Pulled Pork with 3 Sauces

When Carla retired a year ago she left an awesome administrative and teaching group at Whitford Middle School. Denise retired at the same time and this year Gail retired. It was time for a celebration so we sent out the invitations and I set about doing some pulled pork barbecue.

I have a lot of sauce recipes and wanted a chance to put some up against one another. I worked to create a balance of sauces so folks could sample and compare. I started with three sauces: my Cook’s Illustrated “Brick” sauce (named that because it would make a brick taste good), a sweeter bourbon sauce, and a mustard vinegar sauce for those South Carolina BBQ heads.

None of the recipes here are personal; they all come from sources readily available to everyone; however, the Cook’s Illustrated sauce requires a subscription. If you’ve been thinking of doing some low and slow barbecue this is a great place to start.

I’m retired and Carla was up in Victoria with a friend so I had the kitchen to myself one day. I lined up the ingredients I’d need for the work ahead of me.

Ingredients for 3 Barbecue Sauces
Ingredients for 3 Barbecue Sauces

Once I had them all lined up I realized I had a full afternoon of work ahead of me. First up was the mustard vinegar sauce. This came from the Oregonian FoodDay on July 15, 2015. I’ve searched the online archives and can’t find the recipe; but a copy of the recipe can be found here.

Mustard Vinegar Sauce ingredients
Mustard Vinegar Sauce ingredients

If I were to retake the top photo, I’d hide the ketchup behind the mustard and get the vinegar there in its place. There is ketchup; but just a little. The real stars are the mustard and vinegar. It’s easy; throw the ingredients together in a sauce pan and simmer. Because I was making three sauces I cut the recipe in half. When I do this next time, I’d add a little oil and bloom the garlic, pepper, and cayenne for about 30 seconds in the sauce pan before adding the other ingredients.

Simmering mustard vinegar sauce
Simmering mustard vinegar sauce

Cooking tip: when this is simmering, under no condition should you lean over the pan and inhale – deeply or otherwise. I did this by mistake and the combination of sharp vinegar and pungent mustard knocked my socks off. I literally had to step back for about 15 seconds to regroup.

While that sauce cooled I started in on the sassy bourbon and brown sugar sauce. As with the mustard vinegar sauce I can’t find the recipe on the OregonLive FoodDay site but my copy is easily viewable here. As with the first recipe I made just a half batch (adjusted quantities are available in the recipe).

Sassy bourbon sauce ingredients
Sassy bourbon sauce ingredients

Notice my collection of colorful ramekins? I found them at Kitchen Kaboodle and figured they’d help by not having a wide assortment of various shaped containers. Please note that you don’t need to put each ingredient in its own bowl like I do for the pictures. You’ll find it quicker to prepare and clean up if you just dump things in the pot as you measure them out.

The recipe calls for a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes; since I was making a half batch I went shopping for a 14.5 oz can. It turns out either they don’t make (or my grocery store doesn’t stock) the smaller sized cans of crushed tomatoes. I went with a petite dice knowing I’d be blending it all together later and the chunks would be gone.

Finally it was time to make my favorite barbecue sauce; the Cook’s Illustrated sauce. The recipe is from July 2005 and is part of a pulled chicken. A copy of the recipe is here.

“Brick” barbecue sauce ingredients

If you search the blog archives you’ll see this sauce pop up again and again. I decided to make it in case the other, new, recipes were flops. One of the fun things about this sauce is you chop up an onion in a food processor until it is the consistency of a slushy then squeeze it through a fine meshed sieve to extract some beautiful onion water. Then bloom the aromatics in some hot oil and add the other ingredients.

I thought it would be helpful to make some labels so people would know what there were dealing with.

The three barbecue sauces. Mustard vinegar (skull and crossbones) won hands down
The three barbecue sauces. Mustard vinegar (skull and crossbones) won hands down

The mustard vinegar sauce earned that label fair and square. I tasted it shortly after cooking and it was as powerful as my simmering experience led me to believe.

