Thursday, July 5, 2012

Savory Pulled Pork

Yesterday was the 4th of July. Well, everywhere had the 4th of July, but only in the USA does that mean independence, fireworks and food food food!

We celebrated the 4th a little early by making pulled pork last weekend. He was asking for that tasty sandwich he ate on Route 66 this past summer and she had been looking for something fun to cook. What it turned into was over two kilos of savory pulled pork.

Making pulled pork takes a lot of time but it is not time consuming. The actual hands-on work is quite short. The important part is good planning. You need to start at least one day before you want to eat.

Start at least  17 hours before you want to eat: 

1 pork shoulder (with bone is best) - choose one the size you need to feed all your hungry friends

 - 1 Tbs ground cumin
 - 1 Tbs garlic powder
 - 1 Tbs chili powder
 - 1 Tbs cayenne pepper
 - 1 Tbs salt
 - 1 Tbs pepper
 - 1 Tbs sweet or spicy paprika
 - 1/2 cup brown sugar


Mix all of these ingredients together and set aside (air tight container is best).

Brine (to make sure your meat will stay juicy through the long cooking time):

3 Tbs of the seasoning you just made
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 quarts cold water (1.9 liters)

In a large bag or container mix the water and salt together and stir until the salt dissolves. Add the other ingredients and mix well.


Add your pork shoulder and seal the bag or container. It is important that whatever container you use allows the meat to be completely covered with the water solution.

Place in the refrigerator and let sit for at least 8 hours. We just left ours overnight.

Start at least 9 hours before you want to eat (depending on the size of your pork shoulder)

Preheat the oven to 225 F (110 C) - yes, that low! Do not be tempted to cook your pork at a higher temperature. This recipe takes time!

Remove the meat from the brine (and dispose of the brine) and place into what you will cook your meat in. We did not have a big enough pan so we had to use a baking sheet with edges.

Pat the meat dry with a paper towel.


Using the seasoning mix you cover the meat (everywhere) with a thick layer of seasoning. Use your hands to rub it into the meat. If you have leftover that is ok. We mixed in some of our leftover seasoning with the finished meat and it was delicious.

Place in the oven and pull out your entertainment because it will be a loooong time before you have to do anything else with the pork.

Our pork cooked for seven hours (it was 2.2 kg). The estimate is that pulled pork needs 1.5-2 hours a pound to cook (so about 3-4 hours a kilo). The best thing is to have an oven thermometer in your pork while it cooks (place it in the thickest part of the should but not touching the bone). Your meat should be at 200 F (93 C) before you turn off the oven. Yes, we know that pork is finished cooking at a lower temperature than that, but for savory pulled pork you want it to get all the way to 200 F.

Cover and place back in the oven

Even though you have turned off the oven this does not mean you are done. Turn off the oven and let your pork sit for another two hours in the hot oven. If there is very little juice around your pork should (like ours) cover it while it sits. If there is a lot of juice in the pan you can leave it uncovered.

After two hours remove your pork shoulder. Your pork should be so soft and tender that you should only need a knife to remove the fat and the rest should fall apart by using only two forks. Yes, it is that tender!

Mix in the leftover seasoning if you want and enjoy it alone or on burger buns as a sandwich.

The first day we ate ours with store bought buns because the pork had been in our oven the entire day.

The second time we had our pulled pork we had company and we made our homemade hamburger buns and barbecue sauce to go with it.

Unfortunetly, we forgot to take pictures the second day.

We served our pulled pork sandwiches with German potato salad, green salad, and fresh strawberry pie.

Best way to warm up pulled pork

It is unlikely you will be able to eat all of your pulled pork in one day so you need a good way to heat it up without drying it out. We experimented with the oven and found it did not stay hot and got a bit dry. The best method we found was to place a little apple juice in the bottom of a pan and use a steam basket to heat up your pulled pork (just like you would use a steam basket to cook vegetables). Your pulled pork will be hot and juicy within only a few short minutes.

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