Tag Archives: pork butt

Grill as Slow Cooker

I like the dry heat of an oven for roasting meats and use my covered roasting pans a lot. Then I found a good slow cooker recipe for pulled pork that gave me another option when I didn’t want to turn on the oven. Unlike a lot of slow cooker recipes, this one did not suck the life out of the meat, but kept it moist and flavorful. Last winter, that slow cooker crock cracked and put an end to that method until I get a replacement, but today, I’m using my newly purchased cast iron Dutch oven to recreate the recipe on the grill.

As I’ve noted in a recent post, the Dutch oven sits into the cooking grate ring on my Weber® grill, almost down to the charcoal grate, so the only option for arranging the coals is in the snake pattern, where the briquettes are placed around the inner edge of the kettle in a ring, except for one opening, so that the snake has a head and tail and doesn’t burn from both ends. You set some lighted, ashed-over coals on the head, and let the snake body light up slowly, keeping the temperature low (as in a slow cooker) for a long cooking period. I ended up using exactly 100 coals, which seems like a lot to me, except for the fact that I expect to cook my pork roast for at least 6 hours. My snake is 2 briquette rows wide and 2 rows tall, with 12 briquettes left over to start the fire. I’m hoping the temperature stays between 225°-250° for the whole time, and like a slow cooker, I don’t plan to open it unless the temperature goes too low and needs more fuel.

  • 3 hours: The temperature is about 290°, so I could adjust the top vents a little to lower the temperature. I have to wonder how much the heated cast iron adds to the overall temperature.
  • 5 hours: Hovering at about 250°. I hope something good is going on in that pot.
  • 6 hours: I just have to look. Oh, wow, it’s beautiful and just falls apart with the touch of a fork. Nothing is burnt or dry; the end result is pretty much like the result from the slow cooker, if you stop the cooking at about 6 hours. Any longer is when meat often loses its flavor in a slow cooker. As with all cooking of meat, you want to hit that right moment of doneness.

About 12 unlit briquettes at the end of the snake tell me the grill could cook for at least 1-2 more hours, while the spent coals have turned mostly to dust. Just a 6-8 inch portion of the snake is glowing, to give you an idea of how many hot coals go in to maintaining the 250° temperature.

I put the dish together exactly as the CHOW recipe says, with onions and garlic and chicken stock on the bottom and the pork roast with rub sitting on top. The only changes I made to their rub is adding a half tablespoon of smoked paprika and increasing the cinnamon to 1 teaspoon. It’s a very good rub, useful for a lot of meats with a little adjusting for your recipe taste.

Pulled Pork Two Ways

Beyond pulled pork in a bun with coleslaw—and it is one of my favorite ways to eat pulled pork—what else can you do with that lovely pile of meat that is generally way too much for one meal? Yes, there are a lot of Mexican dishes that use pulled pork, and one of those is my second recipe here, but first, let’s do something savory that doesn’t involve peppers and melted cheese, followed by heartburn.

Pork and Sweet Potatoes

Pork and Sweet Potatoes with Thyme

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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This is a kind of a hash in appearance, but without poached or fried eggs on top. I’m kind of over the meme of the egg thrown on everything edible.

Let’s assume you have roasted a pork butt or shoulder and have about 1-1.5 lbs of the meat sitting around for one recipe. I didn’t immediately pull the meat off my roast, because I knew I wanted other options; I broke it into large chunks and divided it in half—one half to chop into rough cubes, the other to shred for the second day.

1-1.5 lbs roast pork butt or shoulder, seasoned in roasting with garlic, salt, and pepper, cut roughly in medium cubes or shredded

3 cups sweet potatoes, cut in medium dice

1/3 cup shallots, in small dice

Olive oil and butter for sautéing

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (more if using fresh thyme)

  1. In a large skillet, heat about 2-3 tablespoons oil and an equal amount of butter over medium to medium-high heat, until hot but not smoking. I’m nuts about the combination of these two fats.
  2. Add the sweet potatoes and stir to combine with the fat. Cover for about 5 minutes to steam them a little, then uncover and add the shallots and thyme. Keep stirring until the potatoes are tender. They will brown lightly with this method, but you could fry them uncovered for more browning. Basically, you want the potatoes to cook through without overcooking or burning the shallots and thyme, so hold off on adding them too soon.
  3. At the last, stir in the diced pork and heat through. If your pork is like mine, there should be some juices from the roasting, which will be gelatinous if you have refrigerated it, and that flavor needs to be combined with the potatoes.

