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Pat and Gina Neely’s Pulled Pork Recipe

The celebrity chef couple talk Boston butts and basting

Celebrity chefs Pat and Gina Neely talk Boston butts and basting, Family Food

Chefs Pat Neely and wife, Gina, believe barbecue represents family. — Squire Fox; (Food Stylist; Carrie Purcell; Prop Stylist: Mary Clayton Carl; Hair: Jerica Edwards; Make-up: Anastasia).

Pat Neely was 4 or 5 years old when his grandfather killed a pig and brought it back to the house for the Neely family Fourth of July celebration the next day.

"We cleaned that pig and put it on an open flame and sat there with my grandfather all night long," Pat recalled recently. "I remember my grandmother calling out the back door: 'Milton, bring those boys in; they have to go to bed.' And my grandfather would just say, 'They're fine. They're out here with me.' He had a little black mop, and he would dip it into the barbecue sauce and baste the meat with it every so often. It wasn't the Fourth that was the big event; it was staying up with my grandfather the night before."

Pat and his wife, Gina, have built their lives around barbecue and the memories it evokes, first with their eponymous Memphis restaurant and then as hosts of the Food Network's Down Home With the Neelys. "Barbecue itself is a kind of holiday," Gina adds. "You think about kids running around and sweet tea — the house wine of the South. Barbecue represents family."

A favorite dish, particularly with beef prices on the rise: "a good Boston pork butt, cooked low and slow — that means at a low temperature for a long time," Pat says. "You want to massage the spices into the meat, then put it in the oven for several hours, and you've got the most delicious pulled pork you could ever imagine. We put it on a soft bun with coleslaw and barbecue sauce and call it a jumbo. That's a Southern term for the biggest damn pork sandwich you got. Mmmm."

Low and Slow Pulled Pork

Serves 10-12

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 8 1/2-pound bone-in Boston butt
  • 10 to 12 hamburger buns
  • Barbecue sauce 
  • Vinegar slaw 

1. To make the dry rub, mix together the sugar, salt, paprika, cayenne pepper, cumin, celery seed and mustard powder. Reserve 4 tablespoons for serving later on. Generously rub the pork butt with the seasoning, then cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 1 day in advance.

2. Preheat the oven to 275° F. Line a roasting pan with heavy-duty foil. Place the pork in the roasting pan, fat side up, and cook until tender, about 8 hours.

3. Once the meat is tender, remove it from the oven and let it rest 20 minutes before shredding.

4. Pile each bun with some pork, barbecue sauce and slaw, if desired. Serve with extra rub.

Nutrients per serving: 430 calories, 47g protein, 19g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, 17g fat, 152mg cholesterol, 1,245mg sodium

Barbecue Sauce

Makes 2 cups

  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup apple-cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan; simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. The sauce can be stored for up to 2 weeks in a tightly sealed, refrigerated container.

Nutrients per serving (2 tablespoons): 34 calories, 1g protein, 9g carbohydrates, 0g fiber, 0g fat (0g saturated fat), 0mg cholesterol, 267mg sodium

Vinegar Slaw

Serves 8

  • 1 small head green cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 large red onion, grated
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and grated
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2/3 cup apple-cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In your largest bowl, combine the cabbage, red onion and carrots, and give them a toss.

2. Whisk together the mustard, sugar, vinegar, vegetable oil, celery seeds, cayenne, salt and pepper until emulsified. Pour over the coleslaw; toss well again. Cover with plastic wrap. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Nutrients per serving: 161 calories, 1g protein, 9g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 14g fat (2g saturated fat), 0mg cholesterol, 186mg sodium

Gabrielle DeGroot Redford is executive editor, health for AARP Publications.

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