Pulled pork takes time. The essence of great barbecue is a long, slow smoking that infuses the meat with deep flavors from both the smoke and the spice rub, and then sets it off with an unctuous swaddle of tangy, sweet, spicy sauce (whatever type you swear by; I’m not getting into a fight about it). But it can’t be hurried.
Except that it can. I’m not saying it’s every bit as good as the slow version, but it’s damn good nonetheless. And you can make it in two hours if you have to.
All you need is a smoker (or grill) and a pressure cooker. This version involved a pork shoulder that I cut a couple of muscles off of to cure separately into coppa and the like. I had intended to smoke it on Friday and complete the cooking on Saturday, but time would not cooperate so I found myself confronting the very real possibility of a half-cooked hunk of pig come dinner time. Here’s how I streamlined the process.
I rubbed the meat all over with my customary spice rub of salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, 5-spice, coffee, and other spices I can’t think of right now (garlic powder works, though this is the only application I advocate it for) and put it in the smoker with a hot fire for an hour to color and absorb a good amount of smoke. Then I took it off, and cut all the meat off the bones, saving the skin for cooking beans and soups and such.
I put all the meat pieces in the pressure cooker with about a quart of smoked chicken stock (optional, but it does double down on the flavor) and about half of the saucepan of barbecue sauce I made while the meat was smoking: tomato purée, tamarind paste, espresso, soy sauce, maple syrup, cider vinegar, chili powder, 5-spice, sriracha, and mustard. I set it to hissing for an hour, then cooled it off, opened it up, and stirred in the rest of the sauce while shredding the meat apart into those strands we all love so well. I adjusted the seasonings; it needed more sweet, acid, and salt.
I also baked some corn muffins, which I suppose I should have mentioned earlier, and I had a pot of collards going as well, with a nice slab of the smoky skin and some of the smoked chicken stock as well for good measure. I finished them with some vinegar once everything else was ready, and there was sauerkraut as well as the much-needed acidic foil to all the rich meat. Pulled pork/corn muffin sliders are something I came up with quite a while ago, and they still hit the spot each and every time. Now, thanks to this technique, I can easily make them on the day of a party and not have to stress about finding the time to get the smoking done ahead of time or put something in the oven all night to get falling-apart tender.
This is not to say that I wouldn’t make it the proper way if I could. That way is better; there’s an alchemy that happens to pork when it sits in smoke for hours and hours. But I do declare that this quick-and-dirty version will satisfy your cravings handsomely.