Pulled Pork

 

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I am absolutely nuts for pulled pork, but I don’t cook it that often. Mostly this is because the way I do it makes it one of the most impractical things to cook. Not because it’s difficult to do, but more because it’s logistically ridiculous. My method requires:

  • About five kilos of pork
  • About 18 hours of cooking
  • Dragging the barbecue out of the shed
  • Topping up a wood burning fire every 30 minutes
  • Enduring the inevitable rain that is magnetically attracted to barbecues
  • Picking about 4kg of pork off the bones and shredding it by hand
  • Mixing in a vat of bbq sauce (which needs making as well)
  • Half a fridge shelf to store it

And then, since I’ve got a hell of a lot of meat and live on my own:

  • A commitment to eat nothing but pulled pork for a week.

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So, there are a few sensible reasons to make this more of an occasional treat rather than a regular thing. And then there’s the issue of the chorizo madness.

In 2011, I was working at probably the most profitable four-and-a-half square metres of the whole of Borough Market: the barbecue chorizo sandwich stall at Brindisa. And while I loved working in the food mecca of the world’s greatest city, I did not always love working on my own all day for three out of five days of the week. Between the solitude and the monotony of cutting 86,000 odd pieces of chorizo, I may have gone a little bit nuts. I won’t give you all the gory details, but just as an example: once during prep someone asked me for the time and rather than look at my watch I just counted how many boxes of chorizo I had cut (4 1/2 boxes at 9 minutes per box) and correctly told him it was 4:42pm. I was diagnosed by my coworkers with chorizo madness – a disorder caused by working on the barbecue stand too long – shortly after this event.

As you can see, spending a lot of time on my own with a vast amount of spicy, barbecue-cooked pork has not always been a positive thing for my sanity.

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The chorizo stand was also where my love of barbecue started. One of the things I did to distract myself was slow cook joints of meat next to the coals. There’s something insanely great about the smokey flavours that infuse over the long cooking time.

Smoking, for me, is the real barbecue technique. Grilling is fine, but smoking meat just takes it to the next level. Instead of the intense, direct heat from the charcoal, the meat cooks off to the side in the warm smokey air from a scattering of damp wood chips on the coals. It’s more challenging, and requires a maddening amount of patience and more than a little trial and error to get the low, even heat just right. But there’s just nothing quite like it.

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Could I make my method a bit more practical? Possibly. Am I going to? Nope. Aside from the fact that I actually kinda enjoy making things a little bit challenging for myself, pulled pork is already dangerously tasty and a threat to my mental health. Making it easy to cook would give it more power than any dish should wield.

Pulled Pork

  • 1 whole pork shoulder (approx 5kg), skin off
  • 1 batch of dry rub (see below)
  • 1 batch of BBQ sauce (or about 300ml of BBQ sauce of your own preference)

For the dry rub

  • 100g light soft brown sugar
  • 50g salt
  • 30g paprika
  • 15g onion powder
  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns, ground
  • 1 tbsp white peppercorns, ground
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander

Combine all the ingredients for the dry rub.

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Cut a pattern of 0.5cm deep slashes at 3cm intervals all over the fatty layer of the pork. Apply about half the dry rub liberally all over, rubbing it deep into the slashes in the pork. Refridgerate overnight if possible, or smoke immediately.

Prepare your barbecue for hot smoking. Arrange the pork on a foil-covered tray and smoke over a low heat for about five hours, or until the outside of the pork is blackened all over.

Transfer the pork to an oven set at 120C/Gas Mark 1 and continue to cook for about another 12 hours. Remove from the oven when the pork is very tender and falling off the bone.

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Pull the pork apart using forks, being sure to mix the flavourful outside layer (the “bark”) with the tender internal meat that has broken down into strands or strings.

Sprinkle the reserved half of the dry rub to the pulled pork. Apply BBQ sauce liberally, heat well and taste for seasoning. Add more sauce, sugar or salt as required. Serve with pickles, crusty bread and red coleslaw (next week’s recipe).

For the BBQ sauce

My idea of BBQ sauce is thick, smoky and ketchupy, with a little bit of heat. I encourage you to make your own though, or modify this as much as you wish. Whatever you use, test it on a small portion of pork before committing to the whole batch.

  • 1 onion
  • 1 chilli
  • Juices from smoking the pork, separated into fat and liquid.
  • 300g ketchup
  • 170g light soy sauce
  • 20g cider vinegar
  • 25g American style mustard
  • 100g light soft brown sugar

Smoke the chilli and the onion (in its skin) for about an hour while the pork is going. Peel off the outside layer of the smoked onion and smoked chilli, dice them up and fry over a moderate heat in a generous amount of the smoked fat to soften. Add the smoked juices and simmer to reduce by about 1/3rd. Allow to cool a little, and then blend until smooth and homogenous (you should end up with about 350ml). Add the ketchup, soy sauce, vinegar, mustard and brown sugar.

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