So, last week I had some folks round for a BBQ, and as is my want, I made pulled pork. Truth be told, I was a bit nervous about it, as there were various folks there who I respect a good darn bit when it comes to BBQ and meat in general. So, I was very happy when the verdicts came in, and there were minor demands for the recipe.
So, here it is. This is, of course, just how I do it. There’ll, no doubt, be people who’ll turn round and say “no no no!”. To them I say, “No pork for you!”
- 8 tablespoons paprika
- 8 tablespoons soft brown sugar
- 4 teaspoons garlic powder
- 4 teaspoons mustard powder
- 4 teaspoons onion powder
- 8 teaspoons sea salt flakes
- 4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 3.5kg pork shoulder, bone out. Served 10-15, with other burgers and sausages on the side.
- Bear Paws
- Digital meat thermometer
- A thermometer for measuring the temperature of your BBQ
- Le Creuset Oval Stoneware dish
- Latex gloves
- 3-4 burner gas BBQ
Preparing the meat
At least 48 hours before you want to start eating lovely pulled pork, mix all the dry ingredients together well in a bowl. You’re safe to use the bowl and a spoon at this point – no latex gloves are necessary yet.
Once you’ve got your rub ready, the fun begins. The reason why I suggest a big pork shoulder joint with the bone out is because I find that it makes it a lot easier to get the rub giving flavour throughout the entire joint. Now, a lot of people say that the bone is where the flavour is, and that’s where I began when I first started making pulled pork. For me though, it’s both easier to find bone out, and easier to get great flavour with it.
Put your latest gloves on.
So, get your pork shoulder ready for the rub. Chances are that because you bought a bone out joint, it’ll be tightly tied with string. Cut that sucker away – for now you don’t need it. You’ll find once the string is gone that the meat will unroll, leaving you with lots of nooks and crannies and flaps of meat. Great!
Make sure your latex gloves are still on, and your pork is in your earthenware dish.
Start rubbing your meat. Start gently, making sure you massage the rub deeply in. As you get going you can afford to be a little rougher on it. Remember, you want your rub to permeate the meat, giving it lots of flavour. Get into every single nook and cranny. I tend to find that I have to go over the shoulder twice with the rub before I use it all up.
Once your meat is covered, use your new string to tie the pork into a nice tight package again. Cover the pork and bowl with clingfilm (I like to use a few layers), and put it securely in the fridge for a day. You could just do this overnight, but I like to give my pork 36 hours to think about what its fate will be.
Cooking the meat
On the morning of your BBQ, get your meat out of the fridge and get your BBQ warmed up. You’ll only want to have one burner turned on. If you’re going to be smoking your pork (I try, but I’m still not convinced it’s having the most effect), then make sure your wood is prepared and ready to go.
Stick your meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, and make sure you leave the beep half somewhere that you’ll be able to hear it.
Stick the meat in the BBQ (still in the earthenware dish) and close the lid. You’ll want to keep your meat of direct heat. I do this by precariously balancing my meat on the cooling rack inside the BBQ on the opposite side to the burner that I’m using.
Now, temperatures and times. You’ll be wanting to stick your meat into the BBQ 9-10 hours before you’re wanting to eat it. A long time, yes, but really worth it. Try and keep the BBQ’s temperature to around about 150 Celcius. Better to have the temperature a little too low than a little too high in my book. Set the meat thermometer so that it goes off at 92 Celcius.
Low and slow. Here’s some science.
Shredding and eating the meat
9 hours later the alarm will go off, the pork will be ready to sit for half an hour and cool. During this time, people will be baying for your blood because they’ll have smelt this cooking for hours. Throw them some nibbles and keep them satiated.
Once the meat it cool enough to handle, pour the juices that will have gathered in the earthenware dish to one side, snip off your string from the pork, remove the top layer of fat, and then rip to shreds with the Bear Paws. I cannot overstate how much I love these things. They make pulling pork so ridiculously easy. Love them.
As you open up the pork, you may find that you see some rub that didn’t get absorbed by the pork. This is all fine and good. It’ll all get absorbed now as you pull the pork with the Bear Paws anyway.
If I’m feeling unhurried by people, I’ll reduce down the juices in a pan for a couple of minutes, to make a tasty dipping sauce. Otherwise, I just bring the earthenware bowl to the table, provide a ridiculous number of buns and some BBQ sauce, and tell everyone to dig in.
What have I learned over the last year?
I’ve been making this pork for about a year now, and have gone through various iterations. Here’s what I’ve learned:
- I much prefer bone out to bone in. I end up with more flavour in the meat that way. Your mileage my vary.
- You can’t overdo the amount of rub. At least, I’ve not managed to yet. I’m currently using about twice as much per Kg of meat than I did that first time.
- Originally I set the pork straight on the grill in the BBQ, letting the juices drip away. Since I started cooking the pork in the earthenware bowl the meat has been far juicier in the final serving.
- Bear Paws cannot be underestimated.
- The pork will cook a good couple of hours faster in the heat of summer than in the depths of winter. Science. Who knew, eh?