When most people think of barbecue they think of pork. This isn't by chance. In fact, some of the most popular barbecue competitions actually have a counter-competition normally referred to as "Anything Butt" - meaning anything but pork. That's right, they have to make a competition to get you to NOT cook pork! That should tell you something right there.
Pulled pork can be made from several different cuts: whole hog, whole pork shoulder (Boston butt and picnic ham) or as most prefer just the Boston butt (sometimes referred to as pork butt, shoulder roast, country ham, blade roast, the list goes on). The point here is to take a cheap piece of otherwise undesirable meat and make it so tender that it falls of the bone. In fact, it practically falls apart while its still on the grill. Pulled pork works great on many levels. If you're just getting started its an easy meat to learn on because its cheap and because it pretty forgiving. If you're a pro there are more advanced techniques that are easy to learn and take it to another level. Go on. Give it a try!
yield: 1/2 shrinkage
time: 15 mins prep, 5 minutes to rub and 1-12+ hours in the fridge to marinate in the rub
cooking time: allow for 8-12 hours (poundage)
Yield: 70-75% of original weight
Cooking time: 8 hours
1 8-10 lb boston butt or pork shoulder
1/2 - 3/4 cup of Rusty's Memphis Pork Rub
1 quart of baste
1 cup of your favorite bbq sauce
1) Prepare your smoker or grill for indirect cooking at 225°F. With pellets I normally do a mix of oak/hickory or oak/apple with pork shoulder. Pecan or Maple also goes really well if you have a tame dry rub and baste.
2) There are 2 diff ways to cook a shoulder. For the guys just starting out keep it simple and cook it fat side up and baste every hour. For the more advanced you can cook fat down so you can baste the meat and build up the bark until the fat has melted and then flip to do the other side. Baste every hour. Basting is an integral part of the process as this will keep the meat moist until the end where the pork will start to self-baste as the connective tissues break down.
3) Continue to baste the pork butt every hour or as you open your smoker. Limit that by the way. There's no need to open your smoker every 15 minutes to see if its still in there. Yes it looks tasty, but you're losing moisture and heat in your smoker ever time you dink around with it. So don't!
4) When the internal temp has reached 160°F (or when the crust has developed to a solid mahogany color) wrap it in tin foil to allow the inside to continue while halting the overcooking of the outside crust or "bark". Put liquid in to impart flavor/steam the meat. When I wrap my meat I bring out a pan and put a large sheet of the extra-wide heavy duty tin foil on it. Pull out your pork shoulder and wrap it up. You shouldn't need any more smoke past this point.
I normally use apple juice or a mixture of the baste with other juice in the bottom of the foil. Now is also a good time to "dust" your pork butt with some more dry rub. If it has an oven thermometer or remote thermometer in it just wrap around it to leave it sticking out. Place it back on the smoker for a few more hours. The meat will "stall" or "plateau" between 160-170°F and just hang out at that temperature for an hour or two. THIS IS NORMAL! DON'T TURN UP THE TEMP. Let it run its course this is where everything holding the meat together will start to melt and it will "wabba wabba". This is EXACTLY what you want. You're nearly there.
5) When it hits 180°F its ready to come out of the foil. Be careful the juice and drippings will be scalding hot so poke a hole in the bottom of the foil to let the juices run out before opening. By pulling it out of the foil it will firm the bark back up and allow for a finishing baste. If its already falling apart just leave it on the tin foil.
6) Continue cooking until the meat reaches an internal temperature of around 197°F. Don't take the meat over 200°F otherwise you'll drive out all of the moisture. You'll know it's ready to come off when: if the bone moves freely and you can stick a fork in it and easily twist it around. Bring it in and let it cool for 10 minutes before pulling. Pull it with "bear paws" and mix in about 1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce. I either mix my own or use something simple like Sweet Baby Rays.
Put it on a kaiser roll or bun and drizzle some mustard bbq sauce over it. Then throw some coleslaw, cheese or an onion or whatever you prefer and dig in! There normally aren't leftovers unless I fill my smoker up with an entire hog, but when there are I just put them a couple sandwiches worth in small baggies and then put them all in a freezer bag. It freezes well and warms up just as moist. ENJOY!