It seems every high street bar and burger joint is offering Pulled Pork or Chicken on their menu. The last 3 years has seen a meteoric rise in interest in the slow-cooked delight, from topped quarter pounders, to stuffed tortilla wraps, and filled brioche buns.
So why the fuss? Well quite simply, it’s bloody delicious! I’m a big fan of the “Slow & Low” cooking method anyway, partly because I can be lazy, but mostly because you really get the most out of the meat. Seasoning the cuts well, marinating them, and patiently waiting for them to finally emerge from the oven after hours of filling the home with mouthwatering aromas – it’s all part of the process, like a ceremony, that not only builds the anticipation but delivers intense flavours and succulent juicy fodder that any meat lover will fall for.
I’ve tried to keep this recipe as simple as possible, even cutting out many spices and herbs that I use in my secret recipe. Although the list of ingredients might put some people off, the method for this slow & low dish makes it an absolute winner for those with a short attention span. That said, the best tip I can give for getting a truly enjoyable result is not to rush. Take time to season the meat well, let it marinate, and – most importantly – DO NOT turn the heat up to cook it fast!
There’s a reason why I’ve use Chicken Thighs for this dish. The light breast meat doesn’t have the richness and fat content to get this tender, as it will dry out and get incredibly tough. What’s more, the thigh is a much under-used cut and so brings with it the benefit of being very affordable. Also, don’t be tempted to get boneless ones, as you’ll only end up disappointed (plus they cost more!). If you’d prefer Pulled Pork, just substitute the chicken thighs for a shoulder joint, with the neck bone in and plenty of fat.
Pulled Barbecue Chicken (Serves 6)
8 Chicken Thighs, Skin on & Bone left in
For the Rub:
2 tsp Ground Cumin
2 tsp Ground Coriander
2 tsp Smoked Paprika
1 tsp Ground Ginger
2 tsp Dried Rosemary
2 tsp Dried Coriander Leaf
2 tsp Dried Parsley
2 tsp Dried Oregano
2 tsp Dried Basil
Salt & Pepper
2-3 Garlic Cloves
For the Marinade:
1 Onion, diced
250ml Cold Chicken or Vegetable Stock
2 Tablespoons of White Wine Vinegar
For the Sauce:
400g Can of Chopped Tomatoes
1 Tablespoon of Honey
1 Teaspoon of Dijon Mustard
Optional – Chili, Crushed Fennel Seed, or Anise – to taste
Start off by making your rub. Mix your herbs, spices, sugar and garlic with the salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Add your chicken thighs and rub the seasoning well into the skin and meat.
Add in the diced onion, pour in the stock and vinegar, and pop it into the fridge. Leave to marinade for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
Once marinated, mix in the tomatoes and transfer it all into a casserole. Set the oven to 140 degrees C and cook for 4 hours. Alternatively, you can use a slow cooker on a low/medium setting for 5-7 hours.
Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the casserole/slow cooker, and transfer it to a large plate or dish. Remove the skin from the chicken thighs, and use 2 forks to pull the meat, removing the bones and any gristle as you go. This is my favourite part, as the meat just falls apart as soon as you touch it. It’s succulent, glistening, and the aroma just makes you drool!
Spoon off as much excess fat as you can from the remaining juices and stock in the casserole/slow cooker. Don’t worry if there’s a small amount left, you just want to get rid of a fair amount so that the sauce doesn’t end up greasy and separating. Pour the cooked sauce into a saucepan on the hob, add the honey and mustard, and bring to the boil. If you like a bit more spice in your sauce you can add extra chili at this stage, or even crushed fennel seed or anise for a more aromatic flavour. Once the sauce is simmering, turn off the heat and blitz it with a hand blender.
If you’re serving the pulled chicken immediately, you can add the sauce to the meat and stir it through. Alternatively, you can chill the meat and sauce down separately or combined, depending on how you intend to use it later. It will keep in the fridge for a couple of day in a sealed tub, or you can freeze it down in batches if needed.