Experiments In Food: Pulled Pork

November 7th, 2012 | brainjuice

This is how it begins. It doesn’t look so good, does it?

I’d been wanting to try this for ages, and was given an opportunity last week to experiment on the child.

I discovered pulled pork back in the 90s, in a NYC restaurant (that has since burned down, something I remain kind of unsurprised about).  I was never going to even approximate that first dish, but I thought I’d give the general idea a go.

This is a boneless shoulder of pork, around 1.75KG.  There are, I warn you, a million pulled-pork “purists” who will complain about the cut, and the bone out (or in!) and any number of other things.  But we are The People Who Burn Water, and We Don’t Care.

This is a slight adaptation of a Baker Brothers recipe.  All measurements from this point are approximate, and in English.  Make Google do the regional adaptations.

The day before.

What you need is a large bowl, because you are going to throw the following things into it.

A fair glug of olive oil.  Like, the equivalent of a tablespoon and a half.  Sort of.

A larger whack of Worcester Sauce.  And if you have balsamic vinegar, a little splash wouldn’t hurt.

An even larger whack of honey.  Like two, two point five tablespoons.

Some smoked paprika.  I went with two heaped teaspoons.

Fresh rosemary – strip the leaves off a couple of sprigs.

Fresh thyme – same, only use twice as many springs.

Break up a head of garlic.  Get rid of the papery shit on half of the cloves and throw them in.  Peel the other half, crush them under the flat of your knife, and throw them in.

Grind in some salt, equivalent to a large pinch.

And, of course, a bottle of beer.  Because this is me.  Now, I went with an excellent ruby red porter, but, in the end, I think maybe it was slightly too hoppy and bitter for the mix.  You might like that.  But next time I’m going to use a golden ale.

Mix all this up.  Yes, it looks disgusting.

The meat goes into a big roasting tin.  Get your knife and score the meat all over, in a large crosshatch pattern.

Grind up another pinch of salt and rub it into the meat.

Now take that muck you mixed up and rub that into the meat too.  Get the garlic and honey pressed into the scoring as you go.

Now look at your hands.  You look like a vet who’s been tending a cow with the runs.  Wash.

Pour the mix into the roasting tin, throw another bunch of rosemary and thyme sprigs on top, and sling it in the fridge.  Come back in four hours to turn the meat so the fat side is down. Come back four hours after that to turn the meat back.  Go to bed.

The cooking day.

The first thing you do is set the oven to 240 degrees C and stick the meat in, flashing it for twenty minutes.  Take it out, baste it in the mix again, cover the pan tightly in tin foil and put it back in the oven at 140 degrees C for seven hours.

Seven hours later, you get something like this.

This is, of course, utterly horrifying.  But that awful charred crab-head lid?  That’s the fat.  You just pull that off.  Underneath, you’ve got pork so moist and tender that you can quite literally shred it with two forks:

Serve in bread rolls with anything you like, including a spoonful of the cooked marinade.


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  1. You can find Warren on Twitter: @warrenellis