Oct 2010

Slow-Cooked Pulled Pork with Orange and Cilantro

Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork

The funny thing about learning how to make a dish at home is that it kills my desire to order it at a restaurant. Something about preparing it from scratch and enduring the entire process demystifies the product so completely that there isn’t any magic left.

Pulled pork sandwiches have been my go-to barbecue dish ever since I met The Astronomer and began traveling and eating down South on a regular basis. I was so fiercely loyal to pulled pork that even when a restaurant boasted the state’s best ribs or brisket, I couldn’t bear to stray away.

I never once questioned my devotion to the temple of pulled pork until recently, when I discovered that it was possible to recreate its magnificent texture easily in a standard crock pot. I didn’t believe it at first, but the proof was in the meat after it was slow cooked for nine or so hours on the pot’s lowest setting. The stringy texture that resulted was spot on, and it soaked up sauce like a charm. It was kind of shocking how simple it all turned out to be.

While most recipes that I encountered suggested dousing the pork in either bottled or homemade barbecue sauce, I fancied this one because it called for a vinegar and orange juice-based mop sauce. The combination of tangy sauce, fresh scallions, and cilantro makes for a familiar yet deliciously different interpretation of my beloved pulled pork.

For marinade

  • 1 4- to 6-lb. boned pork shoulder or butt
  • 3 ounces frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons achiote paste
  • 2 tablespoons coarse kosher or sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon crumbled dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

For mop sauce

  • 3 ounces frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 2 cups cider vinegar or white distilled vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt

For serving

  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Buns or rolls
  • Pickles (optional)
  • Hot sauce (optional)

Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork

In a 4 1/2- to 6-quart slow-cooker pot, whisk together orange juice concentrate, achiote paste, salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried oregano, and cayenne pepper.

Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork

Add the pork to the mixture and coat well with the sauce. If time permits, cover and marinade in the refrigerator for two to three hours. If not, go ahead and get the pork cooking.

Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork

To cook the pork, cover slow cooker with lid and cook on low setting for 9 to 10 hours, or until pork is very tender. The smells wafting in the air around hour seven will tempt you to lift the lid for a peak, but refrain from disturbing the cooking process.

Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork

Once the pork is done cooking, turn off the slow cooker and transfer the meat into a large bowl. While the pork cools down, combine the mop sauce ingredients with 1 cup water in a saucepan and warm up over low heat. Set aside to drizzle over meat.

Slow-Cooked Pulled Pork with Orange and Cilantro

When meat is cool enough to handle, pull it apart into large pieces. Discard excess fat and bones. Shred the meat with your fingers or a pair of forks. Toss shredded meat with green onions and cilantro and drizzle with reserved juices and mop sauce to taste. [For 4.5 pounds of  meat, I used approximately 1 cup of reserved juices and 2 cups of mop sauce to flavor.]

Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork

Serve pork with your choice of condiments.

Makes 8 to 14 servings, depending on the size of your pork shoulder or butt.

Recipe adapted from Smoke & Spice: The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking & Entertaining by Bill Jamison and Cheryl Alters Jamison. [For Printable Recipe Click Here]

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15 thoughts on “Slow-Cooked Pulled Pork with Orange and Cilantro

  1. sounds heavenly and I totally agree with the demystification — I haven’t been able to buy shortbread or plain truffles since I started making my own.

    Exotic flavored ganaches, on the other hand…

  2. Pulled pork, especially Carolina style is one of my absolute favorite foods. I love the idea of cilantro and citrus. I had a wonderful pulled pork sandwich in Seattle (of all places) with a similar flavor profile of citrus, hot peppers and cilantro. I think I might have to make this!

  3. I just made this..Wow it is delicious. Thanks for the recipe it is really easy. I subbed jalenpeno for the chile paste, added some bay leaf, and added some hot sauce to the mop sauce. Oh and I juiced fresh oranges instead of frozen. Delicious!!! P.S. I am a beginning cook and this was really easy.

  4. dang, that looks good. I love slow cooked pork, but haven’t ever tried it in a crockpot. Gastronomer, you’re inspiring me to try to unearth Mr. K’s crockpot from his bachelor days (I wonder if it still works)! And about those pickle slices, they look humongous, are those homemade too?

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