If your love for barbeque is refusing to die down and you are itching to make something interesting this weekend for your friends, then you should consider the smoked pork. Well, if you have plans to make perfect smoked pulled pork, then this absolutely delicious recipe is just great for experimenting with the BBQ smoke cooking. Pulled Pork is an American barbeque at its best. The meat is cooked gently and made so tender that it just comes apart by forks or fingers. It is smoky, tender and juicy and served with some barbeque sauce.
When the smoke travels through the tender and moist meat, these highly seasoned bits of meat is so delicious that it makes for a versatile and foolproof slow smoked food that is ideal for serving to a large crowd. They are economical too.
What is the best meat?
The smoked pulled pork is best made from the pork butt (shoulder butt, butt, country roast, Boston roast and shoulder blade roast). This typically weighs about 5 to 8 pounds and can be smoked on a smoker or any grill with a lid. The pork butt comes from the shoulder and contains the shoulder bone in it. This area of meat contains the best flavors, fat and connective tissue making it ideal for smoked pulled pork. Loin meat has little fat and few connective tissues that are necessary to make a great tasting pulled pork. Butts are the best meat to make perfect smoked pork; no other meat can match up to this in terms of taste, flavor and tenderness.
The process can take longer, which can range from 8 to 12 hours or even more. This is a main requirement of a Southern barbeque that is easy, slow, lazy and fragrant.
Smoked Pulled Pork Recipe
The pulled pork recipe here is the most versatile and a foolproof low and slow smoked food that is ideal for a get together of large people.
Serves: 8 Sandwiches
Time to prepare: It takes about 25 minutes to trim and rub the meat. For the salt to penetrate it takes about 12 to 24 hours.
Cooking Time: Approximately 8 to 10 hours depending on the variables
- 5 pounds of pork
- 1/3 cup Meathead’s Memphis Dust
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt per pound of meat
- 2 cups wood for smoke
- 10 Kaiser rolls or hamburger buns
- 1 cup of your favorite barbeque sauce
- Cabbage slaw or fried onion
There are various factors that come into play while making perfect pulled pork. One hog is not similar to another; every cooker has its own unique features that can affect the cooking time and even humidity and weather can play a part in making a great tasting pulled pork. The other determining factor for all meats is the thickness of the meat. Small sized butts can cook faster especially if they are thin. A few experiments with the cut will make you an expert in determining the correct size for your cooker. The meat is at its best when it hits 195 degrees to 203 degree F, then again temperature can vary depending on the quality of meat. If the meat is not ready within the specified time, there is no need to worry; you can increase the temperature if you are behind. Butt can handle these varying temperatures very well. The bark can get a bit dry and there can be some shrinkage than usual, it can be slightly chewy, but there will be no change in the taste. If you increase the temperature to 275 degree F, you can reduce the cooking time by 2 to 4 hours. But, again the time may vary depending on various other factors like the humidity in the cooker. Allow the meat to cool a bit before you pull the meat out. If it is time to serve and still not at an ideal temperature, just slice the meat. Don’t pull the meat or else it won’t shred easily. Pork butt slices are wonderful.
About the Pork
For making perfect pulled pork, you can use the pork that is available at the nearest grocery store, but if you can shop for the Berkshire pork, then that would be nice. Berkshire pork’s are a scarce breed because when the promoters of pork shifted to the leaner pork as another “white meat”. Berkshire pork is dark, tends to be fattier and has lots of flavor. The Berkshire pork looks very similar to turkey dark meat, but tender and flavorful. This meat has a good amount of shrinkage and waste resulting from bones and fat, which you discard while pulling. There is roughly 30% loss and if there is less, then you will have to be satisfied with the leftovers. If you serving pulled pork with other foods like chicken, hot dogs, brats and burgers, then you may need less of the pulled pork, but again consumption also depends on other factors like gender, age, time of the day and other food served. Ideally, plan 1 pound per person before the shrinkage, trimming, etc. The leftovers can be packed in separate pouches according to portion size and stored in a freezer. These frozen pulled pork leftovers can play a rescue act on weekdays when you are just tired of cooking.
Measure the quantity of wood so that you know next time how much is required. You can subtract or add the measured amount the way you like it. Go easy on the amount of wood you use for the first time. We don’t want too much smoke as it will be worse than having too little.
Trim off any extra fat from the top of the meat, but not all of it. Leave not more than 1/8”. Some people like to leave it all hoping it will help keep the meat moist, but it will not penetrate the meat. If you want the meat to be crunchy and flavorful with perfect seasonings, then you have to apply the seasonings on the meat instead of the fat, else the meat might turn soft. Go for the butt that is large enough to feed your guests. Make sure it is trimmed pretty well and tied with a butchers twine to keep them from falling apart. If your meat is not tied, hogtie it with kite string. Don’t worry about the looks as anyways you are going to discard it.
