An Easy Pulled Pork Recipe for Your Barbecue Smoker

You have discovered the pulled pork recipe that was developed from our belief that authentic barbecue is "the mystical communion of fire, smoke and meat".

Smoked Pork Butt Roast

Pulled Pork Done Right!

Your smoker can produce one of the most succulent, tender, and flavorful meats that your primitive instincts crave! Think about pulled pork, slow roasted over an aromatic hardwood smoke, accompanied by that impossible-to-beat traditional Southern "finishing sauce".

You backyard-tong-wielders will enjoy the simple steps of our pulled pork recipe secrets, all to win endless accolades!

You can do pulled pork on your barbecue grill! Please visit our "Pulled Pork Recipe For Your Grill" page, for a competitor level pulled pork recipe for your charcoal or gas grill.

We wrote this pulled pork recipe, from our experience with wet-pan type backyard smokers, for our backyard barbecue chefs.

Please visit "The 6 Secrets" page, for competitor level barbecue tips!

Let's put it all together starting with...

Secret #1...Great Meat

You Want Fresh! Whether you want to roast a whole hog, or a shoulder cut, get the freshest meat you can find. Period. Now, which cut?

For the "Cookin' Cousins" pulled pork recipe, we like the whole shoulder (12-16 lbs./5.4-7.3kg). It has tons of flavor and the fat needed to keep the meet moist and tender. Fat is good...especially when roasting over smoke for extended period of time. If you can find a whole shoulder-cut, all the better!

However, you are usually going to find the shoulder offered in two parts - a Boston Butt (9-10lbs/4.0-4.5kg) and the Picnic Roast (5-6lbs/2.3-2.7kg). If you have the space in your smoker, buy both. Especially important when the gang is showing up! But really, it makes little difference which you choose; they are both perfect for a great pulled pork.

NOTE: We like to buy "bone-in" with the Picnic roast, as it really adds to the flavor! Boneless Picnic roast cooks faster, however.

Smokes, and rubs, have a hard time penetrating the skin! If the shoulder has a lot of skin, ask the meat cutter to remove most of it, and leave as much fat as possible. If you must do it, use a very sharp knife!

If you put the pork in the smoker with no rub, it will turn out a smoked, fall apart wonder! But for our pulled pork recipe, and for sheer epicurean pleasure, we believe...

Secret #2...Great Spices

A great pulled pork recipe starts with a rub!

Use the freshest/best spices you can:

Pulled Pork Rub Recipe

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Paprika
  • 2 tblsp coarse Salt (sea or kosher)
  • 2 tblsp Black Pepper
  • 1 tblsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 4 tsp Cumin
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 tsp Onion Powder
  • 2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 2 tsp Thyme Powder
  • 2 tsp Sage
  • 2 tsp Coriander Powder

Mix all together.

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...

Slather the roast with any common yellow table mustard. This will allow the spices to stick close to the meat, does not impart a flavor, and is a competitor's secret!

Apply the rub liberally, work it in thoroughly all over the meat, 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 in the smoker.

If you have a time crunch, we've found a secret used by many professional cooks; Pappy's Choice Seasoning! This stuff's great!

Now let's get started with...

Secret #3...Great Tools

You will need:

Patience  Low and slow is the real secret to a great pulled pork. We're talking a temperatures of 225-235°F/107-113°C for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours/lb (.45-.68 kg). Secret #5 "Timing"

Smoker  We much prefer the vertical front door types for ease of use. Two great cookers we enjoy are the Masterbuilt 2-Door Propane Smoker, and the little more expensive 36 inch Vertical Stainless Steel Propane Smoker by Weston.

Oven/Grill thermometer  You will see that we are quite redundant concerning the temperatures! It is very important, and this tool is the only way you will really know what's going on inside the smoker! Our favorites are the CDN High Heat Oven Thermometer or the Admetior Kitchen Oven Thermometer.

Instant-read thermometer  To "pull" pork, the meat must reach the ideal temperature of 212°F/100°C. We use the inexpensive, fast reading CDN ProAccurate Quick Read Thermometer and the Thermoworks Super Fast Water-Resistant Digital Pocket Thermometer. They are our choice for every day use due to their accuracy and construction. The only instant-read thermometer that that we know to be faster, and a choice of professionals (albeit rather expensive), is the Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen - Instant Read Thermometer.

Tongs/Spatula  You need a darn good pair of tongs to handle the roast. Long and strong is the secret, so we like the Weber Professional-Grade Chef's Tongs and the Oxo Good Grips 16-Inch Locking Tongs.

A heavy duty spatula is also very handy for releasing the roast from the grill. Again, long and strong, like the OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Spatula is most important.

Insulated Food Gloves  No need for tongs or a spatula. These things are fantastic for handling, and "pulling", the finished roast! We love our insulated barbecue gloves for fast, no-burnt-fingers, pulling and sorting.

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

Hardwood chunks/chips  You should use only hardwood for smoking pulled pork. Hickory and Oak are the old tradition, but Cherry, Apple, Pecan, (or a combination) will work great. You might want to avoid mesquite, or alder, as they are quite strong for pulled pork. Secret #6 "Smoke"

Our pulled pork recipe is written for the vertical 'box", or "bullet" wet-pan type smokers, regardless of the heat source, so let's start with...

  • Fill the water pan to within an inch of the top (or at least 2/3 full). Use hot water to avoid wasting fuel.

NOTE: If you are using a charcoal fired smoker, soak 3-4 cups of hardwood chips/chunks for about 20-30 minutes, drain, and place them directly on the coals, once the smoker has reached temperature. This will be sufficient for the entire cooking period, regardless of the addition of more coals. Too much smoke = bitter and nasty!

  • For gas or electric smokers, place the chips/chunks (pre-soaked in water for about 20-30 minutes) in the wood chip box. One full box of chips will be sufficient for the whole cooking time.
  • Fire-up the cooker and get the temperature to about 225-235°F/107-113°C and prepare to keep that temperature as steady as you can for the ideal pulled pork recipe.

Charcoal cookers control the temperature using the bottom vents only. The top vent should always remain open, and not used to control oxygen intake. Each cooker is different so, experience rules!

Cook 'Em...

  • Place the roast(s) in the center of the grates. If you are using an offset horizontal smoker, we recommend that you place a pan of water in with the roast.
  • Close the cooker (did you remember to put the oven thermometer on the grate?) Let the smoker recover the heat loss, and keep it at about 225-235°F/107-113°C.
  • Resist peeking! You're loosing precious heat. Open the lid/door only far enough to do the job and don't tarry. Check the temperature for the first time after about 20 minutes, to make sure the temperature is holding, and then periodically as necessary.
  • You have time! If you have judiciously maintained the cooking temperature, you can leave your station several times before the pork is done. When approaching the end of the cooking time, grab the instant-read thermometer and...
  • Check the roast at the thickest part of the meat, looking for an ideal temperature of 190°F/88°C.Now, take the meat off of the fire and let stand for about 20-30 minutes before pulling.

Serve it!...

You can now "pull" or carve the meat. Use a couple of forks and you will be able to separate the good stuff out. Place it in a 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.

For more pulled pork recipe barbecue sauce choices, please visit our Barbecue Sauce Recipe page.

Let's eat!

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