As promised, it is time to complete the Wonder Twins one-two punch of my mini-BBQ series.  Last month, I showed everyone how to make amazing collard greens aka the best BBQ side on the planet.  This month, it’s time for the main event.  This is what I consider to be my “signature” dish that isn’t pasta related.  This is my BBQ pulled pork with maple chipotle BBQ sauce. 

First, a few things.  The ingredient list may be kind of massive, but please, do not be intimidated by that.  It may seem like a lot, but it really is not.  What may be daunting are the steps and the time it takes to make this recipe.  Believe me when I say, it is 100% worth it.  

I would like to also add it’s better to make this in the winter because with the cooking method, your kitchen and/or your entire apartment gets hotter than any human should have to endure. My small apartment becomes one giant sauna in the summer.  It’s not great. Ok, enough talk! Let’s cook!!

Here’s the laundry list of ingredients:

  • 1 3-4 Lb bone-in pork shoulder
  • A lot of liquid*
  • ½ – 1 cup salt
  • ½ – 1 cup sugar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Handful of peppercorns
  • 4 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 32 Oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2-4 chipotle peppers with adobo sauce**
  • ½ – ¾ cup maple syrup (the real stuff)***
  • 2 ½ tbsp cumin
  • 2 ½ tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 ½ tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • ¼-3/4 tsp cayenne pepper**
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • 2 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (fun fact, I typed that correctly on the first try)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • A bunch of ice

OK, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s start this.  Oh yeah, did I mention you need to do this steps the day before you cook the pork?  Yes, I’m sorry.  You need to brine your pork before you cook it.  You can brine it for a few hours, but you’re not going to get the full flavor you want.  If you notice, there’s an asterisk next to the liquid. This is for two reasons.  One: You need enough liquid to cover the pork shoulder completely. Two: I don’t always use water, but you’re more than welcome to.  I tend to make this more in the fall than the summer, and in the fall apple cider is much easier to find.  Pork and apples go together like Laverne and Shirley.  HOWEVER!! Make sure you don’t use too much, because you’re going to use the ice to cool the liquid down, and that’s going to add volume.  The giant piece of pork will also do that and you don’t want your brine to go all over the place.

Put your liquid in a very large pot.  Add the salt, sugar (if using water), bay leaves, peppercorns, 1 Tbsp cumin, 1 Tbsp coriander, 1 Tbsp chili powder, apple cider vinegar and 1 tsp of the cinnamon (if using water) and get it nice and worm. You need to do this to dissolve the sugar and salt.  You can add any other spices or other flavorings to this as you like.  Sometimes I add orange peels.  Although last time I did that, things took a turn for the worse. 

Oops.  Someone lost his grip on the pot.  I was angrier about the plate than I was the brine.  Anyway, get it nice and hot and stir until the sugar and salt dissolves.  It should be pretty strong both salty and sweet.  If it’s not, add more.  If it is, turn off the heat and add enough ice to drop it to room temperature.  This is very, very important.  You do not want to put the pork in a warm liquid and let it sit.  That would be catastrophic.  Once it’s nice and cold, put the pork in, cover and let sit in your fridge overnight. 

Now that it’s early the next day, pull the pork out and pat it dry.  Set your oven to 250 degrees.  Heat a large Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Take 1 Tbsp of the cumin, coriander, and chili powder, 1 Tbsp of the brown sugar, the cayenne pepper (**use as much depending on how spicy you want), 1 tsp of the cinnamon, a little salt and black pepper and mix together in a bowl.  Rub that mixture all over the pork shoulder, rubbing it in to make sure it gets nice and coated. Take the pork shoulder and sear it on all sides in the Dutch oven, about 1-2 minutes per side or until golden brown.  Cover it and throw it in the oven for, wait for it, 9 hours.  Yup, I said what I said. 9 hours.  Go read a book.  Go play a game.  Watch some football if you’re doing this on a Saturday or Sunday in the fall.  Take a nap.  I don’t care, just let it go for 9 hours.  

After 8 hours, it’s time to make the sauce.  You read that ingredient list correctly, I do not use ketchup in my sauce.  I think the maple syrup has enough sugar that ketchup is just unnecessary.  Crushed tomatoes will do just fine.  Put a sauce pot on medium-low heat.  In a blender, combine the chipotle peppers and adobo sauce (** see note about cayenne pepper above), tomatoes, maple syrup (*** only as much as for the sweetness level you want), and 2 tsp apple cider vinegar and blend until the peppers are completely pureed.  Throw that all into the sauce pan.  Add the remaining ½ tbsp of cumin, coriander, and chili powder to the mixture.  Add the ground mustard and the yellow mustard as well as the Worcestershire sauce (that’s twice!!).  Stir to combine, cover, drop to low and let simmer until the pork is done cooking.

Now it’s time to take the pork out and shred it like Mike McGill in a half pipe.  There are a couple of ways you can do this.  The regular way is to take two forks and go double fisted Freddy Kruger on it. Before you do my method, make sure you remove the bone.  It should come out clean and with no resistance.  Now take that hunk of meat and do one of two things: Use a hand mixer in a bowl, or if you’re a boss like me, use your stand mixer with the whisk attachment.

Yeah, yeah, that’s the chicken from the chili recipe, but I had to show it again.  Any meat that needs to be shredded can be done this way.  Why do all of that manual labor?  Haven’t you worked hard enough and sweat enough for 2 days making this?? I know I’m all set by this point.  Look at this beautiful picture of the meat, clean bone, and old school Instagram filter!

Well folks, there you have it.  BBQ pulled pork with maple chipotle sauce.  Serve this with a some of those delicious collards, some cornbread and some coleslaw (recipe not included) and you’ve got yourself a hell of a BBQ feast.  

This will yield about 8-10 servings of both sauce and pork.  I like to freeze half of each and pull them out a month or 2 later when I’m craving BBQ.  Or, if you have a massive family, this will surely feed them.  

Remember, if you have any questions, comments, or feedback, you can email me and  I’d love to hear from you which recipes you’ve tried and what did/did not work for you OR how you tweaked them to your style.  Until next month, take care!

Jay Flanders

Jay Flanders is a native of Newport and avid cook. While he studied at the University of Rhode Island, he also attended the College of Food Network via his television set where he learned the basics of...