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The Pulled Pork Variations

jeffreyw via Flickr (Creative Commons BY 2.0 creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

While we've been in hunker down mode, I've been spending a lot of time with our slow cooker. There is something very appropriate about sitting around the house while the kitchen throws off mouth-watering aromas hour after hour. And Chef Jerry Pellegrino will tell you, one of the most tempting things you can prepare is good old pulled pork. But of course you don't have to use a slow-cooker.


Pulled pork is a specialty of the American South, with North Carolina and Texas staking claims to being the epicenter. If you were to surf the web and check out recipes you would soon discover that no two are alike. In fact opinions differ on everything, right down to the proper way to cook the pork.


You could go "whole hog" as it were, and cook an entire half a hog in a pit, but you'll need a couple hundred friends to help out. For smaller crowds the one thing that seems to be constant is the cut of meat you want to use: recipes always call for a shoulder cut, often called a "Boston Butt" or a "picnic roast".  


From there, the first decision is basic technique:  barbecue, smoker or slow cooker.


Barbecuing or smoking the meat over a slow flame has the advantage of adding that irresistible smoke flavor. Staying indoors with the slow cooker is perfect for days that don't look like good weather. Either way, you're going to be investing a long, long time in this meal; 10 hours is not unusual.  


The idea is to slowly melt the pork fat, keeping that meat as tender and succulent as possible. You've done a good job if the meat falls apart at the slightest touch of a fork. 


In surfing the web for recipe ideas it quickly became apparent that there are two other essential ways of looking at pulled pork:  you can do a dry cook or a wet cook.


The dry cook recipes all call for some sort of rub to be applied to the exterior of the pork. Some recipes recommended searing the pork before or after this, but most just tell you to plop it down straight-away in the smoker or a Dutch oven. (And it's here that I must note that nearly every recipe strongly recommended putting that lid on tight!)


With the dry approach, the pork cooks slowly for 8-12 hours, gets shredded and then doused with your personal favorite barbecue sauce.


The wet approach is akin to braising, crossed with steaming. Here is the method my nephew Doug Martin taught me.  (He lived in North Carolina for quite a while.)


Make a rub out of salt and pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Cover your shoulder roast with it, and let it sit in the fridge for an hour. Meanwhile, make up a slather of yellow mustard, minced garlic and brown sugar. Take the pork roast out of the fridge and coat it with your slather.


Get your slow cooker ready by slicing a large onion and lining the bottom of the bowl. Place the slathered pork on the onions, and make a braising liquid out of beer and apple cider vinegar. Make enough to come about two inches up the side of the pork. Put a layer of tin foil over the top, clamp the lid down, and cover it with yet another layer of tin foil. Set the heat for high and cook it for one hour at that setting. Then reduce it to low and let it simmer for another 6 or 7 hours.


When it's ready, pull the pork apart with a pair of forks while it's still in the pot with its juices. To serve, stain the pulled pork and put on a platter, and douse it generously with your favorite barbecue sauce. Serve on toasted buns with home-made cole slaw and ice cold beer. And good lord I reckon, that will be some eatin'!


Here are some of Jerry's many barbecue recipes .


Big Al’s KC BBQ Sauce




2 cups ketchup

2 cups tomato sauce

1 ¼ cups brown sugar

1 ¼ cups red wine vinegar

½ cup unsulfured molasses

4 teaspoons hickory-flavored liquid smoke

2 tablespoons butter

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon onion powder

¼ teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon celery seed

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper


In a large saucepan over medium heat, mix together the ketchup, tomato sauce, brown sugar, wine vinegar, molasses, liquid smoke and butter. Season with garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, paprika, celery seed, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for up to 20 minutes. For thicker sauce, simmer longer, and for thinner, less time is needed. Sauce can also be thinned using a bit of water if necessary. Brush sauce onto any kind of meat during the last 10 minutes of cooking.



Ribs in the Oven


Baby Back (or Pork Back Ribs) are the best choice, they cook to tender perfection. Although the cost is slightly more, this is one place I feel is worth it.  In this recipe, the ribs are roasted low and slow to get the most melt in your mouth tender meat.


Peel the thin silvery skin off the back before cooking

Rinse your ribs in cold water and dab dry.

Add your rib rub and massage into the meat.

Place meat down and cover with garlic and onion.

Seal and bake at a low temperature until tender.


