Crispy pulled pork melt

Meltuary begins now!

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Read Time: 7 minutes

All month we’re making melts!

For the entire month of January, we will be celebrating what I have named Meltuary: a celebration of all things cheesy and melty.

We’re kicking off our Meltuary celebration with a savory, cheesy sandwich that has just a touch of spice to balance everything out. This melt uses a flavorful compound butter, spread on the outside of the bread, which helps with the crisping process to add even more excitement to the final sandwich.

First, as always, let’s slice right into the bread content.

Sesame-coated semolina sourdough

The bread I baked for these sandwiches was heavily inspired by a holiday gift that I received. I know what you’re thinking, why would you gift a person bread when they’re already baking bread two or three times a week? I can’t exactly answer that question, but this particular bread was really good, and it got me inspired to convert one of my recipes into a similar loaf.

This bread that I received—along with a pound and a half of tasty cheese varieties—was a sesame seed-coated semolina loaf and it was inspirational for the bread I made for these sandwiches. I baked through a few of my own test loaves to convert my existing sourdough recipe to contain some semolina and then I baked it coated with sesame seeds and some without.

What is semolina?

Semolina is a great ingredient to keep stocked in your pantry if you are a home baker or a pizza maker. Semolina has interesting uses in the kitchen. You can use it instead of cornmeal when cooking English muffins or spread it around to keep your pizza dough from sticking to your pizza peel. Semolina is also a good ingredient for making homemade pasta.

But those aren’t all that semolina is good for. It’s a high-gluten flour which means when it is added to a bread dough it will add structure and chewiness. This is an excellent thing for a melt of any sort because you want the bread to hold up to the buttery grilling process. Semolina also should contribute some nuttiness to the finished bread which when used in a moderate amount works well in this sourdough recipe.

One of the first loaves I made with no sesame seeds.
The crumb on my loaf is a little tighter than some artisanal sourdoughs, but in my experience, that helps a lot when you’re making a melty cheesy sandwich.

Sesame coating

If you’re baking buns or sandwich rolls, you will often stick the sesame seeds to the top of the dough with an egg wash right before adding it to the oven. For this loaf, I instead roll the dough on top of sesame seeds during the final shaping step of the dough process.

This is a small loaf by volume for the banneton that I own, but it works well in my opinion for a typical sandwich. I really try to shoot for reasonable sandwich-size slices and filling this with dough would produce larger sandwiches than I am shooting for.

One benefit of baking your own bread is that you are in full control of your sandwich size.

The dough was shaped, rolled in sesame seeds, and placed into a banneton for the final rise.
Two hours later and the sourdough has been proofed up and almost doubled in size. Sourdough takes a lot longer than yeasted bread to rise and puff up. It still has another hour to rise until I place the dough and banneton into the fridge overnight.
Fresh out of the fridge at 8 am and this dough is very easy to score cleanly. In the back left corner, you’ll spot Alice supervising.

You can bake the bread directly from the refrigerator, which means the dough will keep its shape a bit better while it bakes because the cold dough is firmer than warm dough.

You can tell that the scoring on this loaf was done when the dough was cold because the division is so clear.
Because I’m using an oval banneton, you get a nice oval loaf which is great for sandwiching. Sometimes the middle slices on a round loaf are just way bigger than the ends.
17 hours and 20 minutes
Semolina sourdough sandwich loaf

Want a great sourdough recipe for a round or oval loaf? This is a good one. Get ready though, my process for making this loaf starts with feeding your sourdough starter two days prior to the finished product. Check the notes under the recipe instructions for any tips and required tools.

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The cheese selections

When you get past the bread, the next most important part of a melt sandwich would be the cheese. Since we’re bringing in a few flavorful ingredients in this sandwich, I felt it would be just fine if we just went with mostly neutral-flavored cheese options. For this sandwich, I altered the cheese a little from sandwich to sandwich, but the base cheese was always Muenster.

I used two or three slices on each sandwich and the majority was Muenster, but I accompanied that with either cheddar or American. The cheddar was to add a hint of flavor, but the American was used solely for its melty properties.

Cheater pulled pork

I used my cheater chopped pork sandwich recipe for this sandwich. This pork cooks in a pot in the oven, with salt, ground black pepper, smoked paprika, and a little apple cider vinegar to help keep everything moist and flavorful. Once you get the pork shoulder in the oven, there’s pretty much nothing to do until it’s fully cooked and time to cool off and then shred.

