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My best Pulled Pork

12 hrs Cook
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NomNom Recipes 4

These are my Pulled Pork Rolls Royce Recipes. A 24-hour brine infuses flavor and locks in juices, then a 12-hour slow roast makes the pork juicier than you can imagine!

No time to play this version? I see. I made my slow cooker pulled pork instead!

NomNom Recipes 5 1
My best Pulled Pork – NomNomWow

36-hour Pulled Pork

That’s right, it takes 36 hours to make my best pulled pork recipe: a 24-hour dry brine soak in a tangy marinade, then a 12-hour slow roast in the oven.

However, I wouldn’t share a 36 hour recipe if I wasn’t 100% sure it would yield the best results! I can assure you that yes, and the reason is simple:

  1. Brining overnight locks in juices and injects flavour all the way through the pork so every mouthful of pork is seasoned; and
  2. Slow-roasting at a very low temperature means less moisture loss and in turn more succulent meat.

Cooking this way also allows you to see that desirable “bark” on the surface that people love in traditional grilling. It’s my favorite part. It’s so tempting to take it all off and run!

See the proof of Epic Bass:

And proof of ultra-tender, juicy meat:

What you need to make my best Pulled Pork

Here’s what you need for the Pulled Pork:

  • Pork butt / Boston butt (4 – 5 kg / 8 – 10 lb) – Also known as “butcher’s block” or “square cut shoulder of pork” in Australia, this is a big rectangular block of pork from the of the upper pork shoulder (not its butt!) It’s best for Pulled Pork because it’s well marbled and a uniform shape. It comes with a layer of fat on the surface, no skin (in Australia), and a bone inside. Where to find it – Though widely available and very good value in the US, here in Australia it’s not available at everyday supermarkets. However, it IS sold at Costco! Otherwise, find it at good butchers. What to ask for – Pork butt / Boston butt / butcher’s block / square cut pork shoulder. Describe it as a 4 to 5 kg rectangular block of pork shoulder. Insist / ask politely that it be bone-in, skinless, with some but not all the fat removed from the surface. Best substitute – Regular pork shoulder works but it will need to be a minimum of 3 kg / 6 lb (including the bone). If it’s too small it will cook too fast and defeat the purpose of the 12-hour slow roasting that yields the ultra-juiciness of the meat. Usually here in Australia, pork shoulder is only about 2 – 2.5 kg / 4 – 5 lb (once the skin is removed).
  • Beer – This has multiple purposes. It’s used as (1) the liquid in the pan to prevent the pan from drying out during the slow-roasting, (2) for extra flavour on the pork flesh, and (3) making tasty pan juices which are later tossed through the shredded pork and stirred into the homemade BBQ sauce. Beer type – You can use any beer other than very dark beers like Guinness. Dark beers can be a bit too intense and dominate the pan juice flavours. Substitute with alcoholic apple cider (dry/hard cider), non-alcoholic beer or apple juice, which I’ve used in the past for similar recipes to great success (like BBQ pork ribs).
  • Rub ingredients – The sugar, salt, pepper and spices you see in the photo above are all for the rub. The seasonings (a good number from my 12 Essential Spices list!!) are for flavour, while the salt dry-brines the pork to make it juicier.What is dry-brining? Brining exploits the effect of salt on muscle fibres so meat retains more moisture as it cooks. As a handy bonus, it also fully seasons the meat on the inside – great for large cuts like pork butt. Dry-brining is a type of brining where no water is used, just salt (contrasted with wet-brining where you soak protein in salted water). We get the same effects (juiciness and seasoning) except it’s even better because the flesh isn’t bloated with flavourless water, which dilutes meat’s flavour. It’s also convenient because you don’t have to deal with the logistics of keeping a giant piece of pork submerged in liquid in the fridge.Bottom line: Dry-brining works better and is easier. It’s how I do my turkey every year. Dry brine, dry brine, I say!

