Pulled Pork Sous-Vide

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Pulled pork is a classic dish from the South of the United States. Purists may not agree with the method I present here, as they insist that pulled pork has to be made by tending a smoker for hours and hours, and that one has to worry about stuff like a ‘smoke ring’ and ‘bark’. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, i.e. sous-vide cooking, none of that is required to get a very tasty (and perhaps even superior, but don’t tell those purists I said that) result. I start with some pork shoulder and apply a spice rub, so far it is pretty classic. But then I use a very simple tabletop smoker to smoke the piece of pork for only 15 minutes. It is subsequently cooked sous-vide for 24 hours at 74C/165F. This will result in pork that is tender enough to be ‘pulled’, but still juicy as well. The long cook has allowed the smoky flavors to penetrate deeply into the meat. And all of the juices that leak out of meat, which also have a wonderful smoky aroma, are reserved inside the sous-vide bag. Then I prepare a tomato-based, sweet, spicy, and tangy ‘Kansas City Style’ BBQ sauce to which I add those juices, which add a wonderful smoky aroma to the BBQ sauce. I pull the pork, mix it with the sauce, and the result is divine. Especially considering that this requires only about half an hour of actual work. I am not an expert on this type of cooking so I cannot vouch for its authenticity. But I do know that this is delicious, and that I will definitely make it again.

Ingredients

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Serves 2

300 grams (.66 lb) pork shoulder

2 Tbsp smoking dust

For the spice rub

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp black pepper

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp New Mexico chile powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

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For the Kansas City Style BBQ sauce

250 ml (1 cup) sieved tomatoes (tomato puree)

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tbsp brown sugar

2 Tbsp cidre vinegar

1/2 Tbsp yellow mustard powder

1 tsp New Mexico chile powder

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

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To make the spice rub, combine 1 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 3/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp brown sugar, 1 tsp New Mexico chile powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, and 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Stir to mix.

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Rub 300 grams of pork shoulder with the spice rub on all sides, and vacuum seal. Refrigerate for at least 3 or up to 24 hours, to allow the rub to penetrate the meat.

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Set up a tabletop smoker with 2 tablespoons of smoking dust. I used mesquite this time around, but with this smoking method it doesn’t appear to matter a whole lot what type of wood you use.

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Take the pork out of the bag, pat dry with paper towels, and put it in the smoker.

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Fire up the smoker and count 15 minutes from then you see the first wisps of smoke.

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After those 15 minutes, take the pork out of the smoker…

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…and allow to cool to room temperature…

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…before vacuum sealing. Cook sous-vide for 24 hours at 74C/165F.

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To make the BBQ sauce, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan. Add a minced onion, and stir for 5 minutes over medium heat.

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Add a minced clove of garlic and stir for another minute, making sure the garlic doesn’t brown.

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Now add 250 ml of sieved tomatoes…

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…as well as 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of cidre vinegar…

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… and 1/2 Tbsp yellow mustard powder, 1 tsp New Mexico chile powder, 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, and 1/2 tsp salt.

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Stir and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.

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Puree the sauce with an immersion blender.

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Take the pork out of the sous-vide after 24 hours (please note that the meat will be fine anywhere between 20 and 28 hours, so there is no need to be very precise).

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Pour the juices from the bag into the pan with the sauce.

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Stir and bring to a boil again, then reduce to a simmer…

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…until the sauce is nicely thick.

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Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

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Pull the pork using two forks…

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…until you have pulled it to shreds.

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Add the pulled pork to the BBQ sauce…

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…stir over low heat until the pork has been warmed through and has been mixed with the sauce.

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I served it as a pulled pork sandwich.

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20 thoughts on “Pulled Pork Sous-Vide

    1. I agree Stefan’s posts are fantastic and I look forward to them showing up in my email. I always forward them to my new sous vide friends as one of the best resources on the web!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I admire your amazing cooking, but I get something similar in the crockpot which eliminates the plastic exposure/taste. Do you ever worry about all that plastic being heated with your food?

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      1. Yes, I know they say they are food grade, but there is no escaping that they are made of petro-chemicals and with the heat…well, just not for me. Everybody has to make their own decision about these things.

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  2. Smoke ring is just for looks but bark adds a lot. I highly recommend you give the pork a few minutes in a very hot oven after cooking SV to get some of that on it. Then pull it and you get a mix of juicy tender pork along with the burnished (dark dark) bark pieces in there.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A pretty cunning approach Stefan. I like the idea of using sous vide to accentuate the flavour from the short smoking. Getting a juicy end result is not easy by traditional methods. Many pulled pork recipes seem to be not worth the effort. This certainly is worthy.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pulled pork was one of the few meat dishes I allowed myself during my recent dental saga. I really do love the sandwiches. Next time around, I’ll give your recipe a try, Stefan. It sounds delicious! You’ll understand if I forego the sous-vide part of the equation. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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