I call this “cheater” because it’s not smoked or barbecued, but it’s so easy to put together that I make it often. The pork shoulder part of this recipe is a great way to get 3 or 4 pounds of pork into sandwiches and your fridge or freezer.

When this pork was done cooking, I simply used two forks to break it all up. I know this recipe is based on my NC chopped pork recipe and for that one you’d add an additional step of chopping the pork. But we don’t need that here.
Pulled pork isn’t always the easiest to capture in a photo, but here it is anyway.

Crisping the pork

This recipe makes a lot of pork, so unless you’re having a big party, you will have some leftovers. For most of these sandwiches, I grabbed some leftover pork from the refrigerator and then warmed it up on a skillet or griddle. You can do this for just a couple of minutes to get warm pork or you can choose to cook it for longer to change the texture of the pork and add crispy bits. With some meat like chicken, for instance, doing this might end up overcooking the meat, but you don’t really have to worry about this with pork shoulder that has already been cooked for hours. Unless you just outright burn the pork by cooking it in a skillet for something like 30+ minutes, you should still have some crispy bits and some soft bits which will work great in a sandwich.

An added benefit to making the pork crispier is that you end up with warmed-up hot pork, which will help to melt the cheese in the middle of your sandwich. You put down the cheese on the bread and top it with the hot, crisped-up pork and you’re already on your way to melty goodness.

Crisping up the pork for 6 to 8 minutes, moving frequently, will allow textures to build on the pork as well as heating up the meat which will help the cheese melt.

The parmesan compound butter crust

Spread a nice layer of herby compound butter on the outside of the bread to help with the crisping process.

This mixture of softened salted butter, parmesan, black pepper, and cilantro will brown quickly on the griddle, but the parmesan will help to crisp up the outside of the bread.

Also: you might not think about this, but when you take a bite of a sandwich, your tongue immediately contacts the outside of the toasted bread and if you can add extra flavor to the toast, you will boost all your sandwich enjoyment.

You’re effectively making a compound butter in this situation, and this is something you could apply to add to steak or even a baked potato. Once you’ve made the compound butter you can wrap it up in plastic wrap or parchment and keep it in the fridge until you need it. But you should pull it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before sandwich time to allow the butter to soften. Or read the section below for a softening tip.

Softening butter

To make compound butter, you need your butter to already be soft. It also needs to be soft when you’re ready to spread it on bread.

I made a tiny ✨hit tweet✨ last week about how you can quickly soften butter for baking. But it applies here too. If you’re making compound butter or if you want to spread a compound butter that is fresh out of the fridge and still firm, you can use this technique.

Quick butter softening process:

  1. find a microwave-safe bowl that will cover your butter if the bowl is turned upside down.
  2. Fill that bowl almost all the way full of water.
  3. Microwave the bowl full of water for around 1 minute. If you do not have a microwave, you can use boiling water from a kettle or pot. But this takes a bit longer to achieve.
  4. Drain all the water out of the bowl.
  5. Turn the warm bowl upside down over your butter.
  6. The residual heat from the bowl will soften your butter in 3 to 5 minutes without melting the butter into liquid.

Roasted garlic mayonnaise

I had some of this on hand from a previous sandwich, so I applied it here. It gets a bit overwhelmed by the other flavors, so use whatever mayo or condiment you like on your sandwiches. Mustard and pork are great friends, so that would also be a good option here. Below is my roasted garlic mayo recipe if you want to follow this process 100%.

Pickled jalapenos

This recipe for pickled jalapenos is based on my MSG dill pickle recipe. You can buy your own jar of pickled jalapenos, but I can guarantee that these will be better and more addictive. My favorite uses for pickled jalapenos are on nachos and hot dogs, but they also can add a bit of spice and vinegar zing to just about any sandwich. Jalapeno pickle liquid is also a great thing to use to dress your lettuce greens before putting them into a sandwich.

I added five or six jalapeno slices to each sandwich, but this is where you chart your own course. Use as few or as many slices as you think you can handle.

This is a quick pickling process, but you should still be able to store these in the refrigerator for a few weeks, or just long enough to add jalapeno slices to a bunch of sandwiches.

Don’t worry there’s more cheese on the other side under the warmed-up pork.

Note: if you hate jalapenos, you can just use regular dill pickles in this sandwich for some of the same effect.

25 minutes
Pickled MSG jalapenos

Need a spicy kick with a bit of crunchy texture in your next sandwich? They're also perfect to spice up your next nacho or taco night.

