Introduction: Easy Smoked Paprika Pulled Pork Recipe

About: Just finished up a 4 year course in Modelmaking, Design and Digital. I'm currently working on expanding my portfolio and collecting skills while scouting for jobs.
This recipe was given to me from my Uncle who got it from his friend in California. It's a great dish for parties, family dinners, or even keeping in the fridge and making sandwiches out of it!  I made it recently for my Mum's birthday dinner and it went down a treat so I figured why not share it so even more people can enjoy it? 

This recipe is in 2 parts that come together in the end, the meat, and the sauce. Please note that for the meat you'll prob have a fair bit of spice rub left over. Which you can use to season other meats, or store for next time. If you want cut it down to about half, you'd prob still have enough to coat your meat.  

For the meat and dry rub you'll need:
  • 1 shoulder of Pork (around 6lbs, and this should feed 4-6 hungry people if it's all you're serving, or could stretch to more if you're serving a combo of dishes/lots of bread/etc)
  • 1 cup Smoked Paprika (You could use regular if you can't find smoked, but I find there's a pretty big difference in taste and smell between the two)
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 3 tbsp Black Pepper
  • 1 tbsp Salt
  • A Pinch of Cayenne (or if you like it spicy, as this recipe is a little sweet, you can add in more)
For the sauce you'll need:
  • 1 inch / 1.6 tbsp Butter (it's an odd one I know, I just used 1 and a half tbsp as I can't get sticks of butter where I am, but someone on Reddit worked out what that would be in tbsp for me and 1.6 tbsp was just a little messy!) 
  • 2-3 White Onions (Finely chopped)
  • 1 cup Tomato Ketchup
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar (couldn't find it anywhere! So I used regular cider vinegar instead)
  • 3 tbsp Smoked Paprika
  • A Pinch of Cayenne (again, add more if you're a fan of spicy)
  • Apple Cider Vinegar with a splash of Worchester Sauce (for basting)
  • White hamburger rolls / dinner rolls / flour pancakes / etc (for serving with)
  • Head of Iceberg Lettuce (keep the large leaves for serving in, shred the rest for salad)
Equipment used:
  • Sauce pan / large pan / wok
  • Large casserole dish
  • Oven tray with rack
  • Tin foil
  • Parchment / grease proof paper
  • Mixing bowls
  • Forks, spoons, jugs, bowls
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Serving dish / platter
  • Oven and Hob
What I was listening to (because you need good cooking beats):
  • Imelda May - Love Tattoo / Mayhem

Step 1: The Dry Rub and Preparing the Meat

The dry rub is simple, combine all the dry ingredients together in a bowl or similar, and mixed together. (Fig 1 and 2)

If you get your shoulder of pork from a butcher, they should cut the layer of skin and fat off the meat for you, often still giving it to you anyway. If your pork still has this layer, you'll need to remove it with a sharp knife, cutting as close to the flesh as possible to remove all the fat. You can keep this aside later for making crackling if you like. (Fig 3) 

Place the pork into a large casserole or baking dish (Fig 4), take some of the dry rub and start rubbing it into the meat turning it and making sure you cover it completely (Fig 5). Cover this and place it in the fridge to marinate for at least two hours but preferably over night. (Fig 6)

Step 2: Cooking the Meat

The next morning (or two hours later) remove the meat from the dish and place it on a tray with a draining rack and put it in your oven at Gas mark 1 or lower. I recommend putting a bit of tinfoil under the meat (which I forgot to do - Silly me!) or a non stick cooking sheet if you have one to catch drippings as the length of time in the oven will cause them to burn into the bottom of your tray and that'll be a pain to get off later! (Fig 7)

After 4 hours raise the heat to Gas mark 2 to cook slowly for a further 3 hours. Baste with apple cider vinegar and a splash of worchester sauce regularly (I did it once every 30 mins or so) and turn the meat occasionally. (Fig 8 and 9)

Note: My meat ended up a little charred on the outside this time as I was using a circotherm oven, which can be a little hotter than gas or conventional ovens. I should've lowered it down even further, so if you're using circotherm, maybe consider doing this.

Step 3: The Sauce

While your meat is slow cooking, you can make the sauce. It's very simple and doesn't take too long, and if you want you can prepare it the night before with the dry rub so you have it in advance, just store it in an airtight container or jar til you need it.

To start, chop your onions up finely if you haven't already (Fig 10). Place the butter in a large pan (I used my little wok because it has a see through lid, but a sauce pan is prob better), add the onions, and cover the pan (Fig 11 - 13). The aim here is to sweat the onions in the butter. So cook them on a low heat, don't let them brown! Stir ocassionally, and remember to replace the lid afterwards. When they've turned kinda transparent and soft, they're done. 

And while you're onions are sweating (that'll take prob 10-20 mins) combine all the other ingredients of the sauce in a jug (Fig 15). When your onions are ready, stir the sauce into the pan and bring to the boil (Fig 16). Reduce the heat down so the sauce stays at a slow simmer, and cook for a further 20 mins or so, stiring occasionally (Fig 17).

Step 4: Pulling the Pork and Adding Sauce

When your pork is done, remove it from the oven and place it on a piece of grease proof paper. Start to pull the meat off the bone (it should pull off really easily, if it's too tough, it's overcooked. As you can see mine got a little extra crispy on the outside this time but it still tasted amazing and was easy to pull (Fig 18). Completely strip the bone, remove any fatty veins from your meat and pull until there's nothing left (Fig 19).

Put your pulled pork in a large mixing bowl, and add the sauce. (Fig 20) The aim here is not to drown the meat in sauce, but to give it a light coating. I still had almost a cup of sauce remaining when I was finished, but you can put this in a bowl and serve it with the meat in case anyone wants extra! 

Step 5: Serving Suggestions

The recipe I was given suggested using white hamburger buns or soft rolls and fresh coleslaw (not the one in mayo as that will drown out the flavours). (Fig 21)

Why not try taking the large outer leaves from a head of iceberg lettuce and soaking them in ice water for a few hours before you serve? This will crispen the lettuce up while keeping it fresh. You can then fill the lettuce with pork and anything else your fancy and roll it up into a parcel. (Fig 22 and 23)

Or similarly you could use flour pancakes (I cheated and bought mine from the local Chinese takeaway but they are very easy to make) and fill them with pork, salad, strips of carrot or cucumber etc. (Fig 24)

Whatever way you choose to eat your pulled pork, I hope you enjoy it!