Pulled pork is a famous and delicious American recipe that’s been perfected for decades, and is getting more and more popular in other parts of the world, like Europe and Southeast Asia. The complexity and length of the roasting and grilling process is a challenge for everyone, yet many say it’s well worth it. We will cover the basics of the pulled pork for those that consider trying to make it.
The piece of meat
Traditionally, the Pulled pork was made of a specific American cut called Boston Butt. In contrast to what the name suggests, the piece is taken from the shoulder and it included the shoulder blade. The shoulder blade is an important piece in preparing the dish because it is rich in collagen, and this is important because it keeps the meat moist during the lengthy roasting which loses a lot of moisture.
Boston Butt is extremely difficult to find in Europe though, because of the differences pork is cut in different regions. Not only that it messes up the cuts for the butcher, but most butchers in Europe for example are not familiar or skilled enough to pull off good American cuts, and vice versa. One way you can get the real Boston Butt is to find a trusty butcher that is ready to experiment for you.
The truth of the matter is that the cut is not as important as the cooking method, so any cut from a shoulder measuring two kilograms or would do the trick. It doesn’t even need to be off the shoulder – you can opt for other parts that are rich in collagen and are ready to fall apart after long roasting. We are talking top loin, even the neck.
The cooking time of pulled pork is long. The minimal time a recipe can ask for is six hours, and most recipes estimate up to eight, to ten, and even twelve hours of preparation, depending on the temperature and the size of a meat piece.
The reason is to cook the meat at temperatures that will break down collagen allowing the meat fibers to spread and separate while keeping the fiber structure. This time also allows the moisture, fat, and aromas from smoke and spices to penetrate through fibers, giving the dish its specific delicious taste.
The most specific part of roasting pulled pork is the injection – it’s a specific mix of meat broth, apple juice, and butter, loads of it. The injection is meant to achieve several things:
-It helps to break down collagen
-Keeps the meat moist
-Adds specific flavors
Injecting meat is usually done at the beginning of the process, though some chefs like to add additional injections during roasting.
The second important part of the recipe is the rub, a mix of spices and flavors that will give the pulled pork additional aromas. It usually includes sugar, onion, garlic, paprika, chili powder, salt, etc. Its purpose is to give the meat its crunchy and tasty bark made by the mix of spices and the caramelized sugar.
Smoking is the essential part of good pulled pork. There are several techniques people use to give enough smoke to spice the meat up to its perfection. Commonly used firewood is oak, apple, and cherry. Some add pieces of Tropea onions or add other details for additional taste.