There’s a good reason this has become my go-to pork butt recipe-
It’s awesome. And foolproof.
I’ve probably made this at least twenty times by now. The first time I had it was at my sister’s house. I can still remember the warm, heady aroma of spices and garlicy slow cooking pork that immediately enveloped me the moment I walked in her door. It literally filled the house. Forget scented candles that smell like vanilla and patchouli- if someone could create a candle that smells like this pulled pork (or actual strong black coffee on a Sunday morning) I would buy those candles in bulk. THAT’S what I want my house to smell like.
Is it just me?
The original recipe for this pork comes from Dave Lieberman and you can find it here. At the end of his recipe he makes a sauce with the drippings from the pork and a few other ingredients. I’ve never done that part, but I imagine it’s awesome, too. If you try it let me know?
It all starts with a good rub and a little time to let it do it’s thing
I’m a big proponent of seasoning meat well ahead. Like the day before. Pre-seasoning allows the flavors to get deep into the meat so you’re not just seasoning the outer layer. It also does wonders for keeping things juicy and tender. You can do this an hour ahead with good results, but if you do it the day before and really give the seasonings time to do their thing you’ll be glad you thought ahead (here’s a great little article on the science behind salting and seasoning ahead).
First, you’ll mix up a combination of salt (use kosher!), cracked pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, coriander and ground mustard and really coat the pork well. Like a thick coating. I make sure to rub it into all the little crevices. Wrap your pork in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least an hour and up to a day.
If you seasoned the pork the day before, take it out an hour before you’re ready to cook and let it sit at room temperature to take the chill off before proceeding.
Trust the directions
The recipe calls for a good dark beer or an ale, and that’s what I normally use, but this time all I had was a Rolling Rock so I took a chance and poured it in and it worked just fine. Use your judgement.
You’re going to start the pork at 500 degrees for 45 minutes uncovered. This sounds a little extreme but trust me, it’s not. The high temperature is going to give your pork some really wonderful dark, crunchy bits and tons of flavor. After the initial 45 minutes you’ll cover the pot, turn the heat way down and let it go for 2 1/2 more hours.
In the end you’ll have meat that falls apart with a twist of your tongs- and that’s literally the next step. When the meat is done, remove the bone, take your tongs and start twisting the meat apart into bite size chunks, working it into the cooking juices as you go. If you want, you can add a little BBQ sauce at this point, but that’s totally up to you. The pork is absolutely delicious as-is. For me, it just depends on my mood. Sometimes I want sauce, sometimes I don’t, sometimes I put a bottle next to the pork and everyone just gets to make up their own mind. It’s all good!
The slaw…crunchy and sweet with a little kick
Making the slaw for this sandwich is super easy. It’s crunchy and has the perfect balance of sweet and spicy to compliment the pork.
To make the slaw, shred half a head of cabbage, combine it with a thinly sliced orange or red bell pepper for sweetness, a finely chopped jalapeno for a little kick and some fresh cilantro (because…cilantro). In another bowl whisk together 1/4 cup of mayo (I use Sir Kensington’s Avocado Oil Mayonnaise), the juice of 1 lime, 1 tsp sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Fold the mayo mixture into your cabbage mixture and let it chill in the fridge for a few hours so the flavors develop. I make the slaw as soon as I put the pork in the oven.
That’s it, super easy!
Sometimes it’s good to get a little messy
This is NOT a neat sandwich…and that’s what makes it SO good.
It’s messy and juicy and drippy and that’s exactly why you need a good bun that won’t fall apart. These brioche buns are the perfect messy sandwich partner. They take about as much time as the pork (much of which is hands-off time) so I think it’s kind of a perfect match!
Ok, now. Seriously. How crazy good does this sandwich look???
Split the bun, toast it if you want to, maybe spread a little BBQ sauce on the bottom, top with a generous pile of pulled pork, some cold, crunchy slaw and the other half of your bun. Get a pile of napkins ready and dig in!
- 5 pound bone-in pork butt *
- 2 Tbsp kosher salt (not table salt)
- 2 Tbsp chili powder
- 1 Tbsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper (if using ground pepper use 1/2 tsp)
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp ground mustard
- 12 oz dark beer or good ale, room temp
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
For the slaw
- 1/2 head green cabbage, shredded (can use pre-shredded coleslaw mix)
- 1 bell pepper (red, orange or yellow), sliced thinly into 2 inch pieces
- 1 fresh jalapeno, finely chopped
- juice of 1 lime*
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tsp sugar
- kosher salt and cracked pepper to taste
For assembling the sandwich
- 8-10 brioche buns
- Your favorite BBQ sauce (optional)
- 1 hour and up to one day before cooking, combine salt, chili powder, garlic powder, cracked pepper, coriander and mustard in a small bowl. Rub spice mixture over all sides of the pork. You want a nice, generous coating. Cover tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour and up to one day.
- When you're ready to cook: unwrap pork (if pork has been refrigerated overnight remove from the fridge and let it stand at room temperature one hour before proceeding), and preheat oven to 500 degrees f. Place pork in a Dutch oven or heavy roasting pan. You don't add any liquid at this point. Cook 45 minutes uncovered. Meat will get dark brown and may even blacken in some places.
- Take pork out of the oven and reduce temperature to 325 degrees f. Pour beer in with the pork and scatter garlic all around it. Cover the pot tightly with two layers of aluminum foil that you've poked about 10 holes in.
- Return to 325 degree oven and cook an additional 2 1/2 hours. You'll know it's done when the meat breaks apart when squeezed with metal tongs and the bone slides out easily. I usually check after 2 hours to get an idea of how it's moving along. You might need a little more or a little less than 2 1/2 hours depending on your oven and the size of the butt.
- While the meat is cooking make the slaw by combining cabbage, bell pepper, jalapeno and cilantro in a bowl.
- In another bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, lime juice, sugar, salt and pepper. taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
- Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours while the meat cooks.
- When the meat is done remove it to the stove top and use the tongs to remove the center bone and start twisting the meat into bite size pieces, working it into the juices in the pan.
- At this point you can choose to add a little BBQ sauce if you want to. I leave the meat as-is and put a little sauce on the bottom bun when I assemble.
- Toast buns if desired, smear a little BBQ sauce on the bottom bun, top with a generous portion of pulled pork, some cole slaw and the top bun.
- Get a pile of napkins ready and enjoy!
* Pork butt is actually from the shoulder of the animal and there can be some confusion when deciding what to buy. Pork butt is rectangular in shape and has more intramuscular fat than pork shoulder so it's perfect for pulled pork. Pork shoulder is more flat and triangular in shape and can be tougher because it's leaner.
*Roll the lime around on the counter top until soft or put it in the microwave for 10 seconds to get the most juice
I hope you love this pulled pork sandwich as much as we do! Enjoy!