You Get What You Pay For

I've always been of the kitchen mindset that any dish is really best, made from scratch. Or almost entirely from scratch (clearly am not going to make my own cheese, milk a cow, raise chickens, etc. etc. but I am extremely thankful for those that do do that). But I recently did a "taste test" of sorts with a prepared product, vs one made from scratch, and the prepared product came out on top.

Mind you it was a product from Williams Sonoma so there was a good possibility it's going to be really good. Have I ever mentioned that I worked at Williams Sonoma (thanks to some coercing from my oh so charming brother in law)? It was a seasonal gig, and the discount was worth every minute of it (my family agreed-- I did everyone's Christmas shopping for them that year, after work).

Ok, so what is it that the self proclaimed kitchen goddess/warrior can't top the shop with?? Of all things, it's a pulled pork starter. I discovered slow roasted pulled pork a bit late in my lifetime, and ever since, I've tried to master it at home. And now that I have the creme de la creme, top of the line, ridiculous, amazing, All-Clad Slow Cooker, I thought it would be super easy. I swear, you could put a wallet in that thing (aka slow cooker), let it go for 10 hours, top it with some BBQ and eat it for dinner. It's that prodigious.

I'm not saying my starter/sauce was bad by any means, it was quite tasty. But when you compare it to the WS starter/sauce, it doesn't compare. You've got to have some really strong flavors for them to stand up to 10 hours of low, slow cooking.

So here was the recipe I used (From


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 12 ounces beer, preferably lager (1 1/2 cups)
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced, plus 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
  • 1 5-pound bone-in Boston butt, I actually used a 5 pound bone in pork shoulder-- my own personal preference

I picked this particular recipe because it looked like it had a lot of kick. So much kick in fact, that while I was simmering the sauce before putting it in the slow cooker, I was literally choking on the air from the heat from the chipotle peppers.  That could also be because I read the recipe as ONE CAN chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, not ONE CANNED chipotle....  yep, used the WHOLE CAN. I was worried that at the end of day it would be waaaaaay to spicy. Not at all. Just not enough flavor at all. 

Here is the Williams Sonoma sauce:

After making my pulled pork, I went back to Williams Sonoma to look at the back of their jar, and the ingredients that were not in the above recipe included brown sugar and molasses. It's that whole sweet-spicy thing.  This is how they describe it:

Our timesaving starter brings fresh, authentic flavor to the pulled-pork sandwich, a classic with as many versions as there are Southern barbecue cooks. Our sweet and smoky sauce is a blend of all-natural ingredients: spicy brown mustard, tangy apple cider vinegar, savory chicken demi-glace, vine-ripened tomato and blackstrap molasses.

So, moral of the story: I guess some things are best left to the experts (a.k.a. little gourmet shops with little gourmet items that are not little in price). It costs $12.95 for a reason-- and worth every penny!!


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