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Kirkland Signature Smoked Pulled Pork

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I love pork. I’m not sure if it was Anthony Bourdain or Homer Simpson who first declared the pig to be a magical animal, but both guys was dead on. Not only do I love pork in all its many guises, I especially love pulled pork. Slow roasted, smoked until that beautiful pink ring appears under the bark, and falling apart: I regard pork roasted until it is this tender to be evidence that the pig’s dying wish was for me to ingest it, basically carving itself for me to eat.

Sadly, I’ve found that my metabolism will not let me subsist entirely on pork. Believe me, dear reader, I tried my darnedest. I think in my early 20’s I could have swung it. But the need for fiber makes me turn, however sadly and defeated, to salad.

Cafe Rio‘s Sweet Pork Barbacoa used to be my go-to salad option. They are, however, incredibly large, expensive, and so much of both that I end up feeling guilty until I cram every last morsel down my gullet. And, as I considered the contents and their nutritional value, also not a terribly healthy choice, consisting of some greens on a bed of carbohydrate-stewed meat, two forms of carbs beside it, all wrapped in a giant carb-and-fat bowl. Oh, and topped with a heaping portion of crispy strips of fried carbs.

I hate salads more than I hate poison-fanged Nazis. Therefore, I figure that if I’m going to eat a salad, I may as well choose one that I’m going to be able to convince myself is healthy, thus scoring the mental nutritional points that will allow me to have, say, a tasty apple fritter from Dick’s Market up the street from me. And maybe chase it with ice cream.

Having failed to find a mass market salad that provides me with sufficient delusional powers, I make my own. These are no mere festival of greens, however. I find that I need substantial protein in the salad to keep me sated. For a long time, that meant some nice diced rotisserie chicken, often from Sam’s Club. Lately, however, I’m finding that I miss my pork barbacoa. Not wanting to spend hours making it, I’ve turned to pre-packed barbecue pork.

Lloyd’s was my first try, mostly because it was on sale. It is beyond sweet, has the consistency of meaty library paste, and overall gives the impression of being quite a bit more cheap, one-note sauce than is wise. I once cooked up a pound of chicken, cut it up, and put it into a new container to see how far the sauce in the package could be stretched. The frankenstein result was still too much sauce.

So, at Costco the other day, I spotted a package of Kirkland Signature Smoked Pulled Pork and wondered if it might make for a suitable substitute for the Lloyd’s pork. At first glance, it seemed like a poor choice at almost $10 (by the way, I would love see the market research that led to nearly everything Costco sells being priced at $9 and change. I suspect it’s a roller coaster of excitement) where the Lloyd’s was between $3-4. But I’ve had luck with Kirkland, which for the uninitiated is Costco’s house brand, so I took the plunge.

Out of the package, the news looked less than encouraging. Once the cardboard sleeve case is pulled aside, the product itself is revealed: a 2-pound square brick of meat, laminated in thick plastic, sitting in a plastic tray. From outside the plastic, the meat looks less than appetizing. Pink, brown, and vaguely green(!) bits of meat, large veins of a white, viscous fluid, all pressed roughly against the side of the plastic envelope. The overall effect? Katherine Helmond‘s facial scenes in Brazil. Ick. Off to a bad start, Kirkland.

Looks can be deceiving, however, I found after liberating product from the plastic, and hacking off a hunk of the pork brick, and warming it up. The meat was tender, and surprisingly flavorful. The smoke level was dead on for me. Kudos to the pitmaster who decided to leave out the artificial smoke flavors in favor of actually hickory smoking this particular piece of the noble animal. I’ve not yet decided if the white liquid was fat or congealed gelatin, but either way it’s quite welcome to my meal. The green bits turned out to be a trick of light refracting through the plastic; they were really just a lighter shade of beautiful brown meat. I mixed the little bit I’d warmed up with some bottled barbecue sauce and had a sandwich of it, and was already planning salad options for the next day.

For the salad, I put a good amount of meat in a pan and stuck it in the oven to warm up. My hope was that if I left it in there long enough, I could replicate some of the bark, my favorite pulled pork bits. Mission accomplished. The result had a bit of the appearance of the lean parts of bacon with about half the smoke and nowhere near the fat content. The ability to control how much sauce I use is a welcome improvement over Lloyd’s as well.

Suffice it to say, I’m quite pork-sated and happy. Although the Lloyd’s appeared to be more affordable at first glance, after having used a bit of the Kirkland pork, it’s clear that it will be the better buy. I’ve had two meals and barely put a dent in the meatblock. New piggy applications are already forming in my head.

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