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June 29, 2007 / Tony

Pulled Pork

Every summer, I make Alton Brown’s Pulled Pork.  The meat is tender, juicy, and full of smoky flavor.  When teamed up with some nice burger buns, coleslaw, and tangy bbq sauce, you have a perfect summer entree. 

The challenges in making this dish are that you are probably dealing with a 6 to 8 pound of pork shoulder (boston butt).  That’s a fairly large piece of meat that you need to submerge in the brining liquid.  So a large vessel is needed for brining.  On top of that, the pork likes to float in the brine instead of sinking.  So, ideally your brining container would be small enough where you could wedge the pork against the sides of the container so it would stay completely submerged in the brine but large enough to hold the pork and the brine.  Alton suggests using a small cooler.  Not a bad solution but one that seems sort of funky to me because it would be difficult to keep the cooler in the fridge.  Remember, the pork needs to be in the brine for at least 8 hours and it needs to stay cool.  My solution is to use the smallest stockpot I have and weigh down the pork with a plate and a couple of cans.  That should be effective. 

The rub is something I admit to cheating on.  I have not invested in a dedicated spice grinder, although I know I should, and I use bad quality dried herbs and spices.  But for a recipe like this, I think a little cheating is OK.  Really, after 6 to 8 hours in the smoke, the quality of the herbs and spices in your rub really doesn’t come through as pungently as it would in other, quicker cooking recipes.  Don’t think you can do without the rub, however, it turns into a slightly crispy, ultra-flavorful piece of meat that is quite delightful. 

Now, cooking.  I wrote about my smoking method in an earlier post.  All I can say is use really low heat and watch it.  You can overcook this meat and get the outside of the pork too crispy.  This is undesirable because really good pulled pork is tender, tender, tender.  If you think it is getting too crispy, pull it off the smoker, and throw it in your 325 degree oven until it is done.  It’s done when the internal temperature is above 160 degrees but, more importantly, the meat is tender and almost (if not all) of the fat and connective tissue in the shoulder have “melted” away.  After cooking, cover the meat with foil and let it rest for a half hour. 

I know this recipe is an all day affair and is very labor intensive (especially when pulling the pork).  But it is worth it.  Not only does this dish taste great but there is a real sense of accomplishment when you’re done. 

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