Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Pulled Pork Project

OK, I'm cooking for a huge group next weekend for Baby Girl's grad party and decided to experiment by oven-roasting pork shoulder low-and-slow. It was largely prompted by the 99 cents a pound sale on pork shoulder at QFC. A enourmous hunk was less than $4!

Consulted with my BBQ guru, aka The Bottomless Pit, shortened to BP. This is my photog buddy who took me on a four-state, one-day epic BBQ tour a few years ago. (Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi.) He gave me the in-a-pinch scenerio, which calls for covering the meat in a thinner-style sauce and cooking it at 250 degrees forever and ever. Low and slow and all day long.

Did that on Sunday. Pulled it after it cooled. Beauty chunks. Then, fired up the charcoal to finish it off. Kind of like they do on the flat-top at Big Abe's in Clarksdale, Mississip, at that famous crossroads where bluesman Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil. Not really, but it makes for a heckuva story.

Had the pork sammies tonight and, gotta say, it was some mighty fine swine. Even if I didn't have the right sauce. (Only a thin sauce from Coopers in Texas, which I mixed with ketchup. Desparate times, desparate measures.)

At the dinner table, we talked about our favorite sauce. Mine's a toss-up between The Bar-B-Q Shop and Rendezvous. Claire loves Central. Ditto for Johnny. Course, those aren't available in Seattle. But I'm gonna try and get some sent. Any others to add to that list? Anything local? 


Chef Seth said...

You really want your pulled pork to be out of this world? Stop buying cheap meat at Costco and QFC!! You know I've always been a proponent of heritage (albeit more expensive) meats, but the satisfaction of flavor far outweighs the impact on my wallet. The natural fats are self-basting and when cooked slow-and-low melt into the texture of the meat.
If you get a chance, go see the film Food Inc to see how our meat is really produced in this country. You'll never want to by a buck a pound again!!

L said...

I'm a fan of vinegar-based, Eastern NC bbq. Check out Wilber's BBQ in Goldsboro, NC - you can purchase the sauce online (my mom, who's from NC, survived living in AK by making her own and using this sauce!).

leslie.dines at gmail.com; 901-289-4020 said...

Chef Seth... Like so many things in life, reality trumps idealism, especially when you're unemployed and have got to feed 50 people. I support local farmers as much as I possibly can afford to... if I could, I would buy heritage meats, but right now, I'm making minimum wage, so...

Frank!!! said...

Disagree with Chef Seth.

Heritage pork is great if you're doing pork chops or other preparations that really take advantage of the subtle pork flavor.

But doesn't it seem like a waste if you're going to be cooking the heck out of it like this?

I'd say saving your pennies (or dollars, in this case) here so you can buy better cuts when it matters is much better plan.

Also, Leslie, you're method seems backwards to me. I've always smoke my pork shoulder for an hour or two, and then cooked it "forever and ever". I get the smokiness from the original time on the BBQ and the tenderness from the longer (controlled) time in the oven.

Chef Seth said...


I understand the point on value, but unfortunately it only feeds into the system that supports three industrial manufacturers responsible for 99% of our country's meat production. I urge you to read (and write) about CAFOs and our food system that cheapens the nutritional value of our food with subsidized commodity crops. I am fully aware that if you've only got a buck to eat with cheap food is very appealing. But when will we decide that we can put better things into our bodies and treat the planet (inhabitants included) with more respect?

Heritage meats have much more natural fat (think self-basting meats) that contribute to the depth of flavor extracted from cooking the meat "forever and ever". Check with the BBQ Masters - they've all switched to using heritage meats for competition 'cue, because it gives them an edge in flavor profiles.

Kristie Lauborough said...

I, too, disagree with Chef Seth. As a native Memphian who grew up with BBQ, one of the whole points is that it is a good cooking method for those cheaper, tougher cuts of meat since it cooks it so low and slow. It's how my parents cooked those 99-cent-a-pound pork butts, and it goes back through my family. That's the beauty of the BBQ. Save the heritage meats for preparations which really benefit from a high quality meat. Don't waste them on BBQ.

I also agree with you, Leslie, that reality trumps idealism. My husband and I are a single income family right now while I support him completing school (he was accepted to the University of California, Davis Viticulture and Enology program this fall). I appreciate the really great locally-grown heritage meats, but I've got to eat and it's a little too rich for my budget to buy the good stuff. I'm not going to starve or deprive myself just because I can't afford the best. You've got to balance it somehow. I'm sure some people would be appalled if they saw the bags of frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts in my freezer, but hey, it means I don't go hungry now that my salary was cut by $20k a year.

As for my favorite sauce (besides my secret family recipe), I've got to go with Neely's.

Fred Deaton said...


The best sauce is from the Rendezvous! The Commissary, Leonard's, and Neely's are a close second.

Looking in the refrigerator at my bottle of Craig's BBQ sauce, I would say most of the sauces in Memphis or parts around (like in DeVall's Bluff AR) are laden with seasonings and thin.

The secret to basting is moisture. many mix dry seasoning with drippings and add vinegar. The sauce is actually brushed on at the end.

Another option is basting with a citrus juice like a lemon juice (well citrus is a top ingredient in most steak sauces)and toward the end baste with your preferred or homemade sauce

Here is a generic homemade sauce:

The Official Leslie Kelly Memphis Sauce

* 1 cup vinegar (I prefer cider or apple vinegar)
* 1/4 cup water
* 1 tablespoon brown sugar (or 2 tablespoons Molasses, I prefer this for flavor)
* 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
* 1/4 teaspoon salt (or 1/8 teaspoon of Mrs Dash)
* 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper (Optional)
* 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper
* 1/4 teaspoon of lemon or lime juice
* (optional) add or don't add to your preference Ketchup or tomato sauce.

You can develop the above sauce to your taste and have LA Leslie Kelly Sauce. Freely change bit based on what you have or your taste. Tabasco, Hot sauce, or

My dad uses a large slow-cooking crockpot to make his bbq with dry seasoning. He uses a loin or a tenderloin. The meat cooks in the dripping juice and seasoning He then dries the meat on the fire grill.

I disagree with Seth. BBQ is a soul food. It is a way to make what you have good. Soul Food often uses the cheapest meats. As far as meat, the slow cooking overcomes the meat, so the quality is offset by longer slower cooking and seasoning.

True slow cooked meat (no matter the toughness) will be softened by the slow cooking. Long slow cooking will have it fall off the bone. There are other "poor" people styles of food cooking that
the process offsets the quality Chili style cooking and Cajun cooking come to mind.

It sounds good! And don't discount the love and sweat ingredients adding to the flavor.