We hope you love the products we recommend. SeriouslySmoked.com may earn a commission on qualifying purchases from Amazon Associates or other vendors. Read more here.
A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Annabelle is an experienced food writer and editor. She focuses on common sense, easy to replicate recipes formulated to help keep things fresh and exciting while fitting into her day to day life as a wife and mother.
Pulled pork is an easy dish to make because you can adjust the heat level and spices based on your tastes. Though you can make a version of pulled pork in a slow cooker overnight, it won’t have quite the depth that pork made it a smoker does. Even if you just bought your first smoker and aren’t quite sure how to use, you can rely on the following recipe to get the great flavor that you want.
The classic way to serve the pork is shredded and on a bun with the right barbecue sauce. You can add pickles or coleslaw to give the sandwich some crunch or use the pork in other dishes such as tacos. As long as you can follow a simple recipe, you can use the best pulled pork recipe.
1. Use the Right Cut of Pork
Before you use tenderloin or any other part of the pig for pulled pork, keep in mind that most recipes call for pork butt. This does not come from the back end of the animal but actually from the shoulder area, which is why some butchers call it pork shoulder.
You may find it called a picnic roast too.
The shoulder is the best cut for pulled pork because it has a good ratio of fat to meat. As the pork cooks, that fat will slowly roast away and add even more flavor to the meat.
If you worry about eating too much fat, you can always trim off some of the excess fat before putting the pork in the smoker.
2. Rub the Pork First
Pulled pork is a delicious dish that doesn’t require a lot of prep work. The one thing you can do in advance is mix together the ingredients for your homemade spice rub. A basic recipe starts with a base of either granulated white sugar or brown sugar, with most BBQ enthusiasts preferring the flavor of brown sugar to white sugar.
You generally want one to two cups of sugar as your base, but then you can add any other spices or ingredients that you like. Paprika, cayenne pepper and garlic are classic ingredients used in a spice rub, and many also use a dash of salt and pepper. You can add minced onion or onion powder too.
A spice rub is an important part of the process because this rub is what flavors the meat. You can add as much or as little as you would like, but you should make sure that you apply a liberal amount and rub it into the meat. If you want, you can even do
3. Best Wood Chips for Smoking
Apple and hickory are two of the more popular woods used for smoking pork. While apple gives the pork a hint of sweetness, hickory will give it a more savory and aromatic flavor. You will want to add your wood or a combination of woods to the smoker and set the temperature to between 210 and 220 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you have a smoker with a water pan or reservoir, add one cup of apple cider vinegar to the pan. Though some smokers lack this feature, you can still use vinegar as an extra flavor. You’ll want to place the liquid in a heatproof pan and place it inside the smoker.
Putting the pork in the smoker is your last step. Depending on the size of the shoulder or roast that you choose, it can take eight to 16 hours to cook through. You typically want to smoke the pork for at least two hours for each pound that you have. It’s easy to take a look inside the smoker to see if you need any added liquid and to tell when the pork is done.
4. Testing the Pork with with a Meat Thermometer
The best pulled pork has a nice and thin crust on the surface that comes from the spices in the rub. You can insert a meat thermometer and remove the pork when it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Many BBQ cooks find that pork comes up to temperature quickly and then the temperature stops rising, but if you keep the temperature in the smoker stable, it will eventually reach the right temperature.
If you want pulled pork done quickly, you can use parchment paper or aluminum foil in your smoker. You’ll need to completely wrap the pork and then place it inside the smoker.
Some prefer letting the pork smoke naturally because this helps it develop a good crust on the outside.
5. Serving Pulled Pork
As long as you cook your pork shoulder for a long time and on a low temperature, you shouldn’t have any problems getting those long shreds of pork. After removing the pork from the smoker, set it on a tray and cover with aluminum foil. You can also place it in a bowl and lightly cover the top with foil.
Once the meat cools to a temperature you can handle, shred the pork with meat claws or your hands. If you use your hands, make sure that you wear gloves to protect your skin from the heat. You can also use tongs to hold the roast in place and pull on the meat with another set of tongs or a meat fork.
There are dozens of ways to serve pulled pork, but the classic Carolina recipe calls for pork dressed with a light sauce served on a bun with a dollop of coleslaw on top. The idea is that the sweet flavor and cold temperature of the coleslaw will tame the heat of the pork. You can also add sauces made from ketchup and vinegar to your pork.
You’ll find just as many ways to use any leftover that you have. Try topping tortilla chips with the pork, sliced fresh or pickled jalapenos, shredded cheese and your favorite salsa. You can also make a pressed sandwich with the pulled pork, shredded cheese and mustard, and make tacos with a tortilla press. The more you make the best pulled pork recipe, the more ways you’ll find to use that meat.