A pulled pork sandwich is a thing of beauty. Tender meat glistening with spicy, smoky flavour piled high on a soft bun with no adornment save for some tangy, crunchy 'slaw. The time-honoured method for making succulent pulled pork requires a smoke pit, a whole hog, and pulling an all nighter.
Luckily there's a much easier way that's just as tasty. This recipe harnesses the power of slow cooker braising to duplicate the BBQ flavours. This much simpler process skips the time and labour intensive process of grilling and smoking, which leaves more time for pulling and sandwiching. There won't be any smoke of course, but with these flavours no one will even notice.
Yield: Serves a crowd of 12 or more people
For the BBQ braised pork
A 4-5 pound (1.8 – 2.25 kg) boneless pork shoulder
A big splash of vegetable oil
1 cup (250 mL) of brown sugar
1 cup (250 mL) of red wine vinegar
1 cup (250 mL) of yellow mustard
A 5 1/2 ounce (156 mL) can of tomato paste
1 chipotle pepper (or more if you like the heat) in adobo sauce, minced
1/2 cup (125 mL) of chili powder
2 tablespoons (30 mL) of cumin powder
2 tablespoons (30 mL) of dried oregano
1 teaspoon (5 mL) of salt
1 cup (250 mL) or so of water
For the sandwiches
Soft sandwich buns for everyone, cut in half
Place a heavy Dutch oven or large stew pot over medium-high heat and splash in enough oil to swirl and coat the bottom with a thin film. Carefully add the pork roast to the hot oil and commence Operation Browning. Continue, turning the works as needed until the meat is evenly browned on all sides. Be patient! This is the only opportunity you’ll have to add the rich flavours of browned meat to the dish. When the roast is evenly browned, transfer it to a slow cooker.
Stir together the sugar, vinegar, mustard, tomato paste, chipotle pepper, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and salt. Whisk in the water to help evenly dissolve and distribute the flavours. Pour over the pork. Cook until the pork is incredibly tender and can be pulled apart with no resistance, 6 to 8 hours or longer as needed depending on your slow cooker settings. Reverently return, carefully remove the top and behold your achievement!
With a pair of forks or tongs shred and pull the remaining meat and stir together with the broth. Craft and build your sandwiches by piling the pulled pork on the soft buns and topping with lots of Spicy Coleslaw. Serve and share!
If you’re a home cook you need a good meat sauce recipe up your sleeve. This is one of mine. Its secret is that I don’t brown the meat. That way it doesn’t toughen and need hours of braising to tenderize again. I also use a food processor to save a lot of knife work. Quick, easy and tasty!
Today’s mainstream pork is very lean, so it can dry out very quickly as it cooks. The trick to tender pork chops that stay moist and juicy is a simple two-step cooking method. Begin cooking with high heat, then finish, covered, with low heat. And a savoury twist on classic applesauce won’t hurt either!