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Pulled Pork

Does it matter the cut of pork for "pulled pork"? Pork loin is on sale this week for a very good price...would that be o.k.?

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  1. you need a fatty cut, like butt, ribs or shoulder. loin is too lean and won't break down the way you need it to.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      agree-fat=flavor. Plus, you need a more sinewy cut in order for the fibers to break down and make the pork "pullable". Using pork loin would be akin to making pot roast w/ beef tenderloin. Can't imagine how you would be able to "pull" a pork loin. There is a reason why loin is never used in BBQ competetions.

    2. Loin works great. Fat adds nothing but fattiness.

      32 Replies
      1. re: oldunc

        "Fat adds nothing but fattiness"

        lol, aka goodness.:-)

        1. re: chowser

          Or yukkiness, matter of taste. Pork fat is actually very bland, any flavor it has in the finished dish it took from the meat or other ingredients. Butchers (not coincidentally, people with fat to sell), have been telling us for years that we NEED lots of fat. Just as restaurant cooks (not coincidentally, people who need to get a lot of dishes finished in a hurry) have been telling us that we should love raw meat. As far as "moistening" the meat, once again, all it adds is fat. Pork loin pulls just fine.

          1. re: oldunc

            fattier cuts tend to be cheaper, so that kinda blows a hole in your for-profit motive.

            loin will shred, not pull and a long cook time will likely dry it out, rather than make it the melt in your mouth goodness that would result from pork butt. loins are suitable for roasting and yes, are pretty flavorless. i never cook it, but make pork butt quite often.

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              agreed. How can you possibly "pull" pork loin? When I make pulled pork, I take it out of the cooking vessel(grill, oven or crock pot) and take two forks and pull the meat apart. This, I believe is the definition of pulled pork. Pork loin requires a knife and fork to slice. BTW, I only call it BBQ if it is slow cooked or smoked on the grill. Otherwise, it is just pulled pork. But it is all good. Still, it is never loin.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                Fattier cuts do not tend to be cheaper, the famous well marbled steak is the poster child for expensive. Animals can put on fat much faster than muscle mass, as can people; thus the custom of fattening animals for slaughter. They're selling the stuff by the pound. Shoulder and loin are usually priced similarly. If you're having trouble pulling it, cut it into lengthwise slabs. I mostly prefer loin because it tastes better.

                1. re: oldunc

                  pork belly and butt are cheaper than loin, unless there is a super-sale, as in the case of the op.

                  you shouldn't have "trouble" pulling it, nor should you need to cut it. hence the name. "pulled pork."

                  as to convincing yourself that that lean and bland cut of loin tastes better, you seem to be in the minority on this thread.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    Somehow, that doesn't bother me. I don't have trouble pulling it, but since the grain is longer in a loin, you can expect longer strands, a footling objection. You will find that pretty much all meat has been cut before you cook it- or are we roasting whole pigs here?As to convincing myself blah blah, the taste does the convincing. If you like to eat fatty foods, by all means do, but don't pretend it's somehow intrinsically "better".

                  2. re: oldunc

                    No one is talking marbled steaks vs lean steaks.

                    To the OP just like with beef you want to go for the muscles that get a lot of work and have more connective tissue like shoulder or in pork the butt which is not from the back of the pig. These muscles have more connective tissue and fat which when broken down provides a succulent texture you will not get from a lean low fat and connective tissue cut like loin. As an example flank steak can be used for the Cuban dish Ropa Vieja. It's great for shredding but can be dry if it didn't have the sauce. Beef chuck or shoulder will pull well but will also be very moist on it's own

                2. re: oldunc

                  "Pork fat is actually very bland" Ummm ...what? Pork fat is actually very flavorful. That is why people tend to render it to make lard. And why it is used in the best tasting tamales, amongst other things. Lard is amazing.

                  1. re: emalineisabear

                    If you haven't had a chocolate cake made with lard, you haven't lived!!

                    1. re: hawkeyeui93

                      I really think I need the recipe for this! Sounds tasty!!!

                      1. re: hawkeyeui93

                        My only hesitation with the concept is that lard is even more solid at room temp then butter. Which generally means tthat unless it is warm, the cake will taste "dry", even if it is not, because the fat in it will be hard.

                  2. re: chowser

                    there bis a sign over the walk-in at the french laundry: "fat is flavor." apparently thomas keller doesn't know what he's talking about, lol.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      Either that or Thomas Keller doesn't respect the opinions of his customers!

