Full disclosure: I am no barbecue expert, friends. I don’t know my Carolina from my Memphis from my Kansas City, couldn’t really tell you the first thing about brisket or burnt ends. But I do know when something tastes fantastic, like the barbecue sauce from Oakland’s Everett & Jones (smoky, tangy and rich with just the right amount of complex heat) and pork shoulder braised slowly in stock and lager to a fall-apart succulence. And I know that if you put the two together, you’ve got yourself a tailgate made in heaven.
You won’t need any expertise to make this pulled pork, either. It’s a mostly hands-free recipe, since your slow cooker babysits the pork while you’re away at work, or tapping out the next great American novel, or lazing around the house eating bon-bons. (No judgment.) All that’s left to do at dinnertime is shred the pork (an easy task, since it will collapse into a tender heap) slather on some tangy-sweet sauce (make your own or just buy your favorite brand, like I did) and turn on the game. Go Nats!
Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork
- 4 lb pork butt, tied
- 2 medium onions
- 6 large garlic cloves
- 1 generous tablespoon salt + one teaspoon salt, divided
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle or chili powder
- 1/4 tsp cloves
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- three fat sprigs of fresh thyme
- bay leaf
- 32 oz beef stock
- two 12-oz beers
- liquid smoke (optional)
- favorite homemade or store-bought barbecue sauce, about 16-18 oz
The night before, combine one generous tablespoon of salt, the sweet paprika, pepper, cloves and chili powder in a small bowl. Dust the pork butt (leave it tied) with the spices and refrigerate. Slice the onions and refrigerate. Thickly slice the garlic cloves and refrigerate. Wrap the thyme and bay leaf in kitchen twine to make an herb bundle.
In the morning, warm the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat; sear the pork for about 2-3 minutes per side until nicely browned, starting with the fattiest section first. Transfer to a cutting board, and with a paring knife make several small slits on all sides of the pork and stuff with the garlic.
Place half the onions in your slow cooker’s insert. Place the pork over top, fat side up, and the remaining onions on top of the pork. Pour in the stock, beer, and enough water (about 3 cups, depending on your machine’s capacity) until the insert is 3/4 full. Add the herb bundle. Cook on the low setting for 8-10 hours. Remove the pork and discard any twine and large portions of fat. Discard the onions and most of the braising liquid, reserving about one cup.
With two forks or your hands, gently “pull” or shred the pork. Sprinkle the shredded pork with one teaspoon salt. Add a few drops of liquid smoke to 1/4 cup of the braising liquid; pour the braising liquid evenly over the pork, mixing with your hands or a spatula to combine. Add 3/4 cup barbecue sauce and mix to coat the pork. Taste for salt and add more barbecue sauce, if desired.
Serve the pulled pork warm on split rolls with coleslaw and pickles. Pass extra barbecue sauce.
Note: Add a bit more braising liquid, another 1/4 cup or so, to any leftovers before refrigerating or freezing. Freeze flat in double-bagged gallon zip-top bags. If you don’t care to use beer for braising, substitute additional stock.