…OK, so I may leave out a tip or two and you won’t find any ingredient lists in this post, but it will cover the ‘Basics’ of Pulled Pork! I just know that I will be typing this again, but to get it out there up front…there are LOTS of different ways to do Pulled Pork…I’m not sayin’ that ours is the BEST…(I think it is, though! …I’m just sayin’ that this is Kinda’ how WE do it! Also…you could use the same techniques with just about any cooking method capable of maintaining a temp for long periods of time! SO…once again…as with all things “Q”….experiment and find out how YOU like it…this is just a place to start if you want!
OK, so most folks (including US) use primarily ‘Boston Butt’ or ‘Blade Roast’ to do Pulled Pork. I’ve mentioned before that this is the top half of the front shoulder and it’s a pretty tough cut of meat with a fair amount of fat and LOTS of connective tissue! When I am cooking for my family and friends…I cook the whole front shoulder which also includes the ‘Picnic Roast’ or lower half of the shoulder.
We ALWAYS cook ‘Bone In’, but you can Google up all kinds of debate on the topic…so instead of suggesting that it’s the ‘best’ method, I’ll just tell you why; Them Bones have FLAVOR!!! (LOTS of it!!!), in addition…they and the tissues that connect the muscle to them will add moisture as they slowly breakdown during the long cooking process. Finally, they heat up and provide a gentle way of warming the meat from the inside out!
OK, with that all out of the way…you need to get your cooking vessel ready! Hopefully it’s a BIG smoker and well seasoned, but even if it’s an Old Smokey….as long as you can hold a temp….this is gonna’ be GOOD! Bring the internal temp up to about 225ºF or lower. (HINT: We cook MUCH lower than that!) It’s a good place to start and then as you learn how to get that meat done just right, you can begin to lower the temps all the way down to 180ºF or 190ºF…it simply increases cooking time and changes a few things about the end product…all part of the learning process!
Before it ‘hits the smoke’, we first use a light coat of oil and then liberally apply whatever Rub we use on that meat…for Pork it’s our ‘House Rub’. We use the oil for two reasons; it helps to get the rub into all the crevices in the meat and it also facilitates a more even heating of the cut. Once they are rubbed, we let every cut come up to ‘room temperature’ before they ‘hit the smoke’. ‘Room Temperature’ to me is whatever the ambient air temperature at your smoker is. (I mean in the warmer months…if it’s 16 degrees outside…let your meat come up to at least 60 degrees or so!) We do this because we think that it ‘Relaxes’ the meat AND it helps to form a ‘tacky’ outer surface that readily accepts smoke!
Then it’s off to the smoker! We start them on the ‘Warm Spots’ and then move them to the ‘cooler spots’ in about 2 hours. As our style is ALL about Eastern North Carolina, we mop every 2 hours with a Vinegar/Shallot/Jalapeno Mop sauce in order to build an INCREDIBLE ‘Bark’ or crust on the outside of the meat…all that flavor gets pulled into the mix in the end!
SO…when IS the end? Well, we firmly believe in cooking by the Thermometer and NOT the Clock…it yeilds a better result and will give you a much better understanding of how meat cooks! Here’s a news flash; no two hogs cook exactly alike and no two cuts will be done at exactly the same time! SO…it’s all about practice and patience…a hallmark of BBQ!
What Temp you ask??? Why that might be TMI (Too Much Info) to ask for, BUT I’ll tell you that they come off the smoker at about 180ºF internally and then they get fully wrapped in foil. They are covered with blankets and allowed to rest for a bit. Typically an hour, but again we look for a specific temperature!
After they rest, we put them in a sturdy container that we use specifically for pulling, then we put on some thick, insulated gloves and remove the bones. DON’T throw those ‘Blade’ bones away…they make a MIGHTY tasty Split Pea Soup or a nice, smokey Pork Stock!!! Then we use ‘Bear Claws’ to hand pull the pork until it’s done the way we like! Some folks pull by hand, but I think it can lead to ‘mushy meat’ of not done right…your choice!
As we pull, we sprinkle a bit more of our rub and we drizzle the Vinegar Mop sauce into it very lightly. Then you can put that on a roll with some Lexington Red Slaw and a spot of our (VERY Vinegary) BBQ Sauce and HOLY COW!!! That’s What I’m Talkin About!!! It’s GREAT food that takes time to prepare……your family and friends will smell, see and taste the LOVE! Good luck on your journey…let me know if I can help!