Pulled to Perfection
What do you consider the “taste of summer?” When the days are long and hot and the kids are out of school and thoughts turn to vacations and swimming pools and baseball … what foods do you typically enjoy? Burgers on the grill, hot dogs and ice cream certainly all come to mind. It’s really not summer without those items at backyard BBQs. But, for me, there’s another must have as well: pulled pork barbecue.
A summer ritual for me is to start the day early by seasoning a Boston butt that I’ve brined the night before. With apple cider vinegar, apple juice and simple seasonings on hand, the pork will then go in my smoker where it slowly transforms into one of my summertime favorites over the course of the day. I periodically brush it with the apple cider/apple juice mixture, and about four hours in I wrap it in foil to trap in the steam and continue letting time and the low heat do its thing.
It isn’t terribly difficult to perfect after a bit of practice. Chef Google once told me to let it rest for an hour or two in my Yeti cooler (still wrapped in the foil) before pulling it. I tried it out and the results were outstanding.
Once the pork is pulled, there are so many options. Because I often smoke an 8-pound Boston butt (by the way, the “butt” is actually part of the shoulder, which many people find confusing), there are always plenty of leftovers. But I have a cycle, a 1-2-3 flurry of dinner punches that makes my summer delightful.
Day one I make pulled pork BBQ sandwiches. I like virtually every style of barbecue, so you can find a variety of sauces, mustards and vinegars on my picnic table. Day two I used the leftovers for pulled pork tacos. Not gonna lie — these might be my favorite. But day three is when pizza is king and shines in my home kitchen. My sourdough pizza dough has been bulk fermenting in my fridge the last two days (it went in the day I first pulled the pork for sandwiches), and it’s now ready in all its glory.
This is summer pizza night. There’s no pepperoni, sausage, green olives — the toppings we usually use when hosting a small group of friends or doing a family pizza night. No, tonight we’re using a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce as the base, followed by pulled pork, jalapenos or banana peppers and a blend of smoked cheddar and smoked mozzarella. Some other great toppings for this pizza might include red onion, coleslaw (applied after the bake), creamy dollops of chevre, sweet summer corn, habanero peppers or even fresh summer peaches. Yes, you read that correctly. Fresh summer peaches are amazing with pulled pork barbecue! Don’t believe me? Try it and prepare to have your mind blown.
Why am I talking about this in February? Well, just as Chris Decker said in his recipe column, the cold and gray winter weather has me dreaming of the summer days ahead. Secondly, you’re likely deep into planning your spring menu right now, which means getting on your summer menu is just around the corner. Thirdly, while I’m being overly romantic about summer at the moment, the fact of the matter is that pulled pork barbecue, just like pizza, is a comfort food that we enjoy year-round. So, there’s no need to wait until summer to roll out a limited time offering or to make a permanent addition to your pizza lineup should you find success with your customers with this one.
The beauty of pulled pork is that you can use it on pizza in so many ways. Challenge your kitchen crew to experiment and have fun. Perhaps offer an incentive to the staffer that wows you the most with a creation that makes your menu. It’s a pleasant winter diversion that just might result in something big.
As a base of inspiration, here is one of my favorite pulled pork barbecue pizza recipes. I like a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce or a smoky and savory sauce for this one, but play around here to see what you like. Enjoy!
Pork & Peach
JEREMY WHITE is Editor-in-Chief of Pizza Today.