Pulled pork is easy to make, inexpensive and delicious. If you need to feed a crowd then pulled pork should be on the menu.
There are quite a few ways of making pulled pork; I will walk you through two techniques.
Technically you can make pulled pork from just about any cut of pork. You can put a pork loin into a crock pot with a bottle of barbecue sauce and cook it until it falls apart. Makes for a decent meal sometimes.
Today we are going to look at some serious, slow smoked pulled pork that defines great barbecue.
The two cuts of pork typically used for pulled pork come from the shoulder area on a hog, the butt and the picnic roast.
Let’s start with slow smoking a pork butt. A typical pork butt will weigh between 5-10 pounds and has a fat cap on one side. This one weighed in at a little over eight pounds.
There is a ton of marbling and connective tissue in this cut that will slowly break down during the smoking process.
The fat cap on the butt can be treated a couple of different ways. Some folks cut it off completely, some folks will score a diamond pattern into the fat and some folks just leave it alone.
You might want to cut the fat cap off because it prevents the dry rub and the smoke and from reaching the underlying meat.
You might want to leave the fat cap on because it will help keep the meat moist and juicy.
I have tried both approaches and honestly can’t tell that much of a difference. For this cook I left the fat cap on the butt.
This butt was smoked with indirect low heat (250F) using the Slow N Sear with some hickory. You don’t have to use the Slow N Sear…you can also use a standard charcoal basket. The Slow N Sear is nice because you don’t have to keep refilling your charcoal.
The butt was seasoned with a dry rub about 30 minutes before it went on the kettle.
Pulled Pork Dry Rub
- 1 cup turbinado sugar
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon granulated onion
- 1 teaspoon ganulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon celery salt
Every two hours I rotated the butt so a different side was facing the charcoal. I probably didn’t need to do this but it gave me an excuse to open up the kettle and see how things were going.
After 8 hours a nice crust had formed on the butt and the internal temperature had hit 180F.
Figuring out when your smoked pork butt is done is a matter of individual preference.
If you want the butt to completely fall apart then take it off the smoker when it reaches 205F. If you take the butt off at 180-190F then the outer portions will easily shred and the inner portions will need to be chopped.
I often take the butt off at 190F because after 8-10 hours of smelling the pork cook I am ready to eat! Taking the butt to 205F can take 11-12 hours and sometimes that just doesn’t fit my schedule.
If you aren’t using a thermometer to monitor the cook you can always rely upon the shoulder bone. As soon as this bone sticks out and freely twists around the butt is ready.
After 9 hours on the smoker (190F internal) this guy got wrapped in foil and rested for an hour before we tore into it.
Wrapping and resting isn’t mandatory but I think it helps make a slightly better product.
When it is time to pull the pork apart I always use my hands and burn the crap out of my fingers. There are a couple of different tools out there that make pulling the pork easier but I don’t use them.
About a quarter of the butt will be dog scraps as there are lots of fat pockets that don’t render out. I find these with my hands and pitch them out. If you use tools for shredding it is easy to get lazy and leave the “trash” material in.
It’s a small thing that makes a difference.
A classic way to serve pulled pork is as a sandwich with a North Carolina vinegar sauce. Here is my vinegar sauce recipe that I adapted from The Meatwave.
North Carolina Vinegar Sauce for Pulled Pork
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 1 tablespoon Texas Pete hot sauce
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
Liberally apply the vinegar sauce to your pulled pork. The pork really soaks up the sauce so you end up using a lot more than you think you will need.
I am trying to watch my weight so I went with some smaller buns to make pulled pork sliders.
After I ate four of these I wished I had just used a larger bun.
Another option for you folks looking to get creative is to make some pulled pork lettuce wraps.
I took some of the pork that had not been bathed in the vinegar sauce and tossed it with some off the shelf teriyaki sauce.
Throw the pork onto an iceberg lettuce leaf along with some carrot sheds, chopped peanuts and sriracha sauce.
These are REALLY good!
The options for eating pulled pork are just about endless. The succulent smoked meat is great for tacos, chili, nachos, pizza, quesadillas and about two or three hundred other things.
Okay, now that we have made pulled pork from a pork butt let’s look at how to make pulled pork from a picnic roast.
The pork butt comes from the shoulder area of a hog.
The picnic roast is just below the butt and is more like the elbow joint.
The picnic roast usually comes with a thick layer of skin attached on one side.
I always take the skin off to expose the fat layer underneath.
A picnic roast does not have as much internal fat as a pork butt. I like to inject picnic roasts with a brine to make sure the meat inside is juicy and flavorful. Here is my pork injection recipe.
Pulled Pork Injection for Picnic Roasts
- 8 oz apple juice (a small bottle)
- 8 oz water
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Work methodically and inject the roast all over. This 8.5 pound roast was able to take up the entire injection mix.
After the pork has been injected coat it with your dry rub and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight. You need to give the injection a little time to work its magic.
I smoke picnic roasts exactly like I smoke butts. Here is how this one looked after 10 hours on the kettle.
This guy was so tender that when I tried to take it off the smoker it simply fell apart.
Another classic way of serving pulled pork that folks either love or hate is as a sandwich with a pig pile of coleslaw.
The “cold, creamy, crunch” of the slaw simply pairs really well with the smokey pork.
It is pretty easy to smoke two butts at once on a 22 inch Weber kettle.
If you start with two butts that weigh 8 pounds each you will end up with about 8 pounds of pulled pork as a final product. This is easily enough pork to feed 15-20 people.
I hope this posts inspires you to get out there and fire up your kettle!
Now get out there and grill something 🙂