About this recipe:North Carolina is a spreading expanse of a state, but the easiest way to divide it is by the type of pulled pork on offer. As North Carolina reaches out east to the Atlantic, pork is garnished simply with cider vinegar and a hint of chili. As the state climbs west into the mountains, the pork takes on the sweet and smoky flavours found in the BBQ of the Mississippi valley. Loyalty to one or the other runs deep.
I don’t want to take sides in the Carolina pulled pork debate. I’ve had both and loved both. I feel the eastern style, however, relies a little less heavily on smoke for that defining taste – that taste that can never be replicated by oven cooking. As such, this is a great recipe for making indoors.
Although it will help keep your pork moist, the vinegar-based sauce can be an acquired taste. My advice is to try it on a portion of the pork first, then add more if desired. If it isn't your cup of tea, you can leave it out, or replace it with a good quality barbecue sauce.
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Mix together salt, spices and TABASCO in a bowl to make rub. Coat meat of shoulder in rub, and allow to marinade for a minimum of 1 hour, ideally overnight.
Preheat oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7. Line a large roasting pan with a large sheet of foil (or two smaller sheets) as if you were roasting a turkey – allow sufficient excess to pull over and fully cover shoulder.
Place the shoulder in the pan fat-side up and uncovered. Roast for 30 minutes.
Remove and cover with excess foil. Reduce heat in oven to 125°C/240°F/Gas Mark 1/2 and cook for 6 hours, or until meat temperature reaches 89°C/192°F.
Allow to cool fully while wrapped in foil. Remove layer of fat and crisp under a medium-hot grill.
Pull meat apart with your fingers or two forks. Transfer to an airtight container. Combine vinegar and other sauce ingredients in a separate container. Pour juices remaining from the roasting pan and half of the sauce over the pulled meat. Chop fat into small pieces and mix together. Cover and allow to rest overnight in refrigerator.
Reheat over medium-low heat on the hob, stirring regularly, or in a medium oven (170°C – 180°C) covered with foil (time will depend on desired temperature and the temperature of your refrigerator, as well as the portion size you are reheating). Add sauce, salt, pepper and TABASCO to taste.
Pulled pork is traditionally served on a soft roll topped with coleslaw or on its own with a side of cornbread. You use your extra pulled pork to fill an omelet or jacket potato, add it to chili or top nachos or pizza. Otherwise, pulled pork freezes well.