This recipe calls for a long, slow cook at around 125°C (250°F). Low temperatures like this take a long time – my 7kg pork shoulder took 18 hours to cook – but the reward is the most tender meat you can imagine as the sinews and other connective tissue melt and add a gelatinous texture to the finished dish that is utterly addictive.
If you’re smoking - and you should if you can - the meat will develop a blackened crust on it, which BBQ enthusiasts refer to as ‘bark’. This is an essential part of the process, so please don’t worry: if you taste it, you’ll think that it’s too salty and burnt but when it is all shredded and mixed with the inner flesh it adds a wonderful depth to the end result.
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Cooking the pork
Set your oven or barbeque smoker to 125°C (250°F). With a charcoal BBQ this might take an hour or more as the coals need to be a uniform grey colour; when they are, add the wood to add the smoky flavour and let the temperature settle.
Mix the rest of the ingredients to make a dry rub. The mixture will keep for a few months if it is stored in an airtight container.
Remove the skin from the pork, but leave a good covering of fat. Rub in a good quantity of the dry rub mixture, working it well into every crevice.
Add your pork shoulder to the barbeque smoker and sit back and relax. Keep an eye on the temperature, adding more charcoal as necessary but remember: if you’re looking then it ain’t cooking.
Of course, if you’re cooking it in the oven for the whole time (and if you do then the only thing you will lose is that lovely smoky flavour), you can check it every 3-4 hours. If it’s getting too burned, then cover it tightly with foil, after adding a dash of apple juice or cider to the pan to keep it juicy. When I’m cooking a very large piece of meat, I tend to BBQ it during the day and then pop it in the oven overnight to finish off.
It’s done when you can easily pull the bone away from the meat or when the internal temperature is 95°C (200°F) when you check it with a temperature probe.
Leave it to cool for half-an-hour or so and then pull the meat apart. I like to leave a few larger prices while shredding the rest. Mix well, making sure that the bark is evenly distributed. You can chill it now if you prefer and finish it off later (it’ll keep for a couple of days in the fridge).
Making the BBQ sauce
Mix the ingredients well.
Bring to the boil and simmer for ten minutes with a lid on. (It will spatter, so be careful when you remove the lid.)
Leave to cool and bottle. It will keep for up to a week in the fridge in a sealed container, but can be added to the shredded pork and frozen for up to three months.
Mix the meat and BBQ sauce, adding enough sauce that the shredded meat is moist but not swimming. You can also add a couple of tablespoons of the dry rub mixture too if you like a stronger taste, stirring well to mix.
You can either microwave it for a couple of minutes or pop it in a roasting tray and cover with tin foil. Heat until the temperature is at least 80°C (175°F) and serve in a bun with some homemade coleslaw and chips.
You can buy wood chips and while they work very well, they can be expensive. If you have access to wood from a fruit tree, then this can be used very successfully.
Alternatively, any hard wood like oak or beech also works well, but don’t use a soft wood like pine as there is too much resin in it, and the end result will be awful!
I use a Weber Smokey Mountain BBQ but any barbeque could be used, even a gas-fired model; just add a tray of moistened wood chips on top of one of the burners to replicate the smoke.
It’s better to cook a large piece of meat and freeze the surplus. I’ve found that the best way is to shred the meat and then freeze it at this point. It’ll keep for three months and taste perfectly fresh after you’ve defrosted it, coated it with BBQ sauce and heated in a foil-covered tray in the oven.
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