Hankering for some barbecue but lacking the proper facilities, I decided to instead make pulled pork butt. This painstakingly slow (but, oh, so simple) technique produces wonderfully flavorful and tender meat, perfect for piling on a toasted french baguette and eating as a sandwich.
Original recipes I considered were for mighty large crowds – feeding six or seven was considered a small number! Thankfully, recipes like this scale up and down pretty well, so I went to the butcher and bought the smallest pork butt I could find.
Let’s take a moment to be clear: pork butt is not the same as pork ass. The butt is actually the upper shoulder from the hog, a wonderfully well-marbled cut that works beautifully for “low and slow” cooking. That is, cooking at a relatively low heat and a relatively long time. Think Crock Pot and you’ve got the idea.
Unfortunately, the butcher did not have the bone-in butt, only boneless. I think cooking the butt with the bone in is nicer. There is more flavor and the bone serves as a conduit to direct heat into the center of the roast, reducing cooking time.
Pork in Thailand is significantly more flavorful than the bland “other white meat” that American animal factories produce. Nonetheless, it still benefits from an overnight bath in a brine, a solution of salt, sugar and spices dissolved in water.
The next day I rinsed the pork shoulder and patted it dry, covering it with a spice rub that contained cinnamon, cumin, cardamom and chili powder along with a bit of salt, brown sugar and black pepper. Searing the butt on all sides in my Dutch oven, I then added some cooking liquid (red wine, beef stock and onions), slapped a cover on it, and put it in my oven at 280 F / 145 C.
It took about five hours for my relatively small roast to reach an internal temperature of 220 F / 105 C. “220 degrees!?” you’ll exclaim, “But pork only has to be cooked to 160 and already it risks drying out.”
Roasts, which are filled with fat and connective tissues, will be very tough if you take them out of the oven at 160 F. However, if you keep on cooking (with liquid – remember we brined the butt overnight and also have some liquid in the pot), as the temperature passes 200 F the connective tissues and fat dissolve. This makes the meat so tender that it literally falls apart as you handle it. This also bastes the meat in the fat and juices from the dissolved connective tissues.
Taking the pot out of the oven, I let the butt sit in the covered pot until its internal temperature had reduced to 170 F / 76 C before putting the meat on the cutting board and shredding it with two forks.
As you can see, it pulled apart into very nice little shreds. This makes the perfect vehicle for various types of dressing. In the Carolinas, a vinegar-based dressing would be the flavor of choice. In the midwest and Texas, the dressing will be tomato based and sweeter. In this case, I used a combination of some of the leftover cooking liquid (the red wine giving it a more acidic note, similar to the vinegar-based dressing) and a little bit of KC Masterpiece barbecue sauce that was sitting in the fridge.
How to serve this pulled pork? I think it is best as a sandwich. Split and toast a length of a French roll or baguette, spread with mayonnaise, pile on the pork, add some roasted red peppers (and grilled onions, if you like), garnish with dill pickles, barbecue sauce and, if you like, mozzarella cheese. Then put the whole thing under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp up nicely.
That’s good eating!
Your shredded pork reminds me of Kalua pork. Also, Chinese made sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves, with shredded pork as fillings inside like a big dumpling as well!
That is good eating! And the surprising part is that all this is for just another meal of yours. Your kitchen is like a gourmet restaurant.
Yum!!!I’ve never had the stick rice in lotus leaves with shredded pork in it. I thought it’s usually a piece of pork belly and as you tear it up, it gets shredded.So is the pork shoulder actually the butt? 😀
@yang1815 – It seems so.@yang1815 – @CurryPuffy – Yeah, I thought it was pork belly inside that steamed sticky rice at dim sum. Is it shredded pork instead? Hmm…@Dezinerdreams – Nah, not nearly so gourmet. Just a place where food, fun and friends converge.
@christao408 – Never had the shredded pork kind.
Mmmmmm this is making me want to have a 2 AM meal. Haha. How do you guys maintain your weight from all the mouthwatering foods that you post on the blog?!
That looks amaaaaaazing! I loved pulled/shredded meat, but there are few things as good as pulled pork.And yeah, the stuff you buy in a store here SUCKS. My uncle raises his own meat occasionally, and the difference really surprised me.
yum! i love pulled pork… my bf has a slow cooker recipe (which cheats and calls for one of those ready-made seasoning packets) that comes out really good.
BTW I forgot to comment that YES, the pork in the US has a lot less flavor than Asian ones!!!
Chicken too haha…
@Rm2046 – Um… notice there are very few pics of me shirtless. =P@secade – Factory farmed meat in the US is pretty sad…@kunhuo42 – I really miss my slow cooker. Problem is, we don’t get nearly enough cool weather for stews, roasts, etc.@yang1815 – But have you seen those Thai cows? Scrawny…
Looks great. I want to try this but on a weekend. Is that a Le Creuset pot. This might be a silly question but is it okay to put the cover in the oven?
@christao408 – Yeah USA beef is superior no doubt.
