Saturday, October 5, 2013

BBQ Pulled Pork

How special is this recipe? Well, my wife and I served Pulled Pork at our wedding reception in Santa Barbara, California. We both spent our early years in the South -- Amy went to high school in Alabama and I grew up in Texas and Louisiana, so we both know BBQ. And my wife said this recipe makes the best BBQ Pulled Pork she has ever had! Scroll halfway down this post to view my second Pork Butt Trilogy video, BBQ Pulled Pork.

Well, I don't know if it will be your favorite Pulled Pork recipe but do give it a try sometime and let me know in the comments. It's certainly an easy recipe to do, and the pork shoulder cut of meat when on sale, is almost as cheap as chicken. It's funny how some cheap ingredients can taste so good -- I guess it's really all about how you cook it.

And this is part two of my Pork Butt Trilogy of stop motion videos. The first was Mexican Carnitas (click here to see it.) I have one more stop motion video coming up that uses a swines hind quarters called Italian Porchetta.

These days pork purveyors have rechristened pork butt by the more polite moniker "pork shoulder picnic roast." A good description of the name usage is a click away, here.

The main flavoring for this recipe is a simple Dry Rub using spices stocked in almost any cupboard. Mainly I use brown sugar, garlic, and chili powder, plus salt and pepper.

(Recipes are meant to be tweaked. I've made this BBQ Pulled Pork recipe 3 times over the summer and I keep cooking it longer each time. I started at 3 1/2  hours, but now low simmer pork shoulder for 5 hours to tenderize the meat all the way through.)

The recipe is not complicated just mix a few dried spices together then simmer and smoke the Pork Butt. You don't have to hang around once the heat is lowered and the pot is covered. The only tricky part is smoking it. I have a gas grill with 2 burners. On one side I have a tray of wood chips and on the other side of the grill is the boiled Pork Butt. Only the wood tray side has the fire, the Pork Butt side remains unheated. Once the wood chips start smoldering, you smoke the Pork Butt for about an hour, . Under Hindsight at the end of this post, I have an easier oven method for you as well.

The price is right when you use this cut of pork. I get it on sale at my local Latin market for way below a dollar per pound, anywhere from 77 cents to 99 cents a pound. (Normally it runs in the $1.50 to $2 range, that's still cheap.)

I have a cupboard full of spices I've purchased at my local 99c only Store. You do need a deep pot for this recipe, large enough to hold a 5-pound hunk of meat. You could cut the whole Pork Butt into smaller pieces of meat -- just reduce the cooking time by an hour - when the meat is fall-apart tender it's ready.

The addition of brown sugar brings my Pulled Pork over the top. It adds just the right amount of sweetness while the other spices give this recipe a complex flavor. And the final stage of smoking creates a charred crust to die for.

If you ever visited a BBQ joint and had a Pulled Pork Sandwich, you know what I'm talking about. And with my chintzy recipe, you can fill up the feed bag with more than a dozen large Pulled Pork Sandwiches. So get busy and throw a BBQ party -- I've done it with this recipe a few times already and everyone has loved it!

You could do better by smoking the pork butt overnight, but as an easier and quicker recipe, I bet my BBQ Pork Butt is good enough to make it in your Top Ten recipe list.

Play it here, video runs 3 minutes, 7 seconds.

My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here

Ingredients (12 large sandwiches or more, depending on the size of pork butt.)
  • 5-8 pound pork butt or shoulder - I got bone-in. Sometimes called a "whole picnic shoulder." It usually has some skin attached and a large center bone.
  • 1 onion - optional.
  • 4-8 cups of wood chips for smoking - amount may vary depending on how hot the grill fire is. You want to smoke boiled pork for about an hour.
  • Water to cover simmering pork shoulder.
  • 1 large pot, big enough to cover pork butt with water. Okay to cut down pork butt, discard bone, and use a smaller pot (reduce simmering time by an hour.)

Dry Rub Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar - Okay to use regular sugar or a favorite sweetener. You can use less brown sugar/sweetener if you like.
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder - since paprika and chili powder are similar in taste you can leave one of these out.
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder - or flakes, granulated.
  • 2 teaspoons salt - Okay to use garlic salt (cut garlic powder by about half.)
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper  - optional, Okay to leave it out if you don't like it a little spicy.

Place pork butt in a large pot with a cover. Fill the pot with water until it covers the pork butt. (Pork butt will float, so you don't have to add more water than needed.) Start with high heat until it starts to boil, then reduce heat.

Add one roughly chopped onion to the pot (optional - I've done recipe with and without a chopped onion; it's mainly about the dry rub.)

Mix all the dry rub ingredients. Separate in half. You will use half during the meat boiling stage, then use the other half as a dry rub when you smoke the Pork Butt.

Click on any photo to see larger.

Add half of the dry rub to the Pork Butt in water. Roughly chop one whole onion and add it (optional.)

(For a leaner Pulled Pork it's okay to slice off the outer layer of skin and the largest hunks of fat. Some pieces of meat may separate during the boiling stage, but that's okay.)

Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a low simmer. Low boil for about 5 hours. Check every hour or so to make sure the water doesn't simmer away. The Pork Butt will reduce in size as some of the water evaporates; so as long as the pot is covered you shouldn't need to add any more liquid. (If uncovered, then add water as needed.)

Remove meat from the liquid when meat is done low boiling. Let meat rest and cool down 10-15 minutes. (Reserve a couple cups of broth.) Place meat on a rack with a shallow pan. It's okay to place meat without a rack, it just helps to get smoke all around.

