There are some things I love to cook as much for the way they smell in the oven as for how they taste.  Apple pie is one.  Thanksgiving turkey is, too.  And a rich, meltingly tender, meaty braise is another.  This particular recipe for slow-cooked pork, infused with a dizzying amalgam of beer, caramel, and garlic, will bring your neighbors to your door, on their knees, begging for an invitation to dinner.

Use any cut of pork from the shoulder:  bone-in or boneless, picnic (remove the leathery skin first), blade, or butt.  And cook it really low and slow, at least 3 (but more like 4) hours at 275 degrees, until the meat falls off the bone and shreds easily with a fork.

Beer-braised pork shoulder with Asian aromatics

Adapted from

Yield:  About 9 c. pulled pork, serving at least 9

1/2 c. granulated sugar

3 tbsp. cider vinegar

2 bottles dark beer (I like super-smooth Newcastle for cooking)

1/2 c. soy sauce

2 c. chicken stock, as needed

6-7 lb. bone-in pork shoulder (or about 4 lb. boneless)

2 tsp. Chinese five-spice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tsp. canola oil

2 heads garlic, cloves separated and peeled

6 scallions, trimmed and cut into 2″ pieces

3 oz. ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)

In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir sugar and vinegar until sugar dissolves.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until caramel is light amber in color (make sure you don’t burn it, or it’ll be bitter, not sweet).  Very carefully and very slowly pour beer into saucepan (it will bubble and foam vigorously).  Stir well.  Set aside.

(If you’re cooking a picnic shoulder, remove the tough skin before browning.  Gripping and pulling back the skin firmly with one hand, cut with long strokes, aiming the knife slightly upward toward the skin.)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.  Sprinkle pork with five-spice, season lightly with salt and pepper.  Brown pork in oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Pour in beer mixture, soy sauce, and enough chicken stock to come half-way up the sides of meat.  Add garlic, scallions, ginger, and red pepper.  Bring to a boil, cover pot, and transfer to oven.  Cook for 3-4 hours, turning meat every hour, until meat falls off bone and easily shreds with a fork.

When cool enough to handle, slice or shred meat.  Skim fat from braising liquid, strain, and spoon over meat.  This dish reheats well — refrigerate or freeze in strained sauce.  Serve over rice with bok choy, broccoli, or a citrusy cabbage slaw.

Make it gluten-free: Use a gluten-free beer and tamari in place of regular soy sauce.