                      1. re: ricepad

                        that must explain the impossibility of getting a dinner reservation there. :)

                  3. re: oldunc

                    Regardless of one's opinion of fat, this is patently, scientifically untrue. Fat is a flavor carrier and forms ionic bonds between fat-soluble flavor compounds and your tongue. It also adds perceived moistness to foods. Pork loin will not pull well because it lacks fat and, more importantly, collagen (as pointed out below).

                    Some people have trained themselves to like the flavor of low-fat foods but to say fat does not add flavor is objectively false.

                    1. re: acgold7

                      Tastes like fat, what "science" are you referring to? Taste is largely a psychological matter. Since making pulled pork is largely a matter of breaking down collagens, it hardly seems that lacking collagens would be a big drawback; anyway, they're mostly contained in bone and connective tissue. You can't form an ionic bond with a tongue any more than you can ionize a horse. As with salt and sugar, the urge to eat fat is largely a result of instincts that no doubt made sense for us when were intermittently starving hunter gatherers. Having made pulled pork out of loin many tiimes, I merely attest that it works fine.

                      1. re: oldunc

                        strange then, that all traditional pulled pork recipes generally use butt. not loin.

                        1. re: oldunc

                          The point of breaking down the collagen is not to eliminate it but to turn it into a nice gelatinous liquid which improves the flavor and texture of the pulled pork.

                          If you like pulled pork loin, great. Most people don't. My dad has convinced himself he likes low-fat and soy-based cheese. The fact is that most flavors are fat soluble and you denying this doesn't make it untrue. Any meat -- even white meat chicken -- will dissolve onto dry, flavorless threads if you cook it long enough. The question is, what will make the best pulled pork, and the answer is: not the loin.

                          Where I shop, pork shoulder is $1.29/lb. Pork Loin is $3.99. Beef Chuck (Shoulder) is $2.99; Beef Rib Eye and Strip Loin (the equivalent of the Pork Loin) are $7.99; Tenderloin is $13.99 and up. Do the Math.

                          1. re: acgold7

                            It will turn to a nice slimy texture, blech. The fact that most flavors are fat soluble is why people are able to convince themselves that they are getting flavor from the fat- I didn't deny it, I proclaimed it, a significant difference. Most people haven't tried pulled pork loin, having been told not to. The question is not what will make the best pulled pork, actually, it was will it be ok, best is totally subjective. Maybe your father actually knows what he likes. If you're paying more than $2/lb for pork loin, you're being robbed.

                            1. re: oldunc

                              >>>Maybe your father actually knows what he likes.<<<
                              And yet when he comes to stay with me, he always asks why all my food tastes so much better than anything he makes, and can't believe it's because I actually use some fat and salt to cook with.

                              1. re: acgold7

                                You don't seem to have a lot of respect for your father's opinions. Maybe it's not because you overuse, oops, I mean actually use, fat and salt.

                              2. re: oldunc

                                Where are you getting pork loin for less than $2/lb?

                                1. re: ricepad

                                  Safeway, Costco- though Costco jacked it up to $2.65 last time I was there, and it came with a little diagram on how to cut it up into roasts and chops- people seem to be catching on to the bargain.

                                  1. re: oldunc

                                    I don't know what part of the country you're in so prices vary but I just bought pork loin for $3.99 a lb from Trader Joe's while shoulder costs me half that.

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      I assume oldunc is from North Carolina, one of the largest states for pork producing as is Iowa, where I can often buy loin for around $2/ib. Want me to blow your mind further? I bought a ten pound shoulder last week for .59/lb. on sale!

                                      1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                        OMG .... wow! About the best price we get up here in PA is $1.49.

                                        1. re: jkling17

                                          It helps to live in a state with more pigs than people ....

                                  2. re: ricepad

                                    Safeway, Costco- though last time I was in Costco, it was jacked up to $2.65 and came with a little diagram of how to cut it into chops and roasts- people may be catching on to one of the few remaining bargains. The Safeway sales aren't coming as often these days, either.

                              3. re: oldunc

                                Not that you will be swayed, but there is a reason no BBQ competition features pork loin. You cook a loin past pink-in-the-middle, it's overcooked and dry. Your collagen theory - that the point of BBQ is to get rid of the collagen, so why not start with a cut that has none - is so ludicrous I almost thing your whole series of posts is not serious.

