Today's CI experiment is indoor pulled pork. One of the great surprises to me when I moved to NC was how much I liked the local NC cooking, particularly the pulled pork and the okra. I'm not a huge barbeque person - I don't like ribs, I have to be in the right mood for barbeque sauce, and I was mostly vegetarian back then. Nonetheless, NC-style barbeque and I got along just fine. Pork is slow roasted, shredded and then seasoned with a vinegar sauce. There is no nasty ketsup or heavy sugary sauces involved.
I've been making my lazy old biddy pulled pork in the crockpot. I get a lean pork loin roast, rub it down and then cook it up in a bit of cider or beer and a drop or two of liquid smoke. It works ok and is pretty lean and healthy. The only problem is that it's just too lean and doesn't really go well with NC barbeque sauce. I wanted to test the CI recipe to see if it justifies the extra work or not. It was a good project for a Sunday afternoon.
The CI recipe relies on liquid smoke, and a lot of it. The pork is brined in a salt/sugar/liquid smoke mix, and then coated with a paste of dry mustard with more liquid smoke and rubbed with smoked paprika, sugar, salt, and pepper. It is then baked, covered, for 3 hours. The cover is then removed, the liquids drained off, and the pork returned to the pan and baked some more to dry it out and give it a crust. That's the theory.
In reality, it was fairly warm today so I put the pans on the grill. I know this sort of defeats the purpose of indoor pulled pork, but I wanted to take advantage of what is probably one of the last warm days of fall. I also used more meat, simply because a 10 lb shoulder roast was all I could find at the store, and it was sort of fatty. I used about 2/3 of it and had to use an extra pan.
Indoor/Outdoor Pulled Pork
Meat n Brine
1 "Boston Butt" roast, appx 5 lbs
1 cup table salt
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbs liquid smoke
4 quarts water
1/4 cup dry mustard
2 tsp liquid smoke
2 tbs smoked paprika (use regular if you don't have it)
2 tbs black pepper
2 tbs sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Slice roast in half at lengthwise so you have two flatter pieces of meat. Trim off most of the surface fat. Combine brine ingredients and heat until solids are dissolved. Add pork and brine for 2 hours in fridge.
Combine dry rub ingredients and set aside. Make a paste from the mustard, liquid smoke, and enough water to make to make a smooth paste.
Preheat oven or gas grill to 325F
Remove pork from brine, dry with paper towels, and coat with the wet rub and then the dry rub.
Line a roasting pan with foil. Place roasting rack in pan and put pork on rack. Cover with parchment paper and then cover pan tightly with foil. Plare meat on rack.(The parchment paper keeps the acidic mustard from eating holes in the Al foil. Who knew?!?)
Bake for 3 hours at 325. (I gave mine about 2 hours since my grill was a bit too hot. It was already pull-apart tender at this point) Remove foil and parchment paper and carefully drain cooking juices into a fat separator. (Either I didn't seal my pans well enough or the grill dries things out more. There was only fat. The cats were very interested in it) The meat was pretty tasty at this point, especially the greasy crispy end pieces I sampled. Return meat to oven and cook until it is browned and the internal temperature is at least 200F. CI says 1 1/2 hours, but it seemed done after about 30 minutes.
Remove meat from oven, place in bowl and tent with foil for 10 minutes. Pull apart with two forks and remove fatty pieces. Stir in some of your favorite BBQ sauce and enjoy.
It was very tasty, and very greasy. Fortunately, the vinegar sauce helps with that. I know that fat is necessary but this was excessive. I drained about a cup of melted grease off, plus there was all the fat that I cut off beforehand and all the fatty pieces that I picked out. When I make it again I'll try to get some meat with less fat. (I didn't have much selection today since most of the meat counter was filled with turkeys.)
The flavor was great - smoky and almost bacony, with a good outer crust and moist insides. Anyway, I made a simple non-authentic NC vinegar sauce (3/4 c rice vinegar, 1/4 c water, 1 tbs brown sugar, a pinch of red pepper flakes and a squirt of sriacha hot sauce) which tasted quite good on it.
So the take-home message is will I make it again? Probably, if I need it for a party or special occasion. It was a lot of work, and pretty messy. For more routine cooking, I may try using some of the tricks on a leaner cut of meat and cooking it in the crockpot. The crispy crust bits are tasty but not necessary for me.