Recipe: Katie's Pulled Pork

Katie Dunneback has her fingers in lots of pies. Her mother is glad
it’s no longer the butter. Professionally, she currently is working
for a state agency providing consulting services to libraries.
Personally, she has been cooking and baking since she was a small kid,
knitting for almost five years, and took up scrapbooking a few months
ago. Online, she spends most of her time on Twitter as younglibrarian,
and blogging a mix of professional and personal topics at “Make of It
What You Will

Pulled Pork Heaven

I wish you could all smell what I’m smelling. Namely, the scent of
spiced roasting meat. There is no other way to describe it but
gorgeous. This is a recipe that I’ve developed over the last two years,
picking bits from here and there. I really enjoy experimenting in the
kitchen and I encourage you to use this as a jumping off point for your
own experimentations!

I’m warning you now that this recipe is time intensive, but it is
so, so, *so* worth it. The most time intensive bit of this recipe is
also the most crucial in mine, and my mom’s, opinions. Yes, my mother
has tested this recipe and given it her seal of approval. Moving on.
The brine. This recipe is pretty much all about the brine. It’s also
the bit that took me longest to get correct. But first, the things you
should make sure you have on hand prior to attempting the recipe (other
than the ingredients):

  • A saucepan for the brine, at least 2 qt.
  • 2 gallon plastic bag – I prefer the Hefty slide zip version
  • Tongs you can use to move around a 3 to 5 pound slab of meat
  • A shallow bowl for coating the meat in browning dust. Again,
    large enough to fit the cut of meat.
  • A pan for browning the meat
  • Slow cooker liner
  • A slow cooker that can fit the size of meat cut you choose
  • A scissors to cut the ties holding the roast together AFTER it’s
    done in the slow cooker
  • A pan in which to shred the roast
  • Two forks with which to shred the roast

Okay, you’ve got all of that. We’re on to the brine. Since this is a
piece of pork we’ll be roasting, I started playing around with sweet
and savory tones that are known to work well with pork. Salt is a given
in any brine, but with all of the choices of salt out there, I just go
with kosher. It’s pretty much the workhorse salt of the kitchen in
my and all the chefs and cooks I’ve watched on Food Network over the
years opinions. For the truly sweet, I went with a mixture of apple
juice, brown sugar and molasses. The sweet aromatics are whole cloves
and cinnamon sticks. And the savory is cracked or crushed black pepper,
half a head of peeled and cracked garlic (yes, I like my garlic, but
the taste is pretty darn subtle), ground mustard (if you can get your
hands on some Colman’s, I totally recommend it), and my “secret”
ingredient: ground cumin. I don’t know what it is about cumin, but I
add a bit of it to all of my spice mixtures and they just taste even
more yummy than before (I also found out at Trivia Night last week it
is the second most popular spice in the world behind pepper). Put all
of that and the water into the saucepan before turning on the burner.

Brine for pulled pork

Bring it to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally in the beginning
to make sure the salt, brown sugar and molasses have dissolved and

Brine at rolling boil

After you’ve got it at a rolling boil, let it go for about five
minutes to really steep the aromatics. Then, take it off the heat and let it
cool down completely. If you’re in a good winter location with a place
to stick food/drink outside to cool without much interference from the
local critters (a cookie sheet topped by a kitchen towel topped by a
good sized rock does wonders for this issue, and is also how I chill
Angie’s cracker candy recipe), place the saucepan out there on a
cooling rack to let the air completely circulate around it. I usually
also stick a piece of saran wrap on top of the saucepan before putting
the cookie sheet on it.

Once the brine has completely cooled, you need to set up for getting
everything into the plastic bag. I like to have the bag set up and open
with the brine nearby before I even open the butcher’s wrapping on the
roast. Using those nice sturdy tongs you have on hand, move the roast
from the butcher wrapping and into the plastic bag, doing your best to
avoid contact between the roast and the outside of the bag. We’re all
about food saftey here, right? Next, pour the brine into the bag. Now,
this is why I like the zip closing mechanism on the plastic bags I use.
I close the zip top almost all the way, squeeze all of the air out of
the bag, to the point where the brine is *just* about ready to squirt
back out on me, and then close the zip completely. Refrigerate at least
8 hours, preferably overnight.

Pork shoulder in brine

Now that you’ve let the roast absorb the yummy flavors overnight,
it’s time to put the finishing touch on it before popping it into the slow
cooker. It is time to brown this sucker. Browning meat helps to seal in
flavors. I prefer to add an extra oomph to the meat by coating the
roast in seasoned flour before subjecting it to this step.

Browning dust ingredients

This is will save your sanity later: LEAVE THE BUTCHER TIES ON
THE MEAT. Believe me, you will be sorry if you cut them off before the roast is completely done cooking.
The ties are meant to survive browning and cooking without impacting the roast.

