Thursday, 23 August 2012

Pulled Pork Recipe - as requested by Ed

Living in Australia most of my life, I've certainly been to a BBQ or two. It's an Australian tradition that certainly hasn't been lost on my family or friends. But despite the fact that I lived in America for two years I've never had an American BBQ, or at least not a proper American BBQ. That is, until my recent trip to NY when I listened to a recommendation from a friend and trekked to Williamsburg to visit Fetta Sau, a proper American BBQ restaurant, all the way down to the plastic trays covered with brown paper. It was there that I fell in love with Pulled Pork. I mean how could you not?!
So, when Nicole announced Christmas in July the weekend after I got back from NY, I had to attempt to cook Pulled Pork.
But where to find the perfect recipe?? I tried contacting Fetta Sau on Facebook hoping they'd give me a recipe, but they weren't as forthcoming as I had hoped. The tip they did give me was that it's all about the dry run and the cooking time. I googled a heap of recipes, and came across a recipe by Kevin & Amanda that I liked. It's not a hard recipe at all, but it probably wasn't the easiest recipe around either. I liked it because it talked about the meat being ready when it reached a certain temperature inside (...guess we're back to my nerdy sciencey childhood) as opposed to just a number of hours that it needed to be cooked. And Fetta Sau did say it was all about the cooking time.

As I said, it's not difficult, but it does take a loooongggg time. And when I say a long time, I mean around 20hrs. The good news is though you actually don't need to be doing anything for a lot of that time. In fact, you don't need to even be home. But either way, if you're going to make this recipe I'd say plan ahead. I also bought a digital meat thermometer with an alarm that sits outside the oven. That meant that all I needed to do was set the alarm temperature and forget. If fact, I put the meat in the oven before I went to bed, and when I woke up in the morning, the alarm was going off telling the meat had reached the right temperature. Very tricky! And the time spent in the oven was totally worth it. The meat turned out super  juicy and tender, and it literally just fell off the bone. A big hit. The only thing that I didn't love was that it was probably a bit spicy as opposed to sweet, which is what I was expecting. But that's fine, I'll just find a different dry rub mix next time I make it. Easy.

A couple of tips before you start...go out and get the digital alarm. Its like $20 and so worth it. I didn't have time to look around, so I just bought mine online. It means you don't have to constantly check the temperature. Plan your timing in advance as this one needs a bit of resting time. Cook the meat in a throw away metal container, it's so much easier than cleaning up. Go buy yourself the biggest zip lock bag you can find for when you're resting the pulled pork in the brine.

BTW, sorry the pics aren't better in this recipe. I was doing things at 6am and midnight, so I have to admit, sometimes I forgot to take pictures.

Ingredients (feeds 6 people with a decent amount of left overs):
8 pound whole boston butt, or pork shoulder with the bone in and the thick layer of fat on (if the butcher asks for skin on or off, ask for it off, but keep the skin and make some lovely crunchy pork cracking to have on the side. I did, and it was very tasty!)

Dry Rub:
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp onion powder
2 tbsp chilli powder
2 tbsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp ground pepper
2 tbsp paprika
1 C brown sugar

Brine Solution:
1/2 C salt
1/2 C brown sugar
1.8 litres water
3 tbsp dry rub mix
2 bay leaves

Start by mixing the dry rub together. Essentially all you have to do is put it all in a container, mix it together and put it into an air tight container.
Now for the brine solution. I mixed this together into a big jug to make it easier to pour into a zip lock bag later on if that's how you decide to rest the meat. Put the 1.8 litres of cold water into the jug, and mix in the 1/2C salt until it's completely dissolved. Then add the 1/2C brown sugar and 3 tbsp of the dry rub mix and still it well.

Rinse the port shoulder in cold water, and put it into the big zip lock bag (making sure it has no holes in it) or a nice big plastic container. If you're using the bag, this can get a bit tricky, so if there's someone else around to help it could be good. I did this at 6am, so managed by myself, but I must have looked ridiculous.