What you need for homemade BBQ Sauce

Nothing groundbreaking here! All the usual classic BBQ sauce suspects are present:

  • Ketchup – The key ingredient in BBQ sauce. I know it’s totally un-Australian of me to say, but I really prefer ketchup over tomato sauce. Better flavour. Sorry Australia!! Best substitute – Well, tomato sauce!
  • Apple cider vinegar – For the tang in BBQ sauce. Substitute with white or red wine vinegar.
  • Molasses (light/true molasses, NOT blackstrap) – Adds sweetness, colour, gloss and flavour. Easy substitute: golden syrup!
  • Worcestershire sauce – For savoury flavour.
  • Tabasco – Optional, for a hit of heat!
  • Sugar – BBQ sauce is sweet, tangy and a bit savoury. This helps with the sweetness!
  • Mustard and garlic powder – The savoury seasonings. I prefer powdered garlic over fresh garlic, and powdered mustard over mustard spread because the powder versions have a more earthy flavour that I think works better for BBQ sauce.

How to make my best Pulled Pork

It may take 36 hours, but it’s actually quite easy. Also, although the stripping step is recommended for best results, it can actually be skipped if preferred. You still get a lot of flavor in the bark mixed into the meat and in the drippings that we pour into the meat. The barbecue sauce also adds a lot of flavor!

1. BRINING

As mentioned above, a 24-hour dry brine locks in the juices as well as seasoning the flesh right to the middle of that considerable hunk of meat!

  1. Rub – Mix the rub ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Coat the pork all over with the rub and use your hands to …well, rub it in.  Get right into all those cracks and crevices. Yep, I know some people hate it / laugh when I write that, and I write it every time I use a rub. Have a giggle and rub away!!!Get as much rub as possible to stick to the pork, being particularly generous on the top. You will end up with some excess rub loose on the tray, as you can see in the photo above. That’s OK.
  3. Brine 24 hours – Position the pork fat side up (smoother side). Place the pork UNCOVERED in the fridge overnight. Uncovered is best because that way your pork will not sweat under cling wrap or similar. It also dries out the surface of the pork which is key to the best bark!!!Can I brine for longer? Yep! I’ve done it for up to 48 hours. I actually didn’t notice a difference between 24 hours and 48 hours however, so there’s no additional benefit to brining for longer. More that if you forgot or the timing suits you, it’s no issue.
  4. Post-brining – This photo shows what it looks like after brining. There will be some liquid in the pan, which is a bit of pork juices mixed with dissolved salt. Discard this liquid when transferring the pork to the roasting pan. We only want whatever stuff sticks to the pork.

2. 12-HOUR SLOW-ROASTING

  1. Liquids for cooking – Transfer the pork into a roasting pan. Then pour the beer and water around it, using additional water to top up as needed so that the liquid level is 2.5 cm / 1″. This is to ensure the pan doesn’t dry out during the slow roasting time. It means the pork will be even juicier (nice and steamy environment!) as well as ensuring we end up with some roasting pan juices that we toss through the pork at the end + stir into the BBQ sauce (it’s free flavour!).
  2. Slow roast the pork uncovered for 12 hours at 110°C/230°F (both fan-forced and standard). Some notes on the slow cooking part: a) Low temperature – We want to use lowest temperature possible to cook this pork at because the lower the temperature, the less moistures is lost from the flesh of the pork which in turn means juicier pork meat. I found that 110°C/230°F is the minimum temperature for the middle of the pork to peak at 95°C. At this temperature, the meat will be tender enough to shred with no effort. Cooking at a temperature lower than 110°C/230°F, I found the pork never became “fall-apart-at-a-touch”. b) Uncovered – The pork is cooked uncovered so we get that desirable, intensely-flavoured bark on the surface all over the pork. This part is everyone’s favourite! c) Overnight roasting – At such a low temperature and with the amount of liquid we put in the pan, I feel perfectly safe sleeping with the oven on. It’s also super-handy to do the slow-roasting overnight because it’s entirely hands-off. The cooked pork reheats perfectly so I can serve it anytime the next day. d)  OVEN AUTO-OFF – Many ovens, including mine, will automatically turn off after 12 hours. This is for safety reasons. So be sure to check if yours has an auto-off function (check the manual)! If it does, firstly preheat the oven, put the pork in then turn it off. Immediately turn it back on (to restart the 12-hr clock, so to speak). Now you’re good to go. Also, how handy that your oven will now turn itself off bang on 12 hours when your pork is ready!
  1. Slow-roasted pork – After 12 hours, the pork should be fall-apart-tender with a thick, almost black crust. Pick a bit off and have a nibble – cooks’ treat!There should still be some liquid remaining in the pan. How much depends on a lot of things, like the size of your pork, your oven and so on, but usually there is around 1.5 – 2 cm / 3/4″ of liquid.
  2. Transfer the pork to a different pan, large enough for shredding. Rest the meat for 20 minutes before shredding. Just because we slow-cooked the meat does not mean we can skip the essential step of resting the meat! During this time juices inside the meat are reabsorbed back into the meat fibres = juicier!!

