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Equipment couple of things you’ll need to

Equipment
and Kitchen Staples

Before we get started on choosing the best cooking method
for your meat, there’s a couple of things you’ll need to make your meal prep as
stress-free and easy as possible.

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Make sure you have aluminiumaluminum
foil or Ssaran Wwrap,
and sufficient space in your refrigerator. This is absolutely essential when
marinating your meat, whether it’s for a few hours or overnight.

Give yourself a clear, wide working space. You’re going to
be mixing sauces, preparing rubs, and
tearing up some tender pork – make sure you give yourself enough room to
complete each task, without the fear of tipping something over or spilling
essential ingredients.

You may have already seen BBQ “claws” online or at the
store. These nifty gadgets are like spiked knuckle-dusters, designed to make
shredding meat quick and easy. If you don’t have your own set of claws, don’t
worry about it. As long as you have two strong, sturdy forks you’ll be able to
achieve the same effect.

Once you’ve got your kitchen in top shape, let’s move on to
the fun part!

 

THE
BASICS

CHOOSING
YOUR MEAT

One of the questions I get asked the most is, “What cut of
meat should I use for pulled pork?”

Most of us are probably familiar with chops or pork loin,
but neither of those seem suitable for a delicious BBQ feast. So what cut works
best, and where can you get it?

Typically, when making pulled pork, you’ll want to use a
pork shoulder. Fair warning – this is a big piece of meat. Pork shoulders can
weigh as much as 18 lbs., and will comfortably feed over
twenty people.

If you’re not feeding an army, however, you’ll probably want
to stick to a Boston Butt. This is the top cut of the shoulder,
and can weigh anywhere from 5 to 10 lbs. It’s a nicely marbled cut of meat,
meaning it’s extra flavorful. Usually you can buy it with or without a bone.

Though it won’t make a huge difference when it comes to cooking, having a
bone-in does add more flavor. This beauty will feed a crowd of 12 or more
people. When making pulled pork, prepare to have a lot of tasty leftovers that
can be utilized in countless amazing dishes (more on that later).

Alternatively, you can get a Picnic Shoulder, which is the
lower end of a pork shoulder. This has a larger bone than the Boston Butt,
which you’ll have to cut around when pulling your pork. It also has less fat
marbling and more connective tissue than a Boston Butt, so cooking low and slow
is absolutely essential. Luckily for us, low and slow is the name of the game
when making pulled pork!

Finding these cuts in your run-of-the-mill supermarket can
sometimes be tricky. But don’t worry, this can be a blessing in disguise.

Broadly speaking, supermarket meats will have less flavor than what you can buy
in a butcher shop, mostly because of the industrial way the meat is reared for
grocery stores.

An experienced butcher will also be able to help you choose
the best cut and weight for your meal. So you’ll get a better quality meat and
some expert advice if you go to a local butcher.

SMOKER,
CROCKPOT,
OR OVEN?

So you’ve got your meat – now what?

There’s more than one way to make perfect pulled pork, so
it’s just a matter of finding the method that suits you and your equipment.

Chances are if you Ggoogle
“How to make pulled pork”, you’ll find a lot of columns and articles by BBQ afficiandoesaficionados
singing the praises of their smokers. Smokers are designed to maintain a low
temperature (usually around 225 degrees F) while slow-cooking meat with the aid
of smoke. There’s a variety of different kinds of smokers, ranging from small
backyard affairs to smokers big enough to cook a full hog.

The benefits of using a smoker over other methods of cooking
are pretty straight-forward: You get tender, slow-cooked meat infused with a
delicious smoky flavor. When cooking pork in your smoker, it’s best to stick
with hickory or maple wood chips. Though oak is a standard go-to for smoking
meats, hickory and maple will add subtle complimentary flavors to your meat.

Soak your wood chips in water overnight to stop them from burning up in the
smoker, and add a fresh handful of chips
every 30 minutes while cooking. Be sure to spritz your meat each time you add
more chips to keep it moist and tender. A quick spritz of apple juice will do
the trick and bring out the sweet natural flavors of the meat.

Before cooking your meat, let it sit for 30-45 minutes at
room temperature. If you place it on the grill straight from the fridge, it
will be too cold and the outside will burn. Placed on the grill at room
temperature, it should cook nicely and evenly.

Once your meat is ready, place it on your smoker with the
layer of fat facing down. Allow to cook for about two hours before flipping
over. Keeping your smoker’s temperature between 225 – 250 F, allow 90 minutes
cooking time per pound of meat. So if you’re cooking a 10 lb.s
Boston Butt, you’re looking at 15 hours of cooking. Good things come to those
who wait!

Wrap the pork in foil for the final two hours,
and keep it in the smoker. Cook until your meat thermometer reads 195 – this
means the fat has been rendered, leaving nothing but melt-in-your-mouth, tender
meat.

