Pulled pork. History, recipe and where to eat it

Nov 3 2021, 17:02 | by Michela Becchi
Southern United States’ most popular dish has become a real favourite in Italy too. History, recipe and places to eat pulled pork.

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Pulled pork recipe: the barbecue tradition

Born in North Carolina, the home of barbecues, the pulled pork recipe soon made its way around the world and in Italy a few years ago as well, immediately notching up a dizzying success that seems destined to endure. It all began with the Spanish colonisation of the Americas: the Taino Indians – the first Native Americans to populate the Caribbean – used to cook meat and fish on a structure of green wooden sticks resting on a pit full of burning embers. The Spaniards called it barbacoa, mangling the native name, and that soon became popular in North America, giving life to the local tradition of barbecuing.

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Grilled meat and pulled pork recipe

The custom of barbecuing food dates back to 1540, when Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto introduced pigs to Florida and Alabama, and then again in 1607 with the English settlers in Jamestown (Virginia). By the time of the Civil War, pigs were domesticated and pork had become the staple meat of the South. Unsurprisingly, pork has been synonymous with southern States’ barbecue ever since. The whole pig was and it is still roasted at a low temperature and very slowly on the spit. The process took an entire night, and the next day the meat was succulent and slightly smoked, wrapped in its crispy crackling skin, then pulled and shredded.

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Homemade pulled pork

Today, this speciality is no longer reserved for special occasions, picnics or barbecues in the garden, but has become an essential delicacy in most pubs and wine bars. A mouth-watering dish that never gets old, to be enjoyed in a soft sandwich, accompanied by sauces, vegetables and seasoning to taste. It can also be prepared at home, although barbecue cooking remains the best option. How? We asked Gerardo Roccia, chef and creator, alongside his brother Valentino, of Pork 'n' Roll, a signature pub in Rome famous for its delicious pork shoulder. Top quality raw materials – sourced from the family farm in Puglia run by the other brother, Antonio – and great technique have made this pub (not to mention Pork 'n' Roll La Bottega, just a few steps away) a landmark for Roman gourmands. Below, Gerardo’s tips on how to prepare pulled pork.

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How to make pulled pork at home

  1. RAW MATERIAL. The meat must be of good quality, fairly ripe and with a good percentage of fat. The young pig’s shoulder will tend to release water more quickly, as opposed to an adult pig which has less liquid.
  2. BONE. It is advisable to buy a bone-in shoulder because this helps the meat stay moist, making it more succulent.
  3. TEMPERATURE. The key to a good pulled pork: patience. The meat should be cooked slowly, never over 110C (100C or 90C is even better).
  4. TIMINGS. Hard to set, since it all depends on the meat size. For a 3-kilo/6.61lb shoulder, it can take up to 7 hours.
  5. MARINATING. In order to obtain the smoky flavour typical of the American recipe, the meat can be marinated with Hungarian smoked paprika that lends it a pleasant but not excessive smoky note. Other recommended seasonings include black pepper and garlic.
  6. SHREDDING. Once cooked, debone the meat and be careful not to overshred it. It is advisable to follow the fibres when shredding, thus obtaining long strands with a better consistency. Once again, this should be done slowly.
  7. RECOVERING THE COOKING LIQUID. The meat should be cooked in the oven covered with foil. At the end of cooking, do not throw away the liquid in the tin: once the shoulder is shredded and still hot, it will be able to reabsorb it and become even tenderer.
  8. PAIRING. You can never go wrong with classic sauces, especially BBQ and mayonnaise. The chef recommends coleslaw, i.e. finely shredded white and red cabbage mixed with fresh homemade mayonnaise.

The best places for pulled pork in Rome (constantly updated list)

Pork ‘n’ Roll – via Carlo Caneva, 15 – porknroll.com/
Smoke Ring BBQ – via Portuense, 86 – facebook.com/smokeringrome/
Phil’s Slow Smoked American Barbecue – via del Foro Italico, 501 – facebook.com/philslowamericanbbq/
Blind Pig – via Gino Capponi, 45 – facebook.com/Blind-Pig-106192686082858/
Beerstyle – via dei Platani, 42 b – facebook.com/BeerStyle/
Buskers – viale Leonardo Da Vinci, 287/289 – facebook.com/Buskers-Pub-138932346274360/

La Piccola Abbazia – via Muzio Scevola, 64 – facebook.com/La-Piccola-Abbazia-618890314862501/
Tabula Rasa – Pomezia (RM) – via Varrone, 50 – facebook.com/TabulaRasaBGP/

The best places for pulled pork in Milan (constantly updated list)

The Brisket – Ripa di Porta Ticinese, 65 – brisketmilano.com/
Rock Burger – via Ercole Oldofredi, 27 – www.rockburger.it/

Urban Food Italy – via Achille Grandi, 48 – www.urbanfooditaly.it/

The best places for pulled pork in Turin (constantly updated list)

Q-King American Barbecue – corso Regina Margherita, 440 – facebook.com/qkingAmericanBarbecue/
Oro Birra – corso Regina Margherita, 97 – orobirra.it/

The best places for pulled pork in Florence (constantly updated list)

Rooster Café – via Sant’Egidio, 37 r – facebook.com/RoosterCafeFirenze/
The Diner – via dell’Acqua, 2 – thedinerflorence.com/

The best places for pulled pork in Campania (constantly updated list)

Good Food – Grottaminarda (AV) – via Valle, 40 – facebook.com/GoodFood.Pub.AleHouse/

The best places for pulled pork in Calabria (constantly updated list)

Fabbrica Food and Drink – Vibo Valentia – via F. Fiorentino ang. via dei Cappuccini – facebook.com/enotecaristorantefabbrica/

by Michela Becchi

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