Above: Instant Pot pulled pork, with summer squash pappardelle and a veggie salad. Photograph by Douglas Merriam.
PULLED PORK IN AN INSTANT POT? I hear your righteous indignation—I used to share it. But after a little experimentation, I’ve become a convert. Turns out, the Instant Pot and similar electric pressure cookers have a combination of heat and pressure that almost magically produces fork-tender meat so quickly you could do it on a weeknight after work. This version uses a red chile rub and canned chipotle peppers to evoke the smoke and spice of real smoked meat. It’s a quick, killer trick, whether you top the shredded meat with barbecue sauce and heap it on a bun or soak it in red chile and wrap it in a tortilla.
Now, before you diehards get all heated, let me assure you I am a proud member of your sooty-fingered tribe. I have a beloved Big Green Egg ceramic smoker and cherish nothing more than opening it up and pulling out a gorgeous, mahogany-colored pork butt. As anyone who’s tried it knows, smoking meat is actually easy—it just takes forever. All you need is a little equipment (even a kettle grill will do) and a lot of time (up to 12 hours).
Few of us have an entire day to monitor and maintain the low, steady temperature of a smoker. Granted, Instant Pots don’t create the divinely caramelized crust (or “bark”) that we all fight over. But they do turn a truly humble hunk of tough, sinewy pork into flavorful meat that falls apart when you look at it. So here’s my method, along with a couple of side salads you can pull together while the pork cooks.
Chile-Spiked Pulled Pork
Patted down with a spicy barbecue rub before cooking and tossed with barbecue sauce after it’s done, this pork is a summer potluck star. Adjust the amounts of red chile powder and chipotles according to your taste for fire. Note: Chile lovers could skip the rub and substitute red chile sauce for the broth, turning out a quick, juicy carne adovada. This recipe requires a 6-quart Instant Pot.
- 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder
- 1 cup Red Chile Barbecue Rub (recipe follows)
- 1/4 cup olive oil, or more as needed
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1–2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
- Turn on the Instant Pot and set it to Sauté.
- In a large bowl, combine the rub ingredients and stir with a fork until well blended.
- Cut the pork into pieces no more than 4 inches square and toss them with all the rub, pressing the spices into the meat.
- When the digital screen indicates the cooker has reached Hot, add 2 tablespoons of oil and spread it to coat the bottom of the pot. Working in batches, brown the pork on all sides, about 3 minutes per side, adding more oil as necessary.
- Return all of the pork to the pot and add the chicken stock and chipotles. Close the lid and set the pressure vent to closed. Set the cooker to Meat/Stew and set the timer for 60 minutes.
- After the timer goes off, wait for the floating pressure valve to drop completely, about 15 minutes, then turn the venting knob to the venting position, open the cooker, and transfer the pork to a bowl. Use two forks to pull the meat into long strands. Toss with your favorite barbecue sauce (New Mexico’s own Grumpy Jack’s Bar-b-que Sauce, perhaps?) and serve on soft white buns or in fresh flour tortillas.
Red Chile Barbecue Rub
Makes about 1 cup
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup mild red chile powder (or go for the gusto with medium or hot)
- 1/4 cup salt
- 1 tablespoon ground mustard
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
Summer Squash “Pappardelle” with Piñon
If you’re growing squash, this New Mexicanized version of a dish I discovered in Italy is an outstanding way to use a bunch of baby zucchini—and you can garnish it with blossoms. Wherever you get your squash, make sure to rest the ribbons long enough for the lemon juice to soften them so they seem almost cooked. You can call it a salad or think of the wide, thin strips as carb-free “noodles.”
- 2 pounds small, skinny zucchini
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup crumbled queso fresco or Tucumcari Mountain Cheese Factory feta
- 1/4 cup toasted piñon nuts
- Use a vegetable peeler to shave each zucchini top to bottom, creating long ribbons. For better flavor and presentation, discard the first and last all-rind strips of each squash.
- Put the ribbons in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and lemon juice, and toss to coat. Rest one hour.
- Arrange the ribbons on a platter, drizzle with olive oil, and top with crumbled cheese and piñons.
Cherry Tomato, Avocado, and Corn Salad
July is when you can find beautiful avocados and the first fresh corn in the markets, and plump cherry tomatoes start taking over the garden, so pounce on this salad while the time is ripe.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and diced
- Kernels from 2–3 ears fresh sweet corn (or 2 cups frozen or canned corn kernels)
- 1/2 cup sliced green onions
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lime juice.
- Add the tomatoes, avocado, corn, green onions, and cilantro (if using). Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper.
Check out the best hot sauce for barbecue, our Pantry item for this month, Tsimayó Hot Sauce!