The first May Day Bank Holiday is fast approaching - and remember it's on Friday 8th May this year.
Sure, we're all stuck at home but there is no reason why we shouldn't carry on as normal and get the coals stoked up. Need inspiration though? Don't panic. We have approached one of our favourite BBQ experts, Marcus Bawdon, to give us some ideas. Here he presents a focus not only on 'pulling' - but on 'chopping' too.
Sharpen up, people!
A few years ago, pulled pork was rampant and definitely ‘a thing’...
Inspired by the historic smokehouses of the U.S.A and after the focus of much culinary attention, the smokey goodness that is pulled pork landed properly in the UK around 10 years ago now. And I remember the first time I successfully smoked a pork butt or shoulder, way back then. The feeling of elation when the scapula slid out clean was indescribable. (This a badge of honour by the way, in case you were wondering.)
Tucking into the juicy, sauce laden, melt in the mouth, pulled pork turned my world upside-down. And I have been on quite a journey with this BBQ method ever since.
Over time, there have been tweaks. I have since never really liked to shred too much for instance. It goes too pulpy. Instead, I prefer chunks that break apart with the lightest of bites. Also, I don’t like my pulled pork swimming in sweet BBQ sauce. I have found that mustard based or lighter cider vinegar-based sauces are far better suited. Complimenting the flavour of the pork. Rather than hiding it.
Also, a good pulled pork should have a nice bit of bark, a rosy smoke ring and should taste of proper smoke. Manage all of that and it's job done.
Unfortunately, much of the pulled pork that has been served up recently, especially in supermarkets, has never seen a wisp of smoke and is flavoured artificially. No, a lot of pulled pork is now mass produced, cooked in vac packs and doused in sweet sauce. It all amounts to a very sad state of affairs really and as a result, pulled pork is now seen as quite boring, with people turning their noses up it. Which is a shame because I do believe that when done properly, it is still a wondrous thing.
If you are bored with pulled pork though, what alternatives are there?
The good news is that you can pull plenty of other meats and the best cuts are from the front ends of beasts. One of my favourite beef joints is chuck (for me brisket doesn’t work as well pulled) and a rich chocolate and coffee spiced rub works well. Along with a powerful smoke, using some nice hickory and cherry wood.
Pulled lamb shoulder really is wonderful. Give it decent a Ras el Hanout rub beforehand, forgo the smoke and slow cook the joint indirectly, until falling apart and tender. Simply stuffed into a homemade flatbread with some salad leaves is a stunning approach. Smoked and pulled turkey thighs are a revelation - tasty, juicy and very inexpensive. They are also a secret of mine for serving up at parties but I guess no more!
You can even have some non-meat alternatives - shhhh - such as pulled jackfruit and slow, caramelised 'pulled' fennel. The world is still your oyster when it comes to pulling.
To the Chop
One of the big alternatives to pulling meats though, is to chop them. A chopped pork or beef sandwich is a joy to behold and perhaps seems a lot cooler. You slow smoke your pork butt, chuck or brisket to the point where it’s almost falling apart 94-97°C and is as soft as butter. Then get either one (or two if you’re feeling Gangsta) cleavers and blitz the meat into a coarse chop. There might not seem to be too much difference here but there is. The texture and bite is totally unique to pulled.
You then load up into a bun of choice - a good demi brioche works a treat for me - a drizzle of an interesting BBQ sauce, a few pickles and get stuck in.
Please check out the upcoming print BBQ magazine www.thebbqmag.com for further recipes and lots of BBQ and outdoor cooking inspiration.
Marcus is author of best-selling book Food and Fire inspiration for cooking outdoors https://amzn.to/2wOdTM6