Over the long weekend, the Boy and I had my college friends over for a potluck party. The theme was summer foods, so there was corn on the cob, fruit salad, and ice cream sandwiches. But as the host, my job was the main course, and I decided to try something new. The previous weekend we had people over, and a friend had brought pulled pork in a container and barbecue sauce, we heaped it on hamburger buns and all gobbled it up. So I wanted to try making the pulled pork, but also wanted to do it in the slow-cooker because I was not interested in heating up the entire house by having the stove or oven going all day. When I mentioned this to my friend L, she sent me a link to an article from the Kitchn, and I slapped my forehead in amazement at not having thought to look there first.
Let’s be honest here: I didn’t season my pork shoulder much if at all before cooking. I barely defrosted it entirely before putting it in the slow cooker. But that’s the beauty of cooking over low heat for hours – it doesn’t need to be perfect. I didn’t put in all the vegetables listed, and really should have cut up the onion more, but it worked. And it turns out that a 12 oz bottle of beer contains just over 1 1/2 cups of liquid…so I just poured the entire thing in. The beauty of a recipe like this is that it’s very flexible. Figure out what you like and what works for you, set it and go.
I could post the full recipe for making pulled pork in the oven and stove top, but I won’t because I didn’t. Get yourself a moderately priced slow-cooker of decent size, and you will be thankful (And if you want the full complicated version of the recipe – follow the link below). The most intimidating part was figuring out how to shred the pork with two forks, and my lesson is that while it did come apart easily, I probably could have left it for another hour (I pulled it out at 5 hours) and it would have been that much more tender. Also – don’t forget to trim off the fat ahead of time, because I did not, and that was the only complaint I heard from the kids (Adults know that fat = flavor). I’m also only posting the parts of the ingredients and instructions that I used from the recipe, and we were quite happy with how it turned out. YMMV
(Barbecue) Pulled Pork
Yield: approximately 10 cups shredded pork, which is maybe 16 servings?
4 to 6 pounds boneless pork shoulder or butt (or 5 to 7 pounds bone-in) note: I had about 5.5 lbs of meat
salt & pepper
1 yellow onion, sliced (optional)
4 cloves garlic, smashed (optional)
1 1/2 cups liquid — chicken or vegetable broth, tomato juice, light or amber beer, white or red wine, orange juice, or a mix of several liquids
1/4 to 1/2 cup barbecue sauce (optional)
Trim off any large pieces of fat from the outside, but leave small pieces and the interior fat. If using boneless pork, cut the pork into several large fist-sized pieces. If using bone-in, leave the pork as is, on the bone.
Sprinkle the pork with salt, pepper, and spices. Rub the seasoning into the pork with your fingers so the meat is evenly coated on all sides.
In a 5-quart or larger slow cooker, combine the meat, any vegetables, and liquid. Cover and cook on HIGH for 5 to 6 hours or LOW for 8 to 10 hours.
Lift the pieces of pork out of the liquid and transfer to a large mixing bowl. When cool enough to handle, use two forks or your fingers to shred the meat into pieces. Remove any large pieces of fat or bones.
Strain the cooking liquid into a measuring cup. The vegetables can be chopped and mixed in with the pork, if desired. Skim the fat off the top of the cooking liquid.
For more moist and flavorful pulled pork, you can mix some of the cooking liquid back into the pork. Start with a little, mix, then add more until the pork is as wet or dry as you like. Alternatively, for barbecue pulled pork, you can mix in barbecue sauce. (We let people add barbecue sauce on top, and it was a good way for people to get their own level of flavor. I have recently become a convert to Stubbs, and find that the original is a nice middle of the road sauce with lots of flavor)
Pulled pork will keep for 1 week in the refrigerator or for up to 3 months in the freezer.
From: adapted from “How To Cook (and Shred) a Pork Shoulder for Pulled Pork” at The Kitchn