Background: Pulled pork is a staple in my cooking rotation, it also happens to be an easy first meat for beginner smokers and an inexpensive way to feed a large crowd. Pulled pork is the first barbeque I remember eating and remains one of my favorites today. Buffalo, New York is not exactly a BBQ mecca BUT we do have the famous Dinosaur BBQ just a quick drive up the 90 in Rochester, and now we even have our own in downtown. I always remember getting their “big ass pork plate,” as a teenager. Now it is much more cost efficient and fun to just make it all myself. Often you will see pork butt, pork shoulder and even picnic cuts used interchangeably. Sometimes grocery stores and bloggers don’t really know the difference. All of these cuts are acceptable for smoked pulled pork. In my experience, at least in my area, you will most easily find them labeled as pork butt. The main key is to not use a lean cut of pork (pork loin, or tenderloin for example). After all that rambling, let’s get started.
Pork Butt (size will vary and can come with or without a bone). For the purposes of this post I did two butts (with bones) and combined they were about 17 pounds with the bone and prior to any trimming.
Salt – at the very least place a thin layer of salt over the meat prior to the rub BUT ideally you want to add the salt the night before and then add the rub in the morning prior to getting the meat onto the smoker. The salt will start to penetrate and dry brine the meat, whereas the rub will remain on the surface. I won’t begin to act as if I know the science behind all of this. That is why I trust Meathead and his crew at Amazing Ribs for all things BBQ. Not only do they get you going in the right direction using proven techniques but they take the time to explain the science behind it all.
Below is the rub recipe.
½ portion of Meatheads Memphis Dust
Again, this is the amount I used on two butts, approximately 17 lbs. with bone and pre-trim. Please add or reduce accordingly.
Step One – Prepare the Seasoning: Pretty self-explanatory.
Step Two – Trim the Meat: This step may cause some arguments amongst the BBQ crowd. To trim the fat cap or not, if so…how much? I like to trim off as much as possible as here is why. (1) The fat cap doesn’t just melt off and get into the meat as some people would make you believe (2) I want the rub to get onto the meat, not attached to fat (3) there is enough fat marbled throughout the cut to keep it moist and juicy over a long cooking time and (4) when I am eating pulled pork I HATE getting a random hunk of fat mixed in with all that delicious smoked meat. With that being said, I trim it as low as I can go, at least 1/8 inch or less.
Step Three – Season the Meat: Evenly coat both sides of meat. There is not a huge need to refrigerate overnight because you will be smoking for 12+ hours.
Step Four – Smoke this lovely butt: I will run my smoker between 250 – 260 degrees Fahrenheit until the internal temperature reaches 195-202 Fahrenheit (time permitting). My most recent cook, for this post, took 13 hours. This will yield a moist, juicy and easy to pull butt. You can certainly pull and eat before this as the meat is safely cooked, but it will NOT be easy to pull.
Note – The butt will likely stall for 2+ hours around the 150-160 mark, this is completely normal and it may even drop a few degrees. Some people will wrap in foil with some sort of moisture inside (butter, apple juice, cider vinegar etc.) to help push through the stall. This is personal preference, I have personally never wrapped butts or ribs, but try both and see what works better for you.
Step Five – Let it rest: as long as possible, preferably many hours wrapped in heavy duty foil.
Step Six – Pull: The closer you get your internal temp to 202 Fahrenheit the easier this will be. Use tongs, forks or tools specifically designed for this (Meat Claws). Just a word of caution, the meat will be HOTTTT, even after resting for multiple hours.
Step Seven – Serve & Enjoy: Again, this is all about personal preference, more often than not I like meat and a little sauce on a roll. You can also add slaw, pickles, cheese, pickled red onions or really anything your heart desires. Then your last decision is what type of sauce. When entertaining or cooking for a crowd I will do at least two sauce: one vinegar based and one tomato based. I prefer vinegar based but at our most recent party the tomato based sauce went quicker.
Please share with friends and family, ask questions and leave comments as needed.