Friday, September 27, 2013

Lunch Week 33: North Carolina Style Pulled Pork

So every Sunday, I head over to the kitchen to whip up a big batch of food for lunch the next week. Yes, I brown bag. And I almost always do it every week unless I become too busy to even buy cold cuts from the deli. I do it for several reasons being health, finance, and laziness. Now, you may think that spending hours on a day off to prep and cook five meals at once is hardly lazy. But let me remind you, I hate it when the time comes to decide what to eat for lunch every day. I work in Midtown so the choices are endless. My problem, the more choices, the harder it is for me. So it's much easier for me to have my lunch ready and already decided.

So my lunch for the week: North Carolina Style Pulled Pork
I've always wanted to make pulled pork but I'm not sure why I haven't until now. Wait, I know why. I don't have a smoker. Sure, you can make pulled pork in a crock pot or in the oven. But the taste is not the same. Unfortunately, I don't have any outdoor space in my new place so The Big Green Egg is on hold until future moves. So, I decided to make pulled pork in the oven. I don't own a crock pot and I never plan to either. I generally don't like the texture of the food that's cooked in a crock pot. That's just me though. I've have plenty of fine food, especially pulled pork, that was cooked in a crock pot. (That's you, Cheeeeeeese.)

So onto the pork. Here is about 5lbs boneless Boston butt which is actually the shoulder of a pig. I asked my butcher for a fat cap on the pork. You need a little fat in this dish. I rubbed the pork in seasonings and spices like dry mustard, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Into the fridge overnight. I love marinated overnight. So much flavor is absorbed while you sleep.
The next morning, I take the pork out and put it into a dutch oven pot with a cover. I left it tied up. You can let it come to room temperature or stick it right in the oven. The latter would just take more time. Into a preheated oven at 325oF for about 4 hours until an internal temperature reaches 190oF on an instant thermometer.

Once cooked through, Take it out of the pot (I used 2 forks as leverage) and let it rest on a cutting board, covered, for about 20 minutes.
Then go crazy with shredding. The center will still be hot so if you're shredding with your hands, beware. Some people chop their pulled pork but where's the pulled? They call that chopped pork people. Texturally, I prefer the pulling instead. Anyway, I used 2 forks and pulled away. If there's fat leftover, which there was for me, mix it into the meat. It imparts much more flavor. Don't worry, it'll just melt into the meat when you mix it.
In my dutch oven, some of the juices and fat was leftover. I skimmed the fat out. An easy trick is to pour the contents into a tall glass. The fat will float to the top as a thick layer which will be easy to ladle/spoon out. After the fat has been skimmed, place the pulled pork back into the dutch oven with the juices and mix. It's pretty much ready to be eaten now but I like a little tang in my pulled pork. Hence the North Carolina style.
So I made a cider vinegar mix that is tart, sweet, and spicy. I added about 2 cups to the pulled pork and mixed well. Perfect for me. Add as much or as little as you prefer. Start with 1 cup and increase by 1/2 cup to your taste.
The leftover vinegar was used to make an easy cole slaw. Naturally, the non mayo kind for me.

Here's a head of green cabbage that's fairly small. When you shred any vegetables, the pile comes out much large than you antipate.
You can use a mandoline for even shredding, but I used my knife. Knife skills, y'all! That's it for my Southern twang (or lack thereof). Toss the cabbage with the vinegar. Again, use as much or as little as your prefer. Let it sit for about a 1 hour but toss occasionally. Drain the rest of the vinegar from the cabbage and it's ready to serve.
Because there was vinegar in both components of my dish, I needed to add something sweet. Naturally, corn is my pick. Just some frozen corn cooked in butter. Yes, butter and salt. I love corn. But corn with butter is something special.
Anyway, that's it. My North Caroline style pulled pork. Sure, it wasn't smoked (one day it will) but the flavor was decent. The juices from the meat and spices along with the vinegar was really nice. The sweet, savory, and tartness of the pork paired well with the bitter and spiciness of the cabbage. The creamy sweet corn was a good contract to the pork and cabbage. Overall, an excellent fish. This could only be elevated with a toasted potato bun. But you know, low carb...blah blah blah. (Yes, corn is a carb. I mean low processed carbs...blah blah blah.

Recipes below is courtesy of

North Carolina Pulled Pork
Epicurious | April 2008
by Steven Raichlen
The Barbecue! Bible 10th Anniversary Edition (Workman)

Makes 10 to 12 servings

Editor's note: The recipe and introductory text below are from The Barbecue! Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, by Steven Raichlen. To read more about Raichlen and barbecue, go to our feature The Best Barbecue in the U.S.A.
Barbecue means different things to different people in different parts of the country. In North Carolina it means pork, or more precisely smoked pork shoulder, that has been grilled using the indirect method until it's fall-off-the-bone tender, then pulled into meaty shreds with fingers or a fork. Doused with vinegar sauce and eaten with coleslaw on a hamburger bun, it's one of the most delicious things on the planet, and it requires only one special ingredient: patience.
My friend and barbecue buddy Elizabeth Karmel makes some of the best pork shoulder I've ever tasted. Elizabeth comes from Greensboro, North Carolina, where she grew up on pulled pork. Her secret is to cook the pork to an internal temperature of 195°F—higher than is recommended by most books. But this is the temperature needed for the pork to separate easily into the fine, moist, tender shreds characteristic of true Carolina barbecue. Elizabeth doesn't use a rub, although many of her compatriots do. (I personally like a rub, but I've made it optional in the recipe.)
A true pork shoulder includes both the Boston butt (the upper part of the leg with the shoulder blade) and the picnic ham (the actual foreleg), a cut of meat that weighs fourteen to eighteen pounds in its entirety and is used chiefly at professional barbecue competitions. The recipe here calls for Boston butt alone (five to six pounds), which, thanks to its generous marbling, gives you superb barbecue. The appropriate beverage for all this? Cold beer or Cheerwine (a sweet red soda pop).