I say it serves 2-4, because my husband finished it off, so it was two in our house, even with a side vegetable.

Pulled Pork Enchiladas

On day two, which was the day before Cinco de Mayo, the remaining pork was pulled into shreds for enchiladas. I made them rather simply this time to highlight the meat.

Pulled Pork Enchiladas

  • Servings: 8 enchiladas
  • Difficulty: easy to moderate
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Preheat oven to 350°

1.5 lbs pulled pork, seasoned in roasting with garlic, salt, and pepper

2 4.5 oz cans diced chiles

1 large onion, diced

1 lb Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded

8 tortillas—I used whole wheat flour tortillas in a soft taco size to fit crosswise in a 13″ x 9″ baking dish

3 cups enchilada sauce—I made my own, but you could use canned sauce

  1. See my enchilada sauce recipe here, increasing the ingredients to make 3 cups. It will take about an hour to make. Otherwise, this recipe is just a quick construction with pre-cooked meat.
  2. Place pulled pork in large skillet with the canned chiles and heat over medium heat until warm.
  3. Stir in the raw onions.
  4. Spread 1 cup of enchilada sauce on the bottom of your baking dish.
  5. Place about 1/2-3/4 cup of the shredded meat mixture in a tortilla and top with 1 oz of the shredded cheese. Roll tight and place in dish, seam side down. Repeat to fill the dish.
  6. Pour the rest of the enchilada sauce over the top of the enchiladas—I like to see the ends of the tortillas sticking out, but it’s not written in stone.
  7. Top with the remaining 1/2 lb of shredded cheese.
  8. Bake for about 25 minutes or until cheese begins to brown.

This made enough that we could still have some for Cinco de Mayo.

New Year’s Pork and Sauerkraut

My mother said there were other traditions of food to eat for luck in the new year, such as black-eyed peas in the southern United States, but for us it was pork and sauerkraut. It’s a kind of heavy meal, more from the fat than from carbs, but it’s one we look forward to every year, and only once a year. I like to serve it at midday on New Year’s so we have time to recover by evening, instead of going to bed so full. What made this meal so popular with my husband is that the sauerkraut comes out edible, more sweet (without sugar) than sour, and the pork just falls apart. The roasted potatoes also help counter the tartness of the sauerkraut. It might be the simplest of big meals to cook, everything in one pot, and then a side vegetable made at the end. As noted in the last post, we top it off with custard pie, not too sweet, not too filling, just cool and creamy.

New Year's Pork and Sauerkraut

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Preheat oven to 300°

2 32oz bags of regular Silver Floss Krrrrisp Kraut or your favorite sauerkraut

Pork shoulder (butt), blade-in (about 5 lbs) or boneless pork butt, tied (about 3-5 lbs)*

1 lb kielbasa or smoked sausage, cut in 3 inch pieces—I used our favorite Hillshire Farm Polska Kielbasa©

2-3 lbs small red potatoes, whole or larger potatoes, quartered

  1. Place sauerkraut and all its liquid in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Set pork butt on top of sauerkraut and season with salt and pepper. Place lid on pan and roast in center of oven for 5 hours.
  2. Raise heat to 375°
  3. Add potatoes and pieces of kielbasa around roast. Return to oven with lid on and roast for 1 more hour.

The meat will be falling apart and the sauerkraut will be golden brown from cooking in the meat juices. Remove all components to a large platter and serve with a vegetable side—we had broccoli to add some needed green color to the meal.

*This dish won’t work out with a lean cut of pork, like a loin or tenderloin, which cannot stand up to such long cooking.

What do you eat for luck in the new year?

Roast Shredded Pork Butt

Today we’re eating the pork in tacos, so it will be seasoned accordingly, but you could use the same cooking process for a barbequed pork sandwich by switching out the seasonings for barbeque sauce or rub.

The closest grocery store is a New York-based chain (going nameless here) that is a little upscale, and you can seldom find the right pork cut for this dish, because they must have some sort of bias against too much pork fat. Rarely you can find a bone-in pork shoulder, which also works, and probably the bone adds good flavor to the meat, but I have a bias for the boneless roast all neatly encased in that stretchy elastic web. So, I more often shop for meat at the local Giant Eagle or Walmart where the boneless shoulder or butt is always available. Maybe it’s the butt name that the high-end store finds distasteful, even though it comes from the shoulder. Hey, where did the butt name come from, anyway? Let’s ask Wikipedia.