Pork shoulder in browning dust

You can go a little browner on the crust, but try for at least this level of coloration around the entire roast:

Pork shoulder browning

The roast is now ready for the main event: 8 to 10 hours soaking in the slow cooker.

Browned pork shoulder in slow cooker

Like Sarah, I believe the slow cooker liner is a crucial kitchen tool. Clean-up is beyond easy if you use them. Use them. To add
that last layer of flavor, I mix a half cup of apple juice, three large-ish cloves of garlic and enough water to go 1/2 to 3/4 of the way up the roast.

Apple juice for pork shoulder cooking

Cracked garlic cloves in water for pork shoulder cooking

Browned pork shoulder in apple juice/water/garlic mixture for cooking

A lesson that sometimes needs reinforcing (I can be a little
dense at times): the smaller your roast, the less time it needs to
cook. This is where a meat thermometer really comes in handy. Pork is
considered fully cooked at 160 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s recommended by
some, so as not to overcook it, to pull it about 5 degrees below and
let it sit for 15 minutes as it will continue cooking those last 5
degrees. I use a 9×13″ glass Pyrex pan for my shredding, so I let the
roast sit in there for those 15 minutes.

Now is the time to remove the butcher ties (I feel a little like
Dieter saying that). Depending on the type of ties your butcher uses (mine
does a webbing that I like), you may find bits of your pork sticking to
it as you remove it. This is fine. All you need to do is pick it
off…and eat it. It will be hot, though. The following pictures are from a time before I browned because I
stopped taking pictures for some reason after the last one, but you’ll get the idea.

Cooked pork shoulder resting

Once you’ve removed the ties, you can shred. I recommend following the grain of the meat.

Pulled pork

With that, you’re all done but for the eating! Enjoy!

Pulled pork sandwich and orange soda


3 ½ to 4 lb. Pork shoulder roast


4 c. water

1 c. apple juice/cider

1 c. kosher salt

¼ c. brown sugar

2 T. molasses

1 T. cracked pepper

2 sticks of cinnamon

½ handful of whole cloves

½ head of garlic, peeled & cracked

2 t. ground cumin

1 t. ground mustard

Mix in saucepan. Bring to boil. Let cool completely. Add to Ziploc bag
w/pork in it. Let sit overnight in refrigerator.

Browning dust:

¼ c. all-purpose flour

1 t. ground mustard

½ t. ground cayenne pepper

¼ t. ground ginger

Coat pork shoulder in browning dust & brown.

Slow cooker:

4 c. water

½ c. apple juice/cider

3 cloves peeled & cracked garlic

Place browned pork shoulder in slow cooker, aka CrockPot, fatty side
up. Pour in water/juice/garlic mixture until about halfway up the
roast. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Pizza Casserole

Last week in my weekly menu, I mentioned I was making pizza casserole and had a request for the recipe. This is fairly quick (from start to finish it takes me an hour, including making the sauce) and usually family and kid friendly. It makes a lot, so half the recipe if you’re cooking for less than four and don’t want leftovers.

Pizza Casserole


  • Your choice of any combination meats: 1 lb sausage, 1 package pepperoni, Canadian bacon, ham, bacon, hamburger or any other meats you like on your pizza
  • Your choice of any combination vegetables: sliced olives, chopped green peppers, chopped onions, sliced mushrooms or other favorite pizza toppings.
  • 3 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 2 batches of homemade pizza sauce (or 2 jars of store bought but really, it’s easy to make your own, & tastier)
  • 1 box Rotini pasta


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

2. Cook Rotini as directed on package to al dente (do not overcook)

3. Fry up the meats you’ve chosen. For my casserole this time, I did sausage, pepperoni and ham. You can use whatever you like, really, but don’t skimp on the meat. If you’re only using sausage, for instance, use 2 lbs. Toss pepperoni in the skillet at the end, because it will keep it from getting too greasy in the casserole.

4. Chop up whatever veggies you selected. I only used black olives this time because that’s what I had in the house, and not everyone here likes green peppers and onions like I do, so I left them out. But you can use anything. I usually toss veggies in with meats for 5 minutes just to heat them through, especially mushrooms, but I suggest doing it with other veggies as well.

5. Once pasta is done, put in a large casserole dish that you’ve sprayed with Pam, (I use a ceramic-covered cast iron 6 qt pot) and mix with pizza sauce, meats, veggies and 1 cup of cheese.

6. Top with 2 cups of cheese, put uncovered in oven and bake for 20-30 minutes (longer time if you have uncooked veggies in) then broil on high for 3-5 minutes to make cheese brown and bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

7. Plate on your daughter’s favorite pink plate.

Boston pork butt/shoulder (How do you use one?)

