Short post for you guys today. I’m looking at recent posts and realize this is numero FOUR in a row that is pork. Who am I? I mean, we’re *chicken* people. I guess this blog is an ongoing manuscript of what we really are eating at any given time, so I guess this is just me being true to myself? I promise there won’t be any pork in sight next week, but this week we’re deep diving into oven smoked pulled pork.
Remember when we did pulled pork in March? That was Andy’s game – this easy peasy oven version is my game. This was (you guessed it) a meal from our recent beach week. My sister got the recipe from her bil, who got it from a magazine. You guyzzzzzzz, the spice blend with the smoky flavor was everything. We did tacos, but you can do any number of things with the meat.
As with anything delicious I eat, I came home wanting to make it as soon as possible. Enter the easy, friends-over-for-dinner Saturday night. I tweaked the spice blend and added more liquid to the cooking process, but the method is the same: spice rub, brown the meat, add liquid, “smoke” in the oven, shred.
Like I said – we made tacos with our oven smoked pulled pork, but we’ve also used it for anything Mexican. Think nachos, quesadillas, burrito bowls, salads and…wait for it…breakfast burritos <– y’all, for real real, change your life good. As per my usual, this recipe makes a ton, which is great for feeding a crowd, multiple weeknight meals or freezing for several meals later on. Now go. Be the oven smoked pulled pork master we all know you are.
Cut the pork shoulder (or butt) into fist-size chunks.
In a small bowl, combine the salt, oregano, coriander, onion powder, garlic powder, chile, pepper and cinnamon. Rub onto the pork pieces, and let sit for 30 minutes.
Place the oven rack in the lower-middle part of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees.
In a large dutch oven heat the oil on medium-high. Working in batches, add the pork and brown on all sides. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate.
Once all of the pork is browned and out of the pan, add the onion, garlic, beer and liquid smoke. Scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan and bring to a simmer. Return the pork to the dutch oven, cover with the lid then place in the oven. Cook for 2.5 hours, or until it is easily shredded with a fork.
Remove the pork pieces from the liquid, shred and use however you like.
Notes: at the end we also like to strain out the onions, as they serve as a great topping for the pork, as well.
We’re going Vietnamese today! Please don’t let that scare you. I’ve forged the way, now just take my hand as we dive into this bready, meaty, crunchy, spicy, herby situation that is now my lyfe. Banh mi, you guys. Sorry in advance, this post is a little long, but it’s just because I have so much to say on the subject, and I’m determined to bring you all with me into the obsession of pork banh mi sandwiches.
Have you guys heard of Banh Mi? I’m sure you have, and I’m just late to the game #asusual. I first heard about what is now my favorite sandwich obsession while watching a show on Food Network, and immediately knew I would like it. Fast forward a million years (okay, like, 2 years) and Andy and I stumble upon a place in our city that specializes in them.
Face in palm, y’all. HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS PLACE? In our defense it’s in an area of town that we rarely go through, and it’s got a textbook hole-in-the-wall status. No matter what the situation – we found it, and my life changed for the better. It was everything I thought it would be and more. After having that sandwich I couldn’t stop thinking about it and knew I wanted to make it at home, so I did some research.
The first thing I realized is that there’s no rule book for banh mi, but I did find some common themes in that they generally include some sort of marinated meat (or tofu), pickled veggies, sauce and fresh herbs. They also often involve pate, which is that brown spread you see really well in the picture above. See the notes section after the recipe. While it’s a traditional ingredient to use, we found that it’s really not necessary. The taste is fine (unless you don’t like pate – hiiiiii, dad!), but it just doesn’t really add much to the sandwich.
Before I get into discussing my recipe we need to have a little chat – lean in and listen to me closely. There are three parts that have to be made for this recipe, and I don’t want anyone thinking that means it takes a long time. Two of the three parts can/should be prepared a few days in advance, and literally take 5-10 minutes each. Then the day of you’re just cooking the pork and assembling the sandwiches. Do not let the number of steps fool you – this is an EASY recipe.