Great entry, Chris! I have been a fan of low/slow cooking for sometime, in fact I think I may have shared my overnight-crockpot-oatmeal recipe at some point.I do a Carnitas-style pork in my crockpot using a virtually identical process that you use. Brining is a key to consistently moist pork, and with some variation, you can do pork in a variety of ways. I have found the shoulder (sometimes called pork picnic shoulder) has a high fat content and is perfect for these recipes.Someone mentioned Kalua pig. I don’t have a BBQ pit in my yard nor the time for burying and slow roasting, but I was given a recipe from a Hawaiian friend who shared that if you brine your pork, then when ready to cook it you pour 1 small bottle of liquid smoke and some soy sauce over the pork, then wrap the roast in foil for the crockpot (or eliminate the foil in a traditional braising situation), you will get a very nice (and much easier) alternative.Thanks for a fun entry!
What? Why is it called pork butt then?A few weeks ago, Phil cooked pork and sauerkraut (it’s a Pennsylvania Dutch thing). All you do put the pork shoulder in the crock pot, put the kraut in with it, a little water, and a little pepper and cook it all day on low. The pork got all nice and shredded like your pictures. We served it with mashed potatoes. It was simple but very good!
Having lived in the Carolinas for a number of years, all I can say after looking at this is…. YUM! When’s dinner?
OK!! I came here to comment , and then I saw the drawing of a pig. And then read the pork butt meal. Anyway, hope you enjoyed it very much Chris. Will you please post some other dishes soon for this Muslim?? lol.Thank you for the generous check Chris. Received it today, It was way too much. Much obliged.
@yang1815 – Well, I’m not too keen on the grain fed beef. I think the grass fed has more flavor.@rhapsodymuse – Yes, the soy sauce/liquid smoke combination should give it the right flavor. Yum!@ZSA_MD – Yes, trying to accomodate the many faiths and food preferences of readers is a challenge. I love beef, for example, but Tawn reallydoesn’t eat it other than a hamburger when we go back to the US.@AnamcharaConcepts – Thanks. Were you in North or South or both?@TheCheshireGrins – Don’t know why it is called the butt. I love sauerkraut. Sounds like a good way to cook the pork.@waiszeblogs – Check the handle. Some handles are a plastic that are heat-limited but there are easy replacements to be had that are metal and can handle oven temps.
@christao408 – O yeah I agree that grass fed beef has more flavor but I love’em all!!!
@christao408 – I spent my high school years in Charleston, SC. My father was born there and my parents now live there permanently.
Sounds like a lot of hard work I would have eaten the pork after searing
@Wangium – Well, it would have still been pretty raw at that point except on the outside.@yang1815 – You carnivore.@AnamcharaConcepts – Ah. My grandmother was from North Carolina and my mother was born there, to. Thus my appreciation of vinegar-based BBQ sauce, I guess! =D
@christao408 – RAWR!!! 😀
@secade – You know, I actually think Ohio raises some very GOOD pork, to be honest 🙂 Some of the best pork I’ve ever had was from Ohio.
@rhapsodymuse – @CurryPuffy – Ahh yes, this is actually the easiest way to make Kalua Pork when you don’t have access to the traditional Hawaiian materials (the Imu, the Kiawe Coals, Banana Leaves). I’d say it makes about a 70% analogue, and it works pretty well considering how easy it is to do — but if you have even a simple a smoker, you can simulate it; you just have to order the Kiawe wood, and maybe the Banana Leaves. 🙂
@TheCheshireGrins – @christao408 – Funny thing I just made the Sauerkraut based Pork Shoulder two weeks ago 🙂 It’s called the Butt because if you look at the leg of the pig and how the Primal is cut for retail sale, it’s usually cut in half. The thicker end (the top, where the shoulder connects to the torso) is the “butt” end; while the tapered end is the “picnic” end (though I’m not sure why that’s called the picnic — maybe back in the old days people would roast up that part of the pig and carry it like a big drumstick to a picnic? Haha.
My mom used to take meat from the pork butt shoulder to make meatballs and stir fry. But I for the life of me can’t remember which section of the pork butt it is from. I might try something like this in sweet soy sauce with ginger, shallots, a bit of garlic and maybe some hoisin. Hmm… but I don’t have that pot you have though. I wonder if it will work in one of those big stainless steel pots I have. Oh man, I had a big oatmeal breakfast and I’m hungry just reading your blog and Chow’s comments.
Beautiful. I didn’t know about that internal temperature. I usually just put it in the slow cooker and wait until it comes off the bone. Learned something new =)
@ElusiveWords – Matt, stainless steel will work. If the pot doesn’t have a tight-fitting lid, just put a sheet of foil between the pot and the lid to seal in the moisture. The hoisin, etc. would be a very nice alternate flavoring.@minhaners – I miss my slow cooker…
What happened to your slow cooker?
@ElusiveWords – Left it in the US with my food processor. Different voltage, limited storage space and things that weren’t really going to be used often enough to justify the expense of shipping.