Once a somewhat exotic dish in cottage land, smoky and delicious pulled pork is now a staple for lake people, able to feed a crowd and win rave reviews. Cooking a piece of pork shoulder, otherwise known as a blade or picnic roast, to fork-tender shredability takes a lot of time (60–90 minutes per pound or about 8 hours for a 6–8 lb roast), but it is also so simple I can describe it in 37 words: On a smoker or a gas or charcoal grill set up for indirect cooking, roast pork at 225°F–250°F until it reaches an internal temperature of 190°F–195°F. Rest for an hour, then pull, shred, and chop.
But has our prized pig, anointed with the same old paprika-based rub, heavily smoked, and slathered with barbecue sauce, become a one-trick pony? That would be a shame, so here are a couple of different ways to spin your next pulled pork party. The Go-To Cottage Rub plays it pretty straight, but the Cuban and Italian treatments are a break from tradition. Try cooking the meat low and slow, but without adding smoke with wood chips or chunks.
Go-To Cottage Rub
1⁄4 cup paprika
2 tbsp brown sugar 1 tbsp salt
11⁄2 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp chili powder (ancho, if possible—see Tip)
1 tsp cayenne pepper
11⁄2 tsp garlic powder
11⁄2 tsp ground cumin
Thoroughly mix all ingredients, reserving 3 tbsp. Pierce roast, then rub spice mixture all over, wrap tightly in plastic film, and refrigerate overnight. After cooking, shred meat, and sprinkle with reserved rub. Serve on a squishy bun with barbecue sauce and coleslaw.
Herby Italian Wet Rub
1⁄4 cup canola oil 1⁄4 cup dry white wine
1⁄4 cup fresh rosemary, chopped
3 tbsp fresh thyme 5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1⁄2 tsp dry sage
1⁄2 tsp red pepper flakes
Grated zest of one lemon
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1⁄2 cup canola oil 1⁄2 cup orange juice 1⁄4 cup lime juice (about 3 limes)
1⁄4 cup dry sherry (optional)
2 tbsp lemon juice 1⁄2 cup onions, chopped
10 cloves garlic
1 tsp ground cumin 1 tsp dry oregano
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper Cilantro, for garnish
For each recipe, pulse ingredients in a blender or food processor until combined. With a paring knife, pierce pork all over. Put meat and marinade in a plastic bag, and rub mixture vigorously into the roast, massaging into the slits. Marinate (24–48 hours for the Herby Italian Wet Rub, 24 hours or overnight for the Cubo-Rican Marinade). After cooking, defat pan drippings. Simmer to reduce. Drizzle this sauce over shredded pork on a crusty roll or taco.
Tip: Mild and deeply flavourful, ancho (a single-source chili powder, like chipotle) is like bass guitar for your pork rub.