The Daley Question

Pulled pork 101

A memorable recipe for this slow-cooked Southern treat

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Pulled pork

Pulled pork, whether served topped with slaw on a bun or on white bread, is a satisfying dish that's best cooked "low and slow." (Bill Hogan, Chicago Tribune / October 12, 2009)

Q: Where do they pull pulled pork from?

—Sal Spadafora, Hoboken, N.J.

A: Pulled pork is pulled from the pork shoulder.

The shoulder can be divided into two basic parts. Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart call them the "Boston butt" and "picnic ham" in their book, "Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking." There are other names for these cuts; the National Pork Board calls them "shoulder butt" and "picnic shoulder," for example.

Don't worry about nomenclature too much; talk to your butcher or meat department staffer. They should be able to steer you in the right direction.

Memorial Day weekend is perfect for making pulled pork. Cooking the pork takes time, whether you're using an oven or a smoker or a covered grill. (Whatever you choose, remember that old Southern adage about temperature: Cook it "low and slow.") You want to cook the pork until it's falling-off-the-bone tender, so tender you can literally "pull" it into threads and chunks with your fingers.

Pulled pork is never served as-is. There's a sauce, the preferred choice of which varies from region to region (the vinegar sauce of eastern North Carolina has long been my choice). Coleslaw is the go-to side for pulled pork, either mounded on the plate or spooned on top of the pork. Make your favorite slaw or use store-bought. Serve the pork on white bread or a hamburger or sandwich bun.

Below are directions for cooking that pork shoulder in the oven from "Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking" and recipes for two sauces: A traditional vinegar-based barbecue sauce from "Mastering" and an Asian-influenced "Black BBQ" sauce from "Smoke & Pickles," the new cookbook by Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia restaurant in Louisville, Ky.

While both sauces are meant for pairing with pulled pork, do experiment by matching them with whatever you might be grilling: Burgers, ribs, chicken, pork tenderloin, steak.

Slow-cooked pork shoulder

Makes: 8 to 10 servings

A recipe from "Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking" by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart.

1 (4- to 5-pound) pork shoulder (Boston butt or picnic ham)

4 to 5 garlic cloves, slivered

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Cider vinegar

Vinegar-based barbecue sauce (see recipe below)

Cole slaw

Loaf bread or buns

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