Carefully pour the brine into the bag. If you don't use it all, that's fine. The idea is that you want that lovely shoulder of pork covered in the brine solution so it soaks up the juicy liquid to give the meat lots of extra moisture for the super long and slow cooking time. It means the meat won't be tough or dry.Again, another person there could help at this stage, and again I looked ridiculous doing this by myself. Oh well.

Add in the two bay leaves, seal the bag and stick it in the fridge for at least 8 hrs. I left mine for like 17hrs. Overkill I know, but it was a timing thing more than anything else (work then dinner) but in this case more time isn't ever going to be a problem. I propped the bag up in my veggie draw, but another place to prop it could be the door.

Now go about your day/night/day&night until you're ready to put your lovely, brine filled pork shoulder into the oven.

When you're ready to start cooking, pre-heat the oven to 107 celsius. Now don't be tempted to go higher, the idea behind this recipe is long, slow, low cooking, so stick to 107.

Take the pork shoulder out of the brine solution, put it into your metal tray and pat the skin dry. Generously cover the whole shoulder, every nook and cranny, with the dry rub mix. Massage it into the skin. If you have some dry rub left over, don't worry, you may want to use it later.
Making sure the shoulder is fat layer facing up, stick the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, but don't let it touch the bone. Put the shoulder in the oven on the middle rack and the thermometer alarm outside the oven. Set the alarm for 93 degrees celsius and forget. You don't need to do anything until it reaches 93 degrees. The recipe I read said it would take about 1.5 - 2hrs per pound, so for 8 pounds that's between 12 - 16 hrs, but for me it took around 10hrs. It's hard to manage time when there's such a variation in cooking hours, but the good thing about this recipe is that its just as delicious re-heated.

Speaking of timing, here's what I did. I put the meat into the brine before I went to work. Then I put it in the oven just before I went to bed. It was ready early afternoon for dinner, but I just stuck it in the oven a little bit before dinner and it was lovely.

So, when the alarm goes off, turn the oven off and let the meat cool in the oven for about 2hrs, or until the meat temperature goes down to around 75 degrees. For me that took a little over 2 hrs. Now, if there's no liquid in the tray, cover the pan with foil. For me there was lots of lovely juices, so it was fine.

Now, take the meat out of the oven and put it on a nice big board so you can pull the pork, and have a nice big bowl or tray close by to put the meat in. Start by taking the crusted fat that may be sitting on top of the meat.
Then get out two forks, and literally pull the port apart into little strips. If you've done it right, it won't take any effort at all. If you're anything like me, you'll have a sneaky try or two of the meat, just to make sure it tastes OK. If it's not spicy enough, just sprinkle on a little of the left over dry rub mix.
If you need to heat it up, just stick it in the oven at about 180 degrees till it's lovely and warm and smelling amazing.
Traditionally, you eat this on a bread roll with coleslaw. I knew Nicole would have killed me if I brought white bread rolls to Christmas in July, so we just ate it with coleslaw, as well as all the other amazing food everyone else brought along, and it was just fantastic.

So it might have taken a while, but when you cook this recipe, you'll realise that the time is well and truly worth it.


  1. AMAZING! It truly was AMAZING!
    And now to us giving it a go - wish James luck!
    Ps. You are so right - I would have killed you if you brought along white rolls ;)

    1. Glad I went with my gut on the bread rolls then :-)

      Are you going to cook it? Want to borrow my thermometer? I'm sure James will cook it beautifully.


  2. Sorry for late comment! Followed your recipe for Father's Day Liss, with your thermometer, and ALL were very impressed (except that yours tasted better apparently!). Served it with Jamie's and leftover BBQ sauce from our Meatball extravaganza!

    Im interested in finding a recipe which is a bit sweeter? Havnt been very lucky as yet. Would definitely repeat this recipe - it was a winner!

    Thank you, oh and must return your thermometer asap!

    1. I'm so excited you made it, and it worked. And I'm sure it was more delicious than mine! I had some of the leftover BBQ sauce the other day too. It is delicious!

      I want to make it again, so before either of us do, we should consult to find something sweeter and try it out.

      And no rush with the thermometer, I don't have any plans to use it at the moment. If I do I'll let you know. I also have your recipe book, beater and plastic container.