So, my friends, I am sharing with you our recipe for Perfect Pulled Pork today. We start by brining our pork shoulder or pork butt. We follow that with a pulled pork rub, which imparts wonderful spicy, sweet and smoky flavor, before we put the pork on our grill with a smoker box. We remove the smoked pork shoulder from the grill and finish our bbq pulled pork in the slow cooker. Also sharing our tips for reheating pulled pork.
But first, the backstory; cuz you know I’m all about the backstory.
We spent 10 years living in a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee. Both of my babies were born there and we have nothing but very fond memories of that town. We were there when Garth Brooks was taking country music by storm and when Keith Urban was just being ‘discovered’.
We lived 5 minutes from Waylon Jennings’ home and my kids grew up singing ‘Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line’ like other kids grow up singing ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider.’
Nashville is a great foodie town and living in Nashville also spoiled us with all the great barbecue offerings available. There was a little hole in the wall barbecue restaurant 3 miles from our home that we frequented often and always when friends and family were in town.
Sadly, that little barbecue restaurant (Herbert’s) is no longer there, but then again, neither are we! All this to say, my family loves their baby back ribs and pulled pork AND we have very high standards.
When I worked at Williams-Sonoma several years ago it seems like everyone ended up with a Williams-Sonoma gift under the Christmas tree. One Christmas, Terry was gifted with a smoker box for our gas grill in the hopes that we might be able to replicate Herbert’s pulled pork.
Ever since then we’ve been working to perfect our smoked pork shoulder or butt. Our first efforts were ‘eh’, but we persevered and now have it down to a science. Making a great pulled pork really isn’t difficult, it just takes time. We do believe that the brine, the pulled pork rub and finishing the bbq pulled pork in a slow cooker are important elements of our success.
It’s not the kind of meal that you can decide in the morning to make for dinner that night. It does take a little forethought, but it is worth every bit of that advance planning.
And I’ll make a disclaimer right here…if you have a dedicated smoker or are a barbecue purist, you might not see a need for finishing your bbq pulled pork in a slow cooker or crockpot. However, after several different tries, we are more than willing to throw bbq traditions to the wind because this is some outstanding pulled pork. Here are our suggestions for perfect pulled pork.
What Cut of Meat Should I Use?
If you ask 10 people, you will probably get 5 who swear by smoking a pork shoulder for your pulled pork and 5 who say you absolutely must use a pork butt for your bbq pulled pork.
Both cuts come from the shoulder of the pig, but the butt has more marbling throughout the meat. I have used both with success.
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Tips for Perfect Smoked Pork Shoulder or Butt
- Since we don’t have a dedicated smoker, we use our gas grill and it works just fine. Without a smoker, you will need a smoker box. You put your wet wood chips in the box over your heat element and the smoke comes out the perforations in the box. We like Hickory, but Weber makes Applewood, Pecan, Mesquite, and Cherrywood. If you don’t have a smoker box, you can make one with aluminum foil as shown here.
- You need a thermometer that can stay in your grill. We have one built into our grill, but use a second just to be sure.
- You will also need a meat thermometer.
- Soak your woodchips at least 15 minutes before you put them in your smoker box. Tip: it’s better to use too few than too many chips in your smoker box. Ideally, you will have a single layer that you will replenish or replace a couple of time throughout the day. We just keep chips soaking in the water next to our grill. We also keep a small aluminum trash can to discard the burnt chips that are no longer smoking. When they are completely black, discard them. We discard the blackened chips about 3-4 times during the 12-15 hour smoking period.
- Plan to start the process for your smoked pork shoulder or butt 48-72 hours before you plan to eat it. There is very little hands-on time; however, during the time your pork is on the grill, you do need to be around to make sure that the temperature is remaining constant at 225° and to replenish or replace your wet wood chips.
- Here’s our schedule when making our pulled pork:
Morning 2 days before you plan to eat your pulled pork…Brine (recipe below) your pork shoulder
Morning 1 day before you plan to eat your pulled pork …Coat pork with pulled pork rub (recipe below). Really work the pulled pork rub into the pork to impart the most flavor and then place it on your grill with a smoker box
Evening 1 day before you plan to eat your pulled pork…Take your smoked pork from the grill after 12-15 hours of smoking at 225° and put the bbq pulled pork in your slow cooker or crock-pot on low (with balls of aluminum foil to prevent pork from resting in liquid) with a can of beer and a tablespoon of liquid smoke overnight.
