In the southern United States, a barbecue without pork isn’t a real barbecue. Shredded pork, also called pulled pork, is an economical dish well-suited for entertaining. It takes little preparation and cooks for anywhere from four to eight hours, freeing up your day to get ready for your guests. For a change of pace, look to different regions and countries for inspiration the next time you make shredded pork.
North Carolina Pulled Pork
Barbecue is sacred in the south, especially in the Carolinas where several different styles of barbecue are consumed. Follow in the footsteps of barbecue masters in North Carolina and massage your pork with a dry rub before cooking low and slow in a smoker. North Carolinians are partial to vinegar-based barbecue sauces, and you can mimic this at home by mopping your pork during the cooking process with a mixture of apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Top your sandwich with a light tomato-based sauce and serve with a traditional side of cole slaw and hush puppies.
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
If you don’t have a smoker in your backyard, use your slow cooker to create authentic-tasting shredded pork. Simply put your pork in the slow cooker, top with the sauce of your choice and walk away for eight hours. If you miss the smoked flavor of the real thing, add a few drops of liquid smoke during the cooking process. If using a sweet-tasting tomato-based sauce, give it a little zing by adding some diced gherkins or chopped jalapenos to the final product.
Shredded pork, or carnitas, makes an appearance in several traditional Mexican dishes. The flavor profile is very different from the barbecue found in the southern region of the United States, but the dish is simple to make. Cook the pork in the oven or the slow cooker with salsa or chopped jalapenos, onion, garlic and salt. The trick to carnitas is to return it to mix the shredded pork with the cooking juices after the first cooking, and return it to the oven to get crispy. Eat the carnita as it is, serve it with a side of tortillas, guacamole and salsa, or use the pork in tacos, taquitos, burritos, tamales or tostadas.
Korean-Style Shredded Pork
Korean barbecue, called gogi gui, is typically cooked tableside on a gas or charcoal grill. Barbecue pork, or dwaeji bulgogi, is traditionally cooked with thin strips of pork rather than shredded pork, but you can marry American-style shredded pork with gochujang sauce, the Korean version of barbecue sauce, for an international treat. Cook your pork in the oven or slow cooker with the sauce, a combination of soy, sugar, garlic, ginger, sriracha sauce, sesame oil, green onions and honey. Instead of using a bun, top a slice of lettuce with a scoop of jasmine rice, the shredded pork and some toasted sesame seeds. Serve with a side of sesame and ginger cole slaw and kimchi-sweet potato salad.