The cut of pork known as pork butt doesn’t get much as much respect as trendier, leaner, and fancier cuts like pork tenderloin.
But I really prefer pork butt for many dishes, especially pulled pork sandwiches and tacos. Think of it as the pork version of pot roast. Because it’s got better marbling and higher fat content, it stays moist and cooks up tender, especially if you use a slow-cooking method like a crockpot. (Pork loin and pork tenderloin are both easy to overcook, giving you a dried-out, tough piece of meat.)
Pork butt also has a deeper, richer, meatier flavor than some of those other “white-meat” pork cuts. And it absorbs flavor nicely during cooking, without a lot of work. If you’re cooking in the oven or a crockpot, for instance, you can just coat the meat with a dry rub before cooking. Or to create the Mexican dish known as carnitas, great in tacos, cook with chiles and orange juice, or another citrus.
Plus, did I mention it’s affordable, often just about half the price of leaner cuts?
This recipe makes a great weekend supper, and makes enough that you can invite a few friends. If you’re short on time, you can use your favorite prepared barbecue sauce instead of putting together homemade.
Oven Pulled Pork with Homemade BBQ Sauce
Serves 6 to 8.
1 cup + 2 Tbs salt
½ cup + 2 Tbs sugar
3 Tbs + 2 tsp liquid smoke
5 lbs boneless pork butt
¼ cup creole mustard
2 Tbs ground black pepper
2 Tbs smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 ½ cups ketchup
¼ cup molasses
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs Louisiana hot sauce
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper, fresh ground
Deeply score pork 5-6 time to allow brine to penetrate.
Dissolve 1 cup salt, 1/2 cup sugar, and 3 Tbs liquid smoke in 4 quarts cold water in large container. Submerge pork in brine and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
While pork brines, combine mustard and remaining 2 tsp liquid smoke in small bowl; set aside. Combine black pepper, paprika, remaining 2 Tbs sugar, remaining 2 tsp salt, and cayenne in second small bowl; set aside. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.
Remove pork from brine and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Rub mustard mixture over entire surface of of pork. Sprinkle entire surface of each piece with spice mixture. Place pork on wire rack set inside foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Place piece of parchment paper over pork, then cover with sheet of aluminum foil, sealing edges to prevent moisture from escaping. Roast pork for 3 hours.
Remove pork from oven; remove and discard foil and parchment. Carefully pour off liquid in bottom of baking sheet. Remove fat from liquid and reserve for sauce. Return pork to oven and cook, uncovered, until well browned, tender, and internal temperature registers 200 degrees on instant-read thermometer, about 1½ hours. Transfer pork to serving dish, and let rest for 20 minutes.
While pork rests, pour 1/2 cup of defatted cooking liquid into medium bowl; whisk in sauce ingredients.
Using 2 forks, shred pork into bite-sized pieces. Toss with 1 cup sauce and season with salt and pepper.
Serve, passing remaining sauce separately.