The bbq pulled pork in your slow cooker will be finished late morning or early afternoon on the day you want to eat it. Pull it apart with forks and put the pulled pork in a lidded container in your refrigerator, with the defatted liquid from the crockpot. Whatever you do, don’t toss the defatted liquid, you will want to use it for storing and reheating your pulled pork leftovers.
I separate the fat from the liquid using one of my fav kitchen gadgets…a fat/grease separator. Your biggest challenge now will be keeping fingers out of the container of deliciousness that is beckoning from your refrigerator.
- One 7-9 pound pork shoulder
- Smokey Barbecue Sauce
- 2 Quarts Water
- 1 1/2 Cup Kosher Salt
- 1 Cup Maple Syrup or Molasses
- 1/2 Cup Cider Vinegar
Rub for Pulled Pork
- 1/4 cup Dark Brown Sugar
- 2 TB Smoked Paprika
- 2 TB Chili Powder
- 2 TB Dry Mustard
- 1 TB Salt
- 2 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1 tsp Celery Salt
- 1 tsp Cumin
- 1 cup Ketchup
- 1/2 cup Water
- 1/4 cup Vinegar
- 2 TB Dark Brown Sugar
- 1/2 TB Onion Powder
- 1/2 TB Ground Powdered Mustard
- 1 TB Lemon Juice
- 1 TB Liquid Smoke
- 1 TB Worcestershire Sauce
- Between 48-72 hours before you plan to eat your pulled pork, brine it using the recipe below.
- 36 hours before you plan to eat your pulled pork, soak 2 cups of dried wood chips in water and coat your pork with the rub as described in the rub recipe.
- Warm up one side of grill so that grill temperature is 225'
- Put wood chips in your smoker box or an aluminum foil pouch as described above and put on grill over the elements that are on or coals that are lit.
- Place pork shoulder directly on a grate on the side of grill that does not have the direct heat underneath it.
- Check your grill frequently to make sure that temperature is staying around 225'.
- You want the internal temperature of the grill to reach 195'. Our experience is that even after being on the grill for 12-15 hours. the temperature is usually around 160'. At that point we take it off of the grill and put it in a crockpot on top of 5 aluminum foil balls to keep it from resting on the bottom of the crockpot.
- Pour 1 can of beer into crock pot, but not on top of pork. Add 1 Tablespoon of liquid smoke to beer.
- Turn crockpot on low for 12 hours.
- Pork is usually ready about 12 hours after it has been put in crockpot.
Brine for Pulled Pork
- Place salt, molasses and 2 cups of the water in a pot and heat up intil the salt begins to dissolve.
- Add remaining water and vinegar
- Pour mixture over pork in a large pot with a lid
- Place pork in refrigerator for a minimum of 12 hours and up to 48 hours
Rub for Pulled Pork
- Mix all rub ingredients together
- With pork fat side down on your cutting board, coat as much of the shoulder with the rub as you can, reserving some for the fat side.
- Place shoulder, fat side up, on your grill and coat the fat side with the remaining rub
Smokey Barbecue Sauce
- Mix all ingredients in a sauce pan and let simmer for one hour.
- Will keep in refrigerator for 3 months
Adapted from Lynn | Nourish and Nestle
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 15 Serving Size: 1/3 pound
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 970Total Fat: 59gSaturated Fat: 21gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 32gCholesterol: 245mgSodium: 12244mgCarbohydrates: 43gFiber: 1gSugar: 39gProtein: 64g
How About Reheating Pulled Pork?
If you made your smoked pork shoulder ahead of time or have leftovers, let’s talk about reheating pulled pork.
If you have a vacuum sealer or sous vide, then put your pulled pork and some of the drippings into the vacuum bag or sous vide bag. Boil a pot of water, turn it off and place your bag of pulled pork into the water for about 30 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 165°.
Since we don’t have either of those, I have always reheated my pulled pork by putting it in a lidded pot on the stove with some of the liquid and warmed it very slowly until the temperature reaches 165°.
You could also reheat larger quantities of pulled pork by placing it in a baking pan, with some of the drippings, and covering the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Place the pan into a 250° oven for about 30 minutes until temperature reaches 165°.
And, if you are looking for some side dishes or accompaniments for your Perfect Pulled Pork, look to my friend Carol’s Potato Salad...the perfect pairing. And if you need a perfect dessert to finish your pulled pork dinner, how about some blueberry hand pies? Of course, you need a good, crisp dill pickle to accompany your barbecue… check out my jar-by-jar dill pickle recipe. If you love a crisp, crunch dill pickle, then you will love this recipe!
To refer back to this post with recipes for the brine, pulled pork rub and bbq sauce, bookmark this page or pin the following image.
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