Grilling Method
Indirect grilling

Advance preparation
3 to 8 hours for marinating the meat (optional); also, allow yourself 4 to 6 hours cooking time
Special equipment
6 cups hickory chips or chunks, soaked for 1 hour in cold water to cover and drained

For the rub (optional)
1 tablespoon mild paprika
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons hot paprika
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the barbecue
1 Boston butt (bone-in pork shoulder roast; 5 to 6 pounds), covered with a thick (1/2 inch) layer of fat
Vinegar Sauce
10 to 12 hamburger buns
North Carolina–Style Coleslaw

1. If using the rub, combine the mild paprika, brown sugar, hot paprika, celery salt, garlic salt, dry mustard, pepper, onion powder, and salt in a bowl and toss with your fingers to mix. Wearing rubber or plastic gloves if desired, rub the spice mixture onto the pork shoulder on all sides, then cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours, preferably 8.
If not using the rub, generously season the pork all over with coarse (kosher or sea) salt and freshly ground black pepper; you can start cooking immediately.
2. Set up the grill for indirect grilling and place a drip pan in the center.
If using a gas grill, place all of the wood chips in the smoker box and preheat the grill to high; when smoke appears, reduce the heat to medium.
If using a charcoal grill, preheat the grill to medium-low and adjust the vents to obtain a temperature of 300°F.
3. When ready to cook, if using charcoal, toss 1 cup of the wood chips on the coals. Place the pork shoulder, fat side up, on the hot grate over the drip pan. Cover the grill and smoke cook the pork shoulder until fall-off-the-bone tender and the internal temperature on an instant-read meat thermometer reaches 195°F, 4 to 6 hours (the cooking time will depend on the size of the pork roast and the heat of the grill). If using charcoal, you'll need to add 10 to 12 fresh coals to each side every hour and toss more wood chips on the fresh coals; add about 1/2 cup per side every time you replenish the coals. With gas, all you need to do is be sure that you start with a full tank of gas. If the pork begins to brown too much, drape a piece of aluminum foil loosely over it or lower the heat.
4. Transfer the pork roast to a cutting board, loosely tent it with aluminum foil, and let rest for 15 minutes.
5. Wearing heavy-duty rubber gloves if desired, pull off and discard any skin from the meat, then pull the pork into pieces, discarding any bones or fat. Using your fingertips or a fork, pull each piece of pork into shreds 1 to 2 inches long and 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide. This requires time and patience, but a human touch is needed to achieve the perfect texture. If patience isn't one of your virtues, you can finely chop the pork with a cleaver (many respected North Carolina barbecue joints serve chopped 'cue). Transfer the shredded pork to a nonreactive roasting pan. Stir in 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the vinegar sauce, enough to keep the pork moist, then cover the pan with aluminum foil and place it on the grill for up to 30 minutes to keep warm.
6. To serve, mound the pulled pork on the hamburger buns and top with coleslaw. Let each person add more vinegar sauce to taste.

Excerpted from The Barbecue! Bible 10th Anniversary Edition. © 1998, 2008 by Steven Raichlen. Workman


Vinegar Sauce
Epicurious | April 2008
by Steven Raichlen
The Barbecue! Bible 10th Anniversary Edition

Makes about 4 cups

Editor's note: To read more about Raichlen and barbecue, go to our feature The Best Barbecue in the U.S.A.
Peppery and piquant, this vinegar sauce is the preferred condiment of eastern North Carolina. In the western part of the state, the sauce becomes more tomatoey, while in southern parts of the Carolinas, mustard sauce reigns supreme.

2 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons ketchup
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar, or more to taste
5 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
4 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

Combine the vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, salt, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and white pepper with 1 1/3 cups of water in a nonreactive medium-size bowl and whisk until the sugar and salt dissolve. Taste for seasoning, adding more brown sugar and/or salt as necessary; the sauce should be piquant but not quite sour.

Excerpted from The Barbecue! Bible 10th Anniversary Edition by Steven Raichlen, © 1998. (Workman)


North Carolina-Style Coleslaw
Epicurious | April 2008
by Steven Raichlen
The Barbecue! Bible 10th Anniversary Edition

Makes about 6 cups

Editor's note: To read more about Raichlen and barbecue, go to our feature The Best Barbecue in the U.S.A.
This is coleslaw at its simplest and best. No onions. No carrots. No peppers. No mayonnaise. Just cabbage and peppery barbecue sauce.

1 small or 1/2 large head green cabbage (about 2 pounds), cored
1 cup Vinegar Sauce; , or more to taste
Salt (optional)

Finely chop the cabbage by hand or shred it on a mandoline or using the shredding disk of a food processor. Place the cabbage in a large bowl and stir in the Vinegar Sauce. Let stand for 10 minutes, then taste for seasoning, adding salt and/or more sauce as needed.

Excerpted from The Barbecue! Bible 10th Anniversary Edition by Steven Raichlen, © 1998, 2008 (Workman)

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