My local grocery store has Boston pork butts and shoulders on sale at least once a month. And by on sale, I mean well under a dollar a pound so I can get 8 or 9 pounds of meat for something ridiculous like $6. But I kept passing the sales by because I didn’t know what to do with those cuts of meat. Finally, I got impatient with myself one day and realized, look, I know how to use Google. I practically live on, why not just do a little research and find some recipes? Turns out, I’m really happy I did because I found two recipes, both slow cooker recipes, that I can use to prepare meals not only for that night, but also enough for freeze-ahead portions. Both these recipes were serendipitously tasty, too, so it was a win all around.

First up: carnitas. As always, the basic recipe came from, but I read through the comments and adapted it to our tastes.

Carnitas (recipe adapted from


* 2 teaspoon salt
* 2 teaspoon garlic powder
* 2 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
* 1 teaspoon ground coriander
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1 (4-8 pound) boneless pork shoulder roast
* 2 bay leaves
* a few sprigs of fresh cilantro (optional)
* 4 cloves of garlic (crush to release flavor, no need to mince)
* 3 cups chicken broth


1. Mix together salt, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, and cinnamon in a bowl. Cut pork into managable pieces (maybe 6-8 pieces). Coat pork with the spice mixture. Place the bay leaves, garlic and cilantro in the bottom of a slow cooker and place the pork on top. Pour the chicken broth around the sides of the pork, being careful not to rinse off the spice mixture.
2. Cover and cook on Low until the pork shreds easily with a fork, about 8 hours, or on High for 5 hours. Turn the meat after it has cooked for 5 hours. When the pork is tender, remove from slow cooker, and shred with two forks. Use cooking liquid as needed to moisten the meat. Remove bones.
3. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place shredded pork on a large jelly roll pan (cookie sheet) and crisp pork for 20 minutes.
4. Serve as tacos, use in enchiladas, burritos, nachos, etc.

For something different, how about pulled pork?
Pulled Pork (adapted from


* 2 tablespoon mild paprika
* 4 teaspoons light brown sugar
* 3 teaspoons hot paprika
* 1 teaspoon celery salt
* 1 teaspoon garlic salt
* 1 teaspoon dry mustard
* 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 1 teaspoon onion powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 8 pounds pork butt roast
* 1 teaspoon liquid smoke


1. In a small bowl, mix mild paprika, light brown sugar, hot paprika, celery salt, garlic salt, dry mustard, ground black pepper, onion powder, and salt. Rub spice mixture into the roast on all sides. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate 8 hours, or overnight (I did not do this and it was still very tasty).
2. Cut pork into 6 to 8 manageable pieces, put in slow cooker on high for 5-6 hours or low for 8 hours.
3. If you’re cooking this much meat, you will need to switch bottom pieces with top pieces at some point, so it all gets cooked evenly.
4. Shred into bite-sized pieces using two forks. Remove bones.
5. At this point, I just add a small amount of barbecue sauce for flavor because I like just a little sauce. Then each family member can add to their own sandwich individually.

Red Bean & Barley Soup

This post was written by Sarah of SmartBitches

Last week I mentioned one of my favorite cookbooks, “Saved By Soup,” which I keep for exactly one recipe: Red Bean and Barley Soup.

In addition, this recipe is the single reason I own a immersion blender. It’s kind of ridiculous, but I make this soup a LOT in the winter. It’s very easy, I can keep the ingredients in the house with little trouble, and it’s delicious – and it needs about 30 minutes to cook.

So, let’s get started.

You need: olive oil, pearl barley, water, one small saucepan, one dutch oven, onion, kidney beans, broth, salt, and parsley if you have some.

You’ll also want an immersion blender, or a potato masher if that does not seem to be among your kitchen appliances.

I use Goya beans, because they are inexpensive and the kidney beans are HUGE. Goya stuff generally rocks, and I learn the Spanish name for everything if I didn’t know it already.

Dice your onion, and saute it until softened in a little olive oil in the dutch oven. Oh – and this is the part I don’t have a picture of. Rinse the barley in a colander, then put it in a small saucepan. Cover the 1/2 cup of barley with water and put it on to simmer for about 5 minutes. It helps soften the barley before you toss it into the soup. Let them simmer for 5-8 minutes, then take them off the heat. The cookbook recipe says you should rinse them again (but that 2nd rinse is not mandatory).

Rinse the red beans while the onion cooks. Rinse them. Rinse them again. Rinse them bad until they’re all good because otherwise: Too salty.

Toss the beans and broth into the dutch oven with the onion.

