It’s heating up here in Phoenix, which means slow cooker BBQ Pulled Pork Sammies are in high demand! This quintessential summertime sandwich is an eye-popping, lip-smacking mix of tangy, smoky and sweet. But this time, I had a nagging question that needed answering.
A while back I took a barbeque class and saw something I never expected to see. Mustard! Specifically, meat dripping with mustard, right before the pit master sprinkled on the seasoning and spices. This, they said, would act as a binder for the dry rub, allowing it to adhere better to the meat, thereby imparting greater flavor. The tang of the mustard dissipates during the cooking process, so in theory, you’re left with an extra well seasoned and juicy pile of meat. No mustard flavored meat!
I tried this technique out almost immediately after getting back home. Sure enough, you can’t taste the mustard, but I wasn’t yet sold on its supposed flavor-boosting capabilities. On and off I would try binder and no-binder, never really being sure which the better method of the two.
Binder Versus No Binder
Finally, my inner food scientist had had enough. I figured only a direct, side by side comparison would do, so I bought two bone-in pork shoulders and an extra crock-pot and set out to start my binder experiment.
In this experiment, the binder was the only variable. Everything from the weight of the pork shoulder to the seasoning, to the cooking time, was precisely the same. I even got the same brand of slow cooker to control for any temperature variations.
So what did I find when it was time to taste test? First off, the meat with binder had visibly less seasoning on its surface compared to the meat without binder. The binder may very well have helped the seasoning adhere together, but it seemed to have trouble adhering to the meat. As a result, there was a huge difference in flavor, texture, and juiciness, with “no binder” in the lead.
My slow cooker BBQ pulled pork sammies recipe is now official. No binder! To finish, toss in your favorite barbeque sauce, top with crunchy coleslaw, and snuggle into a toasted brioche bun.
My personal favorite way to top these bad boys is a fresh coleslaw mix with aioli. A garlicky spin on mayonnaise, aioli is simple enough to whip up at home; however, it does require a little practice and patience. When I’m in a hurry, I open up a jar of Stonewall Kitchen’s roasted garlic aioli and cut straight to the coleslaw, adding a little salt to taste. As my little man would say, this is a “one punch KO” combo of flavors, so be sure to pile the slaw on high!
Summertime is served!
- 1 bone-in pork shoulder take note of the weight
- 1 onion sliced
- 3-4 garlic cloves smashed
- 32 ounces chicken broth
- kosher salt use 1 1/3 teaspoons per pound if using Morton's, or 2 1/8 teaspoon per pound if using Diamond Crystal*
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon chili powder
- 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- Mix up the spices and seasoning. Pat the meat dry with paper towels, and as soon as you can prior to cooking, coat the pork shoulder with the seasoning mix (preferably several hours in advance, or overnight).
- Prepare the crockpot by lining the bottom with sliced onions and smashed cloves of garlic. Pour the chicken broth over the onions and garlic.
- Add the seasoned pork shoulder, fat side up. Cook on low heat for approximately 8 hours, or high heat for approximately 6 hours, or until the meat is fork tender.
- Remove the meat and let rest until cool enough to handle. Remove and throw away the fat cap and bone. Then, working with your hands, two forks, or meat shredders, shred the meat, setting fattier pieces aside.
- Serve tossed in your favorite barbeque sauce, topped with crunchy coleslaw, on a toasted brioche bun.