Pulled Pork: A BBQ Staple
Blog post by Josh Roe, VP of Market Development and Policy
Pulled pork is a BBQ staple for many reasons. First off, its delicious! Additionally, it’s one of the most “forgiving” cuts so there is some room for less-than-optimal conditions with good results. Relative to other staples such as brisket and ribs, its relatively inexpensive. Pulled pork is my go-to when I need to cook for a large crowd because it will feed a lot of people, and if I overshoot the mark and make too much, freezing leftovers in one-pound portions makes for awesome meals such as chili, tacos, nachos, and sandwiches.
One thing to keep in mind with pulled pork is that it cannot be rushed, it’s an all-day (or all night) affair. Rushing it and putting on too much heat will make it dry and pulling it off too soon before it reaches optimal temperature makes it nearly impossible to “pull”.
What you’ll need:
Time: Like I said above, you need time to smoke meat! In general, I inject and rub the meat the night before, let sit in the fridge overnight. Cook times can vary widely, but in general for pulled pork you are talking 8-10 hours. I also like to let the meat rest for one hour before shredding. Add all that up and you are talking a solid hour of prep time the day before and 10-12 hours of setup, cooking, resting time the day of.
Meat: Pulled pork is commonly made from pork butt, I usually use bone-in Boston Butts. They come in a variety of sizes from 6-11 pounds each. I usually select around a 9-pound Boston butt. Most smokers can fit 2-4 of these butts. My common rule is that with shrinkage and waste, 0.5 pound of precooked butts per person will feed even the hungriest crowds. (i.e., if I’m feeding 40 people, I’ll cook 2, 10-pound butts)
Seasonings: Any premade BBQ rub will produce great results; everyone has their favorite or general opinions on what kind is best. My go-to is a homemade blend that started from a recipe in a Weber Cookbook that I have made multiple changes to over the years. My recipe can be found here.
Injection: For many years I didn’t inject pork butts, they’re well marbled enough, it’s not required. However, the additional flavor I get, I won’t put a butt on the smoker without injecting the night before. My favorite injection blend is here.
Smoker: I’m a charcoal purist, so my common equipment consists of a Weber Smokey Mountain charcoal smoker and a pull behind, large unit if we have a big crowd. However, I’ve had some amazing BBQ prepared by friends on pellet smokers. Truthfully, oftentimes I envy their ability to “set and forget” the smoker. Put the meat on and go to bed or go to work and come back 8 hours later with a great product. At some point I plan on purchasing a pellet grill to use at the farm where it’s difficult for me to be able to “babysit” the smoker like my charcoal units require.
Wood: The most common woods used are hickory and mesquite. Personally, I prefer fruit woods such as pecan (1st choice) and apple (close 2nd).
Accessories: My go-to accessories include a charcoal cup, paraffin wax cubes, Dragon Knuckle thermal gloves, Bear Paws for handling and shredding meat, large plastic tubs with lids for seasoning, refrigeration and pulling, a meat thermometer, extra wide (18”) heavy duty aluminum foil, insulated rubber gloves for pulling and handling cooked meat and an injector. Do I NEED all the above accessories? Probably not, but they sure make my life easier!
Sauce: The opinions on sauces (including whether to offer them or not) are very differing, heck, I’ve even seen fights break out over this. Just use what you prefer. Here is a popular tangy sauce that I usually make when feeding a crowd.
1.Take Boston butt out of package and pat dry with a paper towel.
2. Mix injection ingredients and fill your syringe. In this picture I’m using a standard steel syringe widely available, but for bigger jobs I use a unit that resembles a one-gallon pump sprayer.
3. Imagine the meat as a 2”x2” grid and put a small amount of liquid in each of those grids. This technique takes some trial and error but done correctly there will be little if any liquid “escape” the meat overnight.
4. Put a generous coating of your favorite rub on, cover and refrigerate 8 hours minimum, or overnight.
5. One hour prior to cooking, let the meat rest at room temperature, bring your smoker to 225 degrees, then put meat on the smoker.
6. I’m using a charcoal smoker, which requires me to add wood each hour and ensure the smoker is maintaining temperature.
7. After five hours, check the internal temperature of the meat with a reliable meat thermometer. Once it reaches 160 degrees, remove.
8. Wrap butt in extra wide (18”), heavy duty aluminum foil and return to the smoker for 2-4 hours. I like to buy the large food service rolls of foil at the large discount warehouses or restaurant supply stores.
9. Once internal temperature of the wrapped meat is 190 degrees, remove from heat and let rest for one hour. DO NOT pull from heat if its “close” to 190, even a few degrees short won’t allow the internal membranes in the roast to break down, which greatly reduces tenderness and flavor.
10. After resting, put butt in heat safe container with high walls and remove foil (be careful, it will still be HOT!). I start pulling by removing the bone. There are many tried and true methods to shredding a pork butt. In this picture my son and I are using a combination of insulated gloves and bear paws. However, if I have 4 or more pork butts to shred, I have a claw that attaches to a cordless drill. That will make QUICK work of the job, but wow it makes a MESS. Therefore, you need to have enough meat to make the mess worthwhile.
Most importantly, ENJOY! This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy “corn in all forms”. Because it’s hard to argue, corn in the form of pork is hard to beat!
- 1 C unsweetened apple juice
- 1 T Worcestershire Sauce
- 2 T Kosher Salt
- 1 T Brown Sugar
Enough for one Boston Butt Roast, adjust accordingly.
- 1 T kosher salt
- 1 T brown sugar
- 2 t paprika (use smoked paprika if you can find it)
- 1 t chili powder
- 1 t granulated garlic (NOT garlic powder)
- 1 t mustard powder
- 1 t black pepper
This is enough for one Boston Butt Roast; I also use on ribs. It will keep well in an air-tight container, I like to make a large batch to have on hand for quick seasoning.
Tangy and Spicy Carolina Sauce
- 1 C ketchup
- 1 C apple cider vinegar
- ¼ C brown sugar
- 1 T Worcestershire sauce
- 1 T hot sauce
- 1 t Salt
Combine ingredients in saucepan, heat on medium until it simmers, reduce heat, simmer for five minutes, stirring regularly.