Pulled Pork Sandwiches

| January 29, 2009 | 23 Comments
  • 23 Comments

Pulled Pork SandwichTangy barbecue sauce dripping over slow-cooked pork on a bun. Yum. I freely admit that I am a fan of all things pork. I love pork chops, bacon, and roast loin, not to mention all those sausages. But there’s something astonishing about taking one of the least expensive cuts of pork you can buy and turning it into one of the tenderest and juiciest sandwiches you can eat. Ah — the miracle of pork.

When you’re having a large group of people over, pulled pork sandwiches are a great menu option. In addition to the dish being pretty cost effective, it takes very little prep time and even less hands-on cooking time to make. But forget the pragmatic reasons. The real rationale behind making pulled pork is its crowd appeal — it’s just one of those dishes that people get excited about eating. Although it’s not something most of us have on a regular basis, pork sandwiches laden with tasty barbecue sauce is a treat few would turn down.

Although traditional pulled pork is often cooked in a smoker or slowly barbecued with wood chips, I like to let mine roast at a leisurely pace in a covered pan in the oven. I don’t own a smoker and am more comfortable using my oven than the barbecue, so this works well for me. I also love the way the house smells while the meat cooks. I realize this method of preparing pulled pork would be sacrilege to anyone who grew up in the South, but I’m not a Southerner, so I am a peace with my technique.

There are a few essentials to making a great pulled pork sandwich that should not be overlooked.

1. The meat should sit overnight, or for at least 3-4 hours, with a rub on it before you cook it. This both flavors and tenderizes the meat.

2. You need to make a nice cider vinegar sauce to pour over the pork. Although some recipes say you can use store-bought barbecue sauce, apple cider vinegar gives the dish its tangy signature flavor. It’s also easy and fast to make, so please whip it up yourself.

3. Serving the pork on fluffy white bread rolls is key to the final result. White hamburger buns will suffice, but anything made from whole wheat or with a crunchy crust should be avoided. The pork just tastes better when nestled into doughy white rolls soaked with sauce.

So if you’re up for some porky goodness, here’s a recipe you might try.

Pulled Pork

Makes enough meat for 12 -14 sandwiches

Ingredients:
3-4 lbs pork butt
1 Tbsp salt
½ cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp chili Powder
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 Tbsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried celery seed
1 tsp dried ground mustard seed
1 tsp Black pepper

Note: I sometimes use 1 Tbsp chili powder and 1 Tbsp chipotle powder

Preparation:
1. Combine all ingredients except the pork butt in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
2. Set pork butt on a baking dish or plate and cover with the rub on all side. Gently massage the rub into the meat.
3. Cover the meat and set it in the refrigerator overnight or up to 3-4 hours.
4. When you’re ready to start cooking, place your pork in a large Le Creuset dutch oven with the top on, or cover your baking dish tightly with foil.
5. Set the dish into the oven, which should be preheated to 350 degrees (325 if using a convection oven).
6. Bake for at least 3 hours without disturbing. Try to avoid taking the cover off the pan to check the meat as you’ll release steam each time you do this, and you need the steam to help keep the roast moist and juicy while it cooks.
7. After your three hours are up, take the meat out of the oven and set it on a dish to rest for 5-10 minutes.
8. Then, start breaking the meat up into small pieces. If your pork butt was tied with butcher string, be sure to remove the string before you start doing this step. I use two forks to break the meat up. Just place the tines into the meat and pull (yes, it really is pulled pork). The meat should easily separate.
9. Heat your buns in the already warmed oven for about five minutes.
10. Place a healthy scoop of pork on each bun and top with the sauce. Serve.

Pulled Pork Cider Vinegar Sauce

Ingredients:
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup ketchup
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1 tsp dried yellow mustard
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or as much as you’d like)
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:
1. Combine all ingredients in a pot and mix thoroughly.
2. Heat until the sauce starts to bubble and then simmer for at least ten minutes on low.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste. You may also wish to add more cayenne pepper.
4. Serve with pulled pork sandwiches.

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About the Author ()

I am a writer, editor, mother of twins, and enthusiastic home cook. I was raised by an Italian-American mother who, in the 1970s, grew her own basil (because she couldn’t find any in the local grocery stores), zucchini (for those delicious flowers), and tomatoes (because the ones in the store tasted like “a potato”). My mom taught us to love all kinds of food and revere high-quality ingredients. I am now trying to follow in my mother’s footsteps and am on a mission to help my daughters become adventurous eaters who have a healthy respect for seasonal food raised locally. My daughters and I grow vegetables and go to the farmers’ market. We also love to shop at Piedmont Grocery and Trader Joe’s. When I’m not hanging out with my daughters or cooking, I like to contribute to cookbooks (including Williams-Sonoma’s Food Made Fast and Foods of the World series), work as an editor, and write about food for Bay Area Bites and Denise's Kitchen. My food inspirations are M.F.K Fisher, Julia Child, and Alice Waters — three fabulous women who encompass everything I love about food.
  • colleen

    I cannot wait to try this recipe. Pulled pork sandwiches are one of my favorite dishes and I’ve had a tough time finding a Bay Area BBQ place that’s as good as Redbones in Boston. Now I can try and top theirs myself!

  • Denise Lincoln

    Hi Colleen — I hope you like it! Let me know how it turns out.

  • gd

    I too am much more comfortable with my oven and was pleased to find this recipe for pulled pork. I found the recipe easy to follow and it turned out very well. Even without the sauce (which I really like…not too sweet, some kick and tangy) the meat is tasty. Thank you!

  • Denise Lincoln

    Hi gd — I’m so glad you liked the recipe!