The pork butt in Walmart is from Tyson®—is that the company from Arkansas or Georgia? (two states in which I have lived)—and I have to say that their netting is a little looser than most. At first I thought it was odd, but it turns out that it roasts the meat more quickly, so it has become my first choice.

Roast Shredded Pork Butt

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Preheat oven: 350°

  • 3.5 lb boneless pork shoulder (leave the elastic netting on)
  • 3 cloves peeled garlic
  • Lots of salt and pepper

Place the pork butt in a roasting pan in which it is not crowded or touching the sides of the pan, where it will stick and burn. Cut the garlic cloves into about 3 slivers each and place them in cuts all over the top of the roast. I stick in a sharp paring knife, turn the blade 90°, then slide the garlic in next to the blade. Leaving the blade in makes it easier to slide the garlic in. Sprinkle liberally with salt and cracked pepper, cover and place in oven at 350° for about two hours before checking for doneness. After two hours, if it seems to be close to that falling apart stage, you can remove it to a cutting board and remove the netting for the third hour. Sometimes the roast will fall into big pieces when the netting is removed; sometimes not. Roast for about another hour, checking halfway to see if it’s ready to shred with a fork. I don’t know what happens on those days when it takes much longer or those days when it cooks more quickly. I suggest you make it on a day when you are flexible and unstressed. If you think the meat is unusually dry or your oven is super hot, you could add a little water to the bottom of the pan, but don’t overdo that. You want primarily roasted meat, not braised.

Remove the meat to a cutting board and shred with two forks. What you do next depends on how you want to eat it.

My roasting pan is one of those cheap dark blue speckled things. They are not heavy pans and that surely has an effect on cooking time and the final product. If you are lucky enough to have a covered enameled cast iron roaster, you might know how that changes the whole process. I looked at Le Creuset roasters earlier this summer and confirmed that I can’t afford one.

Shredded Pork Tacos

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 3.5 lb cooked shredded pork butt
  • 2 onions, chopped and sautéed in olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano (why do I only have ground oregano in the cupboard today?)
  • 2 dried ancho peppers, reconstituted and puréed ( about 1 cup, see below)
  • 1 small can chopped green chiles
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Soft taco flour tortillas or corn tortillas/taco shells
  • Condiments: queso fresco, avocado slices or guacamole, green or red salsa

You could do lots of things differently here. You could use a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, which has a nice smoky flavor and is hotter than the ancho purée. I like the combination of the ancho purée and the canned green chiles; I like the brightness of those canned chiles. You could use a shredded cheddar cheese and shredded lettuce and tomato for a traditional taco flavor, but I like the mild creamy crumbled queso fresco and avocado. Whatever you use, the steps to putting it together is quick once the meat is cooked and shredded. You could do that a day in advance.

  1. Sauté onions until translucent over medium heat
  2. Add cumin and oregano, salt and pepper, stirring for 1-2 minutes
  3. Add ancho purée and bring to boil
  4. Add  canned chiles and  shredded pork to sautéed mixture and heat

I don’t think I need to tell you how to put tacos together.

Leftovers: This recipe makes a huge bowl of shredded meat. If you have leftovers, you could eat them with red beans and rice, or even some polenta.

Reconstituted Dried Chiles

We lived in Texas for three years after grad school and got used to Tex-Mex cuisine, so I had to learn how to use dried chiles, because, for one thing, THERE ARE NO TOMATOES IN CHILI. I have no problem with beans in my chili, but there should be no tomatoes. Don’t argue with me on this point. Eventually, I will share my chili recipe.

  1. Rinse dried chiles, remove stems and seeds
  2. Tear into pieces so it fits in a small container or bowl
  3. Cover with boiling water; cover container with plastic wrap
  4. Set aside for about 45 minutes
  5. Place reconstituted chiles in blender with part of the liquid, adding more as needed to make a purée about the consistency of tomato juice (ironic, isn’t it?)
  6. Strain puree through a fine strainer to remove large pieces of pulp

You can’t keep this purée or freeze it, as it will separate and just not be the same. I have a cup that came with a long-gone hand blender that I always use for soaking the chiles. It holds two cups of water. For seasoning the tacos, I used only 1 cup of water for two chiles.