Eating outdoors this summer? Here’s one of Heston’s barbecue products from Waitrose that you don’t cook outdoors or on a barbecue.
Every few months I go shopping at Altrincham Waitrose, cooing round the aisles the way tourists in Laaandan go for a gawk round Harrods.
The usual agenda is to buy whatever’s in the current Heston range (salt, bacon, prawn cocktails etc) along with just enough general items that I don’t look like some weird obsessive when I get to the checkout.
Waitrose is still the cheapest place to buy unflavoured popping candy, and we need a few jars of that for a long–planned post comparing Heston’s 2003 and 2012 Chocolate Popping Candy Cake recipes. As luck would have it there’s some new Heston Branded Popping Candy out (really just the same old Home Gourmet Factory stuff with a shiny black Heston label on it).
My Hesty-sense started tingling near the meat fridge. Behold! Heston’s summer barbecue products: a rib of beef and a shoulder of pork: smoked, rubbed, brined and supplied with Heston’s own barbecue sauce.
For cheap cuts they’re both a bit on the pricey side so we just got one of them (i.e. that was all I was allowed to buy).
Price: £6.49 for 450g
The usual firm, glossy cardboard box. It opens up to reveal two plastic packs: a big one containing your brined, spruce-smoked pork shoulder with mesquite rub, plus a little packet of Heston-recipe barbecue sauce.
The press release says “Another classic slow cooked barbecue joint is the Heston from Waitrose Barbecue Pork Shoulder, which is brined and flavoured with an aromatic mesquite rub and smoked over spruce wood. Heston’s tangy barbecue sauce is perfect to cut through the richness of the soft, pulled meat.
Heston says: ‘This pork shoulder has been slow-cooked until perfectly tender and smoked over spruce for a touch of sweet, smoky fragrance. Perfect for your barbecue.’
For a product that’s marketed as a barbecue dish there’s not a lot of barbecuing required.
In fact Heston’s cooking instructions ask you to remove the pork shoulder from its protective plastic then cook it in your indoor oven. For 25 minutes at 180°C. A purely optional final step suggests finishing the pork shoulder with a couple of minutes over barbecue coals.
Translation: “Here’s a tough but flavoursome cut of meat. We’ve brined and smoked it to make it extra moist and tender. Now we’d like you to undo all that hard work and turn it into dry mess by putting it into a hot oven for too long. Barbecuing unnecessary.”
What. The. Hell?!?! Heston has been imploring us not to overcook meat for years. There’s a huge chapter on exactly this issue in his 2002 cookbook “Family Food” and a full episode about the correct temperatures for meat in his 2005 TV series Kitchen Chemistry. To this day he endorses Sous-Vide cookers and has his own range of dedicated meat thermometers, all to prevent us lot from overcooking, and ruining, our meat.
So, bearing all of the above in mind, the cooking instructions the Heston from Waitrose Spruce Smoked Barbecue Pork Shoulder are bafflingly inadvisable and a little bit insulting to our intelligence.
This isn’t the first time it’s happened either. When we tested the Heston from Waitrose ready meals the fish in the Fish Pie was badly overcooked (due to following cooking guidelines printed on the box). Andy wisely chose to completely ignore the directions to “cook according to pack instructions” when cooking Heston’s Leg of Lamb with Anchovy, Rosemary & garlic recipe.
Which is why we decided to just dump Heston’s Barbecue Pork Shoulder in our sous vide rig. Heck, it was already vacuum-sealed.
The meat in the package has been smoked and slow cooked. For safety’s sake we decided to give it 3 hours at 78°C. One of the joys of water baths is that it’s hard to overcook stuff.
This was the perfect way to ensure the meat was still juicy and succulent when pulled apart. Extra moisture and flavour is added by tossing it in Heston’s barbecue sauce at this stage. Then, in true Tim Hayward style, pile into a white bun top with coleslaw (also from Waitrose), then scoff down.
And it’s really good. The meat almost melts and the complex flavours make it taste like the definite version of what good barbecue pork should be. Admittedly the Waitrose Essential coleslaw was a bit gunky. Heston’s own recipe for coleslaw might have been a better, lighter match.
Except that, as you’ve read, a barbecue is the last thing that’s required to cook this. You don’t even have to go outside.
Oh, we get what they’re trying to do. And this is significantly more convenient than the 18-hour smokings and byzantine secret spice rubs of the institutional Southern USA barbecues it’s trying to emulate.
We reckon you could easily make your own version of this by brining your own pork and using Heston’s barbecue Pulled Pork recipe from the Waitrose website. Here’s one of our personal heroes, the Fat Duck’s own Otto Romer, making it:
But the shopping list for sauce ingredients is long, and would cost more in total than buying this product as a one-off.
If you don’t mind the price, aren’t feeding a crowd, and can live without stashing the remaining half-litre of sauce in the freezer, then the Heston from Waitrose Spruce Smoked Barbecue Pork Shoulder is worth trying out.
And, whether you buy it or make your own, at least you don’t need to bother lighting a barbecue.
Have you got a favourite barbecue or pulled pork technique? Or is there a better barbecue sauce out there than Heston’s? Please tell us in the comments section.