most notably from @jmdale01 who provided me with an excellent recipe for the meat rub (FNAR FNAR) and BBQ heros @PittCueCo who gave spot-on technical advice.
First of all you can’t pull anything without meat. As we were feeding over 20 people we needed a lot, so I utilised the very handy services of Marky Market, who will get you whatever you want from Smithfield Market at a very good price. For pulled pork you need bone-in pork shoulder, we got 9KG of Old Spot for £7.50 a kilo, which is a total bargain for meat of that quality. Mark even dropped it off at my office. I had to transport all the meat home on my little Brompton which was slightly worrying as it would have looked very grisly indeed if i’d have had an accident but all went well.
Ok, LET’S COOK. First off, you need to prepare the rub as follows:
- 4 tsp sweet smoked paprika
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp mustard powder
- 1 tsp pepper
- 4 tsp dried garlic (or garlic powder)
- 4 tsp toasted fennel seed
- 2 tsp cayenne
- 2 tsp toasted cumin seed
Mix the ingredients together in a Tupperware or something with a lid so you can shake it all together. Shake it all together. Voilà! You have rub.
Now, onto the meat preperation: the skin needs to come off. We were planning on making pork scratchings out of it but we forgot we had it and it went off. Real professional. Removing the skin is very easy with a sharp knife, try and leave a little bit of the fat on there to aid the cooking.
Your hands should look like you’ve just crawled through a forest (see pic). If they don’t, you are doing it wrong.
Next up, apply the rub, working it in to every crevice until it is completely covered. Your hands should look like you’ve just crawled through a forest (see pic). If they don’t, you are doing it wrong. This forms the ‘bark’ which gives pulled pork most of its lovely BBQ flavour. We only left it marinading for a couple of hours due to time constraints, but next time I cook this I’ll leave it to soak in overnight in the fridge.
In the meantime I got the BBQ ready for smoking. I used a 3 burner gas BBQ with 4 smoke pouches on the grill above the heat (indirect heat, so only the back burner is turned on). The smoke pouches are BBQ woodchips like these soaked in water for 30 mins then wrapped in foil, then the foil is perforated with a skewer. I closed the lid on the ‘cue and left the pouches to heat up and start producing a good amount of smoke, (took about 30 mins). When it’s nice and smokey, go and get the meat and sling it on there, making sure it’s not going to start cooking too quickly. We kept the temperature of the BBQ about 90 degrees. Leave it to smoke for about 2 hours. Maybe drink a US craft beer or 2 in the meantime whilst listening to Drive-By Truckers.
For maximum hipster points you can use vintage bake-wear and do it in a psudo-vintage kitchen like I did. Whilst chugging on Goose Island IPA, naturally.
When the 2 hours are up, it’s time to transfer the meat to the oven, which should be pre-heated to 110 degrees. The aim is to get the internal temperature of the meat to 90 degrees. With the weight of meat we were using (2 pieces of 4.5KG each, one in each oven of an electric range-type cooker) this was going to take around 12 hours. The one key thing that removed a lot of pain and potential FAIL from this recipe was the use of an instant-read digital probe thermometer. I picked one up for about 12 quid, and it’s very handy indeed. If any paranoia starts to set in, prod the thermometer in there and adjust the heat accordingly.
I went to bed, and when I checked the temp 10 hours later it read 78 degrees, so we were roughly on track to be serving it at 1pm.
1pm came and went and it finally reached 90 at 2pm. That last 12 degrees took it’s sweet time, apparently this is due to the meat ‘sweating’ moisture which sits on the surface, cooling it down slightly. Without the probe meat thermometer we probably would have misjudged it and took it out too early so get one. NOW! Those old-school ovenproof ones are rubbish and never seem to give an accurate reading in my experience.
OK, serving time! Remove the meat from the oven and marvel and the huge hunks of well-seasoned pig. It should smell incredible. Leave it to rest for 15 mins or so, then get a couple of forks and pull that bastard pork apart. For maximum hipster points you can use vintage bake-wear and do it in a psudo-vintage kitchen like I did. Whilst chugging on Goose Island IPA, naturally.
You should now have a crowd of salivating guests crowded round your worktop – when it’s all pulled apart in the tray it looks utterly, magnificently alluring, like a delicate meaty landscape. Serve it with BBQ sauce, soft rolls, coleslaw and BBQ beans. I can strongly recommend this BBQ bacon beans recipe from BBC Good Food; it’s easy, delicious and compliments the pork perfectly. Mrs MBFBY? made her own coleslaw recipe which I will share here in due course, as I think this post has gone on for long enough now. Feel free to point out omissions, errors and individual cases of food poisoning in the comments area below. If it goes really well, let me know about that too, obviously. Happy bloody pork pulling, yah?
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