Texas barbecue is a beautiful cuisine. Unless you order pulled pork. Then, not so much. When you visit a barbecue joint in Texas, get the brisket. Do not order the pulled pork if it’s on a menu. More often than not, it won’t be done right. There’s just not a history of it in the state, thus, not a lot of practice at perfecting it. When you want delicious pulled pork done right, you go to its home state of North Carolina.
That’s exactly what Matt and I did for our summer vacation. We spent a lovely week at the Outer Banks. We stayed mostly in Kitty Hawk, at the Hilton right there on the beach. And lo and behold, across the street from the back of our hotel sat High Cotton, one of the best barbecue joints on the entire Outer Banks (according to TripAdvisor, anyway). It was a very exciting discovery. Tuesday evening we ventured over for dinner. We both barely ate lunch, and swam an extra thirty minutes in the (freezing cold!!) ocean in preparation. The anticipation was riding high.
We both ordered combo plates with ribs, sides, and of course, the pulled pork. Matt got daring and ordered some brisket, too. The sides were overall disappointing. The ribs were good. Not outstanding, but pretty good. Surprisingly, the brisket was pretty respectable. Eons away from the quality you’ll find in Texas, but it was enjoyable. The pulled pork was far and away the star of the plate. It was some of the best texture of pork shoulder I’ve ever tasted. The classic vinegar sauce was tangy but not too potent, and the pork was not over-sauced at all. I wish I had just ordered an entire plate of it. Utterly sublime.
That meal left me craving it upon returning home, so I set about to sate my taste buds and tummy. This recipe is more of a barbecue slathered pork than the traditional Carolina vinegar sauce, but still delicious. The coleslaw is technically and officially considered optional, but it’s mandatory in my world. I always have coleslaw with pulled, barbecued meat. Catch that recipe here.
Source: adapted from Wine Bites, by Barbara Scott-Goodman
1 (3-4 lb.) boneless pork shoulder
3 tbs paprika
1 tbs kosher salt
1 tbs granulated sugar
1 tbs plus 1/2 cup brown sugar, divided
1 tbs ground cumin
3 tbs chili powder, divided
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1 tbs canola oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups organic ketchup
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tbs Dijon mustard
Dash of hot pepper sauce
16 slider rolls, split
Pat the pork very dry.
Make the dry rub: in a small bowl, combine the paprika, salt, granulated sugar, 1 tbs brown sugar, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, and black pepper to taste. Rub the spice mix all over the pork, then wrap in plastic wrap and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
Prepare your slow cooker. Place the sliced onion in the bottom and sprinkle the garlic cloves on top. Tie the pork with kitchen string so it cooks evenly, if needed. Place the pork shoulder on top of the onions. Slow cook on low heat for 6 hours.
Meanwhile, make the barbecue sauce. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until softened and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the ketchup, vinegar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 tbs chili powder, mustard, and hot pepper sauce and stir to mix well. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and the flavors blend, 25 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. If chunks of onion bothers you, hit it with an immersion blender or throw it in your blender to puree it.
When the pork is ready, remove from the slow cooker and transfer to a cutting board or plate. Tent loosely with foil and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Cut off the kitchen string and then pull the pork apart with two forks. Transfer the shreds to a large bowl and add the barbecue sauce. Toss to thoroughly combine.
Spoon the pulled pork onto the bottom buns of the rolls, dividing it evenly. Replace the tops of the rolls. Top with coleslaw. Serve immediately.