Heartbeet Kitchen
Juicy, Cuban Pulled Pork {slow-cooker option}
August 30, 2015 in AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) · Fall · Main Dish · Spring · Summer · Winter · 28 Comments

Juicy, Cuban Pulled Pork {paleo, gluten-free}

Take-out dinners are rare in our house, but we do love Chipotle bowls for a quick and healthy meal when life gets in the way. In fact, the servings are so big that we often are able to order once, eat twice. I order carnitas, Brian the {dry} chicken, and inevitably he takes a bite of mine and kicks himself.

I knew last week was going to be busy, so I thought I’d make lentils, rice and roasted vegetables, then see if I could buy a couple pounds of braised pork from Chipotle to make our own bowls as needed. A quick call was met with a voice that said, “No miss, we don’t sell any of our meats separately”.

Juicy, Citrus Shredded Pork {ingredients for the rub}

I took that as a sign — it was time for me to learn how to my own juicy, tender, pulled pork.

A little internet scouring on techniques, cut of meat, and marinade versus rub helped me create a plan, but in the end, I owe my success to the farmer once again.

Many of the recipes I researched used a pork shoulder roast, so I turned to the folks from Green Machine Farm at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market. They take so much pride in pasture-raising all of their animals (chickens, cows, and pork), a very important quality to me when buying meat products.

Juicy, Cuban Pulled Pork {made using an uncured ham steak or pork shoulder}

As I reached into the cooler to grab the pork shoulder I sheepishly asked, “This is the best cut for shredded pork, right? The kind so good, the juices spill out when you bite into tacos made with it?”

And at that moment I was given a lesson in the slow-braised, juicy wonder that comes from using what butchers refer to as uncured, fresh ham steak, fresh picnic ham or a leg steak (as if all the names aren’t confusing enough).

Juicy, Citrus Shredded Pork, slow-cooker option {paleo, gluten-free}Not that you can’t use a pork shoulder as he said, but here are the three main reasons to use a fresh ham steak, straight from the source:

1. A fresh picnic ham always has the bone-in, imparting a treasure trove of flavor as it roasts, whereas a pork shoulder is often bought boneless.

2. Often you’ll buy a 5 pound pork shoulder and when you get it home you realize it’s got a 3 pound fat cap and just 2 pounds meat. That definitely keeps it juicy, but you’re not left with a lot of end product. The uncured ham steak has a nice piece of fat on the outer edge and great marbling throughout, giving you juicy meat and a lot of it. 

3. A fresh picnic ham will give you large, evenly sized “shreds” of pulled pork because it has fewer sections of meat running throughout the cut. A pork shoulder has more webs of fat and muscles because it’s cut from a different part of the animal, so the shreds will sometimes be large, sometimes small. Not a huge deal, but I like consistency.

Juicy, Cuban Pulled Pork {paleo, AIP, gluten-free}

Armed with the right cut, I went home and let the big hunk of love defrost, then set out to make a version of Cuban pulled pork, traditionally called Lechon Asado. I covered it with a rub of smashed garlic, oregano, cumin and sea salt, then marinated it overnight with fresh orange and lime juice.

Searing the ham steak is preferred because it creates browned edges that keep some of the moisture in, but if you’re strapped for time, you can go without. I did this in a large dutch oven, then put it straight into the big oven to roast away for 6 hours – a one dish win. (Alternatively, a slow-cooker will work too!)

The aroma will mesmerize you as this pork slow-roasts. And after 6 hours, you barely even have to use a fork. Maybe I should have titled the recipe, “Self-Shredding Pork“. It just falls apart, so juicy and packed with zing. Eat as is, or in whatever way you fancy, like tacos, atop polenta, a gluten-free pizza, or one of my favorites, these Wholesome Lentil Protein Bowls.