Sometimes hunks of meat will break off during boiling and that's okay. You could even break the pork butt into 4 or 5 big pieces so the smoke will soak into more meat surface. 

Drizzle some of the pot liquor (boiled liquid) over the Pork Butt to moisten. Gently press on the other half of the Dry Rub all over the meat. (You can remove the outer layer of fatty skin if you like, so more meat comes in contact with smoke.)

As the meat is cooling enough for you to apply the Dry Rub, you can get the grill going. I have a 2 burner gas grill. I use one side for the tray of wood chips and the other side to smoke the Pork Butt. The object is to keep the spice-crusted meat on the unheated side and the wood chips on the flame side.

If you have a regular charcoal grill then build the fire on one side for the tray of wood chips. (The tray will keep the wood from catching fire and burning too fast.)

Add the Pork Butt in a shallow tray on the non-fire side (with or without a rack - I use one to get smoke on the meat underside.) Add 1/2 cup of boiled liquid to the tray. If hunks of Pork Butt separate, just add it to the tray too -- it's extra smokey pieces. Cover the grill. Smoke the Pork Butt for about 1 hour.

Depending on how hot the fire is, you should get smoke from the wood tray in 5-10 minutes. The wood will smoke and blacken. Check every 5-10 minutes. Have an extra tray handy to remove the blackened wood chips as they cook down, and add more wood chips as needed. (Towards the end of cooking, if you still have smoldering wood chips, turn off the fire and just let them slowly burn out and keep on smoking - if you have the time.

I let the dry rub coated pork cook without turning it so you get a crunchy skin -- but the center will still be moist. I like to have crunchy bits mixed in for the final chopping and pulling apart stage.

Remove Pork Butt after an hour of smoking. While the pork is still hot (but cool enough to handle) peel off pieces and separate with a couple of forks or just chop it up -- whichever you prefer.

Most of the outer meat will break apart easily, while the center may have more texture, but it will still be quite tender -- so the middle may need some rough chopping. (If a few center pieces are too tough, it's easy enough to boil them in the reserved broth for an hour until tender.)

Before serving, drizzle on a little broth and make Pulled Pork sandwiches, or just make a Pulled Pork Plate. I like my sandwich plain: just a hamburger bun, pickle, and a favorite bbq sauce. Some like coleslaw on theirs -- for my coleslaw recipe, just click here.

Low boiling time may vary depending on how large the pork shoulder is - mine was just under 6 pounds and was fork-tender after 5 hours of simmering (pork should be tender all the way to the bone.) By saving the broth, you can low boil any tough meat pieces for another hour to completely tenderize.

Chile powder and paprika are similar enough to leave one of them out. Okay to leave out onion and hot cayenne.

If you don't have an outdoor grill here is an easy oven method. The only additional ingredient is Liquid Smoke in a bottle. Follow the above directions and add a teaspoon of liquid smoke during the low boiling stage. Instead of the grill, add the boiled pork shoulder on a tray to the oven at 350 degrees. Bake uncovered for one hour, to crisp up the outside.

I also saw a video on smoking indoors. Mainly add some small wood chips in a corner of a baking pan. Put meat on a rack in the same pan, on the opposite side. Place the corner with chips over your stovetop burner. Finally, cover the pan and boiled pork butt with foil and seal it, then turn on the heat to medium until smoke starts, then reduce heat to low. Add chips as needed, and be sure to open window...just in case.

If your crockpot is big enough, then do a version with it using the same Dry Rub. Break down meat into large pieces if it won't fit whole in a pot. Add half of the Dry Rub to crockpot and fill it 1/4 full with water. For a crunchy skin remove meat from the crockpot when tender and pile it on an oven tray. Sprinkle on other half of  Dry Rub and bake in the oven at 350 for about 45 minutes.

The quickest way to tenderize pork shoulder is to use a pressure cooker. I can fit a smaller (about 6 pound) pork shoulder in mine. I still have to slice into the whole shoulder at the ball joint to fold pork into a smaller shape. Once it fits, then add 2 cups of water to the pot along with the whole pork shoulder. 

Finally, sprinkle on half of the Dry Rub. Cover and follow pressure cooking directions, mainly get the cooker up to temperature and cook for about 2 hours until meat is fall-apart tender. If you breakdown pork shoulder into large pieces of meat, then it will cook even quicker, in about an hour. Finish off cooked pork following my smoke BBQ grill or oven method.


Rhonda said...

We never thought to use that cut for pulled pork. We use the shoulder when we make sausage. Thanks for the tip. Not sure if we can find it that cheap where we live but we are going to try.

99 Cent Chef said...

hi Ronda, pork shoulder is a great flavorful cut of meat to roast or slow cook.

Unknown said...

Curious to know how long it takes to create a stop motion video like this one?

99 Cent Chef said...

Hi Greg, it takes about a week to do a stop motion video, but sometimes less time - kinda depends how many shots are in a video. Here is a link with details how I do it.

Harmony said...

Hi! This is about the most thorough and clear article I’ve ever read on a recipe! I loved and enjoyed it. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this! I especially love that you included different ways to tenderize the pork. I do have a question you can clear up for me please. To use a pressure cooker to cook the pork, all I need is only 2 cups of water? No need to immerse the pork all the way? Thank you!!!

99 Cent Chef said...

Just two cups of liquid is all you need, as the pork will release it's own juices so that will be plenty. The water is just to get things started steaming.

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