Now, not all of us have access to a smoker or 15 hours to
spend cooking. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy some delicious
pulled pork! Crockpots and standard ovens can save a lot of time,
and will still result in a beautiful bit of meat.

When cooking with a Crockpot or other slow cooker, place
your cut in the cooker with the rest of your ingredients (we’ll get to those
shortly. Set your cooker on low and leave to cook for 8 hours. Alternatively,
you can set it to high and cook for 4 hours. These times are based on a 5 lb.s
cut, as anything bigger isn’t likely to fit in your slow-cooker. The outcome
will basically be the same – succulent meat that falls right off the bone!

Cooking times in a standard oven are similarly speedy.

Season your meat and roast it at 450 degrees F for an hour. After the first
hour, reduce your heat to about 300 degrees and place your pork in a deep
roasting dish or dutch oven. Pour in your vegetables, stock, and sauces and
cover with a lid or tightly-wrapped foil for another 3-4 hours.

While slow-cooker and oven pork has to be smaller for
practical purposes, you don’t have to sacrifice intensely delicious flavor.

Even if you’re not using a smoker, you can still get that trademark BBQ taste
by adding a few drops of liquid smoke into your mix, or a
couple of teaspoons of smoked paprika. Speaking of which, let’s talk
seasonings….

SEASONINGS,
MARINADES, AND TIPS

One of the greatest things about cooking pork is all the
creative ways you can season it. It’s such a versatile meat, pairing
beautifully with spicy, savourysavory
flavors as well as sweet, fruity ones. Here are just some of my favorite ways
to prepare pork, resulting in a dish loaded with exciting flavors.

Before you season your meat, I’d advise trimming the layer of fat until it’s
about 1/8th1/8th
of an inch thick. This will allow your seasonings to better penetrate the flesh,
while still keeping the meat juicy and tender.

RUBS

If you’re cooking your pork in a smoker, you’ll probably
want to give it a nice ol’ rub beforehand. Rubs are mixes of spices and herbs
that you massage into the meat and allow to chill before cooking.

Your classic rub should be a balance of sweet and spicy. Try using two
tablespoons of brown sugar, two tablespoons of salt, ¼ cup of chillichili
powder, ¼ cup of paprika, and ¼ cup of garlic powder. Massage
the mixture into your meat thoroughly before wrapping tightly in saran wrap and
keeping in your fridge overnight.
The brown sugar will give a rich, caramelized sweetness to the meat, while the
spices will bring out the pork’s natural savourysavory
flavors. This rub will give you a standard, traditional BBQ taste that will
compliment most of the dishes in this book.

There are a variety of different rubs out there, so don’t be afraid to play
around. If you’re a fan of garlic, why not try swapping out garlic powder for
finely minced fresh garlic? Like your food a bit hotter? Add mustard powder or
cayenne pepper to your rub. Once you’ve mastered my basic rub, see where your
creativity will take you!

MARINADES AND BASES

Though you’ll also be using a rub if you’re cooking with a
slow-cooker or oven, the bulk of your flavor is going to come from what you put
into the dish with your pork.

For this, you not only have to pay attention to flavor, but also moisture. For
crockpot dishes, line the bottom of your crockpot with half a white onion,
diced. Place your pork on top, then add a cup of vegetable stock, ¼ cup of
tomato paste, a ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar, and 8
ozoz. of
BBQ sauce.

For cooking in the oven, the method is pretty similar. Roast your pre-rubbed
pork for an hour, then place in a deep roasting dish or dDutch
oven lined with half a white onion, diced. Add the other ingredients, cover
with a lid or tightly wrapped foil, and
cook.

Another good base for dishes like these is to use 1 cup of apple juice instead
of the vegetable stock. You can also substitute the BBQ sauce with 1.5 cups of
ketchup, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, and 2
tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce. Try them out and see which method you
prefer!

Don’t forget, if you want to recreate the hickory flavors of smoked BBQ pork,
add 2 tablespoons of smoked paprika or a few drops of liquid smoke. This will give
you an authentic smoky flavor, with none of the fuss!

BRINING

Another
popular question I get from aspiring BBQ-ers is whether or not they should
brine their pork before cooking.

Brining involves soaking your meat in a mixture of salt, water,
and sometimes other ingredients for anywhere from 12-24 hours before cooking.

While there are certainly benefits to brining, it’s not essential.

Brining can help keep your meat moist while cooking, but if you’re cooking
using a slow-cooker or oven this shouldn’t be an issue anyway. It can also
further infuse your meat with flavor, especially if you choose to add apple
juice and/or maple syrup to your salt water mixture.

If you’re curious and have time to spare, I’d recommend mixing 3 cups of water
with ¼ cup of salt and allowing your meat to soak for 24 hours. A Boston Butt
won’t require brining, thanks to its good marbling. But if you choose to cook a
Picnic Shoulder, brining might help break down that connective tissue more,
resulting in a more tender end product.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s put your new knowledge to the test
with some mouth-watering recipes!

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