Pulled Pork is all about the bark! Bark lifts pulled pork from a good piece of meat to a superb piece of love. Like a lot of BBQ lovers, each time I make pulled pork I’m testing things out to improve the bark. This dry cured pulled pork is one of those experiments! It got pretty interesting and I might need your help to test my hypothesis. I’ll tell you all about it:
Disclosure: "This post contains test products and affiliate links. All opionions shared are my own."
Dry cured Pulled pork
Allthough I’m a big fan of homemade BBQ sauces I was blown away by the North-Carolina style BBQ sauce (from the book “Project smoke“). The tangy vinegar sauce brings the meaty flavor of the pork to a higher level. Having made sweet and tangy BBQ sauces I wanted to try something different. I’m becoming a big fan of the eastern kitchen. They seem to be well skilled in the art of bringing well balanced meals combining sweet, sour, salt, bitters and umami. So I thought: why shouldn’t I try to infuse those tastes in my next Pork shoulder? That’s how the oriental dry cure popped into my mind. It started to tickling my brain.
What’s a dry cure?
A dry cure consists of a big amount of salt with additional spices. The salt is important for two things: “Taste and Texture”. In a wet cure (or brine) the salt extracts juices out of the meat and infuses the flavoured water. This causing a juicy piece of tastefull meat. Since a dry cure has no water to replace the juices in the meat it absorbs the flavor with it’s own juices. This article explains why the meat stays juicier. Yet dry cured meat that has been dried aftewards get’s a firmer texture. By combining these techniques I tought it would help the outside of the meat to dry out and would create a thick bark. To see the effect of the dry cured pulled pork I decided to add no extra rub.
What was the result?
The result was a bit different than I had I expected it to be. Not that the bark experiment failed. In fact without adding a rub I obtained a delicious beautiful bark! Almost like the pork shoulder was wrapped in pork Jerky. I will test if adding a rub will improve the bark even more than it was now. Yet something rather unexpected happened while smoking this dry cured Pulled Pork to be. Look at the graphic below and see if you notice something in there.
Not only did I try this dry cured pulled pork technique for the first time. It was my first time smoking a shoulder overnight too. A couple of friends came over the next day and I wanted to be sure the Pulled Pork could be served at a decent time. Besides I didn’t want to use the texas crutch. So there were no options left. Luckily I got everything covered with the Igrill2 I got from my lovely wife and kids for father’s day. Since I was counting on a 12-16 hour run cooking a piece from about 5kg., I was surprised to notice the Shoulder was done after 9hrs. As you can see the graph looked awesome. I noticed my kamado did a great job holding temperature. But more important: “for the first time I skipped the zone”.
However I realise there are a lot of possible circumstances that could have had their influence I started to think about a theory. What if the dry cure causes the meat to form a pellicle on the surface faster than usually? Hence forming a package around the meat before the meat starts to sweat (causing the stall). This way forming some kind of texas crutch of it’s own. What if there’s a possibility to skip packing the shoulder and still being able to prevent the stall? It might be complete nonsense… I’m not an expert or scientist after all. Probably I just got luck that day. But who knows. So maybe we should give this method a chance testing it in different circumstances. I’m curious how it will turn out in your smoker. If it appears to be a bullshit theory, you would at least have a good piece of dry cured pulled pork in the end! So what’s our possible loss?
But how did it taste?
Cause after all that’s the most important question! Well I can’t say without any doubt this was my best session so far. Like mentioned before the dry cure had a positive effect on the bark. But bark isn’t everything. The meat should be juicy and tastefull. Even without adding an end sauce it was juicy enough to serve. Yet I added the end sauce for additional taste. From making the North Carolina Pulled Pork I learned that adding vinegar pimps the taste of the meat. By using a sauce with oriental flavors I tried to develop a coherent taste with the bark. And I guess it was a succes. I served it two times for different guests and they were all pleasantly surprised.
Interested to join me in this experiment? Try this dry cured pulled pork recipe and let us now how it worked out! Did you skip the zone and ended up with a delicious firm bark? And how did it taste? Tell us all about it! You can add your experienc in the comment section below or join us in a chat on FACEBOOK ! If you like my blog and recipes: DON’T HESITATE to share them with your friends!
While experimenting with the creation of bark I stumbled on a theory. By dry curing my pork shoulder I noticed I skipped the zone in 2 sessions. Could be a coincidence (or not). So join me in the experiment and try this delicious recipe!
- 5 kg Boston Butt (aka. pork shoulder)
- 2 cups oriental dry cure recipe link in instructions
- 8 tbsp orange juice
- 8 tbsp ketjap manis
- 4 tbsp lemon juice
- 4 tbsp sushi vinegar
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp sriracha
- 2 tbsp brown sugar syrup
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp ground fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp laos
- equal part oriental sauce at taste
- equal part cider vinegar at taste
Prepare the oriental dry rub (recipe here)
Rub the pork shoulder thoroughly with the dry cure and put in the fridge for at least 12 hrs.
By doing this the outside of your pork butt will get infused with delicious flavors and the surface will dry out! In my opinion this improves the bark even without adding a rub.
Thoroughly rinse the pork shoulder to remove the salt cure. Don't worry the flavors are infused by now.
Pat the pork shoulder dry and put back in the fridge for about 12 hrs. so it can dry out.
Start your smoker or BBQ for indirect cooking at low heat (about 100°C/200°F) add a couple of wood chunks of your taste (I used apple chunks)
Once the smoke turns blue put the pork shoulder on the grid and close the lid.
Let the pork shoulder cook until you get an internal temperature from about 84°c/184°F. Meanwhile simply do NOTHING (except from keeping your dome temperature OK, making your sauce and drinking a beer. I even went to bed with my Igrill set).
WARNING: this method could cause skipping the zone leading to a fast and juicy result. Mine was done in 9 hrs. and my best so far! Please keep me updated how yours went! It's important for me to know if my hypothesis is correct (see the article)
Make your sauce by mixing all ingredients and boiling it untill it thickens.
Once the internal the internal temp. is 84°C/184°F you can open the lid for the first time! Try to resist pulling some strings allready! Now you need to baste the sauce on the shoulder every 15-30 minutes. Do this for about 3-4 times or untill you reach an internal temperature of 94°C/200°F. If it goes faster you need to baste a bit faster.
Let the shoulder rest for about an hour in an oven from about 65°C/150°F slighly covered with thin foil.
Pull the pork shoulder and add your finishing sauce at taste.
With my blog I try to share some passion. Some times I get some test products by passionate people or make use of affiliate links to cope with the costs. By buying through these links I earn a small commision without costs for you! All opinions shared are my own and no false statements will be made! In this dry cured pulled pork recipe: - There are affiliate links on the "Project Smoke" and "Igrill2"