First step here is a spicy sauce. I knew right away that I would make my sriracha mayo for this. I’ve been making this sauce for years because – surprise! – it tastes exactly like the spicy mayo you get with sushi, and I love it with seafood. A little goes a long way, so that’s how I rationalize eating mayo with seafood…or maybe it makes me feel like I’m sort of eating sushi when I use it? Either way, it’s good, and we generally have some on the ready in our fridge. The good thing about this sauce is that you can make it several days before you have the sandwiches because it lasts in the fridge just like regular mayo (you can also make it the day of, but I find it tastes better when the flavors have had at least several hours to cozy-up).
The second thing I realized was that I would need pickled veggies, so I did some research and found that pickled veggies generally include vinegar, salt and sugar. So I made my own 🙂 My mom seemed impressed, and I was like, “What? Like it’s hard?” These veggies are so good, friends. They provide the perfect crunch and pop of vinegary zing that goes perfectly with the soft bread, spicy mayo and pork. I used my spiralizer to cut the daikon radish, and then just quickly julienned the carrots. Don’t have a sprializer? No problem. I’ve also just julienned the daikon, and it took no time at all. These need to be made at least two days in advance, but can be made up to a week early. (I found the daikon radish at Whole Foods, but if you don’t want to make multiple grocery store runs and can’t find it then just double the amount of carrots to pickle.)
The third part of my banh mi is the pork. This is the star of the sandwich. Even if you don’t make the sandwiches, make this pork with this marinade. It is SO good that it could be served as a main in its own right. I got it into the marinade during naptime at the beach, but it would be fine going a little longer, so get it into the marinade before work on the morning you’re going to make it. Then you’ll just roast it in the oven for 20-25 minutes and dinner is ready!
Okay, I hope I’ve given you the motivation needed to make your own banh mi sandwiches. All you need are three super simple parts made at your convenience, and you have a casual friends over for dinner meal, or weeknight supper with leftovers for days. Either way you’re totally winning.
2 pork loins (about 2-2.5 lbs total)
– ¼ c soy sauce
– 2 tbsp fish sauce
– 4 cloves minced garlic
– 2 tbsp lemongrass paste*
– 2 tbsp sesame oil (or olive oil)
– 1 c mayonnaise
– ¼ c sriracha
– 1 tsp sesame oil
– ½ daikon radish
– 4 carrots
– ¼ c sugar
– 1 tbsp salt
– ½ c rice vinegar (white works, as well)
Soft French bread rolls
Toppings: cilantro, jalapeno, pate (optional)
Prepare the pickled veggies (2-5 days in advance): julienne cut the daikon and carrots, and place into a container with a tight fitting lid. Combine the sugar, salt and vinegar and pour over the veggies. Fill the container with water so that the veggies are submerged. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Prepare the sriracha mayo (can be made in advance): combine the mayonnaise, sriracha and sesame oil. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
Prepare the pork (day of): place the pork loins in a zipper plastic bag. Combine marinade ingredients and pour over the pork, and marinade 4-8 hours.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove pork from the marinade and place in a baking dish. Cook the pork for 20-25 minutes.** Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
While the pork is cooking cut the French rolls and prepare the toppings.
Slice the pork loin in about ¼ inch slices.
Assemble: spread the sriracha mayo on the bread, add preferred amount of pork slices, top with the pickled veggies, cilantro and jalapeno***
*You can find lemongrass paste in the same section of the produce department where you find the tubes of basil and other fresh herbs.
**We like our pork loin to still have plenty of pink when it’s done – not still bleeding, but pink. If you prefer your pork to be well-done, up the cooking time by five minutes.
***If using pate as a topping, just spread on one side of the bread before topping with the pork.
Notes: the pictures include pate, but we’ve found that it’s really not necessary. In my research, pate always came up as a topping, so we at least tried it. It’s not bad, but for us it just didn’t add anything, and we could barely tell it was there.
