My first pulled pork... Need some advice
I'm planning to do a 8lb. pork butt dutch oven style this weekend. This is my first time and really don't want to screw it up. I've been doing some research, and have a few things I need cleared up, and would also greatly appreciate any helpful hints you can think of.
Should I brine the butt? If so, should I just use salt, sugar, and water or should I incorporate some other spices? Also, how long do I need to brine?
Should I brown the butt prior to slow cooking?
What are some good suggestions for a good rub? I'd like to end up with a little spice in the finished product. I'm hoping for a slightly spicy and smokey bbq flavor. How should I go about accomplishing this? I am planning to prepare my own bbq sauce prior to cooking the butt, so any suggestions as to the sauce would also be greatly appreciated.
What else should I put in the dutch oven? I'm assuming I'll be using a braising liquid of some kind. What are some good suggestions here and in what amount? And finally, what are some good veggies to throw in there?
Thanks for the help!
I would definitely brine. When it comes to a question of brining.....always brine (: I don't know about others but I use salt, sugar and water and never spices. I would brine for a few hours or overnight because of the size of the butt.
For a good rub, I like to throw in: paprika, chile powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, oregano, brown sugar, mustard powder, and basically anything else that's in the pantry. Experiment...try using a touch of cinnamon or maybe some cloves or nutmeg? I added all three of the last spices to some ribs once and they came out fantastic. However, don't go overboard on them or your pulled pork will taste like pumpkin pie ):
browning the butt prior to cooking will add texture to the meat. If you don't do it, mostly all of the meat will have the same texture. I did pulled pork in the dutch oven 2 days ago, didn't brown it, and it still came out fine.
When I make it in the oven I like to add a whole can of crushed tomatoes, and add brown sugar, m olasses, mustard, vinegar, etc to taste. I fill it up to half of the side of the pork , throw it in the oven at around 325 for 4 -6 hrs and the sauce cooks down to a nice thick consistency. Definitely don't throw out the remaining sauce, as it's good to top off the pulled pork after it's done cooking.
veggies? I have no idea...I never add any, cause they would just turn to mush
I should add that i never add a rub to pork in the dutch oven, only to pork when I am smoking it. I'm sure adding a rub to the pork in the dutch oven will come out great
I'm a big brining fan but I think brining anything that you go on to braise is sort of pointless. Brining is more for dry heat cooking, IMO.
I'd apply a dry rub 24 hours ahead of time and brown the meat. Make up the rub with stuff that you think will taste good -- it's up to you. I'd suggest always using kosher salt and brown sugar in it, though. For smoky, you might try chipotle powder
When I braise my PP in the french oven I do it in a combination of water, cider vinegar, a bit of brown sugar, and a hit of hot sauce and a squirt of cheap yellow mustard.
After it's done, I degrease the cooking liquid (which is very flavorful by now) and add it back in to the shredded pork.
Don't add any veggies. Bitsu is right, they'll be mushy, plus IMO you really don't want or need them for flavor.
While I don't have any great recipe suggestions, I do recommend that you pull the pork apart in an area that is easy to clean up! I made BBQ'd pulled pork for my inlaws last summer and pulled it apart about an hour before they arrived for dinner. It was still rather tough on the exterior, and I ended up with pork bits stuck to the walls, the ceiling, a picture over the sink, etc. Washing pork bits off the walls wasn't what I had in mind for my final meal prep! =)
I have had mixed results with brining. The last time I brined my pulled pork it was way, way too salty. I used the recommended amount of salt and time, so I'm not sure what happened. So now I don't brine and I don't miss it. I'm not sure that brining adds anything in terms of texture to pulled pork because you're cooking it until the meat breaks down anyway, and the added salt is not necessary since there is so much salt in the rub and in barbecue sauce.
I agree you need a good rub. If you're cooking it in the oven and not on a grill you won't have the smoky flavor, so I would consider using a chipotle chile powder or a smoked paprika in the rub. If you have a grill available use it with some soaked wood chips.
The most important thing with pulled pork is the final temperature. The first time I made it I pulled it off at 165 degrees and had cubed pork roast, not pulled pork! Make sure you cook it to over 190 degrees (I usually try to hit at least 195). Then I pull it off and wrap it in foil for at least a half hour before I pull it.
That's good advice on the temp. you can do anything you want to that pork butt and you won't mess it up... all you need to do is cook it til it reaches 195 -200 internal... and it will fall apart when you touch it. I use a dry rub and smoke on the kettle for 10-12 hrs. In the dutch oven I would (never have, but I would) still use a dry rub, then add a bit of a brown sugar/cider vinegar/crushed red pepper sauce. That will give you a bbq-y taste. don't brine... this cut has lots of fat to melt away and it will not dry out.
Doesn't most of the BBQ flavor in pulled pork come from the vinegary sauce that is mixed in with the meat when it is pulled? When I've seen Carolina cooks prepare the meat on TV shows, they tear the whole hog apart while wearing industrial rubber gloves (and in some cases chopping it afterwards), and then tasting as they add salt and their sauce.
Dry rub, and smoke, will flavor the outside of the butt, but not do much for the interior. Cooking the butt in a closed dutch oven is, at best, an approximation to the slow roasted meat. The meat that is not immersed in the liquid will brown as it is cooked. Browning the meat before closing up the oven may add some flavor to the overall package, but is not essential. The primary purpose of the DO cooking is to tenderize the meat so it can be pulled, not to develop complex flavor.
As to brine, why? Pork butt has plenty of connective tissue. Combine that with the closed environment of the DO and it should remain moist. Also check your package, it may already come brined (watered down). As to the salt - it is easier to correct for that after cooking than to get the amount right before.
It is true that the rub and the smoke does not do much for the interior of the pork butt, but don't forget that after you pull the pork the dark brown, smoky exterior (Mr. Brown!) is mixed in with the pork from the interior. When done right, every bite includes some of that smoky crust.
Thanks for the great pointers. I just picked up a 7lb. butt and made a rub that smells great. I used S & P, ground chile powder, chipotle chile powder, cumin, onion powder, mustard powder, garlic powder, paprika, thyme, cinnamon, brown sugar, and oregano. I went heavier on the chile powders and held back on the brown sugar and cinnamon. It smells great and gave me quite a flavorful kick when I touched a bit of it to my tounge. I made enough so I'll be able to mix some into the braising liquid. I also picked up some apple cider vinegar and a good chile sauce for braising. I think this is going to turn out awesome!
Oh yeah.. I also wanted to ask if it makes a difference whether the butt is covered or not in the fridge while the rub is setting? Right now it is uncovered. Let me know if my instinct was wrong.