One of my favorite BBQ dishes is classic smoked pulled pork. I’ve tried different cooking methods to smoke the meat to make it tender, juicy, and delicious. Doing the conventional low and slow methods work great but it takes a lot of time. When cooking a 9lb Boston Butt Pork Shoulder at 225F, it could take 14-15 hours. I’ve worked on a method to get the deep smoky flavor of the low and slow method, but cut off about 6 hours’ worth of time (depending on size of the cut if meat).
I make a pork injection that is made of 2/3 Apple Juice and 1/3 Apple Cider Vinegar. I also add about a teaspoon of kosher salt per cup of injection. Put the injection in a small sauce pot and warm up the solution to help the salt dissolve into solution. We are not looking to boil it, but just warm it up. Once salt is dissolved, take the injection off the burner.
Put your pork shoulder in a disposable aluminum pan and inject the solution into the center of the meat about ½” inch apart from each other.
The Dry Rub
When injection is complete, it is time to add the dry rub. I sometimes rub the meat down with yellow mustard first to help the dry rub stick to the meat. I have heard about rubbing olive oil on the meat and decided to try that today. It works very well.
After you rub down the meat with a light coat of mustard or olive oil, it is time to add the dry rub. For this recipe, I am using Bad Byrons Butt Rub. It is a staple rub in many of my foods. There are a ton of rubs on the market. Experiment with them all or make your own. Bad Byrons Butt Rub is basically salt, pepper, onion, garlic, paprika, and chipotle powder.
Smoking the Meat
Traditional low and slow cooking cooks the meat around 225F. I am trying to speed the process up a little, so I am going to try and smoke at 275F. I say “try” because my smoker is great at 225F, but struggles above 250F. It was also windy today, so my temperatures probably fluctuated between 235F-280F.
Put the shoulder and pan into the smoker. When I use a pan, I like to put the fat side down to help the bark/crust form on top of the meat.
Cook on the smoker for about 4 hours. This is where we will get our smoke ring and smoke flavor.
I’ve used many types of wood. I tend to use apple and cherry wood a lot while cooking pork. With this being such a large cut of meat, a mixture of pecan and hickory also works well. Stay away from woods like mesquite. It tends to overpower pork and adds an unwanted bitterness.
The Spray Mop
About every 45 minutes while the meat is cooking in the smoker, open up the smoker quickly to spay mop the meat. I use straight apple juice in a spray bottle. This just helps add flavor to the bark. The sugars and juice flavor add complexity to the rub. Some people use Cherry Coke for this step. I like them both. Today, I used Apple Juice.
Power Cooking For the Finish
In about 3 ½ hrs, preheat your over to about 325F.
At the 4 hour mark, take the pan out of the smoker and cover it with aluminum foil. Put the whole covered pan in the over at 325F.
Cook covered until the center of the meat reaches 205F. Using a wireless digital smoker thermometer, like the Maverick Wireless BBQ Thermometer, will help keep your eye on both smoker/oven temperature and the temperature inside the meat.
Resting the Meat
Once the meat reaches an internal temperature of 205F, remove the pan from the oven. Be careful not to spill it, the pan will be full of juices.
We are now going to rest the meat. I use an old junky comforter to wrap the pan and then stick the whole thing in a large cooler. This will let the meat rest and slowly come down in temperature. I usually let me meat rest for 2 hours, but it will remain hot for a long time. Some people rest their pork butt for 3-4 hours.
Pulling the Meat
After the meat rests, open the pan and take a deep long smelling breath through your nose and take in the amazing aromas.
Take the boston butt out of the pan and begin pulling it apart. Be sure to remove all the fat from the cap and what is left in the meat. The meat will be super tender and juicy. The bone will easily pull out and the meat will pull right apart.
Adding Back Some Juices
Don’t pour out all that stock juice in the pan. Use a fat separator and screen out any clumps. Take the stock and heat it up in a sauce pot on low for about 10 minutes. Once the meat is all pulled, pour the stock over the pile of pulled pork.
Serving Pulled Pork
What you do here is your personal preference. Eat it as is, add BBQ sauce, put it on a sandwich, or add cole slaw. All is acceptable.
Enjoy your pulled pork while the traditional low and slow guys are still fighting their fires.