                            2. re: oldunc

                              Wow, the stuff you're saying about pulled pork is so contrary you might as well be trolling. Pulled pork is all about the fat and gelatin, which is why shoulder is great. You're not looking to eliminate collagen, you want to convert it to gelatin.

                              If you personally prefer dry fat free gelatin free pulled pork that's your prerogative, but please don't come and claim that everything mankind knows about pulled pork is wrong, that fat and gelatin aren't needed in a dish that's all about fat and gelatin.

                              1. re: oldunc

                                Last week we had a recipe for "Fall-Apart Tender Slow-Roast Pork" (many copies available on the internet) which called for pork butt or shoulder. The ones the butcher had were too big for the two of us, so we used a smaller loin instead, and we used pineapple instead of apple juice. It worked quite well, the meat was indeed tender and fell apart by applying two forks. Pushing the meat into the drippings moistened it just fine. We haven't tried it with butt, so cannot compare the results.

                              2. I like pork shoulder or "Boston butt" ideally, not picnic shoulder. I like a variation of sizes when I end up pulling my pork, not all strands. Pork loin will work okay (and cook faster), but it will be all strands when it finally separates.

                                Pork loin is the "filet mignon" of pork cuts; so it's versatile and very lean.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: atg106

                                  Publix is offering the Boston pork butt for $1.99 a pound here too...might be hard to resist, wish I hadn't read this thread...must.resist.must.resist........

                                  1. re: atg106

                                    Pork Loin is actually the "Prime Rib" or Rib Eye of the pig, or at least part of it is; pork *tenderloin* is the Filet Mignon equivalent.

                                  2. I have never pulled a pork loin, but unless the sale price makes it cheaper than a butt (shoulder), I wouldn't try it. Fat content of meat tends to dictate cooking method. Lean cuts should be cooked fast and hot, lest they dry out. Fatty cuts are better for low and slow, whether by dry heat (ala a real wood fire) or moist heat (a nice slow braise). Pork won't get pullable until it reaches about 190F, and by then, a pork loin will probably be tough and dry (because of the lack of fat).

                                    Magical things start tp happen to a pork butt at 190F. The collagen in the meat breaks down, doing a sort of internal baste, and also 'loosens' the meat (I don't know how else to describe it). That is to say, at 175F, your butt will be tough and chewy, but when the collagen breaks down at 190-195F, it gets pullable and tender...not to mention tasty. Since loins don't have anywhere near the amount of collagen, they start out tender (although not pullable), but as the meat temps rise, it just gets dry.

                                    To reiterate, if loins are as cheap as butts, go ahead and try it. If not, I'd save my money and buy a butt or two.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: ricepad

                                      Thanks so much to all of you who answered....I do think I will not purchase the pork loin for this purpose....another store has the pork shoulder on sale but not quite as inexpensive as the pork loin...so for doing the pulled pork next weekend - it will be the shoulder.....

                                      1. re: eaglelake

                                        Wise choice. Ricepad hit the nail on the head. Mmmm rendered collagen.

                                    2. My wife used a "boston butt" and "smoked" it at a low heat setting on a charcoal grill with wood chips (well soaked) under the meat. It was very good. My new problem is that the apartment building prohibits the use of any open flame on the balcony. Will a "George Foreman" type of grill work to get a smoked product for pulling?

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. it matters hugely! Pulled pork is made with the shoulder, the butt preferably. Loin will dry out and make for tough chewing, believe me. You COULD modify the cook time and make SOMETHING with the loin, but it sure won't taste or pull like a nice piece o'shoulder

                                        1. I cede to the lovers of fat and gristle- clearly that's what meat is all about and anyway, what else can you do with a shoulder? The off flavors render it useless as a roast, and it's a major pain to remove all that junk.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: oldunc

                                            i braise it on a regular basis, stock, beer, wine, oj, whatever. it's a set it and forget it kind of meat, that cooks at low temp for a few hours, either stove-top or oven, and comes out succulent and fork tender. i never make traditional bbq style pulled pork since i don't like sweet sauces, but it lends itself very well to both asian and mediterranean flavors.

                                            here in boston i pay about $2.50 to $2.90 pp for butt and about $3.25 for belly. i have no idea what loin sells for since i don't care for it at all.