More notes: this feeds about 8 people, but if you’re making it for a small group of 2-4, the leftovers are just as good as the fresh meal, so definitely don’t worry about cutting the recipe in half. If you’re like me then you’ll be fine eating them every day for a week!
Friends, I’ve got to be honest. I’m really lacking in words today. We’re still coming down off of a great family beach week, and I’m missing the ocean something fierce. I guess reminiscing about these Cheerwine Ribs will have to get me through my withdrawal.
It also doesn’t hurt reminiscing about the three cutest little helpers ever. You guys, Anna Ruth has woken up every morning this week asking for Jack and Abigail. These cousins love each other so much, and it makes my heart so happy when they’re together. I’m terrible at remembering to take pictures on the beach, but I did actually snap a few the night we made the Cheerwine Ribs for this post. (Also, side note, I have so many pictures of these three from the back because it is nearly impossible to get all of them to look and smile at the camera at the same time – insert crying laughing emoji.) I’ll try to post beach pics from my mom at some point because it would be cruel to deprive you of the cuteness that is three look-alike blonde babies playing on the beach.
Back on topic. Y’all, we’re just three ingredients away from the juiciest, fall off the boniest, sauciest ribs ever. Count that – 1.2.3. Ribs. Cheerwine. Barbecue sauce.
When my family goes to the beach we’re not out to eaters. We’re stay in and cookers. While we’re beaching it, the trend in our family is slow cooking and prepping as much as possible during naptime. Prepping/slow cooking during naptime = more outside playtime before dinner.
I’m sure you’ve all heard of another type of ribs with a famous soda, but, y’all, we live in North Carolina aka Cheerwine country, so I thought that would be delicious. I was right (as usual).
Other than your three ingredients (plus s+p and water), you only need two things to make these Cheerwine Ribs: an oven and 1-2 grill masters. If you’ve read the About Me page of the blog, you may remember that I don’t grill. It’s just not my thing. However, Andy and my bil Tim do, and they generally don’t mind when we send them outside to show off their skills and enjoy a beer without three kids treating them like jungle gyms.
These Cheerwine Ribs are so super simple. All you do is season, cover in liquid (Cheerwine + water), cook low and slow in the oven, and finish on the grill with the sauce. The sauce here is whatever you want it to be. Given that the cooking liquid is sweetened from the Cheerwine we went with a spicy barbecue sauce, which was perfect. We will occasionally make our own, but I find the store bought to be best for ribs because it’s so much thicker and really sticks to the meat.
Let’s talk about the grilling portion for just a minute. Tim is VERY specific about this. First, you grill the ribs on both sides without any sauce, then baste the bottom side, flip and baste the top, then remove from the grill. You don’t want to turn them several times with the sauce. Barbecue sauce is sugary. Sugar burns on the grill. Too much sugar burning = too much rib burning = not what you want. Here’s what you’re looking for…
Top side up – no sauce
Flip/top side down – baste the bottom
Flip/top side up – baste the top
Okay, I guess I had more wordsssss than I thought, so I’ll get on with it and leave you with the recipe. Please make these soon and let me know what you think!
2 racks pork ribs
20 oz cheerwine
Barbecue sauce (we like spicy)
Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
Cut ribs in half so you have four sections, and place into baking pan large enough so they are not above the rim. (We use an aluminum baking pan that we just toss once we’re done.)
Season both sides of the ribs with salt and pepper, then pour the Cheerwine over the ribs. Add enough water to totally cover the ribs.
Cover tightly with foil and cook in oven for 3 hours.*
Remove from the cooking liquid and heat your grill to medium.
Place ribs bottom side down, flip after 5 minutes, baste the bottom side, flip after 5 more minutes, baste the top side and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from the grill and cut into desired portions (we do 2-3 ribs per person, and the guys generally get seconds).
