Now I get it. My husband and I spent a weekend in Durham, NC in January. We visited family, ate good food, shopped, slept late, and watched reality television. One of the highlights of the trip was visiting The Pit in Raleigh. I'm not saying it's the best barbecue joint ever (although it was pretty great and I loved the semi-upscale casual atmosphere), but I did get to meet the "pitmaster" (who was on Throwdown with Bobby Flay) and I had some really good chopped barbecue. It reminded me of pop pop. It made me happy and sad. So I looked all over for a recipe with moist meat and that vinegary, sweet, spicy sauce.
Hangin' with the Pitmaster
Hangin' with pop pop (back in the day)
Anyway, barbecue always makes me think of pop pop. Good times. So I came across this recipe on use real butter and it looked very similar to our way of making chopped barbecue. It's a cold day in March, so I wasn't trying to crank up the smoker, although cooking outdoors gives it that authentic flavor. I also had a work/school/physical therapy schedule that kept me out 14 hours today, so the Crock Pot would just have to do. Guess what? It worked! I can't wait to try this recipe the authentic way (on a smoker).
So if you've never tasted chopped barbecue, you may think this just looks like a sloppy heap of shredded meat. Believe me, it's not. It's made with pork shoulder or pork butt (yes, the cheap, fatty cut that I used in Spicy Pork and Red Bean Chili). It's kinda spicy, but not enough to distract you from the full, slow-cooked flavor of that moist pork. The sauce has a vinegar kick, but it's offset by the sweetness of the brown sugar and the smokiness of the paprika and cumin. Best part? This was so easy and better than the versions we've ordered at local restaurants.
You can find the recipe here, but I made some changes:
You really only need half of the amount of dry rub. I made the full amount and saved half for a future recipe.
I cooked mine in a Crock Pot with 1/2 cup water for 10 hours.
I served my chopped barbecue on fresh, soft potato rolls.
If you're not into spicy food, cut some of the cayenne or crushed red pepper out of the sauce.
I loved the simplicity of this recipe. I made enough rub for two batches, so next time I make this, I can skip the step of mixing the spices (which causes a lot of sneezing). I cooked the sauce the night before and let it sit in the fridge overnight. I let the meat marinate overnight, then spent 10 minutes the next morning searing the meat before dropping it in the Crock Pot for 10 hours. When I came home, I pulled the fat and bones away from the meat, and shredded the soft, moist pork. I poured on the sauce and dinner was ready.
Of course, I don't need to tell you that pork shoulder and pork butt aren't necessarily health food. I've tried making this recipe with pork loin, but it's much too lean to do this justice. The texture turns out dry. You can't beat the fact that pork shoulder is cheap (.99/lb.) and it tastes better. I'll just enjoy it in small quantities.
Shout out to Jen at use real butter for sharing this fantastic recipe. It made my day.