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How to make pulled pork. A classic low and slow.

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Picture of How to make pulled pork. A classic low and slow.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my tutorial.

Pulled pork, along with brisket, ribs and whole hog are the cornerstones of low and slow BBQ. Once you make your own pulled pork sandwich you will never visit another BBQ joint again. During this tutorial I will be using a KomodoKamado ceramic cooker however it can be easily adapted to any cooker that burns charcoal such as a Weber kettle grill, Big Green Egg etc.

True BBQ does not use propane or natural gas so I do not recommend using a gas grill.

Be sure to invite some friends over too. Typically pork shoulders will average 8lbs. If you're going to go through all this trouble you may as well do two or three butts. More than 20lbs of butts cost me less than $40 so its definitely an economical choice. If I'm having a large party its always pulled pork and everyone looks forward to it.

If you enjoy this tutorial please vote for me.
 
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Step 1: Need to make a rub

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For great BBQ you need a great rub. Literally thousands can be found on the net so pick one that looks appealing. I found this one years ago. I'm not sure where its from but I did not come up with it so I do not take credit for it. It's a great all purpose rub.

1C sugar
1/4C seasoned salt
1/4C garlic salt
1/4C celery salt
1/4C onion salt
1/2C paprika
3 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp lemon pepper
2 Tsp ground sage
1 Tsp dry mustard
1/2 Tsp ground thyme
1/2 Tsp cayenne

Mix into a bowl and store in a jar with a tight fitting lid. It makes a lot of rub but it will keep for several months

This is a lot of ingredients to buy so if you prefer, you can use store bought BBQ rub but it won't be as good.

Step 2: Source some good quality pork

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Make friends with your local butcher and have him/her give you a nice pork shoulder (or three). You can get them with bone in or bone out. I prefer bone out but these particular examples are bone in. You will also need to tie the shoulders using cotton string. When raw they hold together quite nicely but after they cook they'll fall apart when you try and take them off the grill.

Leave the fat on. Most of it will render off and what doesn't can be easily separated when you pull it.

Once tied, liberally sprinkle the rub over the entire surface and then store in the refrigerator for at least several hours. Overnight would be better.

Step 3: Drain and re-season

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After the pork has rested in the refrigerator it will release a lot of juice. This liquid will remove some of the rub so you'll need to reapply the rub before cooking.

Leave the pork on the sheet pans and set at an angle so the juice will run off. Then move the butts to another sheet pan to re-season. Once seasoned, leave the pork on the counter at room temperature while you build your fire. (Not too long though). This will help hasten the cooking time.

Step 4: Build your fire

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The first step in building your fire is to choose the coal you will use. There are lots of different options but I prefer lump charcoal. You could use briquettes but whatever you do don't use the "match light" type. For a really long cook, if you have an inefficient cooker, briquettes may be your best choice since they burn longer than lump. Remember these butts are going to take as long as 14hrs to cook so you don't want to run out of fuel in the middle of the night while you're asleep.

Arrange the charcoal with the largest pieces on the bottom and the smallest on top. I like to bury hunks of hickory into the coal and sprinkle apple chips on top. Try not to add too much raw wood as too much smoke can be a problem. You want enough but not too much.

Step 5: Light your fire

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I prefer to use a torch to light just a few coals on the top of the pile. Don't overlight! Once started its very difficult to stop the coals from burning. You're trying to slowly work up to operating temperature. Lighting too many coals will get you to the operating temperature quickly but once there it will easily overshoot and be difficult, if not impossible to control.

Step 6: Add some chips

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Once its lit, add some apple chips and quickly assemble you're rig. It will start smoking immediately and you don't want it to catch fire so you'll need to work quickly.

Step 7: Indirect heat

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In my particular cooker, I use a heavy pizza stone wrapped in foil to ensure my butts don't get any direct heat. If you have a kettle grill or other type of cooker you can build an offset fire (all the coals on one side-meat on the other) to ensure your meat doesn't receive any direct heat. Also, you should use a drip pan under the butts. A lot of grease will render and you don't want it to end up on your patio. I got almost a litre of grease from this cook.

Step 8: Put your meat on the cooker

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Once you have everything set up and ready to go you can put your meat on the cooker. Close the lid and don't open it again until you ABSOLUTELY have to. I put my butts on at 8:00pm

Step 9: Controlling heat

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BBQ is low and slow. You need to plan for this feast. If you want to eat on Sunday at 5pm, you should put the butts on at 10pm Saturday evening at the latest (depending on the size of the butts). They will usually be ready to take off sometime Sunday morning. The last thing you want is company waiting to eat but your pork is only at 165f. There is no way to speed the process so planning is key.

The ideal cooker temperature is 225f to 250f but no higher. On my rig I use a BBQ Guru. Its a neat little device that controls the pit temperature and monitors meat temperature. That's why you see all the wires in the picture. Its a fancy way for me to easily control the temperature. Most won't have this so just be sure you set your dampers accordingly and closely monitor the temperature. If you're confident, you can put the meat on immediately after you build the fire. If not, then you should get the cooker temperature stabilized for at least 1/2hr before putting your meat on.

Step 10: Wait

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Now you need to wait for the butts to cook. While waiting enjoy a few beers or a glass of wine. You can't forget about it though. You'll need to ensure the temperature is stable and you have enough fuel. If you need to add fuel, do it quickly.

