I am not the first BBQ cook to share a pulled pork recipe and I hope I am not the last. Over the past year, I have tried out many different rubs, sauces and methods with the aim of creating the perfect pulled pork.
Along the way I had a fantastic learning experience and I wanted to share with you some of the recipes that had a great flavour profile and produced wonderful moist pork. These of course are not my “top secret” recipes, but they are very closely related, and as such I consider them to be the siblings of my research into BBQ perfection.
The Dry Rub
A pork dry rub should have a salty sweetness but also a balanced heat, provided by a mix of black pepper and cayenne (Chris Lilly also recommends white). Herbs and other spices round off the flavour so that the rub has a chance to hang around on the taste buds, long enough to be appreciated.
This rub blend created a deep flavourful bark, due to the sugars but did not overpower the flavour of the pork.
I started by trimming the excess fat and rubbing the pork, all over, with French’s American Mustard. I then add a generous coating of dry rub, ensuring all creases and cracks were hit with the rub. Leave this for at least 1-2 hours but best overnight wrapped in cling film.
Try and use the freshest herbs and spices you can find and combine the following and mix well.
3/4 Cup of paprika
¼ Cup black pepper
¾ Cup kosher salt
1 Cup packed light brown sugar
3 Tablespoons white sugar
1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper
3 Tablespoons garlic powder
1 ½ Tablespoons chilli powder (not a blend)
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
2 Tablespoons onion powder
1 Teaspoon ground ginger
½ Teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
This recipe can be adapted to suit your own tastes, so feel free to add white pepper and reduce the black pepper or even try smoked paprika and seasoned salt.
Method - This assumes that you have some prior knowledge of BBQ cooking and smoking.
Set up your BBQ pit or grill for indirect smoking, preferably with lump wood charcoal. You are aiming to maintain a constant pit temperature of 225 degrees fahrenheit throughout the cook. It is important that you manage your temperatures, because cooking too hot and too fast will result in a tough and dry product.
I like to use apple wood chunks, which I add directly to the charcoal at least every hour for the first 2 or 3 hours. The smoke itself is an ingredient and, as such, adding too much can create bitter tasting meat.
Once the pork starts to form a nice bark (after about 2 hours), I start spraying with apple juice, using a garden spray bottle. Spraying too early will wash off the dry rub and you will lose the bark.
Using a probe thermometer, I track the internal temperature until it hits around 170 degrees fahrenheit. At this point I will wrap the pork tightly in heavy duty aluminium foil and return it to the grill. I will not add any more smoke at this stage.
The final stage is to watch for the internal temperature to reach 190 degrees fahrenheit, which is the best temperature for pulled pork. If you wish to slice the pork you can remove it a little earlier.
Next up is the sauce. I like to combine regional flavours by first gently mopping the pulled pork in a Carolina vinegar based sauce, and finishing with a sweet tomato based drizzle before building the sandwich.
This has the effect of enhancing the smoke and spice without taking away the succulent pork flavour.
I have not seen a need to create a custom vinegar sauce, as there are plenty of excellent recipes already available online. A particular favourite of mine can be found at meatwave.com.
I pile the pork into a freshly baked white roll and top with a good quality coleslaw, preferably homemade.
I then finish the sandwich with a light drizzle of a sweet tomato based table sauce.
I like to use a custom sauce which contains a mix of Bourbon and Dr Pepper.
Combine the following in a saucepan and gently simmer until thickened (about 30 minutes). Do not overheat otherwise the sugars will burn. Once prepared allow to cool before serving.
2 Cups ketchup
1 Tablespoon butter
1/4 Cup Bourbon
1/2 Cup packed brown sugar
1/2 Cup cider vinegar
1/4 Cup Dr Pepper
1 Teaspooon honey
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon liquid smoke
1 Teaspoon prepared yellow mustard
1/2 Teaspoon ground fennel powder
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.