Cuban Pulled Pork & Rainbow Lentil Bowls

Juicy, Cuban Pulled Pork {slow-cooker option}
Author: 
Recipe type: paleo, gluten-free
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Searing the ham steak is preferred because it makes nice browned edges that keep some of the moisture in, but if you're strapped for time, you can go without. Just be sure to braise the meat with the juices as you go.
Ingredients
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1½ teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • ¾ cup fresh squeezed citrus juice, half from oranges and half from limes
  • 3½ pound fresh, uncured ham steak (also referred to as fresh picnic ham or leg steak) or you can use a pork shoulder roast if that's all you can get your hands on
Instructions
  1. Using a mortar and pestle, crush cumin seeds until finely ground. Add garlic to the mortar and pestle, then pound until the garlic and cumin have made a paste (Alternatively you could use ¾ teaspoon ground cumin and 3 minced cloves garlic if you do not have access to mortar and pestle. The flavor will not be as strong, but still very good.) Stir in the oregano, ground oregano, sea salt and 2 teaspoons olive oil. Rub this mixture into the pork shoulder really well using your hands. Place pork into a large ziploc bag and pour in citrus juice. Seal, then massage a bit to work the juice throughout the pork. Place bag in the refrigerator and let marinate for at least 6 hours, best if overnight.
  2. After it has marinated, preheat oven to 225 degrees F or turn on slow-cooker to low. Then heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large dutch oven to medium high (something big enough so that the meat can lay flat inside it). Sear pork shoulder on both sides for 4 minutes, until slightly browned. Add leftover citrus juice from the bag to the dutch oven, then place in oven, covered, and roast for 6-8 hours, basting with its own juices every 2 hours. OR you can add the seared pork and remaining citrus juice from bag into the slow-cooker and roast on low for 6-8 hours, basting with its own juices every 2 hours. When done roasting, shred the pork in its own juices and transfer to a container.

 

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28 thoughts on “Juicy, Cuban Pulled Pork {slow-cooker option}

    1. Amanda Paa Post author

      glad you liked the tips! i feel like the meat world is so hard to navigate sometimes so thought others might be in the same boat. and thanks for the photography comment, i feel the same way about yours! xo

      Reply
  1. Sonja

    Amanda, this looks amazing!!! I can’t wait to try it at home. I’ve been thinking of ideas like this that can feed you for a whole week. I’m moving into a place with my boyfriend this week and I know he’d love a big pot of pulled pork.

    Reply
  2. Stephanie

    I’ve been craving pulled pork! Thanks for the Chipotle alternative and all the helpful tips. Can’t wait to make your version!

    Reply
  3. Antgioni | A Pinch of Lemon

    What a terrific tip about the cut of pork to use for this! And I too am SO into bowls of all sorts right now!! It is such a great way to use make ahead ingredients for several days worth of meals. And not just lunch and dinner! Such a timely post for the beginning of September as we all get back into our end of summer routines! Thank you, Amanda! It looks scrumptious!

    Reply
  4. Allison

    This sounds wonderful. Do you know of any other places in Minneapolis+St. Paul besides the farmer’s market that would carry this cut?

    Reply
    1. Amanda Paa Post author

      I’m always quick to look to pinterest first :) but the farmers always know best! Was glad I learned a quick lesson and could share. Thanks for stopping by Liz, xo.

      Reply
  5. Tyler h

    I can’t believe this is the same great golfer that I grew up with. What an amazing article and I can’t wait to try this recipe this weekend. Thank you Amanda

    Reply
    1. Amanda Paa Post author

      :) you just made my day tyler. i hope you are well, miss seeing you! ran into brandon yesterday at the state fair, 3 kids in tow. looks like you are having a great summer, and love seeing all of your success with Running Wealth.

      Reply
  6. marcie

    While I’ve had a picnic ham, I’ve never used it for pulled pork. The reasoning totally makes sense, and I need to get my hands on one for next time! This looks just incredible. :)

    Reply
  7. Kathryn

    This is exactly the kind of food that I love to eat (but so rarely make at home) so your primer is super useful. I love all the flavours that you’ve used here and I can’t wait for the recipe for those rainbow lentil bowls too!

    Reply
  8. Tessa | Salted Plains

    Speaking directly with the farmers about their food really makes the whole cooking and experience that much better! I am so excited about this pulled pork and your instructions make it manageable and non-fuss. Looking forward to trying this, Amanda! xo!

    Reply
  9. Kathleen W.

    I made this over the weekend and it was delicious and made the house smell wonderful ! I used the last ham roasts that I had in the freezer from our 1/2 hog we got last year. Thank goodness we have another 1/2 coming next month ! Thanks for sharing such a great recipe.

    Reply
  10. Allyson

    I love the quality of meat at Green Machine! They always have wonderful stuff. Heading to the Farmer’s Market this weekend. I’ll definitely be stopping by there and putting this one on my menu for the week. Thanks for such a delicious looking recipe!

    Reply
  11. Sybilla storm

    Guess what I am marinating now, since I saw your post yesterday. Hardly have enough patience to marinate it that long…. Cant wait for the smell when its in the oven. Never mind the end result!!

    Reply
  12. Tanya Erntson

    I’m so excited I found this post. We got a 1/2 pig a couple of weeks ago and I didn’t realize the ham would be uncured. I made a ham and of course it wasn’t what I was expecting. I had no idea what I was going to do with the rest of them… Until now! Now I can’t wait to make this recipe. Thank you! You saved the day!

    Reply

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