Smoked Pulled Pork
Smoked pulled pork flavors and textures are amazing. There’s so many ways to cook pulled pork, but our favorite is making the smoked pulled pork from a nice chunk of pork butt because it’s loaded with fantastic flavor. It’s not a quick smoked pork recipe, but it’s totally worth every bite if you have a free day to nurture it to perfection. The process is rather simple and all you need it time and patience. You’ll just need a nice chunk of pork butt, salt & pepper, lump charcoal or smoking chips/chunks, and time.
Pork Butt vs Pork Shoulder
Pork butt (also known as Boston butt) & pork shoulder (also known as picnic shoulder or roast) are both cuts from the shoulder region on a pig. When comparing, pork butt is a from a little higher than the pork shoulder cut. Both are very nicely marbled and super delicious, but pork butt nearly always has the better marbling and is our preferred choice. If you can find it with the bone-in, even better. If your local store only has pork shoulder, don’t worry, it will still be delicious!
How to Cook Smoked Pulled Pork?
The key is to cook it slow and low for hours in a deliciously smokey BBQ.
- Set up your BBQ or smoker for indirect grilling (coals on one side/food cooking on another)
- Put a drip pan under the spot where your meat is going to cook, and if using smoking chips/chunks-soak them in water for an hour or so.
- Light up the smoker, place your meat in there, and then relaxingly spend your day maintaining the temperature of the smoker and amount of smoke (a general rule of thumb is to cook at temperatures between 225°F and 250°F for 90 minutes for every pound – ie 4 lb. pork butt for 6 hours – 6 lb. for 9 hours). If you want a meltingly tender and delicious pulled pork, you can’t rush the process. It will take time to break down the pork butt to tenderness without going dry. Also, individual pork varies depending on age, breed, etc. So don’t get locked into a specific time. Only the pork can tell when it is truly done. If you can stick a fork into the meat and easily twist it, or if it is bone-in and the bone easily comes out, the pulled pork is ready.
Indirect Heat for Smoked Pulled Pork
For smoking, you cook using indirect heat, (the meat isn’t being cooked directly over the coals (or gas) but instead is being cooked off to the side and the heat is coming from the opposite side or in the side firebox chamber.) The temp in the smoker or grill’s chamber where the meat is should be in the 225-250ºF (110-135°C) range the whole time cooking. The BBQ’s lid will be closed most all of the time, trapping in the heat and smoke and slowly cooking the meat like it would in an oven, only better. You should have a decent amount of smoke over half the time you are cooking the meat.
To generate the smoke there are two main ways, use lump charcoal (usually mesquite or hickory), or use smoker chips or chunks of wood that are recommended for smoking meats with regular charcoal briquettes or with a gas grill. Don’t overdue the smokiness or else it will dominate the flavor, but it you have just enough, it will be amazing. With a little bit of tweaking, you can smoke meats in nearly any grill, even a basic Webber grill, however a good BBQ or smoker will make things a bit easier.
A good smoker is usually built with a heavier duty metal which will help maintain a consistent temperature, has a dedicated place to burn the coals that isn’t directly by the meat as it cooks (such as a side fire box) and they will hold in the smoke better so it gets a chance to penetrate the meat. Enjoy this smoked pulled pork recipe!
Watch Video of Delicious Smoked Pulled Pork Recipe:
We love lump charcoal (lit with a chimney) for smoking this smoked pulled pork recipe.
Simple vs Complex Smoked Pulled Pork Recipes
We love our recipe as a simple base recipe. It is great to get you started and comfortable smoking a slab of pork butt and have it taste amazing. As with so much BBQ & Smoking, there are those would love to experiment, tweak, and fine tune the techniques. We’ve found our simple recipe combined with a great sauce, is all we need to have a pulled pork better than just about 90% of the places we’ve tried. But if you want to seek out a more elaborate recipe, this recipe is a great starting point.
Smoked Pulled Pork
- 4-8 pounds (1.8-3.6 kg) Pork Butt (preferrably bone-in, pork shoulder will work too)
- Kosher Salt , to taste (be generous)
- fresh cracked Black Pepper , to taste (be generous)
- your favorite BBQ sauce , optional
- smoker or grill set up for in-direct grilling
- Optional – fruit or nut wood cuttings or chips (if using chips-soak in water for @30 minutes before using)
- Rinse and dry the pork butt with paper towels. If needed, trim off most of the fat cap, leaving the fat cap a just a bit more than 1/4-inch (7-8mm) thick. Generously season with salt and pepper.
- Light charcoal (a chimney is our favorite method). If using a side smoker box, place the lit charcoal next to the side vent door (furthest from the grill), then stack the unlit charcoal going towards the grill (not on top of the already lit charcoal). Start with the vents open just a little bit.
- Place the pork butt in the smoker and close door. After about 15 minutes, check the smoker's temperature. You'll want to keep the temperature between 225°-250°F (110°-120°C). Adjust the vents as needed (less air to cool the temperature, more to increase the heat).While smoking occasionally adjust the vents to keep the cooking temperature between 225°-250°F (110°-120°C). Add more charcoal or briquettes is needed. If using briquettes *see head note, two or three times during the smoking, add a handful of wood cuttings or chips on top of the lit charcoal. (Don't do this too much or else the meat will be overly smoky. Once every hour to hour and half is usually perfect).
- Smoke for about 90 minutes per pound (4lbs for 6 hours, 6 lbs for 9 hours, 8 pounds for 12 hours), depending on the size of the pork butt and average temperature you maintained while smoking. Remove from the smoker when the internal temperature reaches 195°F – 205°F in the thickest part (but at least 1/2" away from the bone). If you can stick a fork into the meat and easily twist it, or if it is bone-in and the bone easily comes out, the pulled pork is ready.
- After smoking, wrap in foil and let rest, preferably for about half an hour. (Some will rest in a room temperature cooler or cambro to give an even more tender finish). Shred with forks or by gloved hand if you prefer. Serve with your favorite sauce.
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Favorite BBQs & Tools for Making Smoked Pulled Pork:
Some tools, grills, and smokers make BBQ and grilling all the more enjoyable.
Oklahoma Joe’s Reverse Flow Offset Smoker –
Love this offset smoker. Solid construction. Isn’t perfect, but with a couple easy modifications it will smoke as well as the $1k + smokers. Can use the main chamber also as a regular charcoal grill. Love using it as a regular grill using lump charcoal or briquettes. Huge cooking surface.
Oasity BBQ Light –
Grilling should never be confined to the daylight. Love this BBQ light. Good brightness, solid magnets plus clamp option. We’ve gone through 1/2 dozen different grilling lights before falling in love with this one. Be ready to grill all night long.
Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling –
Have a grilling or BBQ question, you’ll most likely find an answer here. The most comprehensive grilling & BBQ book we’ve ever found, by far. He breaks down the science and myths, the tools, solid recipes, perfecting techniques, what’s BBQ competition tricks aren’t worth the extra time at home, and much more. You will be grill & BBQ enlightened.
Flame Boss Wifi Temperature Control – A gadget geeks smoking dream. Control your grill and smoker’s temp. from your phone. Adjusts air flow, determines meat temperature. Gadget awesomeness!
Weber Charcoal Chimney Starter –
The perfect way to light lump charcoal or briquettes.
Premium Lump Charcoal –
Burns hotter and longer. Give a great smoke flavor without needing to add wood chips. Our preferred fuel for smoking meats.