Home > BBQ > How to BBQ Pulled Pork

How to BBQ Pulled Pork

Now that you know how to BBQ ribs and brisket, it’s time to move on to my favorite BBQed meat: pulled pork. Pulled pork, which is also called pork butt, is my favorite because it’s cheap (less than $2/lb), delicious, and magic happens when you cook it (more on that later). Don’t be intimidated. Smoking an entire butt may sound daunting, but I assure you, it’s remarkably simple. So channel your inner Sir Mix-a-Lot and sing it with me: I LIKE BIG BUTTS AND I CANNOT LIE!

Pop's Pulled Pork

Click below if you can’t deny.

There are many ways to make pulled pork, and doing a Google search, it seems a slow cooker is used most frequently. In the wintertime, I think this is perfectly acceptable but 1) liquid smoke just isn’t the same and 2) a slow cooker doesn’t create a bark:

Where my dawgs at?

For those that haven’t had real pulled pork before, the bark is arguably the best part, as it is incredibly flavorful. Sure, it’s probably not the best thing to eat, but we’re all dying anyway, so we may as well enjoy what we eat.

For Pop, there are several keys to making excellent pulled pork:

  1. Internal temperature needs to reach at least 190°F for magic to happen – I like to take it to 195 or 200.
  2. The butt needs to rest at least 30 minutes after reaching the target temperature
  3. The sauce it is served with should be vinegary
  4. Each guest should get at least one substantial piece of bark

Selection

Pork butt is actually the shoulder. Confusing? A little, but when else can you walk up to a butcher and say, “I need 14lbs of butt!” I typically buy mine from Sam’s Club or Costco because they are cheaper than most grocery stores ($1.97/lb typically). The butts usually come two to a cryopack with a combined weight of 14lbs. That might seem like a lot of meat, and it is, but since you’re firing up your smoker, you may as well cook two butts – leftovers taste great reheated and can be frozen in single-serve portions to be used in sandwiches later. I use a Weber 2820 and I can squeeze 6 butts in there – it’s the same size as the 18.5″ Weber, but I recommend doing up to 4 at a time. In my experience, even the most ravenous carnivore can consume no more than 2lbs of butt, so if you’re smoking 4 butts make sure you have a lot of guests coming over or be prepared to eat leftovers for a week or more. Not that that’s a bad thing. :-P

Preparation

I like to begin preparations at least 18 hours before my guests arrive. Seasoning the butts, wrapping them in plastic wrap, and putting them in the fridge overnight will season the butt nicely, albeit not very deeply, but I don’t have much room in my fridge, so seasoning shortly before smoking is typically my method.

If you are concerned about consuming too much fat from animals, well, you probably shouldn’t be eating pork butt :-P but you can trim most of the fat. Since I’m fairly lazy, I like to trim off the really large parts of the fat cap (the really thick layer of fat on top of the butt) and leave the rest of it on. You can trim off as much or as little as you want; just keep in mind two things: smoke won’t penetrate through fat and smoked fat is delicious. So trim accordingly.

Next season the butt by giving it a nice rub. That’s right. Rub your butt. If you’d like, coat the butt in yellow mustard first as it will help the rub adhere to the meat – don’t worry, your pulled pork won’t taste like mustard. Just be warned: you’re going to need a lot of rub. Here’s my recipe:

Pop’s Rub (scaled for 2 butts)

1/2C brown sugar
1/2C chili powder
1/2C paprika
2TBS kosher salt
2TBS garlic powder
2TBS coarse ground black pepper
4tsp onion powder
4tsp ground mustard
3tsp ground cumin
0-6tsp of cayenne pepper – depending on how much heat you like

Cooking

Assemble your cooker per the instructions and place the beef onto the grates FAT SIDE UP – that’s bolded and caps because it’s that important. Place two to three chunks of smoke wood on top of the coals. I usually use chunks of 2 hickory and one apple wood, or I’ll mix it up with an oak chunk.

