I planned to talk today about different kinds of regional and state BBQ sauces and the differences between them and why they are all good in their own way, but I’m not really passionate enough about one particular style to wade into such dangerous territory, and I haven't even tried all of them so I'm hardly an authority. All you really need to know is that they are all delicious, they all seem to have brown sugar and apple cider vinegar as a base, and that South Carolina mustard sauce is my favorite, followed closely by North Carolina vinegar sauce. They are also all super easy to make, so next time you make a giant amount of pulled pork, don’t limit yourself to just one sauce, give yourself (and your guests) choices! Pick a state on the map and go nuts!
Cool. That was BBQ talk. Now onto the real reason this pork is important stuff.
I am in three fantasy football leagues this year.
I’m not really sure how that happened except that I kept getting invited to join leagues and I kept saying yes because there is $0 on the line (ok, $20 in one of them) and I like to be social sometimes.
But I don’t watch football! I mean sure, I “watch” the Super Bowl every year and I occasionally am in a bar where the TVs are tuned into a game, but I don’t intentionally sit down and turn on my own TV to watch guys in very shiny spandex toss a pointy ball around for two hours. I just always have other things to do with my time.
But you know what? Sometimes I do wish that I watched football or other sports. I wish I had a group of friends that came over every Sunday to watch the big game or just the ordinary games. I want to feed these imaginary people. I want to provide coolers of beer and make potato skins and buffalo wings and pots of chili and guacamole and burgers and make cakes that look like stadiums or whatever else you are supposed to feed a crowd of people huddled around a television. Because let’s be honest. Football food is amazing! It is all the food you’ve ever wanted to order from a bar menu. It’s salty. It’s greasy. It’s so. Damn. Delicious!
It’s also terrible for you, and I can never justify making these things just for myself, without some celebratory pretense. Like this pulled pork. It’s really tasty! It’s easy! You just go to sleep and wake up with a slow cooker full of hot food ready for the eating. It’s so great!
But again, this makes an entire SLOW COOKER FULL OF MEAT. It feeds like 10 people. I can eat a lot, but I need some help with this kind of quantity. Luckily I had the excuse of a recent book club brunch to justify making this (which I guess is like my version of football Sunday), so I had reinforcements, but I can’t help thinking this is perfect football food.
So please. Come over. I’ll make this for you. We can watch football and you can tell me why the spandex is so shiny (seriously, why so shiny?) or why they can’t throw the ball backwards or why I should root for my quarterback even though he has a problematic history with women*! Or if you aren't into football, I guess we can debate regional BBQ styles. Really, this pork offers something for everyone.
*Just kidding, that was last year’s QB. This year I have Eli Manning and I think he’s ok with women. But is he ok with football? Should I get rid of him?
Easy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork & BBQ Sauces
Serves 10 (at least). The best plan is to make the BBQ sauces the day before you plan to serve them, and make the pork that night while you sleep.
For the pulled pork:
- 1 large yellow onion, sliced thinly
- 2 tbs brown sugar
- 1 tbs smoked paprika
- 3 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp liquid smoke, or more to taste but be careful (optional)
- 6 lb bone in pork shoulder or pork butt
- 1/4 cup beer (any is fine, just not fruit flavored probably)
- Place the onions in the bottom of the slow cooker and sprinkle with 1 tsp of the salt.
- In a bowl, combine the brown sugar, paprika, the remaining salt, pepper, and liquid smoke. Rub all over the pork shoulder and then place the meat on top of the onions. Pour the beer into the bottom of the crock.
- Cook on low for 10-12 hours. I checked at around 11 hours and the pork was done and falling apart tender.
- When pork is done, lift pork out of slow cooker and place on a plate. Remove onions and half of the liquid from the slow cooker and return the pork to the crock. Shred with two forks and toss with the liquid in the crock to coat. Serve with BBQ sauce of choice.
North Carolina Style BBQ sauce, adapted from A Fork's Tale
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbs brown sugar
- 1/2 tbs ketchup
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Place all ingredients in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking to combine, until salt and sugar are dissolved (be careful not to gas yourself with the hot vinegar, trust me). Remove from heat and let cool, then refrigerate until ready to use. Best made 1 day ahead.
South Carolina Style BBQ sauce, adapted from Epicurious
- 3/4 cup yellow mustard
- 1/4-1/2 cup honey, to taste (1/2 cup was a little too sweet for me)
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbs ketchup
- 1 tbs brown sugar
- 2 tsp worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp tabasco sauce
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate. Best made 1 day ahead.
Kansas City Style BBQ sauce, adapted from Serious Eats
- 1 tbs butter
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/6 cup molasses
- 1/6 cup brown sugar
- 1/6 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbs yellow mustard
- 1/2 tbs chili powder
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds, or until just fragrant.
- Add remaining ingredients to the pot and bring to a boil, the lower the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes until thickened slightly.
- Transfer mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Let cool and then refrigerate until ready to use.