You can make Michael Mina's pulled-pork sandwiches a day in advance, then spend the rest of the time buying napkins for when you eat 'em.As told to Francine Maroukian by Michael Mina
It's not just the flavors that make a dish but the layering of textures. I love pulled pork because of the contrast between the crispy exterior and the tender, almost-melting inside. You start with a pork "butt" (actually a pig's shoulder), a cheap but flavorful cut with a good amount of fat that renders out during the long, slow cooking and bastes the meat to give it a caramelized crust.
A pulled-pork sandwich should be messy; that makes it perfect summer-by-the-pool food at my house. I recently added an outdoor party kitchen with a rotisserie, and I roast all kinds of things, including birds and prime ribs. It works great for pork butt, too. Or if you have a smoker, this is also an awesome piece of meat to smoke. (Just follow the same recipe using the smoker instead of the oven.)
This is a dish you can make a day ahead with no hassle; just reheat it with some of your favorite barbecue sauce and serve it on plain soft white rolls. (You don't want a real serious roll that is going to interfere with the flavor of the meat.) Because it can even be served at room temperature, I bring this to our tailgates before 49ers games. A little extra barbecue sauce or hot sauce and maybe some mustard, and you're all set.
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- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
- 2 tbsp kosher or coarse salt
- 2 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tbsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard (found in spice section)
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1 boneless pork butt, about 3 pounds
- 1 1/2 cups apple juice
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 package plain soft white rolls or other bread
Tip: You can buy bone-in or boneless pork butts. Both have their benefits: Cooking bone-in will contribute some flavor (and increase the cooking time slightly). But if you have your butcher take out the bone, you can rub the spice mix into the incisions where the bone was removed - a great way to get the flavor deep inside the meat.
Mix brown sugar and dry spices together in a small bowl. Rub all over pork, cover, and let sit in the refrigerator for as long as you have time for (as little as 1 hour or up to overnight). Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lay pork on a rack insert fitted inside a roasting pan. (The rack should be high enough so the entire spiced butt is sitting above the cooking liquid.) Pour in apple juice and water, cover pan tightly with foil, and slow roast for 5 hours. Remove foil and cook for another 30 minutes, until pork is brown outside and meat is very tender, basically falling apart.
Remove from oven, transfer to large platter, and allow meat to rest for about 10 minutes. While still warm, shred pork into small pieces using 2 forks or 10 fingers. Transfer to bowl for serving, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. To reheat, just transfer to shallow baking dish, bring to room temperature, and place in preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.
Tip: If the pan drippings aren't burned, discard fat and mix drippings back into the pulled pork, which will make it even more moist and flavorful.
Esquire's note: We used a roasting pan that wasn't much bigger than the meat itself, so the drippings didn't spread out and burn.
Michael Mina is the chef and owner of Michael Mina in San Francisco and Stripsteak in Las Vegas and is the coauthor of Michael Mina: The Cookbook.
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