We prefer a low temperature for a longer period. Here are some guidelines


275°F – 2 hours to 2 1/2 hours

300°F – 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours

350°F – 1 1/4 hours to 1/1/2 hours



Alabama White Sauce




1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 Tablespoon brown mustard

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon prepared horseradish

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper


Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl until smooth and well combined.


Transfer to a lidded jar. Use immediately or let set in the refrigerator for 24 hours to let the flavors meld together. Will keep 2 weeks in the refrigerator.


Oven Roasted Texas Brisket




2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons dry mustard

1 bay leaf, crushed


4 pounds beef brisket, trimmed

1 ½ cups beef stock


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Make a dry rub by combining chili powder, salt, garlic and onion powders, black pepper, sugar, dry mustard, and bay leaf. Season the raw brisket on both sides with the rub. Place in a roasting pan and roast, uncovered, for 1 hour. Add beef stock and enough water to yield about 1/2 inch of liquid in the roasting pan. Lower oven to 300 degrees F, cover pan tightly and continue cooking for 3 hours, or until fork-tender. Trim the fat and slice meat thinly across the grain. Top with juice from the pan


Carolina Pulled Pork




5-8 lb. Pork Butt, bone in and fat pad on top



4 Cups Water

4 Cups Apple Cider

½ Cup Kosher Salt

½ Cup Dark Brown Sugar

3 Heaping Tablespoons Dry Rub

2 Bay Leaves

1 Pinch Red Pepper Flakes



1 Tablespoon Onion Powder

1 Heaping Tablespoon Smoked Paprika

1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder

1 Tablespoon Chili Powder

1 ½ Tablespoon Kosher Salt

1 Tablespoon Pepper

2 Teaspoons Cayenne Powder

2 Teaspoons Dry Mustard

1 Tablespoon Cumin

½ Cup Dark Brown Sugar



½ Cup Apple Cider Vinegar

½ Cup White Vinegar

½ Cup Brown Sugar

1 Teaspoon Chili Powder

2 Pinches Red Pepper Flakes

Salt to taste


**This recipe should be started 2 days ahead of time as you need 24 hours in the fridge, 12-14 in the oven and 2 hours of resting.



Mix all the ingredients together in a ziploc bag. Set aside.



In a large stock pot, add the water, apple cider, salt, sugar, 3 tablespoons dry rub, pepper flakes and bay leaves. Rinse off the pork and add to the pot making sure it is completely covered in the brine and add the lid. Place in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours.



In a glass jar, add the ingredients and place the lid on then shake to combine. Set aside.



Heat the oven to 225°F. Remove the pork from the brine and place in a roasting dish or 9×13″ baking pan as long as the sides don’t touch the pan.


Pat very dry with paper towels. Remove 2 tablespoons of the dry rub to another ziploc and set aside for after it is cooked. Rub the remaining seasoning all over the pork and in any cracks or flaps. With the fat facing up, place the pork in the oven with a meat thermometer. Bake for 12-14 hours or until 200 degrees registers on the thickest part of the pork with a meat thermometer. *Remember to watch your oven, ours turns off automatically at 12 hours so I have to turn it back on. At this point you can turn off the oven and leave the pork in there to rest for two hours or if you have more baking to do place foil over the meat and allow to rest on the stove. Once the meat has rested, remove the fat from the top and using two forks, shred the meat and remove the bone. Drain half of the juices out and add the remaining dry rub to taste, toss to coat and drizzle a little vinegar sauce over everything. Serve immediately as is or on buns.


South Carolina BBQ Sauce




2 cups prepared yellow mustard 

2/3 cup cider vinegar 

3 tablespoons tomato paste 

1/2 teaspoon chipotle Tabasco sauce or you favorite hot sauce 

3/4 cup sugar 

2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules or 1 cube 

2 teaspoons dried rosemary leaves 

1 teaspoon celery seed 

3 teaspoons mustard powder 

2 teaspoons onion powder 

2 teaspoons garlic powder 

2 teaspoons coarse salt 

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

About the mustard. To be authentic, use yellow ballpark style mustard, not Dijon. 


Mix the wet ingredients together in a bowl. If you are using a bouillon cube, crush it with a spoon in a bowl or mortar & pestle and add it to the bowl. Crush the rosemary leaves and celery seed in a mortar & pestle or in a blender or coffee grinder and add it to the bowl. Add the rest of the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix thoroughly. Let it sit.

Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.