  • Constance

    I am trying this recipe tomorrow with 14 pounds of meat.
    I even bought the Staub dutch oven yesterday, Le C. didn’t have one big enough for all that meat.

    My only question is, don’t I need to add any moisture, or sauce to the dutch oven before I start cooking it?

  • http://deniseskitchen.wordpress.com/ Denise Santoro Lincoln

    Hi Constance — I don’t add any moisture as the meat itself holds a lot of moisture and if you cook it with the cover on, that moisture will stay within the dish. Plus the pork butt has a fair amount of fat within the roast that helps keep the meat moist. If you’re concerned, you could always add a little broth to the pot. It won’t hurt the dish. Plus you can check the roast part way through to see how it’s doing, but don’t check it too often or else that moisture will escape.

    Good luck. I hope you like the dish :-)

  • Constance

    Thank you!
    I am thinking of starting it at midnight tonight, so it will be ready tomorrow, or at 4 a.m.
    Doesn’t that wt have to cook a long time?

  • Lori Reynolds

    I made this over the weekend, except I cooked it for 5 hrs at 300 in the oven with foil wrapped tight to it. It was great, but use my own sauce for the sandwiches.

  • anna

    OMG!!! I loved this recipe! It was a HUGE hit with the family. I wouldn’t change a thing, the sauce really makes this recipe awesome!
    Thanks!!!

  • Denise Lincoln

    Hi Anna — You’re welcome. I’m so glad you liked it!

  • Constance

    Going to try this again for my daughter’s 21st birthday party. Only this time I will find the time to make the sauce too.

  • http://deniseskitchen.wordpress.com/ Denise Santoro Lincoln

    Hi Constance — Definitely try the sauce, which I think really gives the dish a lot of nuance. Have fun at your daughter’s party :-)

  • Constance

    The sauce was wonderful A real delight of sweet and tart.
    I am glad I made enough to have two squeeze containers full for the extra pork.

  • M. Peterson

    Have you ever used a crockpot for this recipe? I know it would not be the tradicional manner of preparing it but…????

  • http://deniseskitchen.wordpress.com/ Denise Santoro Lincoln

    I’ve never made the pulled pork in a crock pot, but my neighbor has and he said it came out great. If making in a crock pot, I would follow steps 1-4 and then sear the outside of the roast a bit in a large pan, and then set in a crock pot and follow the remaining instructions. This will give you a slightly crisper exterior. Good luck!

  • Rebecca

    I will be trying this tonight with a big pork lion i got yesterday from Sams. I am looking forward to trying it I love vinegar sauce with my pork and have been looking for a keeper recipe for year. I will be cooking it in my crock pot as i Like the “set it and forget it” aspect of it all. Thanks for posting!!!! Thanks for the idea of searing the outside of the pork first i will post on how it comes out!!!!

  • Constance

    It is almost the 4th of July! Time for my 2nd Annual Pulled Pork sandwiches!
    That recipe worked so well last year, I am already having people ask if I am doing it again this year.
    But, of course!
    My Nephew wants them at every family party.
    :)

    So, this weekend, I am trying Sliders. Any thoughts?

  • http://deniseskitchen.wordpress.com/ Denise Santoro Lincoln

    Hi Constance — Sorry for the late response. I was away the week of the 4th and didn’t see this until now. It’s probably too late, but I think you could make great pulled pork sliders. If you can’t find little buns, you could always make mini biscuits. It might be fun to also include a little bread and butter pickle slice with each one. Again, sorry for the late response.

  • David Bynon

    Denise,

    Just wanted you to know I tried your Pulled Pork recipe and it was a hit with the fam! Thanks so much!

    ~ David

  • http://deniseskitchen.wordpress.com/ Denise Santoro Lincoln

    Hi David — I’m so glad your family enjoyed the pulled pork! Happy New Year :-)

  • http://saltonthetable.blogspot.com/ Sonia

    Hello,
    We are planning to feed a crowd of people for a non-profit pre-school auction (80 people) and I was thinking of making this because they seem delicious, economical and most of the work can be done ahead of time. My only concern was the sandwiches getting soggy. I was thinking I could make a batch of them and put them out and replenish them after half hour or so but how long do you think these can sit and still be good?
    thanks!
    Sonia

  • http://deniseskitchen.wordpress.com/ Denise Santoro Lincoln

    Hi Sonia — I think this could work if you only put the meat on the bread and then put the sauce in separate squeeze containers/bottles for people to add to the sandwiches themselves. The meat shouldn’t make the bread too soggy but the sauce will so just keep them separated and set out a bunch of squeeze bottles near the sandwiches so guests can add the sauce on their own.

    Good luck with your auction!

  • Louise Ward

    I am having a 4th of July party and am making pulled pork sandwiches although my husband calls them barbecue, stating that pulled pork is either smoked or roasted without steam. (Southern style) Being from the north, when cooking for a crowd, this time 70 people, I make ahead, cooking in the crockpot each 5 lb pork butt seasoned, and then I let it cool. I pull the pork apart, taking away the remaining fat and refrigerate the liquid from the crockpot until the fat rises to be skimmed off. I then add a little of the liquid to the pork along with barbecue sauce and freeze it in 1/2 gallon bags. At the party, an electric roaster on low heat defrosts and warms the pork with a delicious aroma, luring people to have a sandwich. The sauce is mellow so I have a squeeze bottle of spicy for people to add if they choose. My question? How much finished pulled pork do you recommend for this size group? The party will last 4 hours so I think people will eat more than one sandwich. Also, all adults. Shall I allow 2 sandwiches per person? If so how much pulled pork?