Shredding

We’re getting into the best part – because you can pick and snack along the way!

  1. Shred the pork using two forks or tongs. It’s so tender it will be effortless! Shred into strand sizes you desire. Some people like superfine, others like chunks. I’m sort of in-between.
  2. Pan juices and BBQ sauce – Pour over some roasting pan juices (it’s got tons of flavour, we are NOT wasting it!) and some BBQ sauce. Just enough of both to juice up the meat a bit, not drown it! I prefer to serve BBQ sauce on the side so people can use as much or as little as they want.
  3. Toss well.
  4. Serve – Now serve with remaining BBQ sauce on the side! Pictured above with soft buns and coleslaw, to make Pulled Pork Sandwiches. YESSS!!!! (Some more serving suggestions below).

Homemade BBQ Sauce

In other words, barbecue sauce. That’s a 45 minute slow cooker job. so easy! It can be done at any time that suits you because it holds and warms perfectly.

Honestly, that face…a huge pot of juicy meat has gotten my love and attention for the past 36 hours…(even though I slept most of the time, that’s not the point!) …and now it’s my kind of food.

I know it’s not feminine at all. I’m not the stylish type, not my food choices, not my lifestyle. But boy, does this lead to a good life!
For example, the pulled pork sandwich, dripping with pork juice and barbecue sauce. Oh look, coleslaw is joining the party too:

Or try a hearty Southern dinner by adding a classic side dish you swear you invented just to go with pulled pork!

My best Pulled Pork

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These are my Pulled Pork Rolls Royce Recipes. A 24-hour brine infuses flavor and locks in juices, then a 12-hour slow roast makes the pork juicier than you can imagine!
prep time
15 mins
cooking time
12 hrs
servings
15
total time
12 hrs 15 mins

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 4 – 5 kg / 8 – 10 lb pork butt / Boston butt / square cut pork shoulder (skinless, bone in, fat cap on, Note 1)

  • 1 1/2 cups beer , any except dark beers like Guinness (Note 2)

  • 1 cup water

  • RUB (NOTE 3):

  • 6 tbsp brown sugar

  • 2 tbsp paprika powder

  • 1 tbsp garlic powder

  • 1 tbsp onion powder

  • 1 tbsp mustard powder

  • 2 tsp cumin powder

  • 2 tsp dried oregano

  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (can omit)

  • 2 tbsp cooking/kosher salt* (Note 4)

  • 2 tsp black pepper

  • BARBECUE SAUCE:

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar (Note 5)

  • 3 cups ketchup (or Aussie tomato sauce)

  • 1 cup water

  • 3 tbsp molasses (original, not backstrap, Note 6)

  • 2/3 cup brown sugar

  • 4 tsp Worcestershire sauce

  • 2 tsp Tabasco (optional spiciness)

  • 4 tsp mustard powder

  • 3 tsp garlic powder (sub onion powder)

  • 2 tsp cooking/kosher salt (Note 4)

  • 2 tsp black pepper

Instructions

1
Let the brine dry overnight (Note 7) - Dry the pork and place it in a large ceramic dish. Combine the brine ingredients in a small bowl and spread it over the pork, making sure it gets into cracks and crevices. Cover it oily side up (the smoother side) rubbing in as much as you can. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
2
Preheat the oven to 110°C (ventilated and standard)/230°F.
3
Prepare to Grill - Transfer the pork to a roasting pan (without rubbing the rubs), fat side up. Discard any liquid and residual rubbing left in the brine bowl. Pour the beer and water around the pig, topping up with additional water if necessary to bring the liquid level to 2.5cm (to prevent the jar from drying out).
4
Slow Roast 12 Hours (Note 8) - Roast, uncovered, for 12 hours, or until internal temperature reaches 95°C/203°F and meat flakes easily with two forks.
5
Make sure your oven doesn't automatically switch off halfway through cooking, many have an automatic switch off that kicks in after 12 hours (taking into account oven preheating time as well)!
6
Snipper – Pork in a Cauldron (reserve the juices in the pan). Leave to rest for 20 minutes, then cut with tongs/fork - effortless! You can discard the large cork at this point if you wish. I saved a few and it made the pulled pork juicier.
7
Seasoning - Pour 3/4 cup roast juice and 1 cup roast gravy (see below) over the pork and mix. Serve pulled pork with leftover BBQ sauce so people can help themselves. Make a great southern feast with cornbread, coleslaw and potato salad or macaroni salad. Or make pulled pork dumplings with coleslaw, pulled pork and barbecue sauce!
8

