Unfortunately, until I happened upon this recipe for pulled pork, I'd never made it myself since most recipes require a smoker - an expense that I haven't yet found a good reason to incur. Instead, I mostly had to let my craving come and go unfulfilled. Happily, this recipe perfects pulled pork by first brining the meat and then slow-cooking it in the oven. Jason was a bit apprehensive (read: doubtful) when I told him I was going to make it, but he was pleasantly surprised when he finally sunk his teeth into the finished product.
I've made it twice now and both times it has turned out wonderfully.
Pulled Pork Barbecue
adapted from America's Test Kitchen
Serves 10-12 people
1 boneless pork butt (~5 pounds)
2 cups warm water
1 cup salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons liquid smoke
12-14 cups cold water
Using a sharp knife, trim away excess fat from pork butt. Don't even try to cut away all of it...you'll want it for flavor and lots of it will cook out anyway. Cut pork in half horizontally. Doing so permits the pork to cook faster and for there to be more surface area for your rub, greatly enhancing the flavor.
Combine salt, sugar, liquid smoke and warm water in a large container (I used a giant pot). Use wooden spoon to vigorously stir together so that the salt and sugar completely dissolve. Once they've done so, place the pork in the pot and cover completely with cold water. Set aside for 2 hours.
While the pork is brining, get everything else set up.
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
1/4 cub yellow mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons liquid smoke
Combine mustard and liquid smoke in a small bowl. Set aside.
Line a baking sheet (one with a lip to catch and hold the liquid that will cook off the pork) with aluminum foil. Place a wire rack on top of the baking sheet. Tear off piece of parchment paper large enough to completely cover the pork when it's set on the wire rack. Tear off two or three large pieces of aluminum foil.
Once the pork is done brining, use paper towels to pat off excess liquid. Place pork on wire racks and use a basting brush to completely coat pork with the mustard mixture. With a heavy hand, sprinkle rub all over the pork.
Cover the pork with the parchment paper and then use aluminum foil sheets to cover the parchment paper. Tuck foil to create a seal, which will prevent moisture from escaping. Don't skip out on the parchment paper; the mustard is so acidic that it will eat through the aluminum foil is there is nothing serving as a barrier.
Place in middle rack of oven for 3 hours.
Remove from the oven and discard the parchment and aluminum foil. Transfer liquid that has accumulated on the bottom of the pan into a medium bowl and place in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. Skim off the fat that has come to the top of the liquid. Pour remaining liquid over the pulled pork.
Place the pork back into the oven and let cook an additional 1 1/2 hours. After removing pork from the oven, let it rest for 20-30 minutes before transferring to a large casserole dish. Use two forks to pull apart the meat.
I split the pulled pork into two smaller glass dishes and added the Sweet + Tangy Barbecue Sauce to one and the Lexington Barbecue Dip to the other.
I served the barbecues with this homemade coleslaw (I altered the recipe just a bit by doing the following: 1) I made only half the recipe; 2) I placed the carrots and coleslaw into the food processor and minced them; and 3) I substituted greek yogurt for the mayo to cut down on calories.)