2. Dry Brine
If you have sufficient time, apply salt at least 12-24 hours in advance. Known as dry brining, this allows the salt to penetrate the meat well. If you are dry brining it, you must use a rub that has no salt in it like the Meathead’s Memphis Dust. The spice won’t penetrate, but the salt will. Just before cooking, wet the surface with water and sprinkle on the Meathead’s Memphis dust. The water helps the salts to dissolve and absorb well. The water allows in dissolving and absorbing the salt well instead of oil. Even mustard can also be used, it depends on your liking. In fact, bottled mustard is primarily water; instead use mustard powder for a better mustard flavor.
Insert a digital probe and place the tip at the center. Make sure it is not within 1/2 “of the bone. Start in the morning and fire up a smoker to about 225 degree F or set up the grill for 2-zone or indirect smoke cooking. Place the meat on the grate and not on the pan; add 4 ounces of wood chips, pellets or chunks to the fir. Now, you can take time to make slaw, beans and sauce. You will be left with a lot of time to do other chores in the house until the meat is done. Make sure you check the meat every hour or so to make sure the fuel is sufficient and you are holding at 225 to 250 degree F. If it goes to 300, don’t worry about the Butt, it is known to hold its own. But, make sure the temperature remains under 250. For the first two hours add additional 4 ounces of wood chips at a time every 30 minutes. The exact amount will be decided by your cooker and your preferences.
When you are cooking at 225 degree F to 250 degree F, the meat hits about 150 degree F internal it will probably stall. The internal temperature will not go up for hours. This is because the moisture evaporating from the bottom cools the meat at the same rate as the hot air is warming it and stalls. At this stage you can increase the temperature to 300 degree F or wrap the meat tightly in a foil. This is called the Texas crutch. The best part of the stall is that it forms the bark, dry, jerky like crust.
When the temperature hits 170 degree F, collagens that are a part of the connective tissues starts to melt and turns to gelatin. This is where the meat tends to get tender and juicy. When the temperature hits 195 degree F, it may or may not be ready. But, this is the time to check on the meat. The meat at this stage should look dark brown. At this stage the meat may look burnt, but it will not taste burnt. You will also notice some traces of melted fat around. When the same meat is cooked on a gas cooker, it may turn shiny pink. If there is any bone use a paper towel to remove it. At this time the bones should come out of the meat pretty easily without any effort, but if there are no bones, then use the “stick the fork in it” method to check. Insert a fork in it and twist 90 degrees and if the fork turns with very little torque, then you are done. If not done, close the lid and wait for another 30 minutes. If the internal temperature reaches 195 degree F and the pork is still not tender then increase the temperature to 203 degree F. The meat now will seem to soften nicely and even if it is not done, then the meat is surely tough. Tough butts will have to be wrapped in a nice foil and cooked for another hour. If you can’t control the temperature on the cooker, then wrap it in a foil and put that into a 225 degree F oven. Never add sauce when it is in the cooker that can be done later.
Tasting is the best part, when you know the meat is ready. There should be a thick flavorful crust and a nice smoke ring right below caused by the smoke mixing with the combustion gases and moisture. If you are planning to eat the pulled pork after an hour, then you should leave the meat in the cooker itself with the heat turned off or place it into an indoor oven with temperature set to 170 degree F. Wrapping it in a foil and holding in a oven will prevent the meat from getting dry.
7. Pull it
Half an hour before the dinner, place the perfect pulled pork into a pan and collect all the drippings. If the butt was bone-in, use a blade to slice and check if it is cooked thoroughly. When the meat is perfectly cooked, the bone should come out easily with your fingers and there should be no meat attached to it. Pull the meat apart with forks or gloved hands and discard any big chunks of fat if any. If you wish you can slice it or chop it, but the best way to take out the meat is by pulling it apart by hand as it will not lose the moisture and the meat breaks into bundles of muscle fibers, hence the name pulled pork. Make sure you use the flavorful drippings and pour them all over the meat. This is important as the flavors are locked in the drippings.
– 1 grill or smoker with lots of fuel
– 1 good digital meat thermometer
– 1 digital oven or grill thermometer
– 1 alarm clock
– Claws or Fork
Serving the smoked pulled pork
The way you serve any dish plays a very important role in every dinner. It is all the more crucial when you are serving a dish like this. There are many ways to serve pulled pork. Many people tend to pour sauce over the meat, which is a huge mistake. When cooking pork the taste of the pure and smoked meat is unmatched. Serve it as it is and ask people to taste it that way. They can add sauce if they wish to later on.
Classic Pulled Pork Sammich: Mound it high on a nice bun and top it with a sauce of your choice. The popular sauce here is the Kansas City classic sweet red sauce. Even Carolina vinegar and pepper sauces will work wonders. They soak very well and if you go easy, they compliment the flavor. You can have the pulled pork with chopped raw onion mixed in, or even grill the onion before you add it. Sometimes people use raw apples and mix it in. Slice the roast rather than pulling it and douse it with a classic Texas sauce, which is thin and more like a gravy. It allows the meat flavor to come through without masking it. There are different varieties of garnishes that people use according to their liking.
Mound it on a bun with Slaw, South Carolina Style: In a lot of places in the south people often top the pulled pork sandwich with slaw.
