Smokey Oven-Barbecued Pork

A couple weeks ago Erika, Mom, and I hosted our fourth annual Big Summer Potluck in Bucks County, PA. It is a weekend retreat for food bloggers, but it’s really for anyone who just loves food. Our opening night always begins with a big potluck dinner at our home in Pennsylvania. The offerings from this year’s attendees were spectacular – people commented that the food was the best in our four year history.

(Photos courtesy of Brian Samuels Photography)

We had everything from bean and grain salads, Filipino pork barbecue, and Four Layer Gluten Free Coconut Cake to Gin and Tonic cookies. People bought cocktails fixins’ and cocktail toppins’ and anything you could possibly imagine to pickle (see this recipe for balsamic pickled cherries!). It was a feast.

(Photos courtesy of Brian Samuels Photography)

We always make one main dish that’s big enough to serve the crowd and makes all the other potluck side dishes and desserts hang together, the ‘anchor piece’ Mom calls it. Last year it was fried chicken. This year it was this smokey oven-barbecued pork on slider rolls or tortillas (we had both!), and it was a huge hit. A lot of people asked for the recipe, so we knew this would have to be the potluck recipe we shared here on Three Many Cooks. What makes it special is that it’s slow-roasted in the oven and then pulled, at which point you smoke it for just fifteen minutes on a gas grill. The pulled pork just soaks up the smoke like a sponge.

Smokey Oven-Barbecued Pork
Serves 16 to 20

You can skip the smoking step, but it’s incredible the flavor the pulled pork absorbs with just 15 minutes on the grill. Add a couple of tablespoons of cumin to the spice rub if you like.
We served the pulled pork with Hot Bread Kitchens’ corn tortillas and slaw (see Salsa Verde Slaw below) To heat tortillas, lay a damp paper towel on a 24- by 18-inch piece of heavy-duty foil. Set 2 stacks of 4 corn tortillas on damp towel. Cover with another damp paper towel. Close foil to completely seal. Figuring 2 tortillas per person, make 2 more foil packets. Bake in a 350-degree oven until steamy, about 5 minutes.

3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1 bone-in pork shoulder butt roast or 1 fresh picnic shoulder (8 to 9 pounds)
3 cups wood chips, such as hickory or mesquite

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Mix brown sugar, paprika, pepper, garlic, and salt in a small bowl. Pat roast dry and place on a rack set over a foil-lined shallow pan. Lightly sprinkle the top and sides of the roast with salt, brush with half the mustard, then sprinkle with half the spice rub. Carefully turn roast over and repeat with a little salt and remaining mustard and spice rub.

Place pork in the oven; roast until a meat thermometer registers 170 degrees, 9 to 11 hours, depending on roast’s size and internal temperature at the start of cooking. Transfer roast to a platter and let cool enough to handle, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, if making sandwiches or if pork needs a little more moisture, pour off any fat and scrape pan drippings into a small saucepan, add 1 cup of water, and bring to a simmer. Cut pork roast into 1- to 2-inch chunks and shred into disposable tin.

Meanwhile, place chips in a small bowl; fill bowl with water to completely cover; let stand 15 to 20 minutes. Remove rack or racks from a gas grill. Lay a large sheet of heavy-duty foil the size of the grill over the burners. Carefully puncture the foil all over with a fork. Scatter drained chips over foil. Set grill racks back in position; close grill lid. Turn all burners on high and heat grill until the first wisps of smoke from the smoldering chips appear. Place pan of pulled pork on grill the grill. Close lid, reduce heat to medium-high, and smoke until grill stops smoking, about 15 minutes. Add the pork-flavored liquid (and barbecue sauce, if you like; stir to combine.) Serve! (Pork can be covered and refrigerated up for several days.)

Salsa Verde Slaw
Serves 12

1 pound shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix
2 medium carrots, coarsely grated
1 medium red or yellow bell pepper (or 1/4 each)
4 medium scallions, sliced thin
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro (omit when making American-style slaw)
1 1/2 cups jarred salsa verde
1/2 cup juice from 2 limes
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix cabbage, carrots, peppers, scallions, and cilantro in a large bowl. Whisk salsa, lime juice, vinegar and oil to combine. Add dressing and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Toss, let stand a few minutes for flavors to bend, if there’s time, and serve.