Pulled Pork

Posted By Stephen


This has been on our list of barbecue plans for quite a while now. We did some research, invited some friends round, bought a pork shoulder and got to work.

Pulled pork is traditional in some southern American states and the idea is that it is a slow-cooked pork shoulder that becomes so tender during its long, slow cooking that it can easily be pulled apart with a couple of forks and doesn’t need to be sliced. These “pulled” bits are traditionally mixed with a sauce and then served on a white roll to make a “pulled pork sandwich” which often also includes slaw. The pork is rubbed with a spice mixture before cooking to give it a bit of heat and flavour, and can be smoked when cooking.

These were the spices for our spice mixture, before being mixed together:


Being an American speciality, the recipes call for “pork butt” which is an American cut comprising the top part of the shoulder. We ended up with a whole shoulder though and just decided to cook the whole thing. So the day before, we skinned it and removed the fat cap and then rubbed it all over with a spice rub. (This skin became crackling with we served with seared scallops that night) We didn’t have a freezer bag big enough for the shoulder, so we wrapped it in cling film and put it into the fridge overnight for the rub to penetrate the meat.

Before begin rubbed, with a penny for size comparison:


In the morning, we popped it into the oven on a low temperature (140C) for about four hours before putting it onto the barbecue. This, the actual cooking of it, was the bit I was worried about, with regards to timings and temperatures, etc. Some recipes said to cook it in the oven covered, others said uncovered and of course there were the ones on the barbecue which interested us, but a lot of these were for special smokers and/or recommended using a remote thermometer to monitor the internal temperature. However, we needed a combination of these as in order to have it ready for 2pm, we needed to start quite early in the morning and didn’t think our neighbours would appreciate being greeted by barbecue smoke shortly after waking up. Also, very boringly, we had washing on the line that needed to dry and we didn’t want that to smell like barbecue.

So we started with it in the oven, covered, for four hours, and then planned to put it onto the barbecue with some wood chips and smoke it with the lid on for a further hour. However, it was still quite far from being done when we took it out of the oven and it needed at least two hours on the barbecue, during which time it become a little charred on the outside – too much heat. The result was that although some of it was easily to “pull” apart, other bits weren’t, but it tasted good, which is the main point. It did mean that our friends had to wait a bit for their lunch, but Kerri had made a large bowl of very good guacamole which we ate with corn chips while we waited.

Just out of the oven:


And on the barbecue, a little blacker than planned:


Then pulled and ready to be made into a sandwich:


Now there was the sauce to consider. There are two main schools of thought on this, which is mostly down to regionality – some people use a spicy, vinegar-based sauce whereas others use a sweeter, tomato-based sauce. We went for a simple vinegar-based sauce which we warmed up in a saucepan and added the shreds of pork to – it worked really well, moistening and adding flavour to the pork. We also made slaw, which was very simple to make and a good addition to the sandwich.

Also barbecued corn:


It tasted rather good and was successful in that department, but didn’t turn out quite as we’d hoped overall. We’ll just have to try again and try to perfect it!

May 3rd, 2009

11 Comments to 'Pulled Pork'

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  1. Sure looks delicious!

    Lori @ RecipeGirl’s last blog post..Margarita Cupcakes

  2. Carrie said,

    What a great meal that just screams summer! That sandwich looks fantastic.

    Carrie’s last blog post..Pork Stew with Smoky Tomato Sauce, Potatoes, and Avocado

  3. DocChuck said,

    The results look pretty good to me. But what you purchased was a pork ‘picnic’, and does not lend itself to pulled pork as well as a plain pork butt or shoulder.

    Most butchers I know do not recommend a picnic for pulled pork, because the lower part of the shoulder usually will not ‘pull’ very well.

    Might try a plain ‘shoulder’ next time. Usually they are a bit cheaper as well.

    P.S. This is my advice learned from the folks in North Carolina and from cooking scores of shoulders, which is our favorite part of the pig.

  4. Stephen said,

    Thanks for the insight DocChuck! I did read about picnic vs butt, and I thought that what we had was a combination of the two, but might be wrong there. And the meat around the leg part was definitely harder to “pull” as you pointed out.

    If we had the wrong cut then that of course excuses us from not getting it quite right 😉 Certainly something to try again though and try to perfect; it was really good.

  5. cdr said,

    Here’s a few tips for next time.

    Ditto the boston butt. Its consistent thickness will give you a consistent piece of meat
    Try grilling first and putting the coals on one side (no more than 3-4 handfuls at a time) and the meat on the other. Try to keep the grill temp under 300F.
    Add wood chips to get good smoke.
    After 3 hours or so finish in a 275F oven until the internal temp is 195F.
    With a boston butt it is best to cook the day before and let it set up in the fridge over night. It congeals all of the fat and lets you strip it out as you pick it (down south we “pick” our BBQ, hence the “pig pickin'”).
    Happy eating

  6. Kerri said,

    Thanks, that’s really helpful. We did use wood chips actually, the flavour is really good. Hadn’t thought about finishing in the oven rather than starting though or cooking the day before, both good tips.

  7. Lisa said,

    OMG – I’m speechless and need me some of that pig! I think I would be able to eat the whole thing, as it looks mouth wateringly juicy and delectable!! You’re a pulled pork master!

    Lisa’s last blog post..Eating my Curds and ditching the Whey

  8. Jeanne said,

    That is one extremely imprressive piece of pork. I adore pulled pork – I always have some when I visit the US. Very brave to attempt your own, which looks pretty damn good to me 🙂

    Jeanne’s last blog post..Spring greens with Gorgonzola

  9. Kerri said,


  10. Polly Pierce said,

    Ouch! That looks good enough to eat and that’s only the first photo, it just gets better and better!

  11. Kevin said,

    That pulled pork sandwich looks really tasty!

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