Recipe: Pulled Pork Shoulder – A Perfect Pinot Pairing


BBQ pork is a wine-friendly and deeply satisfying summer dish.  But there are a million variations – each with its own fiercely loyal proponents.  If there isn’t already a BBQ Pork episode on the Food Channel – some sort of heated competition (pun intended) between proponents of the various styles – there surely will be soon.

We’ve experimented with quite a number of approaches, but we prefer the results that come from the more pain-staking process – the very sort of time-sucking activity one might find as much fun as rush hour gridlock.  Which is exactly why it’s worth doing – the it requires makes this meal (and its leftovers) special for you as well as all your guests.  Food is love, after all, and what better way to show your family and friends that you care?

And get this – the time you spend around the grill, maybe reading or sipping wine and chatting with friends and family, is almost as relaxing as meditation. Try sampling the wines you’ve chosen to accompany the meal – such as these Pinot Noirs.

Procedure:

  1. The Boston Butt.  First – begin with the right cut of meat!  For slow-roasting on the grill, that means a pork shoulder your butcher mysteriously knows as a “Boston Butt”.  Ask your butcher for the whole thing, bone and all.  They tend to weigh between 6 and 8+ pounds, but if you have a choice, planning 3/4-one lbs per person allows for plenty of left-overs.
  2. Dry Rub!  The ingredients are shown below, but keep in mind that a dry rub is completely open to your own creativity.  You may want to try ours first, then branch out and make one of your own (if so, please tell us about it in the comments section!)  Get a large plastic food-grade bag, place the washed-and-dried shoulder inside, add enough rub to cover, and give the whole thing a good massage.  Leave in the refrigerator overnight.  It will get deeply red in color.
  3. Grill-Roasting, “Low & Slow!”  About seven hours before mealtime, light 35 – 40 briquettes.  When ready, arrange them for roasting via indirect heat (coals arranged along or around the edge of your grill, not directly under your meat, as seen in photo at right, though leave the pan directly under your  meat, not under the grill – you’ll see why in a few more steps).  Cover the grill with vents wide open.  Your work is done for the next hour, at which time you’ll need to add 6 – 8 fresh briquettes, and again after another hour has passed – leave it on the grill for three hours.  Add well-soaked wood chips (wrapped in foil and poked with a half dozen vent holes on top) during the final hour.  If possible, turn the top of your grill so the top vents are on the side towards the meat, thus encouraging the smoke to draw across the meat, imparting flavor before it escapes through vent holes. 
  4. Wrap it, Move Indoors.  Remove the pan containing the meat from the grill and wrap it in heavy foil before setting on the middle rack of a pre-heated 325 degree oven for another two hours.  Guys, between you and me, I like to depart from this step by wrapping the meat and its pan, but leaving it on the grill and increasing the heat with more coals and, if needed, better venting.  If you do so, you’ll benefit from an oven thermometer so you’ll know when you’ve attained 325 degrees – better to go a bit under than over.
  5. Bag it and Rest it!  We agree with Cook’s Illustrated when they say this is the difference between good pulled pork and great pulled pork! Wrap the entire assemblage, foil, pan and all,  in a brown paper shopping bag, top folded over, and rest for an hour.  During this slow cooling process the meat absorbs flavor and retains moisture. 
  6. Pull It!  Using good clean gloves to protect your hands from the heat, and to keep everything sanitary (top photo), shred the pork. Serve with small, soft white buns, the dipping sauce, dill slices and a bit of cole slaw.  Heaven.

The Dry Rub Ingredients
4 Tbsp Sweet paprika
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp brown sugar (dark)
2 Tbsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp ground white pepper
1 tsp Cayenne pepper

Experiment!  Try the adding or substituting dried herbs or aromatic seeds of your choice – just grind them up along with the rest of the ingredients.  Your rub can be mixed ahead of time and refrigerated, in an air-tight container for weeks.  It’s a great rub for just about anything grilled, particularly red meats.

The Mop

  • 2 Cups cider vinegar
  • 1/2 Cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 2 Tbsp Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp red pepper (crushed)
  • 1 tsp cayenne or pepper flakes
Combine all ingredients and let sit, ideally overnight.  Serve as a dipping sauce or pour over your meat or sandwich.
Suggested Wines: Pinot Noir, Zinfandel (with lower alcohol or it fights the hot pepper!), Rosé wines.

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