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Crispy pulled pork melt recipe and photos

Here are a few photos of the sandwiches I made for this post along with the recipe down below. So melty and so porky. You should make it or at least scroll through and look at all the photos. Stop drooling though, you’ll short out your device.

The blends of melty cheese and crispy pork are perfect for a sandwich.
I used multiple sliced cheese options on this one, but I kept returning to Munster for its meltiness.
Crispy and melty and porky and spicy. Oh my.
If pickled jalapenos are too spicy for your sandwich enjoyment, you can just add some regular dill pickles. They will also work well in this sandwich.
Crispy pulled pork melt view printable page for this recipe

This is a crispy sandwich, packed full of pork and melty cheese. Hints of spice come from the pickled jalapenos, poking through the gooey cheese. A parmesan and cilantro compound butter lends a lot of extra flavor to the crispy griddled bread slices.
I created an Instagram reel of the sandwich assembly process if you're interested in watching.


Ingredients:

Pulled pork
  • 3 to 5 pound bone-in pork shoulder or pork butt
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon smoked paprika (not regular paprika)
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
Parmesan cilantro compound butter
  • 12 stick salted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
Sandwich assembly
  • 12 cup pulled pork
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons compound butter (from above)
  • 2 sourdough bread slices
  • mayonnaise and/or mustard (optional)
  • 2 to 4 slices of cheese (Muenster, cheddar, provolone, and American cheese are good options)
  • 4 to 6 pickled jalapeno slices

Directions:

Pulled pork: preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (175 C).

Wipe down and dry your pork shoulder or pork butt. And your regular butt if needed. Wash your hands. 

In a small bowl add your salt, smoked paprika, and black pepper. Mix well. This is your rub.

Cover and rub your pork fully with all your rub. Make sure no parts of the pork are unseasoned. 

In a dutch oven or large oven-safe pot, add your fully seasoned pork and place it in the middle. 

Pour 1 cup of apple cider vinegar into the dutch oven or pot, around the pork. 

Add a lid or cover to your oven-safe pot and add it to the preheated oven. 

Cook for 3 hours with the cover on the pot. If you don't have a cover, you can cover the pot with aluminum foil.

Once 3 hours are over, remove the cover/lid for the pot and cook for an additional 30 minutes. 

Remove pork from the pot (don't discard any liquid left in the pot just yet), place it on a cutting board and allow the meat to rest for 45 minutes to 1 hour then pull meat from the bone and use two forks to separate it. If you really want the Eastern North Carolina experience, take your sharpest chef knife or cleaver, and finely chop the pulled pork.

After you pull the pork and/or chop it, add all of the meat to a container that you can store in your refrigerator (unless you plan to eat it all in one sitting). If there was any liquid left in the pot you cooked the pork in, you can pour that into the container with all of the meat. 

Parmesan cilantro compound butter: combine all compound butter ingredients in a small bowl and using a spoon, mash it all around to combine. 

Store in a sealed container or wrapped in plastic wrap in your refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Sandwich assembly: warm up the pulled pork for 5 or 6 minutes in a skillet or griddle over medium heat. The pork should crisp up a little in places, which will add texture to the final sandwich.

While the pork is crisping up, spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of the compound butter on just 1 side of each slice of sourdough bread.

Remove the pork after it is crispy and hot and place it in a bowl for just a few minutes. Wipe out the pan.

Place both slices of your bread, compound butter side down, on the pan or griddle over medium-low heat.

Add condiments, mayonnaise, or mustard to the two exposed slices of bread in the pan.

Add slices of cheese on top of the condiments - cover with a metal bowl or lid of the pan for 1 minute to help melt the cheese

Add the warm, crispy pork on top of the cheese. Top the pork with slices of pickled jalapenos. Close the sandwich by putting the second slice of bread on top of the jalapenos, cheese side down.

pay attention to the color on the top of the sandwich this is what color the bottom bread is, try not to let it get too dark, 

flip occasionally until the color looks toasted enough for you.

Allow sandwich to cool for 1 to 2 minutes on a cooling rack and serve.

 

This is my crispy pulled pork melt, and I developed this sandwich and I’m not even sure if I named it “crispy” because of the crispy outside bread or the crispy pulled pork!
The addition of the parmesan cheese will mean the bread could get dark faster than a typical grilled cheese, but it won’t taste burnt (unless you burn it).
A crispy pulled pork melt in action.
Melty cheese and crispy pork: Best Friends Forever

Meltuary continues next week!

This is just the beginning of our cheesy adventures into Meltuary action. Check back next week when we might or might not get out the beans and greens!


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