Along with brisket and ribs, pulled pork is a classic “rite of passage” meal every BBQ owner (including me) aspires to create. And, eventually, excel at. It takes time and patience, but done right the reward is some of the most amazing pork I’ve tasted.
Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork
|10 mins prep
8-12+ hours cook
|Mac ‘n’ cheese|
|Right bank Bordeaux, Chianti|
A Classic Kamado BBQ Cook
Pulled pork is made by cooking a pork shoulder at a low temperature (110°C/225°F) for a long time, several hours, and then shredding it. I made the pulled pork with our Big Green Egg kamado-style ceramic cooker/smoker. Being able to cook great low ‘n’ slow smoked meats is one of the reasons that I purchased the Egg (another being pizza). This style of cook is something that makes ceramic cookers stand out from what can be achieved in a kitchen.
Don’t have a kamado cooker or smoker? You can cook pulled pork using a pressure cooker or conventional oven. In this blog post I focus on what I view as the most effective way to get authentic smoke flavours into the meat.
Shortening the Cook with the Texas Crutch
The Texas Crutch technique speeds this up, shaving a few hours off the cook. It involves wrapping the pork in kitchen foil at a specific point. This is effectively braising the meat, powering through the stall. Detractors claim this reduces the smoke flavours and awesomeness of the bark (outer coating of the meat). I mitigate this by removing the wrapping early to crisp up the bark, which I’ve described in the hints and tips section below.
- Sharp knife
- Chopping board
- Kitchen towel
- Measuring spoons
- Drip tray
- Bear claws
- Kitchen foil
- Kitchen thermometer (or equivalent)
- Meat lifters (optional)
Using a meat thermometer is essential for this recipe, to know when the stall occurs.
- 2.5kg / half pork shoulder (also known as Boston Butt)
- 3 tbsp BBQ rub (see below)
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 2-3 hickory smoking chunks
- Apple vinegar
- Soft white or brioche buns and BBQ sauce (to serve)
Boston butt (or pork butt) is the American name for a cut of pork that comes from the upper part of the shoulder from the front leg. It sometimes contains the blade bone (ours didn’t). Ask your butcher if they can cut this for you. I sourced mine from Sherwood Foods, their pork shoulder is great quality and very well priced.
For the BBQ rub, I used 2 tbsp of Dizzy Pig Dizzy Dust rub (coarse ground) and 1 tbsp Dizzy Pig Crossroads rub. I like the intense flavours of the latter rub.
- The previous night, pat the pork dry with kitchen towel. With a sharp knife, carefully remove most of the fat cap, leaving ¼ to ⅛ inch on. Lightly sprinkle salt over the shoulder, put it on a plate in the fridge overnight.
- In the early morning (I started at 7am), take the pork out of the fridge and apply the BBQ rub all over it.
- Light the Big Green Egg (indirect setup) and get it to 110°C/225°F. When the temperature is stable and the coals are glowing, toss on the hickory smoking chunks.
- Place a drip tray on the platesetter, add the grid and put the pork shoulder on the grid. Insert the temperature probe, close the Egg’s lid. Go do some gardening, play with the cats, you’ve got a lot of time on your hands.
- Every hour or so, check the temperature of the Egg to ensure that it’s still around 110°C/225°F. Or use a temperature controller (see hints and tips below).
- When the meat temperature gets to 65°C/150°F, it will stall. This happens around 5-7 hours after putting the meat into the Egg. Remove the shoulder from the Egg, and wrap it in kitchen foil (the Texas Crutch), adding a little apple vinegar. Put the wrapped shoulder back into the Egg. Keep cooking until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 88°C/195°F. This can take another 3-4 hours.
- At this point the shoulder could be ready. Poke the shoulder with your finger, if it’s wobbly, it’s ready. If not, keep cooking, it could take up to 96°C/205°F before it’s ready.
- Remove the pork from the Egg, and let it rest for 15-20 mins. Then shred it apart with a pair of bear claws, as per the video above.
- Serve with some BBQ sauce in a bun. The choice of bun depends on the style of BBQ sauce. For a sweet BBQ sauce, I use standard soft white buns, as using brioche buns can clash with the sweetness in the sauce. For a different style of BBQ sauce, brioche buns are a good choice.
Hints, Tips and Pictures
- If you want to get great bark, when the IT hits 85°C/185°F remove the pork shoulder from the Egg and carefully unwrap it, there will be hot juices inside. Place the unwrapped pork back onto the grid and cook until the internal temperature is 88°C/195°F. This takes an additional 1-2 hours.
- The pork can be mixed with the sauce and heated in a frying pan, then with some cheese added, covered with a dome (top right of the picture) for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese. Spritz with a bit of water to keep the meat moist.
- There are temperature controllers, such as Flameboss units, that can monitor the Egg and adjust the bottom grate to ensure a constant temperature. This can be very useful if you’re working during the day or cooking overnight. I’ve not used one of these, I prefer the hands on approach. Also, with the charcoal I use (Green Olive), I find once the temperature has stabilised, it remains steady for hours.
- I used meat lifters to get the meat in and out of the Egg. I find them much easier than using a big spatula. The picture below shows me using them to maneuver chicken.