Pulled pork – the slow cook hero (and a delicious pulled pork and mango salad)

I’ve always been a fan of slow cooking. There’s something very comforting about having a delicious meal simmering away in the oven while you potter about with whatever else you need to do. The incredible aromas that waft through your home aren’t too shabby either.

When it comes to slow cooking pulled pork has to be right up there. It may seem a little odd to be slow cooking in the middle of a Kiwi summer but actually pulled pork is traditionally a barbecue dish. It also lends itself perfectly to being served in a way that epitomises summer eating.

The best cut to go for is the shoulder. It has the right amount of fat to ensure you get delicious tender meat. I realise we live in a world where lean is often thought of as better but remember the fat is where the flavour is. Not only that, the fat content is needed for slow cooking. And this pork shoulder really does need to be cooked long and slow to get that melting texture. Try and cook it quickly as you would a loin and . . . well, I don’t suggest you try it.

I got a fabulous shoulder piece just over 2 kg at my local butcher. It had the bone in but you can also use a boneless piece. I asked my butcher to remove the skin – but don’t throw it away! Crackling anyone? I was thrilled after my butcher had weighed and wrapped my pork to find the label showed I’d just purchased a piece of Boston butt. This cut comes from the upper part of the shoulder, which I understand is a preference in America. And as pulled pork hails from the United States (they really did get this one right!) I figure they know what they’re talking about.

Speaking of which, the authentic way to cook American-style pulled pork is slowly over charcoal until it can be pulled apart and served with barbecue sauce. Living in an apartment this isn’t an option for me, nor is it for many people. Even classic dishes sometimes have to be tinkered with over time to make them accessible to the every day cook. So I cook mine in the oven – still delicious.

And while pulled pork may traditionally be a barbecue dish there are many ways I like to serve it. In sliders with coleslaw can be found on many a café menu – and with good reason. Yum! The recipe I’ve given below for pulled pork and mango salad is merely a suggestion but it is a fantastic way to serve it. The freshness and crispness of the salad paired with the tender meat is simply divine. You won’t need all the pork but that’s no problem – plenty of other delicious meals await.

Now for the cooking time. When I originally researched pulled pork prior to making it for the first time I decided to go with 150°C for two hours per kilo. I now have a fan-assisted oven so I lower the temperature to 130°C and keep to that calculation.

Here we go . . .

 

Pulled Pork

 

2-2½ kg pork shoulder, bone in and skin removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons smoked paprika (sweet)

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon cumin

Freshly ground salt and pepper

 

Preheat the oven to 150°C/130°C fan assisted

Bring a large non-stick pan to a high heat.

Score the layer of fat across the top of the pork and season all over generously with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the olive oil and rub over the pork.

Sear in the hot pan on all sides to seal the meat and give it some colour.

You want to use a roasting tin that has a wire rack. Pour 250 ml water into the bottom of the tin, place the wire rack inside and position the pork on top of the rack. Cover completely in tin foil, sealing firmly around all the edges of the roasting tin.

Cook four hours for a 2 kg piece, 5 hours for a 2½ kg piece and so on. At the end of the cooking time, carefully lift away the foil and check that the meat is coming away easily from the bone and falling apart when you take a fork to it. You can always put it in for a bit longer if it’s not quite there.

Once ready, transfer it to a large board and with two forks start pulling. It’s a beautiful thing.

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Pulled Pork and Mango Salad

Serves 3-4

 

200g pulled pork

½ white cabbage

3 spring onions

1 fresh mango

Handful bean sprouts

Handful fresh coriander leaves

30g toasted sesame seeds

50g roasted peanuts

 

Dressing

1 garlic clove, crushed or grated

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 tablespoon canola or sunflower oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

3 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce

2 teaspoons Chinkiang vinegar (black rice vinegar)

Juice of half a lemon

 

Firstly make the dressing. Combine the garlic and ginger in a bowl or glass measuring jug. Add the soy sauce and whisk together. Add the canola and sesame oils and whisk in. Now add the remainder of the ingredients and whisk together well (or you can transfer it to a screw-top jar and give it a good shake).

Once the pork has been pulled, place the amount you need for the salad in a bowl. I like to pour the juices that collected in the roasting tin into a jug, leave it to cool and then skim off the fat. Use some of these pork juices to stir through the pork for the salad along with three tablespoons of the dressing you’ve just made. Leave to sit while you make the rest of the salad.

To prepare the vegetables and fruit:

  • Finely slice the cabbage
  • Chop the spring onions
  • Peel the mango and cut roughly into cubes (no need to be uniform)
  • Finely chop the coriander leaves

Place the prepared ingredients in a large bowl and then add the bean sprouts, sesame seeds and peanuts. Give everything a good toss to combine. Finally add the pulled pork and toss again.

Spoon or pour over the remainder of the dressing and give it a final toss to ensure everything is slicked in the delicious dressing.

This would happily serve four as a light lunch or three for dinner. As always, it’s easily doubled if you want to feed more people. You certainly won’t be short on the pork.

This salad has everything going for it in both flavour and texture. Every mouthful makes your tastebuds sing.

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