Are you looking for a meal that is bound to “wow” even the pickiest guest with your smoking abilities but is also easy to do? Then this is exactly the recipe you’ve been looking for.
Today I will share my favorite BBQ smoked pulled pork recipe. It’s smokey, juicy, pulled goodness every time.
What is the best pork cut for pulled pork?
To quickly sum it up, if you will be looking for the best cut at your local meat market, the ones to look out for are:
- Pork shoulder
- Pork butt
- Boston butt
Now if you want a detailed explanation, it’s all quite simple. You will notice that most recipes go ahead and require a bone-in pork shoulder. This might also be called a pork butt or a Boston butt roast.
And you guessed it, all three are the same pork cut. They all come from the upper part of the pork shoulder. Might be a little confusing but that’s why it’s good to clarify before heading to the market.
The pork butt or shoulder or whichever term you prefer is the perfect piece for pulled pork. Why? Because it has multiple overlapping muscle groups connected by tight tissue.
The tight tissue is exactly what makes this cut perfect for smoking and for pulled pork. Since you’re smoking the meat (AKA the slow process of cooking meat over a wood fire), those tissues start breaking down, they get tender and become the perfect strands for pulled pork.
In this post we'll cover:
How to smoke pork?
Making smoked pulled pork is easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s quick. Remember smoking meat is a slow process in order to get the best results possible. You’ll only need to tend to your smoking meat 2 times while it’s inside the smoker, the rest is up to you.
You’ll notice that this recipe includes wrapping the pork cut for the most amazing results. Some disagree on this and say it’s not necessary or even that they consider it a BBQ sin.
Others have mentioned that wrapping your pork cut in foil makes the bark come out mushy, instead of crunchy and smoky. I can assure you right now that the juiciness you will get out of your smoked pulled pork with this recipe cannot be obtained without wrapping it.
It might feel like it’s extra work but believe me, it’s worth it. Wrapping your pork cut helps speed up the cooking process and it helps your pork cut cook more uniformly. On the other hand, you will need to remember that you should let it rest and cool down before pulling.
This small yet crucial detail will let the meat absorb some of those juices back and help you have the most delicious, juiciest and most tender pulled pork you’ve ever tasted. So jump aboard the tin foil wrapping team and have a seat along World BBQ Champions.
How long should I smoke my pork cut?
You will want to aim towards keeping your smoker temperature between 225° to 235° F. An useful rule of thumb is to calculate about 2 hours for every pound of pork. So if you plan on smoking 5 lbs of meat, it will take about 10 hours in total.
However, each cut is different so sometimes they might cook much faster or much slower than you’d expect if you follow that rule. So there might be 8 hours of difference in smoking meats that are only 2 lbs heavier or lighter than the other.
The best way to guarantee a perfectly smoked pork cut is to use an internal probe thermometer. I recommend the Family Digital Electronic Thermometer since it’s easy to operate, it works from a distance and it even has a timer that can scale up to 24 hours 59 minutes.
It also comes with a 1-year warranty so if your probe’s sensor seems to start experiencing incorrect temperature readings, you can easily send it back and get a new one, free of charge.
As you continue smoking meats you will notice the same trend I’ve run into: your pork cut’s internal temperature will reach the 145° F mark fairly quickly but then it will appear to plateau and take forever to increase by even 20°.
This is known as the “stall” phase and is normal so don’t fret, leave your smoker closed and wait for the temperature to continue to increase again. This is the point where we like to wrap the pork cut to help shorten the smoking process a bit and make sure the meat is juicier when we go ahead and start pulling the pork.
You can also choose to not wrap and let the smoke work its way on the pork cut. This will coat the entire pork cut in a crunchy exterior crust that is called “bark” in the BBQ world. Based on pictures alone this might look like the meat got burned, but this is just our pork rub caramelized.
Which is the best wood for smoking pork?
This question will come down to personal preference, but it’s important to note that the type of wood you use will influence the flavor.
Now, I recommend using a mix of hickory and apple for an amazing result every time. But if you decide to mix things up you can use anything from wood from sweet fruits to heartier woods.
So don’t be afraid to experiment with the only apple, pear and peach wood (either on their own or combined) and hickory and mesquite. And when you take a leap and combine the sweet and heartier woods, you obtain an amazing flavor that will have people asking for more.
Pulling the pork
This is the best and simplest part of this process. Once your smoked pork cut has rested you can start to pull.
For this you can use two forks or get yourself the Cave Tools Pulled Pork Shredder Claws. These are our go-to choice since they make the task of shredding the pork cut much easier and they also have a lifetime satisfaction guarantee so you can be sure they are high quality.
Some people like to add a few spritzes of apple cider or juice for added flavor, but following our recipe, you’ll only need to coat it in the juices left behind in the pan to incorporate the pulled meat with more of our smokey flavor.
We’ve actually got the shredder claws in our bbq smoker gift guide as well.
Smoked Pulled Pork Recipe
Now you’ve read through why this recipe’s instructions are set out the way they are. This is my tried and true method to obtaining the most delicious BBQ smoked pulled pork you’ve ever tried.
And once you try this recipe out, you will never be able to look back. So read on below to get yourself some delicious smoked pulled pork of your own.
Homemade Texas Pork Rub
- ½ cup Brown sugar
- ½ cup Kosher salt
- ½ cup Ground black pepper
- ⅓ cup paprika
- 2 tbsp Cayenne pepper
- 2 tbsp Granulated garlic
- 2 tbsp Granulated onion
- 1 tbsp Celery salt
Smoked Pulled Pork
- 8-10 lbs Smoked pork (butt/shoulder)
- 1 cup Apple juice or apple cider vinegar (in a spray bottle)
- 2 tbsp Yellow mustard
- Trim any excess fat off your pork cut but make sure to leave about a ⅓ inch of fat on the top. Also, remove any undesired cartridge and/or glands. Dry it up with a paper towel and then lightly add some mustard.
- Combine all your rub ingredients and generously coat your pork cut. Make sure it covers all the pork until you’re not able to see any of it anymore.
- Preheat your BBQ smoker to 235° F. Then place your pork with the fat side up on the grates and close the smoker. At this point, do not open it until at least 2 hours have passed.
- At this point, start spraying some apple juice/apple cider vinegar every hour.
- After 4 to 5 hours start testing for internal temperature. Once you hit close to 160° F, you can start wrapping in foil. Take enough 18×30 aluminum foil sheets to cover your pork cut. Remove the cut from the grates and place it on top of the foil with the fat side down. Spray apple cider/juice one more time and then wrap as tight as you can to make sure you don’t lose any of the bark. Then wrap it one more time to keep the foil from tearing on the grates and put it back into the smoker fat side down.
- Once you’ve reached this point, your smoked pork has absorbed as much smoke as possible so you can leave the temperature as is just to keep the tenderness going. Check for tenderness after 2 to 3 hours (7 or 8-hour mark). You’ll know you’re ready when you can pull the blade from the meat without any problems. At this point, take it off the grill.
- Make sure to keep it wrapped, then let it rest for about 30 to 45 minutes before starting to pull away.