*Put your baking dish/aluminum pan on a baking sheet that is slightly larger than the pan so that any liquid that may escape will fall onto that rather than the floor of your oven.
I’m absolutely giddy with excitement about today’s post. Giddy giddy giddy. Let the floodgates open because after today I will be coming to you regularly with recipes for how to use your pulled pork shoulder (or butt). Friends, once you break into the “I smoke/roast/whatever my own pork shoulder” club, the possibilities are endless. Pulled pork Cubans, pulled pork quesadillas, pulled pork burrito bowls, pulled pork sweet potato skins, pulled pork barbecue salad, pulled pork loaded potatoes, pulled pork nachos, pulled pork pizza and of course, duh, pulled pork sandwiches with barbecue sauce. Byeeee guyzz, Miss Foodie Two Shoes is gone, and pork freak has taken over.
I probably shouldn’t say this – being from NC and all – but I’m really not much of a “barbecue” kinda girl. I’m a “pulled pork” girl *winks*. Please don’t kick me out! Thankfully this is my blog, and I get to make the rules around here, so…this recipe isn’t for your standard barbecue with sauce. Sure, you can add sauce in any way, but this is the building block for so many other things you can do – plenty of which involve sauce – but this is just the base. The star here is the dry rub. It’s got just enough cayenne pepper to be able to call it spicy without it being so overwhelming that kids can’t eat it. You can cut the recipe in half for just one shoulder, but I usually just make the amount given and have one less step the next time we’re ready to make one (<–lazy girl life hack right there, friends).
Whether you cook this outside/inside or completely inside, pork shoulders (or butts) are great for feeding a crowd or for stocking your freezer. We probably make about 3-4 per year that we eat ourselves. I simply freeze it in heaping two-cup portions, and we’ll pull a bag out as the protein for a variety of dinners (see exhibit A above). I usually get 6-8 bags for the freezer, and each bag gives us dinner and lunch for Andy the next day. Yes, you need time for this one, but when you get that many meals out of it, I think it’s worth it. Most recently we made a pork shoulder for a family birthday party for Anna Ruth. We did sliders with traditional sauce and slaw, and had a few other sides. We fed 15 people and had plenty of left overs.
There are two main ways (in my book) that you can go about doing this:
Start the pork on a charcoal grill with woodchips of your choice then finish in the oven.
Sear the pork on the stove then cook completely in the oven.
Both options come out really good, and TBH if I’m the one cooking I’m 100% oven girl because I’m just not comfortable grilling. Andy, however, loves any opportunity to use charcoal and woodchips because the bulk of our grilling happens on our gas grill. The main difference is that cooking over woodchips gives you a smoky flavor, which is key for some people when they imagine pulled pork. Either way, you can’t go wrong, so just do what feels right. However you cook it, the shredding process is the same. I found these meat claws on Amazon last year, and bought them for Andy and my father-in-law as stocking stuffers for Christmas. At first I just thought they were hilarious, so obviously worth the $8.80, but they actually work really well! Forks get the job done, too, but then you miss out on shredding like a bear would. Need a guy to shred a ton of meat? Give him these claws and let him go to town.
I need to comment on the “optional” apple juice mixture you’ll see below in the ingredient list and cooking instructions. My fil introduced us to the method of injecting the juice into the pork last summer, and we can’t go back. It’s more or less a brine from the inside out. If you don’t have an injector, don’t worry – this will still turn out really good. The juice just adds even more juiciness to the finished product.
One note on the cook time: it will vary depending on how big your cut is. The key here is to make sure the pork gets to 190-195 degrees. Yes, people generally say pork needs to get to 160, and while this is true, it will not shred the way you want it to until it has reached that 190-195 mark. Trust me on this. I did the research several years ago when we had a shoulder that was several pounds over what was called for in the recipe I was using.
I’m including cooking instructions for both starting on the grill (smoking) and starting on the stovetop, but the pictures are from the grilling method. Enjoy!