Is there a pool of cooking liquid left behind in your roasting pan after you’ve shredded and served the pulled pork? Lucky you! These drippings can be put to good use, even if you don’t have a scrap of meat left over this time. Let’s take a look at what to do with leftover pulled pork juice when the barbecue is over.
What To Do With Leftover Pulled Pork Juice
The juices left behind by smoked pork butt or shoulder can bring a multitude of dishes to life. They make superb additions to sauces, soups, stews, chili, and bean cooking liquid. You can even use them to add moisture to mashed potatoes or leftover rice.
Should You Separate the Fat From the Liquid When Saving Pulled Pork Juice?
It’s a good idea to de-fat the leftover juices before using them in a recipe. There are several reasons for this.
First of all, the fat will solidify quickly. That might not make a difference if you’re using the liquid for mashed potatoes (see our separate section below), but it may be noticeable if you make a soup or sauce. The lard will be clearly visible as the moisture cools, which may ruin the effect you’re trying to create.
You should also separate the fat from the cooking liquid if you’re trying to follow a heart-healthy diet. The juices themselves will provide a savory hit of flavor without the added fat.
To de-fat the juices, pour them into a container and chill them in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. At this point, the fat should have risen to the top. Use a spoon to skim off the fat layer. If you’d like to save the fat, transfer it to a separate container. Otherwise, it can be discarded.
You can also use a fat separator for this step. These come in handy if you make gravies and sauces on a regular basis.
Great Uses for Leftover Pulled Pork Juice
First of all, we should point out that it’s probably not worth saving the juices if you only have 2 or 3 tablespoons left. Small amounts can be drizzled over the pulled pork before you serve it. When there’s plenty left over, however, you can use it to liven up a number of recipes.
If you think you’d like to use your precious store of leftover pork juice to liven up your bolognese or other meat sauce, pour it into a measuring cup first. You’ll need at least 1/2 cup to make a noticeable difference in the flavor of the dish. If you don’t have enough, consider saving the juices for another recipe.
Make the sauce as you normally would, browning the meat and aromatics before adding tomato sauce or other thickeners. At this point, when it’s time to bring the sauce to a simmer, stir in 1/2 to 1 cup of the pork juices. Be sure to taste the sauce before adding salt and pepper—the juice will have contributed plenty of flavor.
Soups and Stews
This is a good call when you have a cup or more of leftover juice. When making a soup or stew—especially one that includes meat—swap the pork juice in for some of the stock or water that the recipe calls for. It will make the soup taste rich and smoky, much the way a ham hock would.
When cooking off a batch of beans for soup or chili, try adding some of the pork juices along with the water. They’ll make an especially welcome contribution to authentic baked beans.
There’s nothing like a homemade gravy, and when you have the juices from your last barbecue on hand, you have an excellent starting point.
Simply melt 1 tablespoon of butter for every cup of liquid you plan to use. Stir in 1 tablespoon of flour for each tablespoon of butter. Whisk in the pork juice and simmer until the mixture is thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Note that if you have leftover pork fat as well as juice, you can substitute this for the butter. Serve the gravy over mashed potatoes or grilled pork chops.
You probably add a splash or two of liquid to your mashed potatoes. Why not use pulled pork juice instead of milk or cream? After mashing the potatoes, stir in the amount of butter or fat that you prefer, then add pork juice until the potatoes reach the desired consistency.
Swap in pork juice for water the next time you decide to boil rice for dinner. When reheating leftovers, try using a little pork juice and lard, if you have any on hand.
If you’re not using the pork juice right away, proper storage is essential. For best results, keep the juices in a sealed glass container, and refrigerate below 40 degrees Fahrenheit until you’re ready to use them. High-quality plastic might also work, but make sure the pork juice is cool before adding it to the container.
To freeze the juices, we would suggest using an ice cube tray. That way, you can thaw as much as you need and leave the rest frozen for a later date.
You should probably invest in a separate set of ice cube trays for this specific purpose—in a different style or color than your usual trays. Otherwise, you might end up making yourself a pulled pork cocktail without realizing it.
- When your pulled pork has a charred exterior, it may still taste fine if you mix the crispy bits in with the rest of the meat. However, don’t attempt to salvage the juices. The residue will have an acrid flavor, which will cast a shadow over any recipe it’s used in.
- When you have plenty of juice left over—say, 3 cups or more—consider stretching it out into several recipes instead of using it all at once.
- It’s possible to stretch the juice out by mixing it with water, as long as you don’t dilute it too much. This is true especially if you would just be using water in the recipe otherwise.
- Set the juices aside before mixing the pulled pork with barbecue sauce. You want the juice to taste like smoky, delicious pork, not sugar and molasses.
Uses For Leftover Pork Fat
What should you do with the fat you saved after separating it from the juice? There are plenty of options. To name just a few:
- Saute veggies for omelets and stir-fries
- Use as a base the next time you make refried beans
- Melt the lard in a saucepan before browning steak, pork, or chicken
- Add to ground meat to make tasty homemade sausage
There probably won’t be a lot of fat left over, but you can store any excess in the freezer for up to 1 year. Otherwise, try to use the lard within a week. Discard any pork fat that has a sour or rancid smell.
The Bottom Line
Whatever you do, don’t discard the juices left behind by your pork butt or shoulder. You can use them to jazz up a variety of dishes long after the meat has disappeared from your table.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!