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When the craving for barbecue sandwiches hits, who has time to wait for pork from a slow-cooker? We found four brands of "pulled pork" already smoked and seasoned in local grocery store refrigerators. At first, judges were doubtful they could substitute precooked, store-bought pork for their barbecue needs. But a couple of brands made them optimistic. We heated all four on the stove, although the package directions also offered the microwave as a warming option.

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Product/Score (out of 100) Sweet Baby Ray's 67 Lloyd's 55 Curly's 48 Publix 32
Judges' comments Judges decided that whoever prepared the Sweet Baby Ray's pulled pork really knew how to serve barbecue. It had the "proper shredded look" along with a great balance between sweet and sour flavors in the sauce. The judges primarily liked the amount of sauce and that it did not overpower the pork. "This is a good, 'adult,' pulled pork with subtle, multilayered flavors," said one judge. Another liked the large chunks of pork. Lloyd's got mixed reviews from our panelists. One raved about the juicy texture, inviting look and sweet and tangy sauce. "It reminds me of a Sloppy Joe," he said. "It would make great sliders." A couple others said it was too heavy on ketchup flavor and too chunky. "Pulled through what?" asked one. This pork was low on extra sauce and seasonings. In fact, it was almost sauce-free. That was just fine with a couple of judges. "It looks like something you might find in your favorite barbecue restaurant," said one. "It's tender with just enough smoky flavor. It would be perfect for a summer picnic." Another described the appearance as natural-looking. The store's pulled pork was more chunky than shredded. It was the sweetest of the choices and had the color of baked beans. Most said they wouldn't use it for pulled pork sandwiches, but one said, "With a plate of potato salad and some nice sour pickles, this could make a winning lunch."
Would they buy? Three of the four judges said yes. Two of the four judges said yes. Three of the four judges said yes. One of the four judges said yes.
Shopping information $5.99 for an 18-ounce container from Publix. $5.49 for an 18-ounce container from Publix. $5.69 for a 12-ounce container from Publix. $3.50 for a 16-ounce container.

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Serving size 5 ounces 3.5 ounces 2 ounces 3.5 ounces
Calories 200 130 140 270
Fat/Fiber 6g / 0g 3g / 0g 10g / 0g 8g / 1g
Sugars/Sodium 40g / 800mg 16g /630mg 1g / 320mg 18g / 480mg
Carbs/Protein 42g / 19g 16g / 10g 2g / 10g 23g / 23g

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PANELISTS: Nan Jensen, registered dietitian; John Hehn, foodie and owner of All Brite Lighting & Power Design Inc.; Jeff Jensen, public information officer for the city of Treasure Island; and Wayne Conery, manager of the R Bar on Treasure Island. All foods were tasted blind.

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