Pork-filter: Help me rescue my 'pulled pork' before it's too late!
November 27, 2012 12:43 AM   Subscribe

Pork-filter: Help me rescue my 'pulled pork' before it's too late!

Today I attempted to make pulled pork. I went to the butcher, asked for a pork shoulder, watched him cut it off the pig ("huh, shoulder is the bit on the back near the legs?" I thought, but being a trusting sort, I went home with my 'shoulder'.) I dutifully marinated it for a few hours and then put it in the oven (the instructions were to cook it at 160C/325F for three hours). I just got home (it's been in there for about 2 hours 40 minutes) and it's kind of tough. I have no idea whether this is due to undercookedness or overcookedness or... help?

Potential issues:

- I just googled the cuts of pork and it turns out the crafty butcher gave me loin when I specifically requested shoulder and told him I was making pulled pork. He didn't know what pulled pork was (I think it's less of a 'thing' here in Aus than elsewhere). Is there any way, at this stage, I can make the loin taste anything like pulled pork?

- The oven is fan-forced, and having just moved into this new place I've never used it before, so I turned it down to 150C to be on the safe side. Is that still too hot for fan-forced?

Please don't tell me that pulled pork has to be slow-cooked for 10 hours; I'm not interested (this is a tried and tested recipe and it might not be the best pulled pork ever but it's apparently good!). And while I'm annoyed at the butcher my main focus here is rescuing this huge chunk of meat!

Help me please!
posted by lovedbymarylane to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Check the internal temperature with a kitchen thermometer. If you've gone shooting past about 80-90C, it's dried out and been over cooked, then the only option is to slather it in BBQ sauce. If you are still creeping up towards 75C then stick with your recipe timings.
posted by roofus at 12:57 AM on November 27, 2012

I don't have one, unfortunately! I cut into it and it appears to be cooked alright, it's just not fall-off-the-bone like pulled pork would be. I've chopped it up so that it's now floating in the marinade/juices. Hopefully that will make it a bit more moist!

Definitely getting a thermometer for next time...
posted by lovedbymarylane at 1:05 AM on November 27, 2012

How big is it?
You're not looking at 10 hours(necessarily), but it will be something ~1hr/lb, with pretty much a minimum of about 4. (And if it's not ready, just put it back in; it's fairly hard to screw up assuming there's plenty of liquid.) The meat might be cooked, strictly speaking, but it's not ready to pull apart. There's a certain amount of cooking that's just plain required to make the fat and collagen break down to that point. It's not really something that can be rushed.

For whatever it's worth, here's my current favorite take, which has gotten me occasional marriage proposals. Note the amount of time involved.
posted by Su at 1:07 AM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

Crap, I glossed over the loin comment. Part of the reason the shoulder meat shreds is the fat/collagen in the first place, which the loin will have less of. You could get the same general result with the same process, but should keep closer watch as it's got a bit more chance of drying. You'll definitely have different texture, though.
posted by Su at 1:18 AM on November 27, 2012

It was about 900g (2lbs) with the bone in, and now I've chopped it up and taken the bone out, and also eaten some (it's not bad, just tastes more like roast pork than pulled pork). I'm guessing there's 500-600g of meat there. So I should maybe keep it in the oven for a few more hours? Will it still work now that I've chopped it up? And yes, there's still a lot of liquid in there so it shouldn't dry out too much.

Thanks so much, guys!
posted by lovedbymarylane at 1:25 AM on November 27, 2012

I've never attempted to make pulled pork from loin, but I am doubtful that extra time will improve things. As Su suggested, the tissues are different to begin with. Pork shoulder is tough meat that becomes tender and stays moist as fat and connective tissues break down and coat the muscle fibers. Loin, being a less-used and tenderer cut, won't behave the same way. I suspect that long cooking might turn it to mush rather than the distinct strands characteristic of pulled pork. Also, counterintuitively, meat floating in liquid can still be overcooked to the point of drying out.
posted by jon1270 at 2:41 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've no idea why your butcher might have thought the shoulder sat around the rump *scratches head* but for next time you might want to ask for pork neck, or a scotch fillet, as these should be fairly well known cuts here.
posted by raena at 2:43 AM on November 27, 2012

Your temp is too high.

I don't think you got loin though if he really cut it from the back of the pig. You've probably got a chunk of fresh ham, which should be quite good if cooked the same way as a shoulder.

Continuing to braise it in the liquid should be fine.
posted by JPD at 4:44 AM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

Just a thought, but I'd pour a splash of melted butter on it once it was pulled, and warm that up a little.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:48 AM on November 27, 2012

Thanks guys, I left it in the oven on 100C for another 3 hours or so, and it soaked up all of the liquid and is quite tender now! Again, not as tender as pulled pork, but... tender enough to be a nice soft taco filling I think!

