Thursday, March 21, 2013

Smoked Pulled Pork!

Pulled pork is a great place to start for anyone just getting introduced to smoking meats. Smoked pulled pork is usually made from the shoulder of the pork; a whole shoulder can weigh up to 25 pounds but is probably closer to about 20-22 pounds. Unless you know a butcher, you probably won’t find a whole shoulder anyway. The shoulder generally gets cut into 2 pieces most commonly known as the Boston Butt and the picnic. Both of these cuts are pretty good, and both of them have bones in them, I prefer the Boston Butt because there isn’t as much connective tissue that you need to worry about and the bone is much smaller. Something to consider though, the butt is generally smaller than the picnic so, if you are looking to feed more people, go with the picnic, it will still be a great meal.

Another little side note. Pork butt is very forgiving, that’s part of the reason it’s a great place to start your smoking career but, because it’s so forgiving, I’ve found that pork butt is great to experiment with. I’ve used a lot of different types of woods, rubs and injections I’ve also tried smoking my butt with apple juice simmering below the meat or just plain old dry smoke. All in all, the next few steps I’ll give you are MY way of making smoked pulled pork… mess around with it, find out what works for you, and let me know if you have any tips!

First step, rinse your butt (you can expect a lot of these types of jokes throughout this post so, be prepared). No one likes a dirty butt (see I told you), and it’s good to rinse off anything leftover from the butchers saw and/or bacteria on the surface. After, you rinse make sure to pat dry the butt, you can even let it air dry while you prep everything for the rub down. I also like to trim some fat off the fat cap, don’t trim all of it because it adds to the flavor and I believe as the fat renders down it keeps everything very moist.

I adapted my rub from a recipe I found on He calls it his “Memphis Meat Dust” so; I’ll call mine Jay Dust the recipe goes as follows:

Jay Dust
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup paprika (use a good paprika, Hungarian or something like that, don’t go cheap here)
1/4 cup Kosher salt
1/4 cup garlic powder
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons ground ginger powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons ground rosemary
2 teaspoons thyme
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cumin

This recipe makes a lot of rub, I generally make it in a mason jar and it keeps for a few months that way, probably not any longer though. You can also poke holes in the top of a mason jar lid and use it as a shaker, then put another lid on it that doesn’t have holes for when you store it.

When you are ready to rub your butt J make sure to coat it in some vegetable oil first, a few tablespoons should do. A lot of people say that they will coat the butt in some mustard before the rub because it helps the rub stick, which is true. I use vegetable oil in place of mustard because it not only helps the rub stick but, it also helps the oil-soluble spices penetrate deeper into the meat making a great crust (or bark) after it’s cooked. Coat the butt with enough rub that there is no spot untouched, I usually eyeball it here, just make sure to cover everything.
After the oil and rub are applied, I usually wrap the butt in saran-wrap and let it sit in the fridge until its time to smoke. Ideally you will do this with at least 8 hours to spare; you want the spices to really stick to the meat to create a good bark. The saran-wrap also helps this process, you’ll notice after you pull the butt out of the fridge from sitting all the spices will really be stuck to the meat and moist, this is a good sign.

             Before we move on to the next step… let’s talk about different types of wood you can smoke with. There are A LOT, there’s cherry, mesquite, oak, hickory, apple, cherry, pecan to name a few. I’ve also heard of people smoking their meats with grape stems, corn cobs and some other interesting things. The key here is using a hard wood, don’t use something like pine or cedar, they don’t work. Also, different woods obviously produce different tasting smoke. A lot of people will jump right to mesquite because it seems like that is the most known flavor. I haven’t had a lot of good luck with mesquite though, it’s avery strong smoke and unless you use the perfect amount of wood, the smoke flavor starts to get a little bitter. Either way, pork is a light meat; it takes on smoke real easy so, you don’t need such a strong smoke as you would need for a brisket or something like that. I use apple wood almost exclusively with my pulled pork, it’s very flavorful, puts a great color on your meat, and most of all, I feel like it’s pretty forgiving, it’s hard to put in too much.

With that being said, it’s time to smoke your butt. Low and slow is the key here, there is a lot of meat and to be quite honest, it’s really not the best cut. There is a lot of connective tissue and fat that has to break down. The long period of time with low temperatures and that kiss of smoke will slowly break everything down and make that hunk of meat into a very tender, succulent meal you’ll never forget. I set my smoker at 225 degrees and use about 2 cups of apple chips through the first 5 or 6 hours. Sometimes I’ll put a pan of apple juice or something below, I feel like it adds a little flavor and keeps the meat moist, again, just my experience, not everyone does this.

Smoked pulled pork is not a quick meal, expect anywhere from 10 hours to 13 or 14 hours of smoke time. Make sure to have a way to take the temperature of the meat throughout the whole process. I have a smoker with a built in digital thermometer but, you can get thermometers that sit outside the smoker from amazon. Here’s the thing with pulled pork. You could technically cook this hunk of meat for 6 or 7 hours and have a perfectly safe (as far as temperature goes) piece of meat to eat. HOWEVER, this is not ideal, you are looking for a temperature of 190-200 degrees! (CDN Digital Programmable Probe Thermometer) I know, that sounds high but, trust me, you will be able to pull this pork so easily and I promise it will not be the slightest bit dry. When you are trying to get a piece of meat this big to that high of a temperature a strange phenomenon occurs at around 165-175. It’s called the “stall”. So, basically, the temperature will rise pretty consistently for the first 5 or 6 hours, then, the temperature will stall for a while. I’ve had it stall for anywhere from an hour to 3 or 4 hours. Now, it might not sound like a big deal but trust me, it’s infuriating, nerve-racking and if you can stand not to check the temperature every 5 minutes you’re a better person than me. Don’t try and raise the temperature, don’t try and adjust the thermometer DONT DO ANYTHING (trust me, I’ve tried it all). What you have to do though is just let the meat get past this stage(remember, it could take a few hours), once it does, it will start to consistently rise again to the 190’s where you want it.

When you are ready to pull out the pork from the smoker, be ready for a not so pretty looking piece of meat. It will almost look like a piece of space trash, very black, and charred, don’t worry though, it will taste amazing. The smoke turns your rub a pretty dark color so, everything is still edible. I usually let me butt sit (who doesn’t?) for about 15-20 minutes. This gives time for the meat to rest and the juices re-distribute themselves back throughout the meat. After that, it’s time to pull. If you did everything right and let you meat get to the right temperature, you should have no problems easily pulling the bone out with your hands. After that, I use my bear claws to do the shredding. The bear claws are a great tool, they make shredding the meat super quick and easy. They have a lot of cool uses so, definitely consider buying a pair. Bear Paw Meat Handler Forks

After the meat is shredded, serve away. It’s great just plain on a bun or add some good BBQ sauce if you desire. Hope you enjoy, let me know if you have any questions, comments or tips. I’ll have another post with my favorite recipe for leftover smoked pulled pork later.


All you need to know about barbecue