It's not just the flavors that make a dish but the layering of textures. I love pulled pork because of the contrast between the crispy exterior and the tender, almost-melting inside. You start with a pork shoulder, a cheap but flavorful cut with a good amount of fat that renders out during the long, slow cooking and bastes the meat to give it a caramelised crust.
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
- 2 tbsp kosher or coarse salt
- 2 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tbsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
- 1/2 tsp onion flakes
- 1/2 tsp garlic flakes
- 1 boneless pork butt, about 3 pounds
- 1 1/2 cups apple juice
- 1/2 cup water
Tip: You can buy bone-in or boneless pork shoulder. Both have their benefits: Cooking bone-in will contribute some flavor (and increase the cooking time slightly). But if you have your butcher take out the bone, you can rub the spice mix into the incisions where the bone was removed — a great way to get the flavour deep inside the meat.
Mix brown sugar and dry spices, & apple juice together in a small bowl. Rub all over pork, cover, and let sit in the refrigerator for as long as you have time for (as little as 1 hour or up to overnight). Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lay pork on a rack insert fitted inside a roasting pan. (The rack should be high enough so the entire spiced butt is sitting above the cooking liquid.) Pour in the marinade and water, cover pan tightly with foil, and slow roast for 5 hours. Remove foil and cook for another 30 minutes, until pork is brown outside and meat is very tender, basically falling apart.
Remove from oven, transfer to large platter, and allow meat to rest for about 10 minutes. While still warm, shred pork into small pieces using 2 forks or 10 fingers. Transfer to bowl for serving, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. To reheat, just transfer to shallow baking dish, bring to room temperature, and place in preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.
Tip: If the pan drippings aren't burned, discard fat and mix drippings back into the pulled pork, which will make it even more moist and flavourful.
note: I used a roasting pan that wasn't much bigger than the meat itself, so the drippings didn't spread out and burn.