Convenience cuts (chicken breast, pork chops, steaks, etc.) are quick cooking, lean, and generally come with a higher price tag for their “out-of-the-package” handiness that allows them to go from pan to plate in minutes.
However, on the other end of the spectrum, the most economical cuts of beef, pork, and chicken require longer cooking times (as much as 2+ hours), and more skill/technique to utilize them properly.
Pulled Pork is an excellent example of turning an inexpensive cut, into something marvelous that can be dressed up for company. Follow the instructions below to create Get Cheffy’s Pulled Pork, and turn something economical, into something marvelous.
FOR THE PORK:
- 1 4-6 pound pork butt (sometimes called a Boston butt or, simply, a pork shoulder)
- Though called a “butt”, the pork butt is not from the rear end of the animal (where Ham comes from). The butt comes from the top shoulders, just behind the ears. A good pork butt will be well marbled with fat.
- 1 large yellow or white onion, chopped
- 2 cups beer (we used a local Pale Ale, but feel free to use whatever you have on hand)
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (plus additional; up to 5 tablespoons)
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar (plus additional; up to 4 tablespoons)
- 3 Chipotle Peppers + 2 tablespoons adobo (adobo is the packing liquid chipotles are sold in)
- 1/2 tablespoon salt
- Black pepper
- Begin by turning your oven to 350 degrees with a rack set in the bottom/middle position. Take your pork butt, and begin to chop it into 1 1/2-2 inch cubes. Remove any obvious, large, pieces of fat while you’re cubing your pork; you’ll ultimately be distilling down the liquid you’ve cooked your pork in, and want to minimize the amount of fat you have to skim off later.
- Take a cast iron dutch oven and and put 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in the base. Turn your burner to medium-high and allow the oil to heat. Once your oil is heated (5-7 minutes) add your pork in a single layer to ensure each piece is making contact with the bottom of the dutch oven. Allow your pork to cook for 3-6 minutes, depending on your oven strength. After 3-6 minutes, flip your pork pieces to brown on the other side; lower your burner strength if you see blackening, or burning along the bottom of the dutch oven. Season your pork with 1/2 tablespoons of salt. While your pork cooks on its second side, roughly chop your onion. After your pork has cooked for 3-6 minutes on its second side, lift a piece up with tongs to ensure you’re achieving good browning and, if you’ve achieved an even brown color on both sides of your pork, add your onion. If you haven’t achieved even browning, with a layer of fond and brown bits on the bottom of the pan, continue to cook your pork for 2-4 additional minutes. Once you’ve added your onions, use a strong wooden spoon to roughly stir the onions and pork together. Cook together for 2-3 minutes, until your onions are fragrant. Add 1 teaspoon crushed black pepper, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, and your chipotles and adobo. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
- Add your 2 cups of beer, and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the bottom of your pan. An acidic liquid, like beer, wine, vinegar, etc. helps to “deglaze” a pan, and melt any bits of flavorful fond into your sauce. This will improve both the flavor and color of the final dish. After you’ve added your two cups of beer, and firmly scraped the bottom of the pot, add enough water to your pot to come to the top of your pork cubes, but not cover them.
- Water can be used en lieu of beer.
- Bring your mixture to a boil and skim off any foam that rises to the top. Once your mixture has come to a strong boil, turn your burner off, and place your dutch oven in your 350 degree oven with the lid off. Allow your pork to gently cook at 350 for 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove your dutch oven and skim any fat off the top. Flip each piece of pork over so the browned side is submerged in liquid. You should have achieved even more browning on your pork, and noticed a darkening of your cooking liquid (which will ultimately become your sauce). Once you’ve skimmed off your fat, and flipped your pork pieces over, place your dutch oven back into the 350 degree oven to cook for an additional hour (for a total of 2 hours).
- After 2 hours of cooking, remove your dutch oven and test a piece of your pork; a knife or fork should easily slide in and out of the pork with little, to no resistance. If your pork is not fully softened, place back into your oven for an additional 30 minutes-1 hour. Once your pork is fully cooked, turn your oven off, and remove your pork from the cooking liquid. Pull your pork cubes onto a plate to cool while you reduce your sauce. Strain your cooking liquid through a fine mesh strainer, and then pour back into your dutch oven. Turn your burner to high, and allow your mixture to boil down. While your mixture boils, skim off any pools of fat that accumulate along the surface. While your mixture reduces, begin to shred your pulled pork. Tongs and forks can be used, but we used our hands, as there are always tiny pockets of stubborn fat that cling onto the lean pork. Once you’ve shredded all of your pork, look at the quantity you’re left with; a 4-6 pound pork butt will only yield you about 2-3 pounds at the end. Turn back to your reducing sauce, and taste for seasoning. Now is the time to be generous with both your apple cider vinegar, and brown sugar. Begin by adding an additional 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, and taste. The sauce is rich at this point, but can taste “flat” and “heavy” and an acid, like vinegar, is just what’s needed. Continue to reduce your sauce, skimming any fat that accumulates on the top, until your sauce has reduced down to about 1 cup, and you can see a “trail” left in the bottom of the pot when you drag a spoon through it. Turn your heat off, and add all of your pulled pork back into the pot and stir to combine. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes to allow the pork to absorb the sauce. Serve.
BARBECUE INSPIRED VARIATION:– To create a barbecue pulled pork, add 1 tablespoon tomato paste after Step 2 and allow to cook with your onions and brown sugar before deglazing with your beer. While your sauce is reducing in Step 5, whisk in 3 tablespoons ketchup, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire and 1 teaspoon garlic powder. Add more brown sugar, vinegar, and ketchup until you develop the desired consistency and sweetness you like.
ASIAN INSPIRED VARIATION:- To create an Asian inspired pulled pork, eliminate the chipotle peppers and adobo completely and add 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 tablespoon Sriracha style hot sauce after Step 2, and allow to cook with your onions and brown sugar before deglazing with your beer. While your sauce is reducing in Step 5, whisk in 1 tablespoon fresh, minced ginger, 1 tablespoon hoisin, and 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Add more brown sugar, vinegar and additional hoisin sauce until you develop the desired consistency and sweetness level you like.
GET CHEFFY TIP!– Restaurants will take a fully braised, meat (like this pulled pork) and sear up portions to order over a flat top or griddle. You can achieve similar results at home by finishing the recipe, and allowing the pork to cool completely. When ready to serve, heat a skillet on medium-high with 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil (or butter if you’re feelin it), until you see wisps of smoke. Gently place your portion of pulled pork into your pan, and allow to heat through. Carefully watch your pork as the sugar in the meat and sauce will caramelize and burn quickly. Adjust your heat as needed, and remove from the pan after 2-4 minutes, depending on your oven strength. Get really Cheffy and, after searing, cover your pork with cheese slices and place the pan under the broiler until the cheese melts and bubbles…slide that whole puppy onto a prepared, and waiting bun and present it to someone you love. Thank us later when our pulled pork gets your marriage back on track!