10 February 2011

The “pulled” meat we call “barbecue”

I'm still experimenting with the pressure cooker as a way to prepare tender, succulent, tasty meats that can be "pulled" or shredded and seasoned with barbecue sauces.

Where would you think you were if you went to a restaurant and were served the plate you see here?

Our lunch a couple of days ago

I'd think I had landed in eastern North Carolina. Goldsboro, say, at Wilber's BBQ restaurant. A waitress has just set in front of me a plate of what they call "barbecue" there, served with coleslaw, French-fried potatoes, and hushpuppies.

That kind of barbecue is pork, traditionally. At Wilber's BBQ restaurant, it the whole hog, slow-roasted over hickory or white oak embers for many hours. Then the meat is "pulled" or shredded and seasoned with a vinegar-and-red-pepper sauce. No tomato, no ketchup, no sugar — just vinegar, crushed red pepper, salt, and some unspecified herbs and spices.

In parts of Kentucky, lamb or mutton is prepared much the same way, and it's delicious too. The meat is not vinegary. It's not pickled, just seasoned. The vinegar brings out the smoky flavor of the pork (or lamb) and counterbalances the richness and gaminess.

"Pulled" meat is shredded after it is thoroughly cooked
and already starting to fall apart.

You don't have to eat this kind of barbecue with coleslaw and fried potatoes, of course. It's good with greens, green beans, or mashed, boiled, or baked potatoes — whatever you want. Beans, like pintos or black-eyed peas. A French baguette or some cornbread, baked or fried.

This kind of barbecue is what I now make in the pressure cooker. I know it's not authentic, but it is really good. I season the meat — say 2 kg/4.5 lbs. of it — with a couple of tablespoons of smoked paprika and a good pinch of crushed hot red pepper. And salt of course. I put a couple of bay leaves and half a cup of vinegar into the inch or so of water in the bottom of the cooker that will steam the meat.

After the meat is done — it needs an hour or so of cooking in the cocotte-minute (pressure cooker) — you can boil down the cooking liquid until you have just enough left to moisten the meat after you've "pulled" it. You can add a little fat if you want that texture — duck, goose, or bacon fat, or even just vegetable oil — but that's optional. Then you can sprinkle on some vinegar and hot pepper sauce at the table, to taste.

Guess who's interested and curious?

So what's so different about this version of pulled meat barbecue? Well, the pressure cooker, of course. But also the meat itself — it's turkey. Yes, turkey, not pork. And it is delicious. Slightly grainier, maybe, than pork, but not dry. Less fatty. I used two turkey leg & thigh pieces and cooked them with the skin on for the moisture it imparts to the meat. I removed the skin and any lumps of fat before shredding and eating the turkey meat.

I think somebody in North Carolina, which produces more turkeys than any other U.S. state, should start barbecuing and serving turkey the way they already barbecue pork and chicken. And it would be good to serve it with, for example, French-fried sweet potatoes. N.C. also produces more sweet potatoes than any other state in the U.S., from what I've read.


  1. miam miam... sweet potato fries! They would really be great with that meal :)


  2. I learned from a friend of my daughter to boil a small pork roast for an hour and then "pull" it and then add barbecue sauce. It's good, but I think the sauce overwhelms the taste of the meat in her recipe and I'm interested to try your version of seasonings...Are those some of Walt's "tater tots" on the plate?

  3. Using turkey is a really great idea. Your meal looks sooo good. You make me miss BBQ, sweet tea, and banana pudding. And really good collard greens.

  4. Yes, puled BBQ turkey is a great idea. I would order it over pork; less fat. That food looks wonderful. By the way, when visiting my sister in CT a few weeks ago, I saw wild turkey crossing the road, a group of four. They were huge and are apparently quite cokmmon up there.

  5. PS - J'ai besoin de spell check.

  6. Kristi, those are hushpuppies. Fried cornbread. Walt made them the way he made the pommes dauphines, a.k.a. tater tots. I mean he formed them the same way, but they are made with cornmeal, an egg, some buttermilk or yogurt, and a little baking soda and salt.

    Diogenes, oh, I need more than a spell checker. I have one of those and I sitll mkae os amny msiteaks.

  7. Whoo don't knead a spail checkeur?

  8. Looks very good. We eat a lot of turkey in place of red meats.

  9. Hawai'ian version is kalua pig, slow-cooked in the underground oven (imu) then shredded. No imu? Use the oven or slow cooker or... why not a pressure cooker! Seasoning is alea (local salt) and liquid smoke. Often served with purple Hawai'ian sweet potatoes, more often with steamed rice.

    Wild turkeys wander the slopes of some Hawai'ian volcanoes and are hunted... hm...

  10. That looks like such a good lunch. Do you use apple cider vinegar or the grain kind with barbecue? My preference would be for the cider kind, but perhaps there are local variations?

  11. Looks great (just like Wilber's), but where's the sweet tea?

    Now look what you gone done; I'll have to get me some 'cue tomorrow.

  12. As soon as I saw your photo, I thought, "Wilber's!"

    I sure miss that place.


  13. Emm, yes, cider vinegar is very good for this kind of "barbecue," but white distilled vinegar works too. You don't use enough so that there's a big difference in taste between the two. Mostly, you want the acidity -- and the hot pepper, of course.

    Ellen, that island version sounds so good. One of the things I regret is never having gone to Hawaii when I lived in California.

    Simon, hahaha. You must have some good BBQ places close by. Do try Wilber's if you haven't, though. Can't remember if you have. I think Smithfield's BBQ (the chain) is pretty good too.


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