Servings: 8 Prep: 20 min Cook: 9 hrs Total: 24-ish hrs
I LOVE Pulled Pork. I was born loving pulled pork. There’s just something safe and comforting in a big bowl of soft, moist and tender porky goodness. While it does take a long time, it’s also INCREDIBLY easy and almost impossible to mess up!
Beef Brisket tends to be Pulled Pork’s more difficult nemesis. Pulled pork is far more forgiving, especially if you leave all the fat and shoulder blade in place before you smoke it. It just seals in all the moisture, which has melted all throughout the muscle. Breaking it apart with a fork … couldn’t be easier.
At its core pulled pork can be eaten alone, almost at weights measured in pounds, not ounces. A personal favorite of mine is topped with a sugar free BBQ sauce and some melted cheddar cheese in a bowl. So … a BBQ Pork Bowl, if you will … Hmmm … maybe I’ll make that a recipe. Yep! BBQ Pork Bowl … coming soon! ☺ (Don’t you love how I type these things all stream of thought and what not?!)
If I’ve learned anything about roasting or smoking a pork butt (the shoulder of a pig, also known as “Boston Butt” … named after shipping barrels, a few hundred years ago) it’s that undercooking it is the crime … not “over” cooking it (also a crime, but MUCH harder to do). The trick is getting it up to an internal temperature between 195 F and 205 F. The funny thing is, it seems to want to “stall” at around 160 F, in my experience. It was also my instinct to get tired of watching it sit at this temperature for an hour and … would get impatient and take it out of the smoker, let it sit and cut it up. It was good, flavorful meat, but it was always tough and couldn’t be pulled. It was more like a roast than a sublime meaty lump of deteriorating shoulder meat. Eventually, I stuck to my guns and just let it go to 195 F. Shazam! Once it breaks through that wall around 160-165 F, it quickly blasts through the final 35 degrees and turns into a lusciously divine mound of bark covered heaven.
As I read more about this phenomenon, I learned that around 160 F is where all the internal magic happens. All the energy within the pork goes, not to a further rise in temperature, but to the melting and deterioration of the fat and tendons, which then oozes throughout the striations of the muscle.
Now I’m hungry! YUM!
Note: I was living in Mexico when I made this and was unable to find a standard bone-in pork shoulder. So, if mine looks a bit different than yours … this is the explanation. Also, the butchers twine was to hold together the strangely butchered lump of pork shoulder that I WAS able to locate. Didn’t keep it from being absolutely tasty, though!
Second Note: The high carb count is due to the brown sugar replacement. Feel free to omit this ingredient as it does little more than lend a touch of extra sweetness. Removing it doesn’t dramatically alter the recipe and will allow it to drop to near zero-carb levels.
Smoked and Pulled Pork ButtPrint Rate
- 1/4 cup mustard (your favorite!)
- 1 small onion peeled and cut into big chunks
- 12 whole garlic cloves tips removed
- 1 each pork butt bone-in (also known as "shoulder" or "boston butt" ... about 5 to 6 lbs)
- 2 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tbsp brown sugar equivalent
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh cracked black pepper
- 2 tbsp salt
- In a blender or food processor, puree the mustard, garlic and onion to make a paste.
- Wash the pork shoulder and pat it dry.
- Rub the mustard paste all over the outside of the pork, pushing it into any crevices that may exist. Create as thick a layer as is possible.
- Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl.
- Liberally coat the pork with the dry rub. If you have any that doesn't stick, save it and add the rest of it, the following morning.
- Wrap the pork in plastic wrap (or even better ... vacuum pack it!). Refrigerate it, overnight.
- The next morning, prepare your smoker. Pre-heat to between 215 F and 235 F (this can be done in an oven without smoke, and still tastes great, but ... loses that smoky quality). Depending on your approach to the smoking process, you can also soak some hickory, or other aromatic wood chips in some water at this point. Finally, put a drip pan filled with water on the rack beneath where the pork will go. Some of this water will evaporate helping maintain moisture and forming the outer layer of crust (known as bark) on the surface of the meat. It will also catch any fat, rather than causing flare ups in the fire ... or just making a big mess. Even if this is done on a pan in an oven, include a pan of water somewhere inside the oven.
- Take the pork out of refrigeration and unwrap it. Coat it with any remaining dry rub.
- Oil a rack inside the smoker. Place the pork on the smoker (not too close to the main heat source ... either set it aside or use a deflector) and close it up, maintaining the indirect heat somewhere between 215 and 235 F, by feeding the fire and controlling air flow with your damper (or just set the oven to this temperature and relax).
- Smoke the meat, occasionally adding aromatic chips to the fire, for roughly 1.5 hours per lb of meat. So, a 6 lb. pork butt will smoke for approximately 9 hours.
- Once the pork has reached a temperature around 200 F, remove it and place it somewhere warm and cover it with foil and a heavy towel. Let it relax for 1 hour, to let the juices within it reabsorb into the meat.
- Pull and serve!
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* Learn More: More about this recipe and nutrition …