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Stevie's Pulled Pork

Yield. 5 pounds of bone-in pork butt, enough for 12 to 14 generous sandwiches after shrinkage, and trimming. Leftovers freeze nicely.

Serves 14people
pork butt, about 5 pounds
tbsp of vegetable oil
cup Meathead's Memphis Dust
cups wood for smoke
kaiser rolls or hamburger buns
cup of your favorite barbecue sauce
about the wood. the idea here is to measure how much you use so next time you can add or subtract a measured amount until it is exactly the way you like it. you can use cups or handfuls. just be consistent. and go easy on the wood. too much smoke is far w
Cooking time. Allow 8 to 12 hours at 225°F. This is flesh, not widgets, and one hog is different than another and your cooker has its own peculiarities that can significantly impact cooking time. The determining factor in cooking time for all meats is the thickness of the meat, so smaller butts will cook faster if they are skinnier. Surprisingly, if you are cooking a whole shoulder with the butt and the picnic combined, it will not take much longer since the added weight is not in thickness it is in length. After you do one or two you will learn how your cooker handles this cut. Read my article on what determines cooking time. Allow plenty of advance time and if necessary, use a beer cooler as a faux Cambro to hold the meat.
The meat is at its maximum tenderness and juiciness when it hits 195 to 203°F (203°F is my target, but actual time and temp varies on the individual animal). If it is not ready on time, don't panic. You can crank up the heat if you are running behind. Butt can handle it. Butts are very forgiving so temp control is not crucial. The bark might get a bit dry, there might be a little more shrinkage than usual, it might be slightly more chewy, but it will still delicious. If you kick the temp up to about 275°F, you can cut cooking time to about 8 hours.
If it is time to serve and it is still not at the ideal temp, just slice the meat. Don't pull it because it won't shred easily. Slices of smoked pork butt are wonderful.
Pulling time. 30 minutes if you do it with your fingers (ouch!), 10 minutes with Bear Paws.
about 16 ounces of wood by weight
1 grill or smoker with lots of fuel
1 digital meat thermometer with a probe and a cable
1 digital oven or grill thermometer
1 alarm clock
1 lawn chair
1 good book
6 pack of beer
1 pair of shades
plenty of food themed tunes
sun tan lotion
Trim most of the of fat from the exterior of the meat but not all of it. Leave no more than 1/8". Some folks like to leave it all on hoping it will melt and baste the meat, but I want the seasonings on the meat, not on the fat, and I want the meat to get a crunchy flavorful, seasoned bark. Most of the butts I cook are 4 to 6 pounds, pretty well trimmed, and tied with butcher's twine to keep them from falling apart. If yours is not already tied, hogtie it something like the picture near the top. Don't worry if it isn't fancy, you're going to throw it out, just rope it so it doesn't fall apart.
Rinse and thoroughly dry the meat. Oil the meat with vegetable oil, coating all surfaces. This will help the rub adhere and also help dissolve the oil soluble flavors in the rub and carry it into the meat. Some folks like to slather it with yellow mustard first. I have tried it this way and I do not think it does anything noticeable. Besides, mustard does not contain oil, so oil soluble flavors in the rub don't dissolve. Cover your butt (ahem) generously with Meathead's Memphis Dust. You can start cooking right away, but if you let it sit for at least an hour, the salt and spices will penetrate a litle. You can let it sit overnight if you wish, but then the rub starts pulling liquid out. Not much, but a few ounces.
Insert a digital probe like the Maverick ET-732 or 733 and position the tip right in the center. Make sure it is not touching the bone or within 1/2" of the bone. Fire up the cooker to about 225°F and set it up for 2-zone or indirect smoke cooking (cooker setups are described in the technique section of this site). Put the meat on, right on the grate, not in a pan, add about 4 ounces of wood chips, pellets, or chunks to the coals, and go drink a coffee. Go make your sauce, slaw, and beans. Go watch the game. Then cut the lawn. Wash the windows. Smoke a cigar. Make love to your spouse. Unfold the lawn chair and read a book with a beer. You've got plenty of time. Just check your cooker every hour or so to make sure the fuel is sufficient and you are holding at 225 to 250°F. If it goes up to 300°F, don't worry. Butt is forgiving. But try to keep it down under 250°F. Add additional doses of wood, 4 ounces at a time, every 30 minutes for the first two hours for a total of 16 ounces. No need to add more. After a while the meat just won't absorb it.
