Saturday, February 28, 2009

Easy Shredded Pork to Stock the Freezer

Watch for pork butt (shoulder) to be on sale. I bought one yesterday for 99¢/lb.! Today's a cold and rainy day and a great time to fill the house with the smell of slowly cooking pork. Any size pork butt, with or without bones will do -- just consider the size of your biggest dutch oven or other covered pan for the oven.

The basics of shredded pork are easy. Rub the pork with a mix of seasonings, braise it in the oven for several hours, cool and shred, discarding all the fat. Then divide the pork into meal-sized portions and freeze. For a quick supper, nuke the shredded pork and add barbecue sauce. Voila!

The bigger the roast the more meals you will get out of it. One of the advantages of cooking it without barbecue sauce is that you can vary the sauce you use each time you eat it. You can even offer a variety of sauces in a single meal. Great for a household where the tomato-based/vinegar-based/mustard-based or Texas/Memphis/Carolina sauce arguments abound.

So, now for the details.
  • 1 pork butt that will fit in your covered pan, preferably a heavy dutch oven.
  • Rubbing spices consisting of brown sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, dry mustard, paprika, salt and pepper or any other spices that strike your fancy. Use enough of each in making the mixture that you can rub it liberally all over the pork.
  • Broth (chicken or beef) sufficient to fill the pan around the pork to a depth of about one inch.
  • About a cup of wine, vinegar, cider, or other tangy liquid to give the broth some acidity.
  1. Rub spices into the pork making sure to cover all sides and ends. If there are cavities between the muscles, rub spices in there, too. Ideally, let the pork sit out with the spices until it reaches room temperature, about 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 250°.
  3. Place the roast in the dutch oven and pour in liquids until 1 inch deep or so.
  4. Cover and bake 4-5 hours, flipping the butt in the liquid every 45 minutes or so to keep it moist throughout. (Hint: wear oven mitts to avoid burns from splashing liquid)
  5. Use a quick read thermometer to make sure the roast's internal temperature is over 185°. It shreds best when the internal temperature has reached 190°-195°.
  6. Remove the roast from pan and discard the liquid. It has become a foul brine from the rubbed spices and extracted fat.
  7. Allow the roast cool to a temperature your hands can stand. Then shred, discarding as much fat as possible.
Ways to cut a couple hours off this recipe:
  • Skip letting the rubbed pork come to room temperature before cooking but the spices will have less effect.
  • Heat the oven to 275° or 300° but the meat isn't as succulent with faster cooking.
That's all there is to it.

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Imprecise & Inexpensive

Two themes predominate in my approach to cooking. 1. Daily cooking of flavorful food need not be a precise art. 2. You can be an adventurous cook on a budget. Cooking and eating should be fun for both cookers and eaters.