One of the most deceptive foods at large today is the sandwich, particularly the panini. They are extremely easy to make, which implies that they are simple. We may even bypass a good sandwich as a viable option for lunch or dinner time because (weirdly enough) it seems too easy. Or maybe just too simple. Well, a good panini is not simple, even if it is easy. Especially when it comes to my tantalizing BBQ pulled pork panini recipe, which takes easy and great sandwich making to a whole new level.
Slow and Low: Pulled Pork in a Crock-Pot
The cardinal rule of making pulled pork is slow and low. This is typically applied to barbecue, which is the number one way pulled pork is made. Some would argue even that it’s the only way. It’s true that mastering pulled pork requires a significant sacrifice in time and care. It is a craft you developed over your lifetime.
If you’re lucky, you have that pulled pork wisdom passed onto you and you can stand on the shoulders of giants. The rest of us, though, have to make due. When we aren’t able to make a Texas road stop at an unassuming barbecue joint, our only option is to try making tender, smoky, juicy, pulled pork all on our lonesome. The key to doing that is, making the slow cooker do all the work.
Slow cooker pulled pork may be the easy way and it does break that pork down to being fork tender, allowing it to shred easily. When you use the right ingredients, you can pull out a pretty delicious barbecue sandwich that most people would never suspect is not real barbecue. That’s why we love slow cookers. They are perfect for exactly this kind of thing.
Dr. Pepper® Does Most of the Work
One of the most excellent marinades is Dr. Pepper®. The sugar and carbonation are extremely active agents in treating the meat. However, it’s the signature blend of 23 flavors in Dr. Pepper® that make it both a highly desirable beverage and a hugely underestimated barbecue base. It’s like a little starter pack with its own unique seasoning mix that you just pour in and press a button. Of course, we’re going to build on that complexity, but there is no better way to start, especially if you are looking to flavor and tenderize the meat in short order.
Dr. Pepper® is a powerful secret weapon, but you can also build enough on that recognizable blend to conceal your source. Get all of that flavor without the smoking gun that gives you away. Part of the trick is adding chicken broth to the mix along with some other seasonings, especially a good dose of Cajun seasoning to really add some kick with a separate blend of creole spices that will fuse with the Dr. Pepper® base and create something totally new. When you add the barbecue sauce, you can make it bold and smoky, sweeter or tangier. A sweeter sauce will nicely compliment the spice from the Dr. Pepper® and the Cajun seasoning.
How to Pull Pork
Once you have the cooking done, all you need to do, for that authentic pulled pork action, is to actually pull the pork. Proper pork pulling has little to do with the actual pulling. You don’t need claws or fancy equipment. It actually has just about everything to do with how well you cooked the pork. It should come out just so tender, that all you need to do is separate the fat from the meat and then dive right in with two forks. It’s all about getting those shreds of soft succulent pork in a nice clump to pile on your pulled pork panini. Pulling pork is just like shredding chicken. There is no real mystery to it. It’s all about starting out with a tender hunk of pork that you can work with.
How to Use a Panini Press
Whereas lots of Crock Pot recipes are sort of a one and done proposition, the slow cooker accounts for only stage one of the process in making a pulled pork panini. The most important work of getting that pulled pork is done. Now, we want to make it into a delicious barbecue sandwich.
To do this, we’re going to use a panini press which will lightly grill the outside of the sandwich and press the contents tight and thin. Panini presses are great for making a quick grilled sandwich with consistent results. They also make sandwiches with a unique texture you can’t get with a regular grill no matter how much you try.
Using a panini press to grill a sandwich is simple. You brush oil or butter on the grill while it is turned on. You assemble your sandwich and then you press it down just like your making waffles. When the sandwich is done, lift up the press and remove your pulled pork panini with a spatula.
How to Make a BBQ Pulled Pork Panini Without a Press
A panini press is a pretty fancy and sometimes heavy or clunky piece of equipment that you might not have a place for in your kitchen. If you only enjoy panini’s once in a while, there is another way to make a delicious pulled pork panini without a panini press. It only required two cast iron skillets. preheat the skillets and lightly add oil with a paper towel. You can cook your pulled pork panini inside one skillet and weigh down a smaller skillet on top to press your panini.
Another method involves inverting your skillet to cook the panini between the two bottoms. To do this, you will need the oven as the stovetop will not provide sufficient heat to the bottom pan. Getting this method right requires practice and effort prior to heating up the oven so that you know how to do it right without burning yourself. Make sure you pull out the baking rack to position your skillets before carefully sliding them back into the oven.
Ingredients Needed to Make Crock Pot BBQ Pulled Pork Panini
- Boneless pork loin
- Dr. Pepper
- Barbecue sauce
- Garlic salt
- Cajun seasoning
- Sourdough bread
- Provolone cheese
(Actual measurements listed in recipe card below.)
How to Make Crock Pot BBQ Pulled Pork Panini
For the Pork:
- In a large crockpot, add pork, onion, Dr. Pepper, chicken brother, and barbecue sauce and mix together.
- Add garlic salt, pepper, and Cajun seasoning.
- Cover and cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours.
- Remove pork, shred, and place back in crockpot for 30 minutes or shred pork right in the crock pot.
For the Sandwiches:
- Take 2 pieces of sourdough bread and spread mayonnaise on one slice of the bread and spread barbecue sauce on the other slice. Add pulled pork and cover with provolone cheese.
- Place in panini maker and cook/grill until bread is toasted.
Try These Delicious BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches Today
Here are a few more delicious sandwich recipes that can be found on the blog:
Crock Pot BBQ Pulled Pork Panini
For the Pork
- 2 lb boneless pork loin, cut into chunks
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 can Dr. Pepper
- 14.5 oz chicken broth
- 2 cups barbecue sauce, divided, save ½ cup for spreading on bread
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp Cajun Seasoning
For the Sandwiches
- 2 slices sourdough bread
- provolone cheese, sliced
- Barbecue sauce
- Optional: mayonnaise
For the Pork
- In a large crockpot, add pork, onion, Dr. Pepper, chicken broth, and barbecue sauce and mix together
- Add garlic salt, pepper, and Cajun seasoning
- Cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours.
- Remove pork, shred, and place back in crockpot for 30 minutes.
For the Sandwiches
- Take 2 pieces of sourdough bread, spread mayonnaise on one slice of the bread and spread barbecue sauce on the other slice. Add pulled pork and cover with provolone cheese.
- Place in panini maker and cook until toasted. Repeat for additional sandwiches.
Here are a few pictures that are the perfect size for pinning to Pinterest.
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