Pulled Pork Recipe for your Grill

Our pulled pork recipe guides you through the indirect cooking method to attain a succulent, fall apart, smoked pork wonder, on your charcoal or gas grill.

Our ancestors roasted these critters over a hot wood fire, with the meat slowly turned on a spit. Tedious and boring, to say the least.

Bless the modern BBQ grill, friends and good libations.

It's far more fun to cook a roast on a backyard grill! Indirect heat, smoke, a careful watch of the temperature, and our pulled pork recipe, will assure your backyard fame.

We believe that...

"Barbecue is the Mystical Communion of Fire, Smoke and Meat"

Review our "6 Secrets to Smoking Meat" page, to assure your pulled pork is a competition-grade winner!

If you have a smoker, Please visit "Pulled Pork Recipe For Your Smoker" page, for a competitor level pulled pork recipe for your charcoal or gas smoker.

The stuff you'll need:

Note: We've added in-context links to some of our pages, and to some great products we know, and use extensively.

Patience  Low and slow is the real secret to a great pulled pork recipe. We're talking temperatures of 200-230°F/93-110°C for several hours. You'll need a bucket load of this virtue when you smoke pork on a grill. Figure about 1.0-1.5 hours/lb.

Gas/charcoal grill  A gas grill, with at least two burners, is needed for indirect cooking. A kettle type charcoal grill (our very favorite being the Weber Kettle Grill), or a rectangular charcoal grill will work great also.

Be certain you have plenty of gas, or charcoal, for the duration! For charcoal cookers, figure at least 8 lbs/3.6kg.

Meat  Pulled pork is made with the pork shoulder. A whole shoulder weighs around 12-16 lbs/5.5-7.3kg, however it is usually packaged in the supermarkets as two cuts. A Shoulder Butt (Boston Butt) and a Picnic Butt (Arm Picnic Roast or just Picnic Roast). Butts weigh in at about 9-10lbs/4.0-4.5kg with picnics at 5-6lbs/2.3-2.7kg, and either are great for this pulled pork recipe.

NOTE: Bone-in or boneless is your choice with Picnic roasts. We like the bone-in for flavor, however the boneless does cook faster.

Spices  Our pulled pork recipe calls for a rub, and enjoy putting together our own with these basic fresh ingredients:

  • Salt (Kosher preferred)
  • Sugar (turbinado or brown)
  • Paprika (Hungarian much preferred for best flavor)
  • Pepper, black (fresh ground!)
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin (ground)
  • Cayenne pepper (ground)
  • Mustard (dry)
  • Coriander (ground)
  • Thyme (dried leaves, crushed)

Go to our Dry Rub Recipes for more on rub preparation.

Hardwood chunks/chips  Use only hardwood for any grill. For smoked brisket we like Hickory, Oak, or Mesquite, or a combination.

Smoker box, or pouch  Some gas grills come with a smoker box for the wood chips. If yours does not have one, you can get this heavy-duty beauty, or make an envelope/pouch from heavy-duty aluminum foil. We buy the 18" box of foil and pull out about 18" for the envelope. Put about 4 cups of pre-soaked (in cold water for about an hour) chips on the foil; fold into a flat envelope/pouch shape, and poke a several slices in the top to release the smoke.

Tongs  You need a darn good pair of tongs to handle a pork roast. Long and strong is the secret, like our two favorites, the Weber  Professional-Grade Chef's Tongs or the Oxo Good Grips 16-Inch Locking Tongs.

Gloves  From our experience, and a preference of most grill-masters, a good set of BBQ gloves for handling the meat, are mandatory. We love and use these Barbecue Insulated Food Gloves for "pulling" the pork and wrestling any roast off the grill or smoker.

Aluminum roasting pan (disposable, for ease of clean-up)  To keep the juices from causing flare-ups, and to provide moisture. If you do not have a convenient market close by, we've found Weber's Aluminum Drip Pans (Set of 10) an excellent buy.

Oven/Grill thermometer  This is very important as we've found that the thermometers on the smokers are often off by several degrees. Our favorites are the CDN High Heat Oven Thermometer and the Admetior Kitchen Oven Thermometer.

Instant-read thermometer  To "pull" pork, the meat must reach the ideal temperature of 190°F/88°C. For pork roast we want 140°F/60°C. Our two favorite, accurate, inexpensive tools are the fast reading CDN Proaccurate Quick-Read Digital Thermometer and the faster Thermoworks Super Fast Water-Resistant Digital Pocket Thermometer.

Chimney-type charcoal starter  For the charcoal smoker folks, this is the best way to start, and maintain, the coals. In our opinion, you can't beat the Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter for quality and ease of operation.

To rub, or not to rub... If you simply smoked a pork roast with no rub, it will be an absolutely wonderful, succulent hunk o' meat! But for our pulled pork recipe we love a great rub to enhance the meat's flavors so...

Our pulled pork recipe starts with a rub:

Mix together thoroughly the following:

  • 1 cup salt
  • 4 tbsp garlic powder
  • 4 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsp ground thyme
  • 2 tbsp ground bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp celery seed
  • 2 tbsp Hungarian paprika

Out of time? Don't want to mess with making a rub? Do what we do in a clinch... use Pappy's Choice Seasoning. It's a favorite with many professional chefs!

