Make Ahead

Smoked Pork Rillettes

December 22, 2011
3 Ratings
  • Makes about 1 1/2 cups
Author Notes

Warning: This recipe requires some MacGyver action!

My brother and I had some smoked pork rillettes at a local restaurant. They were extremely tasty, so of course I wanted to figure out how to make some. I figured out I would need to cold smoke the meat to ensure a smoothly spreading final product. I did not own a cold smoker,and didn't want to buy an expensive piece of equipment. I decided to do some internet research to see what I could learn. Lo and behold, you can create a cold smoker with a soldering iron, “tin” can, and some wood chips or wood pellets. After getting the apparatus figured out I purchased some pork shoulder and fatback to make rillettes using the recipe mrswheelbarrow kindly provided in one of the October charcutepalooza posts. I smoked the pork shoulder and fatback, and proceeded with the recipe. I was pretty happy with the results, but the final product ended up being too smoky and I didn't care for the bits of fatback. I tinkered with concept a few times, and finally came up with an end product that I was happy with. It reminds me of a cross between pulled pork and braunschweiger. It's delicious on crostini or crackers, especially contrasted with the tangy bite of quick pickled onions, some orange marmalade, or a chunk of pickled prune.

The recipe has an added bonus as well – once you make the cold smoker you can smoke cheese and other goodies! —hardlikearmour

What You'll Need
  • To make the cold smoker and smoke the pork:
  • unlined "tin" can
  • Brand new soldering iron - make sure it's not been used for soldering!!
  • wood chips (smallish ones) or wood pellets - I used applewood chips
  • 2 boneless country-style pork ribs (fatty ones are better) - about 1.25 lbs
  • To make the rillettes
  • The pork you just smoked
  • 1 cup rendered pork fat or lard – not the kind that comes in a box and doesn't need refrigeration, please!
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Diamond kosher salt, divided
  • ¾ to 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, divided
  • ½ to ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons whiskey, divided
  • ¼ cup minced shallot
  • water
  1. To make the cold smoker and smoke the pork:
  2. Preferably using a safe edge can opener, cut the lid most of the way off the can. Think of the can lid as a clock face; you want to open from about 7 o'clock to about 5 o'clock cutting in a clockwise direction. Use a pliers to bend the lid open. Empty and rinse the can. Use a keyhole opener to open a hole in the lid at the 6 o'clock position.
  3. Fill the can about a quarter to a third full with your wood chips/pellets. Wiggle the tip of the soldering iron through the keyhole, as far in as you can get it. Put the can on the grate of your grill on it's side with the keyhole toward the bottom; again like the 6 o'clock position of an ordinary wall clock. Make sure the tip of the soldering iron is well-covered by the chips. You are now ready for cold smoking!!
  4. Cut each of the ribs in half lengthwise. This exposes more of the meat and fat to the smoke to help develop a well-balanced smoky flavor. Rest the pork on a grate in your grill, making sure it doesn't touch the smoker apparatus. I use the warming rack provided inside my grill, but you can use what ever will work for your particular grill.
  5. Plug the soldering iron in. It will take a bit to warm up, but you should start to see smoke in 5 to 10 minutes. If not, wiggle the soldering iron around a bit; it may not be in good contact with the chips.
  6. Once you start to see smoke, put the lid down on your grill and set your timer for 30 minutes. Try not to open the lid during this time – you should see and smell smoke coming from the grill. After 30 minutes your meat should have developed a good amount of smoke aroma. Remove the meat from the grill. Unplug your soldering iron, but wait until the chips burn out and the can cools down before handling it.
  1. To make the rillettes
  2. Cut the pork into ¾- to 1-inch cubes. Massage the garlic, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper into the meat. Allow the meat to rest at room temperature for 45 to 60 minutes or refrigerate overnight.
  3. Combine the lard and 1 cup of water in a 2 to 3 quart saucepan. Melt the lard over medium-low heat. Once it has mostly melted add the pork, bay leaf, and 1 tablespoon whiskey. If needed add more water so pork is just covered. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
  4. Continue to simmer, skimming off foam and stirring occasionally, for 2 hours adding more water if needed. The water should not boil off before the meat is tender and the fat has rendered. After 2 hours check to see how tender the pork is. If it is easily shredded add the shallots, if not check again in 15 minutes.
  5. The rillettes are done when the pork is easily shredded and the fat has become “clear and beautiful.” This will take about 2 ½ to 3 hours. Once the water has cooked off, continue to cook the meat in the fat for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. The meat should not become crispy.
  6. Strain the meat in a fine mesh strainer, collecting the fat in a bowl or large glass measure. Allow the meat to rest in the strainer for 5 to 10 minutes, then transfer to a medium sized bowl. Use 2 forks to shred the pork.
  7. Add the remaining whiskey, kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Add ¼ cup of the reserved fat back into the meat. Mix vigorously to thoroughly combine and further break down the meat.
  8. Stir in additional fat 1 tablespoon at a time until your mixture is like stiff cookie dough in texture. Taste and add more nutmeg or black pepper if desired. In my experience the rillettes will taste saltier now than they will taste after a night in the fridge.
  9. Pack the rillettes into jars or ramekins. Seal the top with ¼-inch layer of the reserved fat – this will help to preserve the rillettes, so they will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator. Refrigerate the rillettes overnight or longer. Allow to come to room temperature before serving. Enjoy!
  10. Now, go smoke some cheese!!
  11. 5-spice variation: Add several broken up star anise pods to the chips when smoking. Eliminate the bay leaf. Use chinese 5-spice in place of the nutmeg and black pepper. Use kirsch or brandy in place of the whiskey.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Benny
  • aargersi
  • SKK
  • mrslarkin
  • gingerroot
I am an amateur baker and cake decorator. I enjoy cooking, as well as eating and feeding others. I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with my husband and our menagerie. I enjoy outdoor activities including hiking, mushroom hunting, tide pooling, beach combing, and snowboarding.