When the beans and broth have cooked for about 15 minutes, and you can totally fudge that by 10 minutes if you have to, grab Ye Olde Immersion Blender and use it to break up the beans. You can break them up almost entirely, or only a little bit – depends on how much you like whole beans in your soup. Us, we love whole beans.

Toss the barley in, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer it for about 30 minutes until the barley is tender. Keep an eye on it, and stir every now and again, so it doesn’t get all stuck to the bottom. If you want to add meat, this is a good time – toss it in and let it cook with the barley, keeping an eye on the whole thing for sticking and burning and cooking.

Serve with chopped parsley or a swirl of olive oil or a giant piece of bread. The leftover soup is even better, if that’s possible, the following day. Especially if there’s sausage up in there.

Happy eating!

Printable recipe ahoy:

Red Bean & Barley Soup

1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium size onion, chopped
4 cups (or 2 cans) red kidney beans, rinsed omg like rinsing has never been done before
4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
1/2 cup of parsley

Optional additions:
2 cups of white beans (substitute for 2 cups of red beans)
Sweet Italian sausage, taken out of casings and crumbled into soup when time to cook for 30 min
Hot Italian sausage – same thing

Cover barley with water, rinse off, and put in small saucepan with water to cover. Bring that to a boil, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Chop onion, and saute over medium heat in a dutch oven or 4 qt stockpot until soft (2-3 minutes). While the onion is cooking, open cans of beans and RINSE RINSE RINSE OMG RINSE like you’re using Breck conditioner and it’s not coming out of your hair.

Add beans and broth to pot. Bring to boil and cook for 15 minute (or 10. Or 5).

Grab immersion blender and turn off heat on stock pot. Break up the beans with the blender – or with a potato masher, or if you really like doing dishes, use a slotted spoon to transfer some or up to half of the beans to a food processor and pulse a few times to break them up. Me? Immersion blender, baby.

Add the barley to the soup, bring to a boil again, and then simmer for up to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until barley is all tender and the house smells so good you want to eat the atmosphere. If you want to add bits of sausage or meat, do so when you add the barley, and keep an eye on the liquid level and the sticking-to-the-bottom thing.

Makes 6 servings, or four if you’re hubby and me and you have big ass soup bowls.

Happy eating!

Boilermaker Chili

A few weeks ago I wanted to make chili, and I’m always struggling to find a good chili recipe. I’d seen this one on before, but for some reason had never used it. If you want to see the original, with comments, you can find it here, but I adapted it to suit my family, so my recipe is quite different from the original. That’s how I roll 😛 It turned out to be the best chili I’ve ever made, and since I actually had Fritos in the house, I served it with those. I may never eat chili without Fritos again. Yum! I also served it with cornbread on the side.

Boilermaker Chili (adapted from


* 2 pounds ground beef chuck
* 1 pound bulk Italian sausage
* 3 (15 ounce) cans chili beans, drained (chili beans = pinto. You can sub kidney if you like)
* 1 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with juice

* 2 (15 oz) cans Rotel tomatoes
* 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
* 1 large yellow onion, chopped
* 2 green chile peppers, seeded and chopped (optional, I didn’t use these but I would for variation)
* 4 tablespoons real bacon bits (Sam’s Club sells a huge bag for $6 that’s awesome to use in recipes)
* 4 tsp beef base (different and so much better than bouillon!)
* 1 cup beer (the darker the better, don’t leave the beer out)
* 1/4 cup chili powder (more to taste, once it’s had a while to cook and blend)
* 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
* 1 tablespoon minced garlic
* 1 tablespoon dried oregano
* 2 teaspoons ground cumin
* 2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce (e.g. Tabasco™)
* 1 teaspoon dried basil
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1 teaspoon paprika
* 1 teaspoon white sugar

*1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate (or 1-2 Tbsp unsweet cocoa powder)
* 1 (10.5 ounce) bag corn chips such as Fritos®
* 1 (8 ounce) package shredded Cheddar cheese


*The directions are for stovetop but you could easily make this in the crockpot. I was short on time, so did stovetop, but next time if I plan ahead right, I’ll do crockpot chili.

1. Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Crumble the ground chuck and sausage into the hot pan, and cook until evenly browned. Drain off excess grease.
2. Pour in the chili beans,  tomatoes and tomato paste. Add the onion, celery, bacon bits, bouillon, and beer. Season with chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, oregano, cumin, hot pepper sauce, basil, salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, and sugar. Stir to blend, then cover and simmer over low heat for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
3. After 2 hours, taste, and adjust salt, pepper, and chili powder if necessary. The longer the chili simmers, the better it will taste. Remove from heat and serve, or refrigerate, and serve the next day.
4. To serve, ladle into bowls, and top with corn chips and shredded Cheddar cheese.

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