Now, let's prepare the meat...

NOTE: Pork should be always kept in the refrigerator (below 40°F/4.4°C) prior to preparation.

Trim the any skin and excess fat (leave about a 1/4" layer) from the roast. Rinse, pat dry with paper towel.

We like to apply the rub the day before "fire" time for the most effect, but try to do it at least 2 hours ahead, using this method...

Apply the rub liberally all over the meat, working it in thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until an hour or so before cooking. It is best to allow the pork to come close to room temperature before putting it on the grill.

Get the grill ready

  • For the gas grill folks, fire-up all burners, and get the temperature to hold at 210-225°F/99-107°C. We found it to be imperative that a good oven thermometer, placed on the meat (cooler) side of the cooking grill, be used to ensure that the cooking temperature is true. Note that the lid thermometer will indicate a higher temperature, and that number should be used only as a reference.

           When the temperature is reached, shut down all but one burner.

  • Place the smoker-can/smoker pouch, over the hot burner, close the grill and let the smoke get started. This will be the last time, during the cooking cycle, you will have anything to do with the smoke. Too much smoke when you smoke pork makes the meat bitter tasting, and the smoke process is actually done in the first couple of hours.

For the charcoal grill, fire-up the charcoal...we like the chimney charcoal starter because it's the quickest and easiest way to start, and maintain the coals. For this pulled pork recipe, you'll need to replenish the coals occasionally, to maintain the ideal temperature of around 210-230°F/99/110°C. Use your oven thermometer, placed near the meat, to keep track of the heat.

NOTE: Please, if you use a charcoal lighter fluid, allow the coals to burn to a grey ash coating. Never use self starting charcoal. There are several good "fire-starters" on the market that will not taint the meat, or impart potentially dangerous chemicals to the food.

  • For the Weber-style cookers...start with about 45-50 briquettes. Let them get to a white/gray color. Bank the coals to one side of the grill and open the bottom and top vent fully.

           For the rectangular-type grill, place the coals on one side. You                  
           will need to add more hot coals (about 8 or so) several times  
           during the cooking cycle, to maintain the temperature. Watch
           the temp. and anticipate this with about a 15 minute lead.

  • Charcoal grills require that you control the temperature with the bottom/side vents. Open the vent for more oxygen (heat). Adjust the top vent to at least half open, and leave it alone.
  • Put the smoker box/pouch over the coals. Now, close the grill and let the smoke get started. This will be the last time, during the cooking cycle, you will have anything to do with the smoke. Too much smoke makes the pork bitter tasting, and smoking is actually done in the first couple of hours.

Cook 'Em

NOTE: Always use tongs! Never use that forked, sharp, pokey-thing that comes with all backyard barbecue tool sets. It is for carving meat only! It will pierce the meat, and allow the juices to run out.

When the grill temperature has reached 250-275°F/121-135°C...

  • Place the roast in the pan, on the grill, opposite side of the fire, fat side up, to begin cooking. Maintain the temperature at 210-225°F/99-107°C. Close the lid, with the vent opposite the roast (to pull the heat and smoke towards the meat), and...
  • Resist peeking! You're loosing precious heat and smoke. Open the lid only long and far enough to do the job.
  • With tongs in hand, check the meat for the first time in about an hour. Make sure the temperature is holding. For a charcoal grill, add hot(gray) briquettes (about 8-10). You will need to check again in about 45 minutes to ensure the grill temperature has not dropped. Add prepared coals (8-12 per hour) as needed.
  • Rotate the meat (quickly)about every 30-40 minutes, to cook evenly.
  • You have time! If you have judiciously maintained the cooking temperature, peeked, you can leave your station several times before the pork is done. Towards the end, grab that instant-read thermometer and...
  • Check the roast(s) at the thickest part, not touching a bone, and look for 190°F/88°C for pulled pork, and 140°F/60°C for a pork roast. Pull it off of the grill and rest the meat for about 20-30 minutes. This allows the juices to flow back to the center, and to finish cooking.

Our pulled pork recipe will produce a wonderful, natural flavor, but if you wish (or if you must) you can now bring out your favorite BBQ sauce and...

Serve it!...

You can now "pull" the meat. We just use gloves, and a couple of forks (it's hot!), to separate the good stuff out. Place it in a pan/pot, over low heat, to keep the meat warm for serving.

This pulled pork recipe will give you an exceptionally moist, tender roast, perfect as is, but many folks like to have a "finishing" or table sauce with their meat. This can be any barbecue sauce you enjoy, or a traditional "Southern U.S., vinegar based barbecue sauce" served in a bowl along with your pulled pork. Try this traditional favorite:

Old Time Eastern North Carolina Barbecue Sauce Recipe

  • 1/2 pound butter
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (white will work also)
  • 3 tblsp lemon juice (approx. 1 lemon)
  • 1 1/2 tblsp Worcestershire sauce (preferably Lea & Perrins)
  • 1 tblsp honey
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper (fresh ground if you have it)

Once the butter is melted in a saucepan, stir in all but the vinegar, and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the vinegar, and allow the sauce to cool.

Lets eat!

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