Well, when I asked for shoulder, the butcher said he had it, then asked what I was using it for. When I said 'pulled pork' he looked confused, so I explained that you put it in the oven on a low temp for a long time and it comes out all soft and tender. He must have thought I was roasting and, being out of shoulder, presumed that loin (or whatever I got) would be fine (in fact, better) for that purpose. I don't know. I will be having words next time I go in.
posted by lovedbymarylane at 5:05 AM on November 27, 2012

Are you sure he cut it off the back near the legs and not off the front near the legs? Was it a whole side of pork? Otherwise it can be hard to tell.

What makes you think it's loin? The pork loin is the eye of the pork chop and comes from the top of the pig in the center. Once you get close to the front or the back of the pig, you are no longer in the loin. Towards the back, you're into the hams. Towards the front you're into the shoulder in the US and a variety of cuts like the collar and blade roast in the UK. Anything from the back or front should make for reasonably good pulled pork. If you had loin, you would have something roughly cylindrical (plus or minus bones and fat cap).
posted by slkinsey at 5:38 AM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

Next time, use a crockpot!
posted by oceanjesse at 5:46 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was just about to suggest the crockpot as well for next time. Its uber simple.

Rough chop a onion and stick that on the bottom of your crockpot. Then add maybe 1/2 cup or so water and (this Ive found makes it really good) maybe 1/4 cup of CIDER vinegar. Adds a great tang, btw white vinegar just isnt the same.

Throw your hunk of pig on top, put it on low, cover and let it cook for 5 hours or so. Pull the hunk out, it will be falling off the bone, scoop out any chunks that did, and reluctantly get rid of that wonderful smelling juice. It gave up its life for the good of us all (anybody got a use for that?...it always smells so good)

Then put the pork back in, chop it with what ever you want, add the sauce of your choice, let it warm back, and EAT.

Simple and so tasty.
posted by ShawnString at 6:25 AM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

for future reference, the cut here in the US is called Boston Butt, and comes from the shoulder.

alternative names from the wikipedia page: "pork hand and spring", "pork hand", "paleta de puerco"
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:34 AM on November 27, 2012

I frequently make pulled pork from loin: It's not quite as rich tasting as shoulder meat but it works and is delicious. The secrets are long low-temp cooking and acid. I do it in a slow cooker (crock pot), either overnight or for a minimum of 10+ hours at about 250-275 degrees. It's also vitally important to add some sort of acid such as few splashes of lime juice (or lemon), or a can of chopped tomatoes, or some acidic cola like Coke. I also add onion, garlic, worcestershire, black pepper, etc. It's always tasty.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 6:41 AM on November 27, 2012

As ArgentCorvid says, you do want the shoulder. The Southern US colloquial name for it is "Boston butt" because it makes fun of northerners who don't know the arse end of a pig from its front. (The joint you were given is the ham; if it had a bone in it, it wasn't the loin, which is a single muscle.)
posted by catlet at 7:38 AM on November 27, 2012

I do this in the oven on a regular basis, and the first few times I did it, I had the same issues. What worked for me was turning the oven temperature down to 225F, and cooking it for about 12-14 hours, covered in foil (for about 5 pounds). The first time I did this I thought things would start burning, but every time I checked it it just looked better and better. Finally, at 13 hours when I pulled it out, it literally started falling apart into delicious chunks. Having a probe thermometer helps a lot. What you'll find is that the temperature will rise fairly steadily, and then at around 170ish it will stop for quite some time. Apparently this is the temperature at which all of the internal fat and bonds slowly melt apart, which makes it pulled pork instead of pork roast.

An alternate way to do it which is even tastier (as if that was even possible) is to cut your pork into 2 inch cubes. Put it in a heavy pot and add water to cover with a little bit extra at the top. Bring to a boil and then simmer covered for about 2 hours. Then, bring up the heat and take the cover off. Let the water boil out, and after about an hour or so, all the water will be gone. There will be a lot of fat in the pot, and the pork will start frying itself. Turn each piece every couple of minutes a few times once you get to this point, and you'll end up with delicious chunks of meat which are crispy on the outside, yet pull apart into bits when you put your fork into them. This is literally the best thing I have ever made in my entire life. You have to be careful at the end, though, because there will be a lot of fat in the pot, and the first time I did this I thought the last of the water wasn't evaporating for some reason, when in fact it was just simmering in fat. I burned a few pieces the first time.

So, either slow in the oven or cut into chunks on the stovetop, try again and be amazed at the deliciousness that is pulled pork. If my wife wasn't pregnant and didn't mind the smell of it filling the house, I would likely have made it for Thanksgiving instead of Turkey, and would make it for Christmas too.
posted by markblasco at 7:50 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

In Australia it is totally still called 'pork shoulder' but he probably was trying to help as roasting a shoulder is a different endeavour to loin/rump/leg. He shouldn't have, but sometimes they think they know better.
posted by geek anachronism at 8:19 PM on November 27, 2012

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