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All Flavor, No Fire: "Smoky" Pulled Pork

First, it must be said that there is no real "substitute" for the magical effect eight or more hours of smoking has on a pork shoulder. BUT, with a dutch oven and a mix of the right spices, nobody will be missing anything but the tell-tale pink smoke ring. All you have to do is add ground, smoked peppers or smoked salt to the dry rub, liberally season the shoulder, and let the spices flavor the pork overnight in the fridge (prefereably on a rack with a drip tray, uncovered).


For those of you who want instructions for doing the real, all-day smoking, this step is essential for you as well: letting the rubbed pork sit overnight not only "marinates" the meat, it also allows the surface to dry, which is essential for getting a nice "bark" of caramelized sugar, salt, and spices on the finished product. Drying out the outer surface also helps the smoke penetrate the meat (this ideal, dry condition is often called "tacky"... why it is called that I do not know).

So, either way, rubbing the shoulder and drying it are ideal for flavor, surface browning, and smoke penetration. I reiterate this because it is a gigantic pain in the butt to find that kind of real estate in the fridge, even for one day. Let me assure you: it's worth it whether you're using a smoker or a dutch oven.


For those needing to add smoke flavor in lieu of actual smoke: there are a variety of smoked pepper and smoked salt products now available at the grocery store. I do not have a preference for peppers over salt, but I will say that smoked peppers are kind of a two-birds-one-stone option and often have more complexity to them than smoked salt, which can get really pricey. You can almost always find Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton) in the spice aisle, but if you have a spice/coffee grinder, try using chipotles (ground chipotle is increasingly common, but whole ones can always be found at a latino grocer). I love the flavor of pimenton, but you can never find whole, smoked paprika peppers, and there's something about freshly-ground chiles that calls out to me. Plus, grinding peppers yourself is (depending on where you source your chiles from) so much cheaper than buying them ground (they retain flavor longer than an opened bottle of overpriced chili powder too).

As for the other ingredients in the rub, I have never used the same combo twice, but that's because I'm a fanatical user and collector of spices. Despite this, I almost always go back to the JOY's Southern Barbecue Dry Rub recipe to remind me of the basic proportions (and as a reminder of the types of flavoring that go well with smoky pork). As the recipe directs, brown sugar is a constant, as is the salt, and basic amount of chile powder and/or paprika. I highly recommend you use this recipe as-is before you start experimenting, just to get an idea of what works well before you go galavanting off into unknown realms of flavor... I know I find that very difficult. Remember: for the first time you can always adjust the seasoning to your taste when you make the sauce for dressing your pulled pork if you really think something is missing. Foolproof!


Southern Barbecue Dry Rub
about 2 cups
If destined for the smoker, mix together:
     1⁄4 cup packed brown sugar
     1⁄2 cup sweet paprika
     1⁄4 cup chili powder
     2 tablespoons ground red pepper
     2 tablespoons ground cumin
     1 teaspoon ground mace
     1⁄4 cup salt
     1⁄4 cup cracked black peppercorns

II. If using the smokeless recipe below, mix together:
     1⁄4 cup packed brown sugar
     1⁄3 cup sweet paprika
     1⁄3 cup smoked paprika or seeded and ground chipotles (moritas or secos)
     2 tablespoons ground red pepper
     2 tablespoons ground cumin
     1 teaspoon ground mace
     1⁄4 cup salt
     1⁄4 cup cracked black peppercorns

Faux-Smoked Pulled Pork
12 hungry people


In many parts of the country, this is what is meant by barbecue. Pulled pork is pork shoulder cooked until it is tender enough to be shredded with a fork. After being pulled apart, it can be mixed with a sauce and served on a bun with coleslaw.
Trim the excess fat from:
      1 boneless Boston butt or pork shoulder blade roast (about 4 pounds)
Rub with the second version of:
      Southern Barbecue Dry Rub, above
The meat can be cooked at once, or wrapped in 2 layers of aluminum foil and refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Heat a large Dutch oven or other heavy ovenproof pot large to hold the meat over medium heat. Add and heat:
      2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
Add the meat and brown well on all sides. Cover the pot tightly with a lid or foil, place in the oven, and bake until the meat is tender enough to be shredded with a fork, 3 to 31⁄2 hours. Skim the fat from the pan juices. Shred the meat with a fork and mix with the pan juices. Stir in:

11⁄2 to 2 cups North Carolina-style Barbecue Sauce


jmhatfi's picture

Looks like the perfect meal for a football watch party.


Nathaniel Edwards's picture

Wow way spicy for some. Red pepper is out of this recipe for our kitchen. Still good recipe to have though.

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Set aside two ounces of the...