Pulled pork may be the easiest BBQ meat to make. Don’t get me wrong, there is quite the process involved to turn pork shoulder into pulled pork, and for it to be delicious. This shoulder preparation, however, is hard to mess up. First off, pork shoulder is very fatty. It has a nice outer fat cap and it tends to also have relatively good interstitial marbling. So how do you get that nice cut of meat into a pile of delicious smokey, shredded pork? Well lets start with the cut first.
When making pulled pork, you can choose from two different shoulder cuts: Boston Butt, Picnic Roast. The Boston butt is the top portion of the pigs shoulder. The picnic is the bottom. The butt runs up to the back and has some neck/back muscle running through it. In-fact, part of the Boston butt is a segment of what the Italians refer to as “coppa”. BBQ aficionados call this the “money muscle.” This muscle is slightly more tender than the rest of the shoulder and it has a lot of good fat running through it. The Butt is generally far more tender than the picnic as it isn’t used as aggressively. The Butt is also home to the shoulder blade. The picnic roast is further down on the shoulder and contains more heavily used muscle than the butt so it is a bit tougher. Generally this cut is sold skin on and the bone running through it is upper leg bone. Picnic tends to take longer to get tender than butt, however both are great cuts to work with.
I prefer to work with boneless butts when making pork butt. Cooking bone out takes slightly longer, and I don’t prefer bone flavoring in this particular instance. If you happen to get bone-in, don’t sweat it. When the shoulder is fully cooked, the bone slips out like a hot knife through butter. To prepare your butt, rub it down with your favorite BBQ rub. We make our own BBQ rub (soon to be bottled). It is a paprika based rub with all sorts of seasoning in it. We don’t use MSG in our BBQ rub. Generously apply the rub to your Pork Butt and make sure to cover the entire roast. Next, put your butt into a container, wrap it up and put it in the fridge to hang out for at least 24 hours. If you can let it get nice for 2-3 days, You will like it better.
When it’s time to cook, get your smoker to 215-225 degrees Fahrenheit. Get your shoulder into the smoker and load the smoke box up with wood chips. We prefer a blend of hickory and cherry. Cook the pork shoulder until the internal temperature hits 195-200F. Much higher than that and it will start to get mushy. The cook time will fluctuate based on size of the pork shoulder, whether it is bone-in or boneless, thermal efficiency of your smoker, and temperature consistency. Good rule of thumb is about an hour per pound when cooking at 215 degrees. Re-fill your wood chip box throughout the smoke to make sure you get a great smoke flavor.
Once your pork butt hits the desired temp, get some spatulas to safely remove it and then put it into a deep pan. Get your shredding claws or a couple of big forks and start to shred it. Don’t pull out the fat…. blend it in. If you want, sprinkle some extra seasoning onto the pile of pulled pork, then get to eating!
Now, if you don’t want to do all the work, but you want a killer BBQ meal. Try out our Pulled Pork Dinner. It is on the menu this week and we tend to bring it back every couple of months. Dinner For two this week is Hickory & Cherry smoked pulled pork (with buns and sweet baby rays) + Epic Scratch made Mac N Cheese + Grandma’s Coleslaw + Buttermilk Cornbread muffins. All scratch made, all the time.