INDOOR PICNIC: PULLED PORK WITHOUT THE SMOKE
Slow-cooked pork shoulder is in my top three favorite pork dishes, along with seared pork belly and spare ribs. But, I have never been a fan of tending a smoker for the requisite 8-12 hours for traditional pulled pork. Martha, it would seem, doesn’t either. She has a recipe for braised pork shoulder that we have tried a few times, though we have altered it for simplicity and flavor. This method also keeps the whole process in one dutch oven, from stove to oven. The end result has the same tenderness as a smoked shoulder, though it is missing that crisp outer layer that the outdoor method will produce. Prepare for 5 hours total time from prep to service.
To get things started, preheat the oven to 300 F. Gather your ingredients:
1-2 12oz beers, or 1 beer and 12 oz chicken stock
3-4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons Refined Pork Lard (or other rendered fat)
Desired meat rub for grilling or smoking
We chose to simplify our ingredients list. Having made this before, the meat is the main event, so the rest is really fungible.
Start with your refined lard in the dutch oven over med-high heat, and cook the onions until caramelized. Once browned, remove from dutch oven leaving the fat in the pot.
Meanwhile, work the rub into the shoulder. This is also the base for the braising liquid, so don’t be shy.
Sear the shoulder, starting with the fat layer, then flipping until the majority of the surface has a good, dark coating (about 5 minutes per side x 4 sides). Then add the garlic until it becomes fragrant. Next, your braising liquid is added. We used two beers, rather than stock, but all stock would be just as good in the end. Once the liquid is simmering, cover the dutch oven, and place in 300 degree oven for 4 hours.
After 4 hours, the picnic roast was falling off the bone. be prepared to lift from the bottom to make sure it all holds together. We checked ours twice during the 4 hours, mostly checking to make sure we had enough liquid to cover at least 1/2 the height of the roast. Braise during these checks if you’re inclined to do so.
Once your roast is out of the pot, its time to break it down. Importantly, please don’t use a knife for this. Two forks will do the trick to get every morsel of meat separated and piled high for whatever dish comes next. Our 3lb shoulder made enough for BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, pork & kimchi tacos, and about 1lb for a neighbor.
If you’re going the BBQ route, toss a small amount of your chosen sauce throughout the pulled meat to keep it moist. We also used some of our drippings in the dutch oven to bring some moisture back into the pulled meat after pulling.