Food: Perfect pulled pork

Tom Kerridge
Tom Kerridge

Affordable, tasty and versatile, it’s no wonder our appetite for pulled pork shows no sign of waning.

Affordable, tasty and versatile, it’s no wonder our appetite for pulled pork shows no sign of waning.

Everywhere you look, from fast-food chains and high-street favourites, all the way up to high-end restaurants, it seems some version of the American barbecue classic will be on the menu.

Indeed, you can order it in soft bun at a Beefeater restaurant, liven up your picnics with a packet of Waitrose Pulled Pork Sausage Rolls, or slurp on New Covent Garden Tennessee Pulled Pork & Bean soup at lunchtime.

While our craving for this flaky delight is evidently well catered for out and about, affable TV chef Tom Kerridge thinks it’s a doddle to recreate at home too.

Cooked over a low temperature for a long time, there’s limited faff required, and the slow cook time means you can get away with using a cheap cut of meat like pork shoulder.

“A dish like pulled pork really could be the answer for busy families who still want to enjoy a Sunday meal together,” says Wiltshire-born Kerridge, who is behind Love Pork’s new pulled pork campaign.

“All you need to do is apply a rub to the pork, stick it in the oven and then go enjoy your Sunday, while the oven does all the hard work. It’s much less fiddly than a roast, and pulling it apart with two forks at the end is easier than carving.”

But is “easy” for a Michelin-starred chef “impossible” for me, an enthusiastic but hit-and-miss foodie, who hasn’t cooked meat at home for three years?

To put Kerridge’s claim to the test, I assemble my ingredients and in a moment of misplaced confidence, invite two of my committed carnivore friends round for lunch, to help me and my husband, a lapsed vegetarian, chow our way through a big juicy batch.

With a sizeable six-hour cook time ahead, I heave the meat, which I marinaded overnight, into a casserole dish and bung it into the oven - and then leave for a morning yoga class, slightly fearful that my house might burn down while I’m gone.

Fortunately, when I open the front door an hour-and-a-half later, a welcoming porky aroma greets me, suggesting that the meat is bubbling along just nicely.

With so few steps involved in making pulled pork though, I can’t help worrying that I’ve left something crucial out of the process, and compensate by making a complicated home-made coleslaw, potato salads and slicing a ridiculous number of bread rolls.

After a single check at the four-hour mark, I resist urges to peak again until it’s cooked for six hours, and then take the pork out of the oven.

Carving is one of my least favourite meat-based tasks, so I enjoy the process of shredding the shoulder to smithereens with two forks. Simply speaking, you can’t make a pig’s ear out of a dish which is supposed to look as ‘undone’ as pulled pork is, so there’s no chance of ruining the fruits of my labour at this late stage.

To serve, we leave the juicy shreds in the casserole dish and then load up our buns, adding mounds of coleslaw and washing it all down with plenty of cold beer for good measure (and in case it’s inedible). To my surprise, it’s not inedible - it’s actually pretty good, and we duly pig out and demolish a whopping 1kg of pork between four of us (which is disgusting or impressive, depending where you sit on the diet spectrum).

Easy to pull off (no pun intended!), affordable and crowd-pleasing, I’d definitely plump for pulled pork again.

l Fancy having a go? Here is one of Tom Kerridge’s recipes. Find more at www.lovepork.co.uk/campaigns/pulled-pork-tom-kerridge

Tom Kerridge’s perfect pulled pork

(Serves 6-8)

Ingredients

1.5kg pork shoulder

1L chicken stock

To make the spice rub, mix together:

50g table salt

75g muscovado sugar

1tbsp dried sage

1tbsp English mustard powder

1tsp dried thyme

1tbsp cracked black pepper

1tbsp cumin seeds, toasted

3 star anise, toasted and crushed

1tsp garlic powder

method

Lay the pork shoulder in a roasting dish and with a sharp knife, score 10 or so deep holes into the flesh. Rub the combined spice mix all over the meat and into the grooves you’ve made, making sure the mix is fully rubbed in. Wrap the joint completely in cling film and place in the fridge overnight. The following day, remove the pork from the fridge and take off the cling film. Place in a casserole dish and pour over the chicken stock. Cover with a lid and place into a pre-heated oven at 150C for five-six hours - at the four-hour mark, remove the lid for a crispy crust. Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to rest for half hour or so before pulling the meat apart with a fork.