                                            1. re: oldunc

                                              Yeah, my recipe for braised pork shoulder from Daniel Boulud must be full of "off flavors." What does he know about cooking anyway? Just another lover of fat and gristle.

                                                1. re: oldunc

                                                  I've made some seriously bangin roasts with shoulder. Have you ever had pernil?

                                                2. No, loin is not an appropriate cut for pulled pork. To pull, the cut of meat you use requires a great deal of connective tissue, which is melted and rendered out of the meat, leaving loosely-coupled fibers. This is apropos a pork shoulder (or even a ham cut, potentially).

                                                  You can roast a loin, even slowly, but it will not be pulled pork. I'd just go with roasting at a moderate temperature, say 300-350f, and slicing. You won't be disappointed.

                                                  1. Fact checking time:

                                                    >>>I cede to the lovers of fat <<<

                                                    If you grind up a pork shoulder, cook it, and weigh the rendered fat, it comes to about 15-20%, about the same proportion as "lean" ground beef sold in the supers, and less than the fat content of typical pre-ground pork in the markets.

                                                    >>>and gristle<<<

                                                    "Gristle" is inedible cartilage that doesn't dissolve during cooking and is not the same as collagen. There is generally none of this in a shoulder.

                                                    >>>what else can you do with a shoulder?<<<

                                                    Many, many things. You can slice it thin for stir fry or "Cheesesteaks." As noted above, you can braise or make stew or grind or, yes, use as a regular roast if you know what you are doing, and not just the falling-apart well-done kind.

                                                    >>>The off flavors<<<

                                                    What off flavors? It tastes like pork, and nothing but. It is the most fully flavored cut of the pig. Loin is very mild, almost flavorless, so those who prefer this cut over ths shoulder just don't like pork, and should stick to white-meat chicken (which is why it is recommended to brine both).

                                                    >>> render it useless as a roast<<<

                                                    False. It roasts beautifully at low temperature, just as you would a chuck roast. Remove at medium, slice thinly. Delicious.

                                                    >>>it's a major pain to remove all that junk<<<

                                                    There is virtually no "junk" to remove. The fat cap lifts off in one piece. We have steak knives to cut around any remaining streaks of fat on the plate, if desired.

                                                    But of course there are different tastes, so some may choose to avoid the more flavorful cuts if they wish.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: acgold7

                                                      I remove all the junk; it is sort of a pain but we don't care for the slimy and fatty pieces. Just my choice to do it.

                                                      My pulled pork is a big crowd pleaser.

                                                      And whomoever cautioned to use a "butt/boston butt (which is actually part of the shoulder) rather than a "picnic shoulder" (which I think is farther down?) is right on. BUTT is the best cut to use.

                                                      1. re: acgold7

                                                        If you consider 20% fat to be lean, so be it. Cartilege doesn't dissolve. Collagens are an element in all parts of meat, but are concentrated in bones and connective tissue, and break down into gelatin. If you like aspic, you're there. You can also use a shoulder as a doorstop or eat it raw. Advisability is another thing. Perhaps I've merely been unfortunate to buy pork shoulders containing dirty dish rags, but I find the flavor off, any way you deal with it. I choose to avoid cuts with unpleasant flavors; I rather like the taste of meat itself.

                                                        1. re: oldunc

                                                          I know I shouldn't, but I just can't resist wading in.

                                                          What are these "off flavors" of which you speak? Can you describe them? Are they really reminiscent of dirty dish rags?

                                                          I've eaten (and cooked) a fair amount of pork shoulder in my day and have never tasted anything but delicious porky goodness, so I'm curious as to what your negative flavor experiences have been like.

                                                      2. I just bought a few pounds of pork loin on sale and was planning to throw them in the crockpot this week during the one weekday on which I will have no time to cook. After reading this thread, I'm kind of bummed. How can I save the pork loin from being dried out in the crockpot? More water? Add some other kind of liquid? Help!

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Kat

                                                          it's just not suitable for that type of cooking. freeze it til you have another day.

                                                        2. Having tried both loin, loin chops, butt, and pork for stew... I like the butt and stew meat. It is indeed fattier, and has more collagen. There is a certain mouthfeel that, IMO, is better than the loin. I use loin for other things, but not pulled pork. I prefer bone-in, then when one can pull the bone freely, it's done. mmmmmmmmmm.......