A note on soaking and removing bark: if you’re using wood chunks, no need to soak them. Even after an overnight soak, water won’t penetrate the wood very deep. If you don’t have wood chunks and don’t have time to go out to a hardware store and buy some, use wood chips but make sure you soak them for at least 30 minutes, otherwise, you’ll be smoking for a few minutes tops. I also don’t remove the bark because 1) it’s a good bit of work and 2) I haven’t noticed any undesirable flavors as a result of leaving the bark on. Click here for a picture of an unsoaked, bark-on hickory wood chunk after smoking for 3 hours – it’s still got plenty of smoke time left.

Make sure you maintain the temperature in your cooker around 225-250°F. Using the Minion Method, I typically need to add 15-20 briquettes after about 12 hours, but do what you need to do to keep the cooker at the right temperature throughout the cook.

So I’ve stated a few times that magic happens when you smoke pork butt. The magic is taking cheap pork that is usually terrible to eat due to the large amount of connective tissue and turning it into succulent, juicy, and delicious meat that is a pleasure to eat. For that to happen, you have to get the butts to at least 190°F. I once was in a rush and was only able to smoke the pork to 175°F. While it tasted good and the meat was juicy, the collagen didn’t quite convert to gelatin so there were some very chewy bites.

As a result, I recommend leaving a probe thermometer in the pork butt if the weather allows to monitor the internal temperature. Check the thermometer regularly and also probe at other points on the butt as the temperature reading will usually differ drastically. I usually check every two hours after 8 hours of cooking.

The temperature will normally stall at about 160°F for several hours. If you’re in a rush, wrap the butts in foil, keep the probe thermometer in one of them, and throw them in the oven (set to 225 or 250, or even higher if you need) until they reach 190°F. If you do, don’t worry – the butts usually don’t absorb much more smoke after that point.

As far as basting goes, use a mixture of apple juice or cider vinegar and your rub and baste after 10 and 14 hours, and every 4 hours  thereafter if your butts needs more time.

Once the butts reach the target temperature (190°F minimum; 205°F and the pork will practically crumble in your hands), wrap them in foil and throw them in a cooler for at least 30 minutes.

This might seem like a lot of work, but it’s really, really simple. And besides, look at the fruit of your labor!

Slicing the butt

I sliced the butt to show you the amazing cross-section.

Guess what this is called? Butt cheeks!

Note the bark, smoke ring, and the tender, tender meat.

All up on my butt

Don’t you want to put my butt in your mouth?

I like big butts and I cannot lie

Now it’s time to pull. At 190°F, the bone just falls right off. Pull the pork into good-sized chunks.

Pulling the pork

You can use your hands…

The delicate hands of a surgeon

And you’ll get nice looking chunks:

Smokey goodness

However, it’s REALLY hot (remember, the meat is at 190°F minimum). So if you can’t or don’t want to take it, use two forks:

If you can't handle the heat...use two forks

Notice how the meat is stringier?

Filling up the tray

As a result, I typically hand-pull half and use forks for the rest. And there’s no right way to pull pork, so just do it.

Carnage

And it’s going to be tough, but try to refrain from eating too much of the meat while you’re pulling.

Yup...still pulling

It’ll take a while, but look at all this goodness!

Veritable AYCE

BARK!!!

Mmmmm...bark

Looks good, huh?

That's a lot of butt

Trust me: it smells and tastes even better. Admittedly, these pictures are quite a tease. I apologize.

I could stare at this butt all day

And I think I will

Are you hungry yet?

Yield: 28lbs (pre-cooking weight) of butt

That’s a lot of butt!

Oh, almost forgot. Here’s a good basic BBQ sauce for pork butt:

Pop’s Vinegary BBQ Sauce

1C Ketchup
1C Apple cider Vinegar
1/2C Brown Sugar
2TBS Worcestershire sauce
1TBS of the rub of your choice
1TBS of Tabasco*
2tsp of Crushed red pepper flakes*
2tsp of Cayenne pepper*
2tsp of Black pepper*

Combine all ingredients in medium sauce pan, simmer over low heat.
* – if you want it spicy

So July 4th is a little over a month away. Are you going to make burgers and hot dogs again?! Make this fourth of July a memorable one by putting your butt in you friend’s mouths. And invite me over while you’re at it. :-)

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  1. Alicia
    June 1, 2010 at 10:26 am

    It is 10:25 am and all I want is your butt. :)

    • Pop
      June 1, 2010 at 11:16 am

      haha~ I’m flattered.