With Melted Cheese: The pulled pork can be eaten by adding a thin slice of onion, slice of pepper jack cheese, a good amount of roasted pepper sauce and put it on a buttered white bread. Place this sandwich in a pie iron with the butter side out and cook over fire until golden brown and the cheese is melted.
Pulled Pork Reuben: Serve it on thick bread with sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing and some melted Swiss cheese.
Carnitas: Cut the smoked pork into ½” pieces and fry them in a pan with some fat dripped off. When they are crisp they make for delicious Carnitas tacos.
Rollups: Roll it in a tortilla with some chopped onions, chopped tomatoes, jalapeno peppers and shredded cheese.
Leftover Pulled Pork
Yes, you can serve leftovers the next, but the best way would be to make it fresh and eat it the same day. The pulled pork is best eaten when they are served fresh from the smoker. If you have to serve it for lunch the next day, then make it at the middle of the night and start cooking in the early hours.
Pulled pork the next day is best reheated in a microwave small amount at a time. The meat will be drier and tougher than the first day. The best method to reheat the leftovers is in a microwave, second best method would be to heat it slowly in a pot with the lid on.
If you have any leftovers that you would not be eating in a few days, then mix the leftovers with some barbeque sauce and freeze them in zipper bags in measured portions. The sauce prevents the freezer burns. Just heat it in the microwave when you need and instant food is ready.
Things to do with leftovers
Tacos or enchiladas: Yes, pulled pork leftovers can be used to make fillings for the tacos or enchiladas along with slaw and bits of corn chips.
Taquitos: To make great tasting Taquitos, you can add a few thin pieces of leftover pork along with tortillas, red onion and cilantro. All these ingredients complement each other perfectly.
Nachos: Add the pulled pork to nachos and see how delicious it can be.
Carnitas: Melt some pork fat or bacon fat or the fat from the drippings when you smoked the butt into a large pan or pot, to this add some onions oregano, bay leaf, garlic and cook on low heat for a few minutes. Take the pulled pork and add it and turn up the heat and fry until they are crisp. Serve it straight from the pot or with tortillas.
Scrambled eggs: Take pineapple habanero hot sauce and use it with leftover pulled pork along with scrambled eggs in a flour tortilla for breakfast.
Egg Muffins: Beat some eggs, little bit of milk, salt cheese, leftover pulled pork and bake in muffin tins for 20 minutes at 400 degree F.
BBQ Eggs Benedict: For this add some English muffins, poached eggs, pulled pork and hollandaise with a little BBQ sauce, cumin, mustard powder and some ancho Chile powder.
Poppers: Split the jalapeno peppers into half, take out the seeds and the hot ribs with a spoon, and cut the stems. Mix one part of leftover pork with sauce and two parts of fresh cream cheese and fill the peppers. Grill this over medium heat until the cheese melts and the peppers begin to char.
Hash: Pulled pork is often used in making hash in South Carolina. The recipe can vary from one place to another, but hash is typically a stew of pulled pork, pork liver, onion and mustard sauce. This is served over white rice.
Dirty Rice: Another nice dish is pulled pork in Louisiana Dirty Rice. The classic dirty rice is white rice mixed with cooked chicken livers and giblets and the “holy trinity” which is sautéed green pepper, onion and celery. But, you can add pulled pork and amp it up.
Load a baked potato: Add some pulled pork onto baked potato.
Bistro Salad: Make bistro salad with poached egg.
Brunswick stew: The leftovers can be put in the Brunswick stew, baked beans, mixed with scrambled eggs and hash.
BBQ Spaghetti: Leftovers can be eaten with BBQ spaghetti or BBQ pizza.
Pizza: Put it on pizza as a topping
Raviolis: Make simple pasta dough and then prepare ravioli with about 1 teaspoon of pulled pork mixed with mozzarella and a few fresh chopped chives. Drop them into simmering water for about 7 minutes or until the pasta is al dente. Mix in 2 parts of BBQ sauce with 1 part of cream and one part of butter over low heat until fully mixed. Add some chopped pulled pork to mix into the sauce.
Sausages: Chop a few red onions and mix with the pulled pork and mix in a bowl with your favorite BBQ sauce. Add chopped hamburger dill pickles. Get some sausage casing ready and fill it with the mix and tie off links. Now, you have a barbeque to throw on the grill.
Mac &Cheese Pie: You can make pie with a layer of collards, Mac and cheese, then pulled pork between the crusts.
Sliders: Use small dinner rolls, pulled pork, 1 slice of ham, Jarlsberg cheese, a pickle, and some homemade garlic aoli sauce.
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches: Grilled cheese with sourdough or rye, cheddar and jack, pulled pork, sliced pickles and chopped hots.
Egg Rolls: You can make egg rolls with the leftovers. Mix the pulled pork with coleslaw and wrap it up with fries. You can eat them with peanut sauce or salsa Verde.
Potstickers: You can even make Potstickers with the leftovers.
Crab Rangoon: Pulled pork works well in crab Rangoon’s along with cheese and crackers. They can be added in baba ganoush.
There are very few foods where the pulled pork doesn’t work well.
So go ahead and impress your friends and family with this slow roasted perfect pulled pork this weekend.