The plan was to make a pulled pork shoulder for Labor Day. Ok, the real plan was to have a big labor day BBQ and grill-out because I had my deck renovations done and my grill assembled and connected to the natural gas line that I had run out to the deck, but, uh, that didn’t happen. So I scaled that back to making a pulled pork shoulder, cole slaw, and (gluten-free) cornbread for me and Meg and our friend Kim. And then Meg got sick on Labor Day, so the pork festivities were put off until the Wednesday after Labor Day.
I made this recipe from The Hungry Mouse, because, well, Coca-Cola and sweetened condensed milk seemed like a braise that was just crazy enough to work. Also, I wanted a Carolina-style pulled pork, and this recipe came with a vinegar-y sauce preparation. Though any native Carolinan would flog me for preparing pig in the oven like that.
The pork turned out…fine…not fabulous, but not bad either. That might be one of the reasons it took me so long to blog about it. It wasn’t the kind of thing I immediately wanted to make again the next week, nor was it a disaster that I could at least learn something from.
I deviated from the recipe in two ways, and I don’t know how much of an impact that had on the out come:
- I didn’t use a skin-on pork shoulder — they only had bone-in, skinless when I went to Metropolitan Market in Seattle (it was later and night, and their butcher shop was closed)
- I cooked it lower and slower. Because of the timing of my preparation, I would have ended up taking it out of the oven at 3am. So instead, I decided to lower the heat a bit and cook it a few extra hours.
My overall assessment was that there was some flavor missing — I was hoping that more of the sweetness from the braise would make its way into the pork, but I couldn’t taste much of it. And without a finish under the broiler like I do with carnitas, there’s no crispiness or caramelization to add flavor to the meat.
Sure, that’s made up for to some extent by the sauce, which may be the point, but I’d prefer something that’s more inherently flavorful, rather than relying on a topping, even if that topping is derived from the cooking.
So if I have to make pulled pork in the oven again, I’ll do something different next time. Again, it turned out fine, but it didn’t hit that flavor pinnacle that I’m looking for.