A good pulled pork BBQ recipe is one of the pleasures, if not an absolute delicacy, of the south. As with BBQ sauce, there are many variations as to how to prepare it. That's really the whole trouble with BBQ in general, isn't it? There is no way to talk about it and be accurate. There is always someone just down the road that does it differently.
There is one good thing, however. Even though you can never be right (when talking about BBQ), chances are... you will never be wrong either.
People have many unique tastes, traditions, and forms of BBQ. I prefer to think that everyone is right. I just think it's better than sticking to only one narrow definition of BBQ. Keep that in mind as we continue through this pulled pork BBQ recipe and the rest of the website.
I guess I better let you know what pulled pork is (just in case). It is a pork shoulder (commonly called a pork butt for some reason) that is slow cooked over low indirect heat until it is tender enough to easily pull apart.
Pork butt is one of those trashy pieces of meat. It has a lot of fat and connective tissue running through it. Because of that, it's usually pretty cheap too. A pulled pork BBQ recipe shouldn't cost you a lot of money.
It is one of those cuts that needs to be cooked slow and for a long time. That's what melts away the fat and breaks down the connective tissue, making it falling apart tender. That fat is also what helps give it such good flavor (and, of course, the rub too).
A rub is meant to enhance that flavor of the meat. This is where you add flavor that you can control. Use as much or little as you want. Put together some spices that you or your family likes, and try it. You will surprise yourself.
If you don't want to go it alone, and jump in with both feet just yet, try this rub.
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbl chili powder
2 Tbl black pepper
2 Tbl salt
2 tsp dry mustard
Coat and rub this mixture onto a 5 or 6 pound pork butt. To help the spices stay put, try smearing some mustard or Worcestershire sauce on the pork first. Once finished, wrap in plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate for at least an hour, maybe even overnight if you have the time.
Cooking it long and slow with some charcoal and/or hardwood is the key part of any pulled pork BBQ recipe. Smoke it at 220 degrees for around 6 hours, or until an internal temperature of 185 degrees Fahrenheit is reached. If you can do that well... everything else is gravy (not literally).
Even though a perfectly delicious pork butt can result from proper smoking, a big part of a good pulled pork BBQ recipe is the sauce. Sticking with traditional pulled pork from the south, it should be a vinegar based barbecue sauce... like this one...
1 1/2 c apple cider vinegar
1/2 c water
2 Tbl brown sugar
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Stir all ingredients together and refrigerate for several hours for the flavors to come together.
Use this sauce, during smoking, as a basting sauce as well as a finishing sauce after the meat has been pulled. It provides the action of a marinade when used as a baste. The acid in the vinegar serves to help tenderize the meat.
It also provides good flavor as a finishing sauce, but remember to boil it first (unless you have reserved some before basting). Keeping the mop separate from the finishing sauce is the easiest. Marinade safety is a very important issue.
Usually a pulled pork BBQ recipe is made into sandwiches. Since it is pulled and shredded into small pieces, that makes it perfect for sandwiches. Add some of the finishing sauce to the pulled pork and place on a bun. Add additional sauce if desired. (Have your fork handy. These can get messy.)
This is one of those things that takes a long time to prepare because of the smoking time. But when you pull it off (and you will), your guests will go on and on about how good it is. You will probably then be ready to do it again at your first opportunity. Happy cooking and have another drink.