                                                          1. I wanted to bring this up. My local grocery store had boston butts on sale for $1.87 per pound but that was 8 to 12 pounds of meat with a bone.

                                                            3 feet away I picked up some boneless pork carnitas (about 3.5 pounds) for $1.97 per pound. These were unseasoned and from the same cut of meat as the boston butt, the pork shoulder. Lots of connective tissue, some fat.

                                                            I'm going to make a reasonable amount of pulled pork instead of 10 pounds and have to freeze a lot of it.

                                                            I just wanted to point out to people you don't have to buy a whole boston butt to have pulled pork.

                                                            13 Replies
                                                            1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                              I wonder why there's such a difference in grocery stores. I only see smaller boston butt in my area, never 10+ lbs ones.

                                                              1. re: chowser

                                                                I have never seen one smaller than about 7 pounds and I often see 2 packaged in cryovac where you have to buy 15 pounds or so.

                                                                1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                  I take it your store no longer cuts meat?

                                                                  1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                                                    I believe they do but I have never seen a small boston butt. This is Texas, They do a lot of smoking here. Maybe that's the deal? Maybe they only sell whole boston butts? I know they sell carnitas and country style boneless ribs. Perhaps they cut those from the same area?

                                                                    The point I was trying to make is there are alternatives to buying a large boston butt when you want pulled pork.

                                                                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                      Buy a big butt, and cut it in half. Freeze one half, cook the other! Problem solved!

                                                                      1. re: emalineisabear

                                                                        Or cook the whole thing and freeze parcels of carnitas for quick fixes.

                                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                                          Look.. I'm real SORRY i BROUGHT IT UP. I just thought someone might be interested that I paid 10 cents a pound more for something that was smaller and boneless. I thought it made a lot more sense than buying a big roast with a bone in it and deboning it, cutting it in half and freezing or making carnitas with it.

                                                                          Problem solved. I won't bring it up again.

                                                                      2. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                        I buy the packages of pork stew meat on occasion, looks to be cut from butt trimmings. hahaha, butt trimmings (beavis and butthead voice for a moment there).... And sometimes the boneless ribs. They work great when you don't want the whole butt. They don't call it carnitas here, but yes, works great. I will pay more per pound when the package itself is not that expensive on the whole, and it's already cut, and will work for a meal of tacos or something. Not a whole week's worth of stuff that doesn't get eaten up and ends up in the garbage a week later.
                                                                        (butt trimmings,, eh eh)

                                                                          1. re: wyogal

                                                                            wyo, here in boston i am able to get smaller packages of the boneless ribs and butt and shoulder around 5-ish pounds. even with a significant hispanic population i've never seen anything labelled carnitas though.

                                                                            i usually just cook the whole thing and freeze some. we are city-folk without access to smokers or barbecues, so it's all always a long slow braise.

                                                                            as for brining, i don't see the point when i'm cooking something very rich in a moist environment for 6+ hours. wet brines are more suited to flavorless crap like white meat chicken. which i never buy. so i never brine. lol.

                                                                            beavis and butthead are two of my favorite dumb@sses. :P

                                                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                              where is that darn "like" button?

                                                                2. Does anyone brine their shoulder before cooking low and slow?

                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                  1. re: BaconBits

                                                                    Nope, never found it necessary. There is enough fat and flavor in the meat as is. I just use pepper and some garlic most of the time.

                                                                    1. re: BaconBits

                                                                      If I have time of course. It certainly can't hurt, unless one doesn't believe in the benefits of brining.

                                                                      1. re: tommy

                                                                        "unless one doesn't believe in the benefits of brining" hmmmmmm........

                                                                        If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

                                                                        So if I don't brine, I must be an unbeliever. Oh, the heresy of it all.....

                                                                          1. re: tommy

                                                                            So, if I don't brine my pork, then I must not believe in the benefits of brining. That's how it reads. and I disagree. That's all. I just don't think it is necessary in this instance. The pork has tenderness and tons of flavor without it. I don't need to "believe in the benefits of brining" to change that.

                                                                      2. re: BaconBits

                                                                        Given my firm belief that pulled pork is only properly prepared by barbecuing, I never brine. It is unnecessary and redundant given the fact that the meat will be liberally coated in a rub overnight. If you want to call that a "dry brine" go ahead, but long before that term became fashionable, lots of us were simply "rubbing" meat.