I was done for the day; Thursday I prepped for the pulled pork. First I needed the injection.

Chris LIly injection
Chris Lily injection

I’ve made pulled pork using various  preparations and cooking on many different platforms, but the Chris Lily injection and rub is excellent. Chris Lily is a big name in barbecue; he runs Bob Gibson’s barbecue in Alabama. Check out this link including a video. That being said, I didn’t use the rub from that web page; I used this one – or you can use this copy of the recipe. If this six time world champion recipe is good enough for him; it’s good enough for me and my guests.

Chris Lily Butt Rub ingredients
Chris Lily Butt Rub ingredients

I injected my two pork butts, rubbed them, and put them on the Mak 2 Star smoker.

Pork butts starting out on the smoker
Pork butts starting out on the smoker

The beauty of this smoker is its programability. I set it to run at “smoke” for 90 minutes so the butts (actually they are shoulders) would get a good crust, then the temperature bumped up to 235° until the probe on the left shoulder reached 195° internal temperature? WHAT? 195°?! Yep; it needs to get up to that temperature to make sure the internal collagen and other goodness dissolves into the tasty goodness that is barbecue.

With the butts on I went to bed. In the morning I checked on everything and a little after 9:00 AM they were ready.

Pork butts finished the next morning
Pork butts finished the next morning

The only tough thing about pulled pork and brisket is the timing. If you start in the morning they might not be ready for dinner; so I cook overnight then wrap them in a double layer of aluminum foil and store them in a cooler wrapped in many layers of towels; they’ll keep for hours in that environment. In the BBQ parlance. this is known as FTC (Foil, Towels, Cooler).

My cooking log can be found here. A cooking log you ask? Why yes; that way I can go back and look at what was successful and what not so much.

Don’t have a pellet smoker? Don’t sweat it; I’ve made it on a gas grill with foil pellets of chips), on a charcoal grill and even in a flower pot! The flower pot is an Alton Brown set up; it was the first real cooking I had ever done.

  • Take a large terra cotta pot and place a hot plate in it
  • Put a pie plate with wood chunks on the hot plate;
  • Turn on the hot plate
  • Put a Weber circular grill (available at most hardware stores) in the pot
  • Put the pork shoulder on the grill
  • Put a second terra cotta pot upside down over the bottom one. The upper pot should nestle just inside the lower one
  • Put a thermometer in the hole of the upper lid.
  • Monitor the temp and adjust hot plate temp and add wood as needed.

However you cook it, when you are done and if it is perfect, you’ll have this result.

Now ,why the H E double hockey sticks didn’t I take a picture of the pulled pork and the beautiful salads people brought? I don’t know; I guess I got caught up being a host. But trust me it was good.

The mustard vinegar sauce was the surprise hit of the evening. One of the guests said it had a nice finish that leaves your tongue numb for a bit. It isn’t chili hot; it’s mustard hot. The bourbon and brown sugar sauce was the runner up; personally, I wasn’t a big fan; I like this sweet Kansas City sauce better; you can read about it here.

So there you have it. Please drop me a comment to let me know what you think.

6 thoughts on “Pulled Pork with 3 Sauces

  1. yum. YUM. YYYYUUUUUMMMMM!!! SOOOO disappointed to not see pics of the final show – and even MORE disappointed not to be there sampling the sauces! Congratulations, Carla, on the retirement, and the party with your friends. Howard, it’s awesome to see you pulling pork in industrial strength rubber gloves. Hugs to you both!

    1. Interestingly enough, this was my last cook on the smoker. I sold it to a competition smoking group based in Seattle. I’m going to try it on a charcoal grill this summer. I’ll let you know how it goes. Probably more effort since it isn’t programmable, but pulled pork is easy as long as you have the time. I’m confident it will be tasty. And I’ll try to remember to get pictures of the pulled meat at the end 🙂

      1. Wow, you have the coolest toys, Howard ;-). Happy New Year, I’m looking forward to seeing all of your projects in 2016!

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