Right, here we go. This is a favourite – next to ribs off course – of many barbecue people who start with low-and-slow. Prefect on a sandwich with some fresh coleslaw on top. It is also one of the 4 categories in the #KCBS competition. Out of the blue I even won my first call (3rd place) on my second contest ever. I’m still calling it a lucky shot but many people around me have enjoyed the results of my version of pulled pork. So here it goes.
Pulled pork is usually made from the Boston Butt, a specific (American style) cut from the pork neck. It’s the cut above the picnic shoulder. It starts at the joint of the shoulder-blade all the way to the top of the neck, including the copa muscle (in competition teams called the ‘money muscle’). he weight varies according to the age and bread of pig but I like it around 12lbs.
Note: in Dutch this cut is sometimes called the ‘procureur’.
First and foremost we are going to trim the meat. I always remove the entire fat cap. Forget about ‘fat makes everything better‘. That only counts for the intramuscular fat, not the fat cap. In this case, the fat even keeps you from adding flavours to half of the meat. For backyard smoking, trim ‘most’ of the outer fat. For comp use; go all in and remove as much as you can.
Pulled pork is a long cook (8~12hrs) and can result dryer than you would like it to be. Therefor I inject my pork with apple juice. Use 1L (33oz) of fresh apple juice [not the commercial ones with added sugars!!!] with 1TB of fine salt. The acidity of the apple juice will help breaking down the meat cells properly. Be careful when adding extra spices; make sure they are complete dissolved. If they are not, you can end up with spice ‘pockets’ and you don’t want those on your sandwich. For injecting push your needle all he way in and slowly retract while ejecting the juice.
If you like it, then you shoulda put a rub on it. So pat the butt dry, after injecting and rub generously with your favourite all purpose dry rub. Make sure the rub contains paprika for the colour and brown sugar for some nice bark.
Let this whole thing rest for a couple hours (preferably overnight).
For pork I prefer sweat wood like apple and cherry. Set-up your smoker for 225F-250F (110C-120C). Let the smoke kiss your meat for up to 6 hours. Then take it inside, wrap it tightly in foil and add 1 cup of your injection (now it’s safe to add some of that rub) and put back on the smoker. This will help get over that stall faster. If you are short on time, which you shouldn’t if you started well on time, you could increase your pit temp to 300F (150C) but not higher.
Check you internal temp and leave the meat on at least till it gets 198F (92C). Now DON’T unwrap it immediately! Wrap the butt, still foiled, in a blanket and put aside for at least 2 hours in a cooler. The energy it still has will make the temperature rise a couple more degrees and the juices will spread throughout the meat.
Finish & Serve:
When you unwrap the butt from the foil, keep the juices and mix it with 1 to 2 cups of your favourite sweat bbq sauce. Make sure your sauce is preheated. Pulling the pork can be done with bear claws or just with a couple of forks. Once you have it all pulled, pour the sauce all over it and mix it well. Serve with that coleslaw on a nice bun.
TIP: a whole butt can be too much for one meal. You can safely keep the pork in the fridge for a couple more days. I like to vacuum seal my pork in portions of 2lbs (1kg). This makes it very easy to reheat sous-vide, which will avoid drying out, and it lasts longer in the freezer.