  2. June 1, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Wow – nice butt Pop! :) Sorry, couldn’t resist. YUM YUM YUM. I love pork butt. My guy usually wraps it in banana leaves and smokes it all day ala Kalua Pig you get at Hawaiian BBQ places. I’ll have to see if I can persuade (i.e. get him to think it was his own idea) him to try it this way. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Pop
      June 1, 2010 at 11:16 am

      Any way you do it, slow cooked pork is amazing!!!

  3. June 1, 2010 at 11:02 am

    I don’t think I’ve ever had pork butt! We were vegan for like three months and sold our smoker, thinking we’d never use it again. Been cursing ourselves ever since. I’m sure we’ll get another eventually b/c smoked meats are the BOMB and I really like smoked cheese too.

    • Pop
      June 1, 2010 at 11:18 am

      Vegan for 3 months? That must’ve been some yo-yo! I did a Daniel fast (no meat) for 40-days one time and I ate nothing but meat for a week afterward.

      Mmmmm! Smoked cheese! I’m looking forward to cold smoking salmon and bacon!

      • June 1, 2010 at 11:23 am

        Not really. I’m not big into meat so even after giving up on being vegan, I still eat a lot of vegetarian meals. But I did crave meat as a vegan. I don’t think I was getting enough protein–it’s hard. Smoked salmon–great idea! It’s so expensive to buy at the store but I used to get it to make sushi. I recently watched a video of a couple making their own bacon–I love their vids: http://foodtease.com/2010/05/making-bacon-and-mayonnaise-for-a-blt/

  4. Ina
    June 1, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    LOL! You had so much fun with these captions!!

  5. David Cho
    June 1, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    you’re pictures get me everytime….I’m so hungry.

  6. June 1, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    I LOVE the photos you took to go along with this post!

    And I agree about the liquid smoke. Heck, I can douse the meat in it and I swear I don’t really taste anything :(

  7. Tu-Van
    June 1, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    You’re right – I can stare at that butt all day. I stare at it longer and I’ll gnaw at my computer screen!

  8. stephen yang
    June 1, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    i’m putting your butt in my mouth right now.. mmm…

  9. June 1, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    Looks like you had a little too much fun with this one! :) crazy– Pulled pork is one of my absolute faves. We’ve made it for many events…. especially along with the beans. Try ‘em yet?

    • Pop
      June 2, 2010 at 8:31 am

      Not yet. Definitely on the 4th of July! :-)

  10. the buck
    June 2, 2010 at 8:50 am

    I’ve had dreams about your butt, Pop. Seriously!

  11. Carl D'Agostino
    June 15, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    When you get pulled over by a cop in Miami he’ll pull and smoke your butt and the lawyer burns you bank account and the judge still gives you a good frying to boot.

  12. Casey Campbell
    June 16, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    I’ve never smoked pork butt before, but have mastered other smoked and BBQ’d meats. I made my own BBQ sauce recipe a while back and always thought it would be amazing on pulled pork. I looked online for a while for the best instructions, and these were by far the best! So now I’m just about 20 degrees from perfection, and I will be enjoying pulled pork sandwiches, slathered in my own BBQ sauce later today. Thank you for these detailed instructions!

    • Pop
      June 20, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      No problem! I hope it turned out well!

      On Sun, Jun 16, 2013 at 12:22 PM, Go, Pop, Go!

  1. August 17, 2010 at 12:43 pm
  2. October 11, 2010 at 10:38 am
  3. April 21, 2011 at 9:28 am
  4. April 26, 2011 at 11:33 am
  5. April 26, 2011 at 11:41 am

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