I love making smoked pork butts in a “Big Green Egg” at home in New Jersey, but unfortunately I don’t have a smoker in my tiny California apartment, so this recipe is an easier at-home variety. In this recipe I will teach you how to make delicious pulled pork in the oven! The goal is to mimic the smokiness and tender meat you get in the smoker but in the oven. The liquid smoke will help to replicate that smoked flavor and smell. Serve the pork by itself, inside sandwiches, on top of fries or any other ways you can come up with.
Braising is the method of cooking meat at a low temperature for a long period of time in a tightly sealed container like a Dutch oven. It’s a forgiving method of cooking. Slowly cooking the meat allows for tough, lean (and often cheaper) cuts of meat to break down and become tender and juicy. I love a good braise because you really can’t mess it up. With this “hands-off” method, the meat is first seared to lock in the juices. It’s then added to a tightly covered oven-safe pot. Cook it for a long time at a low temperature, so you don’t run the risk of overcooking as you would using other methods.
Preheat the oven to 325ºF (170ºC). Position the oven rack in the middle of the oven.
Trim any excess fat off the pork butt and cut it into large hand-sized chunks.
In a small bowl whisk together the salt, brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, mustard and cayenne. Toss the pork in the seasoning.
Heat a 5-quart Dutch oven over medium heat, add the oil and heat through. Sear the pork on all sides, working in batches so as to not overcrowd the pan. Add the onion to the pan then add the vegetable stock to the pan.
Add the liquid smoke (if using). Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat then cover and move the Dutch oven into the oven. Cook the pork until it is fork tender, turning halfway through, about 3 hours.
Once the pork is cooked remove it from the pot to a cutting board. Use two forks to shred the meat and add it to a large mixing bowl. Discard any large pieces of fat. Add some of the liquid back to the pulled pork if it needs more moisture.
Serve the hot pulled pork topped with your favorite BBQ sauce. Serve alone or on sandwich rolls topped with coleslaw.
Some advice on calculating how much pulled pork you need: I always like having leftover pulled pork to make into other recipes, but sometimes I don’t want to have enough left over so that I will be eating pork for every meal for the next two weeks. When buying pork for pulled pork first know that you are going to end up with roughly half of the weight in the finished meat due to “shrinkage”. The fat will render or you will discard some of the fatty pieces. If you start with six pounds of meat like I have here, you will end up with a little over three pounds of finished meat. I would recommend calculating about three people per pound of the cooked meat for average eaters.
This recipe can easily be made in a slow cooker! I recommend searing the pork as directed and cooking on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 5 to 6 hours.
Add leftover pulled pork to a resealable container and store, refrigerated with additional braising liquid (so it doesn’t dry out) for up to a week. Add to resealable plastic bags and freeze for two to three months.
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