Is it ready? When it hits about 170°F, collagens, which are part the connective tissues, begin to melt and turn to gelatin. That's magic baby. The meat gets much more tender when this happens. And juicy. When it hits 195°F, it may be ready, and it may not be ready. But it's time to check. The exterior should be dark brown. Some rubs and cookers will make the meat look black like a meteorite, but it is not burnt and it doesn't taste burnt. There may be glistening bits of melted fat. On a gas cooker it may look shiny pink. If there is a bone, use a glove or paper towel to protect your fingers and wiggle the bone. If it turns easily and comes out of the meat, the collagens have melted and you are done. If there is no bone, use the "stick a fork in it method". Insert a fork and try to rotate it 90 degrees. If it turns with only a little torque, you're done. If it's not done, close the lid and go drink a mint julep for 30 minutes. If the internal temp hits 195°F but the meat is still not tender, push on up to 203°F, my new favorite target. At this number the meat seems to soften significantly. If it is still not soft, you've just got a tough butt. Wrap tough butts in aluminum foil and let them go for another hour. If you can't control the temp on your cooker, wrap the meat in heavy duty foil and move it indoors into a 200°F oven. Do not add sauce while it is on the cooker. That comes after you pull it.
The fast method. After 2 hours of smoking at about 225°F with lots of smoke, put the meat on a roasting rack in a roasting pan and pour a cup of water or apple juice into the pan. Cover the meat with foil and fasten the foil tightly to the edges of the pan so the meat is in a nice enclosed environment. Roast in the indoor oven at 350°F for another 2 to 3 hours or until the temp hits 203°F and it passes the fork test, above.
When it is finally ready, go ahead, take a taste. You should notice a thick flavorful crust, and right below the telltale "smoke ring" (at right), the bright pink color caused by smoke mixing with combustion gases and moisture. Let it rest for 30 to 60 minutes in a faux cambro, in an oven at about 170°F, or wrap in foil. If you are more than an hour from mealtime, you can leave the meat on the cooker with the heat off or put it in the indoor oven and hold it there by dialing the temp down to about 170°F. If you are more than 2 hours from mealtime, wrap it in foil to keep it from drying out and hold it at 170°F. If you are taking the meat to a party, use a faux cambro, which is nothing more than a tight plastic beer cooler in which you can hold the meat. Leave the probe in the meat, wrap the hunk tightly in foil, wrap the foil with more towels, and put it the whole thing in the cooler. Fill up the cooler with more towels, blankets, or newspaper to keep the meat insulated. Hang the thermometer cord over the lid of the cooler, and close it tightly. Plug the cord into the readout and make sure it never drops below 145°F. Just know that this technique will soften the bark and change the texture of the meat very slightly.
About 30 minutes before sitting down for dinner, put the meat into a large pan to catch drippings. If your butt came bone-in, the blade should slide right out if it was cooked properly.
Here's the blade bone removed from the butt after cooking. You can see the shank part at the top protruding from the butt on the left below. This is the arm bone that connects to the picnic ham at the elbow. If the meat is properly cooked this bone should pull out easily with two fingers and have almost no meat stuck to it.
Pull the clod apart withBear Paws (shown at right), gloved hands, or forks. Discard big chunks of fat. If you wish you can slice it or chop it like they do in North Carolina, but I think you lose less moisture by pulling it apart by hand since the meat separates into bundles of muscle fibers, hence the name pulled pork. Try not to eat all the flavorful crusty bits when you are doing the pulling, and distribute them evenly throughout. Make sure you save any flavorful drippings and pour them over the meat.
For big parties I will smoke 3 or more butts, pull them, and then put them in a big pan. I add about 1/2 cup of water per 5 pounds, and about 1 tablespoon of butter per pound. I carry it to the party in a coldcooler. When I get to the party I heat it in a slow cooker. Occasionally I will add the sauce before I leave to make sure it is moist and easy to serve. Just don't use so much sauce that you can't taste the meat and the smoke.

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