BBQ Sauce:

Place ingredients in a large saucepan and stir to combine.
9
Simmer 45 minutes: Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes.
10
Add pork juice: When pork is done, add 1/2 cup pork juice from skillet to BBQ sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Use water to control the thickness - it should have a thick, syrupy consistency. Serve warm or at room temperature (do not refrigerate).

Notes

Pork – Known as pork butt, Boston Butt or “pork square cut shoulder”, this is a big rectangle block of pork that is part of the upper pork shoulder. Best for Pulled Pork because it’s well-marbled and a uniform shape. Comes with a layer of fat on the surface, no skin, with a bone inside. Find it at butchers, not yet widely available in Australian grocery stores. Best substitute is a regular pork shoulder but it will need to be a minimum of 3 kg else it will cook too fast! Beer – Any beer other than really dark ones like stout and Guinness can be used. Substitute with apple cider or apple juice. Rub spice substitutions: Garlic powder and onion powder – substitute with more of the other Mustard powder – same amount of dijon mustard spread Oregano leaves – omit Brown sugar – white sugar or honey Cooking/kosher salt have larger grains than table salt so it works best here for more even penetration into the meat for brining. If you only have table salt, use 2/3 of the quantity called for in the recipe. Apple cider vinegar – Sub with white or red wine vinegar. Molasses – Be sure not to use BLACKSTRAP molasses which is very dark, intensely-flavoured and bitter. Australia, DO NOT get Blue Label Molasses from Coles, if you read the label carefully you will see it is blackstrap. I use Mountain Valley Molasses from Wooloworths. Save leftovers for Gingerbread men! Dry brining – Seasons the pork flesh all the way through and makes pork even juicier. While it’s highly recommended for best results, you can skip it in the event of a pork emergency (it happens, I understand). Slow roasting – Read post for why this yields the best result. Timing – I typically do the slow-roast overnight. With the very low oven temperature, the beer plus the juices that come out of the pork (a LOT!) to prevent the pan from scorching, I am not concerned about sleeping with the oven on. To serve for lunch – Start late the night before last to serve for lunch tomorrow. The cooked pork will stay warm for a good 2 hours. Best to shred close to serving time. To serve for dinner – Make the whole pork ahead then reheat when needed. It reheats 100% perfectly because it’s so juicy from the slow-roasting. See ‘Make ahead’ section below. Make ahead – If not serving within 2 hours of taking the pork out of the oven, loosely cover the whole cooked pork with foil and allow to cool to room temperature (about 4 hours). Refrigerate until needed. 100% perfect made 24 hours ahead, and still very good made 2 – 3 days ahead. Remove from fridge 3 hours prior to when serving and leave on counter for 1 hour. Then reheat covered in foil for 2 hours at 150°C/300°F, or until the internal temperature reaches 60°C/140°F (check this to ensure the inside is hot). Or – microwave it! Shred then serve per recipe. How much to make per person – To figure out how many people your pork will serve, multiply each kilo of pork by 3 to get normal servings or by 2.4 for generous servings. Imperial measurements: Multiply each lb of pork weight by 1.5 for normal servings or 1.2 for large servings. Example: 5 kg pork: 5 x 3 = 15 servings (normal portions) or 5 x 2.4 = 12 servings (large portions) 10 lb pork: 10 x 1.5 = 15 servings (normal portions) or 10 x 1.2 = 12 servings (large portions) It might sound like a lot of pork per person (335g – 410g / 11 – 14 oz) but remember, pork loses about 40% of its weight once cooked! Storage – Cooked pork and barbecue sauce will keep for 4 days in the fridge (separate or tossed together), or 3 months in the freezer. Reheats 100% perfectly! See note above for best make ahead directions.
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