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Trying to make pulled pork, but I think the butcher gave me the wrong cut of meat! Please help!

Please help! I am trying to make the pulled pork recipe from the Joy of Cooking for the first time and am a total amateur when it comes to cooking large cuts of meat. When I went to the grocery store last night, the person at the butcher counter told me they didn't have boston butt and the only pork shoulder they had was 15 pounds. He ended up selling me a 4 lb pork roast. He assured me I could make pulled pork from it.

So last night I mixed up the BBQ sauce, cut the fat of the roast, covered it in TJOC's Southern Dry rub for barbeque, and wrapped it up in foil. I was planning on cooking it tonight as the recipe instructs, which calls for browning on all sides and baking at 325 degrees for 3 to 3.5 hours. But then I started googling around to make sure that a roast was going to cook similarly to a shoulder and from what I can gather is that it appears to be a leaner cut of meat. I'm worried that the meat may become dry and not shred if I cook it this way. Most of the pulled pork recipes I have found that use a roast call for cooking it in a crock pot with some sort of liquid.

I am trying to decide what I should do. Cook in the oven as the recipe instructs? Cook in the oven with some liquid to prevent it from drying out? Cook it in a crock pot for a much longer time in some sort of liquid?

Thank you for any advice. I am really hoping not to waste this expensive cut of meat!

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  1. I'm assuming you got pork loin, esp. if it was expensive. ("Roast" doesn't refer to the part of the pig; you can make a pork "roast" from loin or shoulder or even fresh ham, all different parts.) "Boston Butt," btw, is part of the shoulder (confusing, I know), and these are fatty and thus better for pulled pork.

    I wouldn't set out to make pulled pork from the loin, if that's what you have--not enough fat--I'd just roast the loin to 145-50 internal temp, let it rest, and slice thin. That said, I have cut cooked loin (it doesn't "pull" or "shred" very readily), doused it in sauce, and made sandwiches--but that's only when we've had leftover pork and run out of things to do with it. It's not what I'd set out to do.

    Roast pork loin can be delicious if not overcooked, but you really want a shoulder cut, imo, for pulled pork. Loin is usually cooked for a relatively short period. I start mine in a very hot oven to brown and then finish in a low oven.

    1. Do not cook this meat for 3-3.5 hours. You will wind up with dry crumbly pork and it will not shred -- it will just crumble to bits.. You are just going to have to roast this and serve it as a pork roast. Your butcher steered you wrong since you need a much fattier piece of meat for long and low cooking. And by the way -- 325 is way too high for pulled pork, not to mention that it should be done in a smoker or, at the very least, in a Webber with indirect heat.

      5 Replies
      1. re: roxlet

        That combination of temperature and meat is fine...if you had a shoulder. I cook eastern NC barbecue all the time, at 300-350 degrees, directly over top of wood coals or charcoal, and it comes out fine. I usually cook a shoulder that's around eight pounds, and it's done in 4-5 hours. Less if you chop it, which I do, but I usually leave it on a good 4-5 hours as I cook while doing things around the house and in the yard. The shoulder is the fattiest part of the hog- you have to work hard, and I mean really hard, to overcook it.

        Having said that, it does sound like the OP got sold a loin, which is much less fatty and isn't really going to work for this style of dish.

        1. re: Naco

          I have to disagree. My DH is from Atlanta and runs a small BBQ business, and he never cooks BBQ over direct heat. His temps are lower and he cooks pork butts for about 8-9 hours.

           
          1. re: roxlet

            You said yourself that you don't cook in this way, so how would you know whether or not it works?

            Eastern NC barbecue is always cooked over direct heat, at temperatures in the range mentioned by the OP. I realize that this isn't the case in the Deep South, but the point is, it works. I do it, and the barbecue restaurants here do it, and it's fine.

            1. re: roxlet

              The Joy of Cooking method does work at 325 degrees (which is what the OP was talking about), providing you have the proper cut of pork. It's baked inside a dutch oven. While the method you describe is obviously optimal for true BBQ pulled pork, this is a home-kitchen approach that is workable.

              1. re: roxlet

                Ed Mitchell cooks BBQ over direct heat. I'll go with Ed on this one.

          2. You need a new butcher. Pork for pulled pork needs to be fatty and cooked, at a low temperature, for a long period of time. After 6-8 hours, I have never had one dry out and I don't add additional liquid of any kind. The instructions that you were given -- 3 - 3.5 hours at 325 degrees for a 4 pound piece of meat -- are MUCH too long if the meat is lean and the cooking temperature is too hot for pulled pork. As roxlet says, this will make for a dry piece of meat. You might as well chew on your shoe.

            Why couldn't the butcher put the 15# shoulder on the saw and cut a smaller piece for you? Back to my original comment, you need a new butcher.

            1. Pork shoulder is essentially the same as pork butt. A 4 lb piece is perfect for pulled pork. I make it all the time in a slow cooker and have also made it in the oven.

              In the slow cooker you really don't need any liquid especially if the meat has a bit of fat. I slice a large onion and lay the pieces on the bottom of the insert then place the meat on top. I usually use a dry rub on the meat first. Cook on low for 8 - 9 hours. I make a homemade BBQ sause from the Bon Appetit Y'All cookbook by Virginia Willis but The Joy must have some recipes as well.

              For the oven method use your rub and the foil... just follow the recipe as you were going to.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Gio

                I don't think she has shoulder, Gio; sounds like the butcher sold her loin.

                1. re: nomadchowwoman

                  Thanks for weighing in. I think he gave me a loin as nomadchowwoman said. I am thinking of either roasting it or cooking it at a low heat in my slow cooker in some sort of liquid. But it's already covered in a rub so I'm not sure what liquid would be best. Suggestions?

                  1. re: dcgirl123

                    Don't cook it at low heat in liquid if it is a loin. Although it is counter-intuitive, that will dry it out because it is so lean. SInce you have alrfeady seasoned it, go ahead and roast it as a roast and it will be delicious. I include a link for various roast pork loin recipes you can look at for method. It won't be pulled pork but roast pork is yummy too provided you do not overcook it. (I'd pull it out at 140 and let it rest and the temp will continue to rise up to somewhere between 145 and 150.) http://www.epicurious.com/tools/searc...

              2. Please clarify - the butcher DID NOT sell you shoulder because he wasn't willing to break down the primal into smaller cuts, and instead, sold you another cut that he called a 4lb pork roast?

                You should be able to tell if its very lean, looking at the fat visible in the cut.. shoulder's got a lot, loin really doesn't.

                2 Replies
                1. re: grant.cook

                  That's right. He said he would not cut the shoulder any smaller so he sold me what he called a 4 lb pork roast. There was a layer of fat around the top, which I cut off before adding the rub. Sorry for the confusion - this is my first attempt at cooking pork.

                  1. re: dcgirl123

                    Well that's OK... just use your rub, no need to use the foil. Roast in the oven at 350F/ 20 minutes per pound/internal temp. 160F