This recipe for sweet and savory Smoked Pulled Pork Sliders is a take on Asian-meets-Hawaiian flavors with a dry rub of Chinese five spice, dry ginger, and brown sugar, topped with a soy based glaze and a bright pineapple citrus coleslaw. These pulled pork sliders pair perfectly with one of our favorite white wines – dry riesling.
We love traditional BBQ pulled pork sliders, tossed with a sweet and spicy barbecue sauce. But there’s something fun about changing up the game a bit. This one doesn’t have your typical flavors for BBQ, but is equally impressive and delicious. You can also check out our Kalua style smoked pork with banana leaves and sea salt.
Smoked Pulled Pork
If you are new to smoked pulled pork, check out what we have learned over the years in this post on smoked pork butt. That post provides a comprehensive play by play of how to smoke pork shoulder (also called pork butt, or Boston butt).
In this variation, we wanted to create a sweet and savory slider that is lightly sauced with a soy and balsamic glaze and topped with a citrus coleslaw. On our recent trip to Hawaii I went a little pineapple cray cray, and have been craving pineapple since our return.
So we’re using grilled pineapples in the slaw, really making it pop with flavor! The combination of the tender savory pork with the bright citrus and grilled pineapple slaw makes the slider perfect to pair with a dry riesling.
Generally if I’m eating pulled pork with a heavy tomato based BBQ sauce I’ll reach for a red wine. But more often than not I’m craving a crisp and fruity white, and this is the perfect way to ensure you can drink a white wine with your pulled pork.
About Pork Shoulder
Pork “butt” is the front shoulder muscle of the pig versus the ham, which is on the backside. Pork shoulder can also be called Boston butt, or pork butt, and can come in many styles. It can come with part of the leg attached, bone-in, or boneless. When ordering, just know it is not, in fact, the butt. It’s the shoulder. There will be a side with a fat cap. That is the side that was closer to the skin. And there will be a side without fat. That is where you want to look for marbling. Like steak, marbling is important as that is the intra-muscular fat that will render down when cooking and create that irresistible juiciness when pulled. When smoking, we like to look for a bone-in, 6 – 7 pound, shoulder as the ideal size.
Trimming Pork Shoulder
Trimming the pork shoulder is another important part of the process. On the fat cap, remove most of the fat. We tend to leave no more than ¼ inch of fat, if we leave any at all. On the remaining sides of the shoulder, look for any glands or other fat pockets that can be removed. The fat can be saved for sausages should you wish to freeze it.
Seasoning The Pork Butt (or Shoulder)
The flavors of this dry seasoning are crazy delicious when slowly cooked into the pork shoulder. To best get the rub to stick to the shoulder, we use a Dijon mustard as a binder between the shoulder and the rub.
Adding Chinese five spice (which is often a mix of cloves, cinnamon, fennel, star anise, and Szechwan peppercorns) brings a unique flavor to the dry rub. We enhance that with brown sugar for a sweet caramel flavor as it smokes. Finally, we toss a few more spices, kosher salt, and coarse black pepper to round out the dry rub.
The Smoking Process
Similar to our popular recipe for smoked pulled pork, this will follow the same milestones as noted below. With the internal temperature being the most important milestones between steps.
The key steps for smoking pork shoulder:
- Smoke – The initial phase of getting the bark (the dark flavor crust on the outside of the shoulder).
- Spritz – Apple cider vinegar spray on the outside of the pork, adding some flavor and moisture to encourage the smoke to adhere to the outside of the pork shoulder.
- Wrap – Wrapping in foil to speed up the cooking process and concentrate the heat on breaking down the intra-muscular fat.
- Rest – Removing the pork shoulder when it is done, and letting the shoulder or butt slowly cool and pull that moisture back into the meat cells keeping the pulled product moist.
- Pull – Pulling apart the shoulder and getting that perfect texture and flavor combination.
Pulled Pork Sliders
To make this an awesome patio party pleaser, pull the pork and add to your favorite slider bun. We love brioche for sliders, as they are soft on the inside and have a nice (but not rough) crust on outside. We top with a light drizzle of our soy and balsamic sauce, add some Grilled Pineapple Coleslaw and then it’s time to eat. Pop a bottle of Pacific Rim Dry Riesling for an awesome pairing!
Wine Pairing for Pork Sliders — Dry Riesling
Riesling is a classic grape variety with highly aromatic flavors and with high acidity, making it a food-friendly pairing option. It can have tropical flavor notes from warmer climates or take on a more steely and earthy aroma like diesel from cooler climates.
Riesling tends to do well with foods with spice. Now that can mean spicy foods, or foods that are well seasoned with a a variety of dominant and aromatic spices (like this one).
The pork in this recipe is tender, juicy, and full of the natural savory flavors from slow smoking, but also contains that savory soy and balsamic drizzle. Topped with that grilled pineapple citrus slaw brings it all together and invites that fresh and fruity wine to really shine. It’s a fantastic pairing that will have you going back for seconds, and thirds.
Got Leftover Pulled Pork?
Here’s what to do with your leftovers.
- Pulled Pork Spring Rolls
- Smoked Pulled Pork Lettuce Wraps
- Pulled Pork Tacos
- Smoked Pulled Pork Hash
- Pulled Pork Wontons
- Smoked Pulled Pork Nachos (yassss!)
Mary (a certified sommelier and recipe developer) and Sean (backyard pitmaster) are co-authors of the critically acclaimed cookbook, Fire + Wine, and have been creating content for the IACP nominated website Vindulge since 2009. They live in Oregon on a farm just outside Portland.