12 Reviews

Benny May 9, 2012
are you able to use this soldering iron for future smokings, or do you need a brand new one each time?
hardlikearmour May 9, 2012
You can reuse the soldering iron for smoking, you just can't use it for soldering.
aargersi December 28, 2011
Hey MacGyver - we are going to try out our soldering smoker this evening for cheese for the game! Thanks so much for sharing the process!! Rillettes are going on my to do list now too - I am thinking I can follow a similar process with duck and duck fat too.
hardlikearmour December 28, 2011
You will have to report back! It does a great job smoking cheese - I've done blue and sharp cheddar with it. You can definitely make rillettes, and I'm sure duck would work well - sort of like confit. Yum! If you want the rillettes to be smokier, you could also smoke them after you make them.
SKK December 23, 2011
OMG - you are one amazing woman! I don't have a grill and if I did would definitely make this. I would increase the whiskey to make sure there is enough to drink for this project.
SKK December 23, 2011
OMG - you are one amazing woman! I don't have a grill and if I did would definitely make this. I would increase the whiskey to make sure there is enough to drink for this project.
hardlikearmour December 23, 2011
Thank you, SKK! The internet is an amazing repository of ideas. When I found the cold-smoking technique I got a little giddy. Some people do it in a large rubbermade-type storage container, so you don't have to have a grill. Youtube has several videos you can watch on the process.
mrslarkin December 23, 2011
oh boy this sounds amazing!! Love the picture too. well done, hla.
mrslarkin December 23, 2011
P.S. You have mad skills!!! Very excellent.
hardlikearmour December 23, 2011
Thanks, mrslarkin! I had fun with this one.
gingerroot December 23, 2011
Wow, hardlikearmour! You never cease to amaze and inspire with your creativity and culinary resolve. This sounds really delicious.
hardlikearmour December 23, 2011
Thanks, gingerroot! This one brought out a little of the mad scientist in me.