New Years Day Dinner: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork with Dr. Pepper

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This is the perfect New Year’s Day post-hangover dinner. Throw a bunch of stuff into a slow cooker, press a button and go convalesce while watching The Twilight Zone marathon on SyFy.

But, as a semi-responsible 36-year-old husband and father, a lot of the above no longer happens. I don’t remember the last time I was hungover. It was probably the New Years Day that inspired the blog, or The Weight Loss Story. I don’t stay up all night on New Year’s Eve anymore. I’ll hang that on The Kid and her wakey-wakey times that could be between 5 to 8 a.m. on a holiday (We spent a very nice New Year’s Eve at our friends’ house, eating pot roast and watching children scream and run around.) And, well, The Twilight Zone stopped being an option a long time ago.

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That said, this was still a strong dish for responsible adults on New Year’s Day. The low heat and Dr. Pepper do all of the work here, breaking down the fibrous tissue of the pork shoulder and rendering a sweet, juicy pork. It sat on the counter braising while I…yeah, I don’t remember what I did on New Year’s Day. I think I played with The Kid. I’m pretty sure I did laundry. Pretty exciting stuff.

WHAT WORKED: The Dr. Pepper. I couldn’t buy a single can, as prescribed by recipe developer Stephanie Stiavetti, so I got a 20 oz. bottle. And, since I don’t drink soda much anymore (thought I LOVE Dr. Pepper), I dumped the entire bottle in. No harm, no foul, and it made for an awesome smell during the day. Also, I have a hard time not seasoning a pork shoulder and letting it rest before cooking it.

WHAT DIDN’T: The barbeque sauce. The recipe calls for a Kansas City sauce, the thick, sweet molasses/brown sugar and tomato that dominates store shelves (I prefer the tangy tomato-based Memphis sauces). It was too much sugar. I think it was my choice. I opted for the Wegmans brand sauce, which are typically good. Maybe next time I’ll make my own. With Dr. Pepper.

WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: “This is too sweet. I miss the tang. It needs more vinegar and less sugar.” The Mother-In-Law liked it, so there.

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: Yes, and with that homemade Dr. Pepper/KC sauce that I just mentioned.

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Slow Cooker Pulled Pork with Dr. Pepper
Adapted from Stephanie Stiavetti’s original at Serious Eats

  • 1 small boneless, skin-off pork shoulder roast (2 lbs.)
  • kosher salt
  • freshly-ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16-20 oz. bottle of Dr Pepper
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups store-bought or homemade Kansas City-style barbecue sauce
  • hamburger rolls

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Season the pork evenly with salt and pepper, then rub it with minced garlic. Wrap the pork in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

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Transfer the roast to the slow cooker. Pour the Dr Pepper over the meat in the slow cooker. Add the honey, balsamic vinegar and a generous pinch of kosher salt. Stir well. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours.

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Transfer the meat to a baking sheet or other surface. Dump the excess liquid from your slow cooker. Using two forks, shred the meat into fork-sized strands (the meat should fall apart easily). Return the pork to the slow cooker, add the barbecue sauce and stir. Cover the slow cooker and cook for an additional hour.

Adjust the flavor with salt and pepper and serve hot on hamburger rolls.

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