The recipes that follow are ridiculously good.
It’s tough to go a summer without barbecue in this country. A summer without barbecue is basically no summer at all. Has anyone ever pulled it off? Actually, don’t answer that. We don’t even want to know what that’s like.
Discovering incredible barbecue places often takes some hunting. Sometimes, it takes you down roads next to signs that say “Manville” and “Free Dirt” (actually), other times it takes you an hour-plus out of your way, even when you’re sort of in a rush and have already eaten a full meal recently enough that your pants are already kind of uncomfortably tight.
But making incredible barbecue is another level of commitment.
We already knew that a great barbecue sauce would be the key to a great pulled pork sandwich—not to give the pork short shrift. So-tender-and-juicy-it-falls-apart pork is basically the highest form of meaty glory, as far as we’re concerned. The pork is, of course, really important. But a good cut of meat does a lot of the work for you so long as you’ve got the basics down. As you’ll see, once you have the rub and the technique, you’re golden. (Don’t forget you’ll also need the best buns you can get your hands on.) But barbecue sauce is more complex. First off, we’ve never really found one that we were completely and utterly crazy about. And if that’s not the way you feel about a barbecue sauce, it’s obviously not the right sauce.
What you want out of a barbecue sauce is nothing short of a deep, respectful love. You have to have something so mouthwatering that it’s basically addictive. Just smelling it should never be enough, but once you do, you have to try it.
We wanted a barbecue sauce that took all the best elements of different regional sauces we’ve had and melded them together in a way that not only works, but that we really love—something even better than the sauces individually. There’s the vinegar-based sauce of the Carolinas, the sweet and sour sauce of Memphis, the sugary, thick tomato sauce of Kansas City… the list goes on. And while they’re all delicious, so many of them often leave us feeling like we wish they had just a little something from one of the other sauces.
Here’s what we knew: We wanted something that wasn’t cloyingly sweet, overly thick, or generic. We wanted something with a good bite of spice and tanginess, the right sweetly-smokey notes, and a great texture—not so heavy that it clobbers the pork, not so thin that it feels more like a marinade. For us, the perfect barbecue sauce has a good balance of all these things.
Here’s what we didn’t know: Exactly how to make a sauce that fit this so perfectly, we’d never want to change the recipe again. Having made all sorts of barbecue sauces over the years, we had yet to get it just right. So we brought in special counsel: Peter and his barbecue-loving, scientist brain.
The three of us tried several different combinations, added various base ingredients and different flavor notes, and played with consistency. Lists of potential ingredients and their corresponding flavor and texture profiles were compiled, last-minute store runs in torrential, stormy downpours for just a few more ingredients were made, different batches were (happily) taste-tested. What Peter helped us create, The Barbecue Sauce, is so good, we almost wanted to keep it to ourselves—a thing that we rarely do with any edible thing. (See: every conversation before, during, and after we eat something delicious.) The sauce we came up with is perfectly well-rounded but definitely not boring. Wait until you try it.
So, you’ve got your favorite bun, some seriously tasty, tender pork, and an awesome barbecue sauce—that’s one great pulled pork sandwich. But to make a magnificent pulled pork sandwich? You’re going to need Lou’s famously fresh Slaw: the most flavor-packed, brightest coleslaw—with a kick—you’ve had. It’s just a little creamy and plenty crisp—nothing heavy, goopy, or only vaguely vegetable-like here. The vinegar, jalapeños, and crunch make this slaw the perfect complement to the rich, sweetness of the pulled pork.
Your current favorite pulled pork sandwich just got bumped.
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Makes a whole bunch
– A food processor (If you don’t have one, a really sharp knife will do.)
– Box grater or shredding blade for food processor
– 1 small head of green cabbage
– 1 jalapeño
– ½ large onion
– ½ cup white wine vinegar (white vinegar will work too)
– 1 tsp sugar
– 1 tsp salt
– ½ tsp black pepper
– ½ tsp celery seed
– 2 tsp Dijon mustard
– 1 cup of your favorite mayo
* Remove outer leaves of cabbage and give them a rinse. Pat dry, cut it into quarters and core.
* Using the slicing blade of your food processor, slice the cabbage and transfer to a large bowl.
* Switch to the a shredding blade of your processor or use the large holes of a box grater: Grate the onion and add it to the cabbage.
* With gloved hands (the easiest way to prevent pepper-burned hands for hours to come), seed and remove ribs from jalapeño. Chop finely. Add to the bowl and toss everything to mix.
* In a small bowl, combine the sugar and salt with the vinegar. Whisk to dissolve.
* Add the black pepper, celery seed, mayo, and mustard. Whisk until smooth.
* Pour over cabbage and toss to mix. Refrigerate about an hour (or longer), giving it an occasional stir, to allow the the flavors to meld.
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– 4 pounds pork butt or shoulder
– 2 tsp dry mustard
– 1 tsp garlic powder
– 2 tsp onion powder
– 2 tbs paprika
– 2 tsp cumin
– 1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne pepper
– 4 tbs dark brown sugar
– 2 tsp salt
– Barbecue sauce (recipe below)
* Combine the mustard, garlic and onion powders, spices, sugar, and salt. Mix well to make a rub.
* Pat the mixture onto the pork, coating evenly on all sides.
* Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
* Remove pork from refrigerator, unwrap and let it sit at room temperature for about half an hour.
* When ready to cook, pre-heat oven to 275° F
* Place the pork, fat side up, on a roasting pan and cook for about 4 hours or until your meat thermometer reads 185-190° F when inserted into the thickest part of the pork. Check it after 3 hours to see how it’s coming along.
* Make the barbecue sauce while the pork is roasting. (See recipe below.)
* Remove the pork from the oven when it’s done and let it rest for 15-20 minutes. Shred using two forks while it’s still warm.
* Add a good amount of the barbecue sauce to the shredded pork and mix well to coat.
* Serve on the best buns around, topped coleslaw, and more barbecue sauce.
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The Barbecue Sauce
As mentioned, we wanted to create a barbecue sauce that blended the best parts of sauces we’ve eaten around the country. We really, really love what Peter helped us create. The right amount of sweet, spicy, tangy, and smoky. But, of course, if you want it a little hotter, a little less sour, a little whatever, you can certainly make this recipe your own. Though we tried a bunch of sauces, this was the winner, hands down, for everyone.
– 1 1/2 cups ketchup
– 1 cup apple cider vinegar
– 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
– 3 tbs yellow mustard
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 1/2 white onion, diced
– 2 tbs butter
– 1 tbs malt vinegar
– 1/2 tbs molasses
– 1 tsp kosher salt
– 1 tsp black pepper
– 1 tsp smoked paprika
– 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
– 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
– 1 tsp chili powder
* In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, salt, black pepper, paprika, Aleppo pepper, and chili powder
* Melt butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Sauté the onions for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Toss in the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
* Add the dry spices from your small bowl and stir for about 2 minutes until toasted and fragrant.
* Add the wet ingredients one by one: the ketchup, apple cider vinegar, yellow mustard, malt vinegar, molasses, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir until everything is nicely combined.
* Cook the sauce at a low simmer until it has thickened, about 10 minutes
* Add liberally to the pulled pork and sandwiches. Store any extra in a jar in the fridge for up to two weeks or so.
©2014 Lee and Lou Cook. All rights reserved.