Step 11: Middle of the night check on temperature

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Its 4am and the temperature is 246f. Perfect. I'm going back to bed.

Step 12: Finally done!

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For my cook, my butts were finished at 11:30am. The butts had an internal temperature of 195f which is where I like it. Some go higher, others lower but 195f is perfect for me.

The picture shows what you will be rewarded with. You'll notice the butts have a very dark, crusty exterior known as the "bark". It is without a doubt the best part. Also, the butts have shrunk a considerable amount. This is all normal.

Remove the butts from the cooker.

Step 13: Wrap in foil and dwell

Picture of Wrap in foil and dwell
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Since my company isn't coming for hours and these butts need to rest, wrap them in foil. Once wrapped tightly in foil wrap in some old towels and place each butt in a cooler. They will literally hold all day. Just before my company arrives I'll pull the butts. Everything is ready with no stress involved.

Step 14: Time to pull

Picture of Time to pull
Its been several hours and its time to pull the pork. I like to use food safe latex gloves when pulling. The butts are still rocket hot and it definitely helps cut down on burned hands.

Cut off the string, grab at the butt and pull it apart. It will almost fall apart on its own anyway. You want to essentially tear the meat into bite size chunks discarding the fat that hadn't rendered. Don't discard the bark though, its the best part. Mix that in with the meat.

Step 15: Ready to eat

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The finished product! It may not look like much in the pictures but I can tell you its the best eating you will ever have for $1.89/lb. Sometimes I like to sprinkle a touch of rub on the pulled pork at this point just to give it a little added flavor.

My preferred method of eating is on some cheap white bread or buns with some vinegar slaw or some BBQ sauce.Many of my guests just prefer to eat it plain.

Step 16: A look back

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BBQ is a great tradition in my family. I got into BBQ over a decade ago and I'm still learning. There are so many different methods, techniques and flavor profiles that the combinations are endless.

This tutorial has worked well for me and its almost foolproof. Its very easy and it does take a lot of time but the fruits of your labor are well worth it.

I hope you try it so your family can enjoy it too.
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mrs_shelly9 months ago

Love your rig! It's so unique looking. What does this "bbq guru" thingy do and is it worth buying?

great job !
eyesee1 year ago
好想吃啊哈哈
H2OIT5 years ago
I'm starving now!
john126926 years ago
finally someone else that has a kamado! i have 2 just because they are so awesome (and i think one was a gift or a prize and they didnt want it) btw big green egg is a spin-off of kamado (the founder of kamado went overseas in the military to japan i believe and saw their rice cookers, brought a couple back changed the ceramic formula so they could take higher temps and the design so they would be more convenient (hinging lid instead of having to remove the top half) then he needed money so he sold that design to egg they changed it slightly and started producing the eggs while kamado continued to revise their designs and produce the modern day kamado)
Look again John, it's a KOmodo Kamado - way different than what you have.
imboox26 years ago
My idea of how it should be done is...make it the way YOU like it. Forget what everybody else says is the best way. I've had it varying ways and they all are good to me. Personally though, I'd do it the way you did. I've gotten rub from different places. Of the first couple we tried I liked Corky's rub, my wife likes their competition, Rendezvous better. Anything we make made with them or other rubs surely won't go to waste, I just have my preference, she has hers. She was born in Tennessee and grew up in Georgia near Atlanta. I'm from Michigan. Our tastes are just different. Our friends north and south vary what they like best, too.
static6 years ago
Good instructable, but there are as many ways o do this as there are people trying it. Doing it a bit different each time until they hit on what works for them. We have a Traeger http://www.traegergrills.com/ grill in the family. Their seasonings work well, so that;s what we use, even if I'm using the Kitchen range oven Yup gas, but I just call it pulled pork not BBQ. Anyway the real purists did a hole in the pasture to roast a whole hog. Yum. :)
trudeto6 years ago
resistance is futile....... We are Borg......
Were did you get the Smoker/BBQ grill? it looks great I do smoking and I'd like to see the temp with out opening it all the time.
I think that's the "bone dust rub" from a man by the name of Ted Reader He has literally hundreds of amazing BBQing tips and tricks. He also is a fan of rubs. If you want to try different flavoured rubs, my personal favourites with pork are his "sweet maple" rub and "garlic inferno" rub. Definitely check them out!
glohstr6 years ago
Thank you cruzmisl for the time you took to put this instructable together. I made this according to your instructions and my family thought it was the best thing I ever made on the grill. (I have a 55 gallon drum grill.) The pulled pork was well worth the time it took to cook. Great job!
cruzmisl (author)  glohstr6 years ago
My pleasure! The fact that you and your family enjoyed it made the effort worthwhile :-)
fetzervalve6 years ago
Awesome, thanks. I have to ask, what kind of grill is that?? ;-)
I'd also like to know more about that BBQ of yours. It looks like a beast!
You can see the name there. It's Kamado.
cruzmisl (author)  fungus amungus6 years ago
Actually fungus thats a competitor. Mine is a http://www.komodokamado.com/KomodoKamadoNew/

I owned that one before the one I currently own and it wasn't nearly as well built.
Ahhh. Looks like some people are being tricky with names.
It's much, much more than just being tricky with names. That company used to be a contract manufacturer for Kamado and had absolutely nothing to do with making them until they were taught how to make them, then ripped them off. If this was Engadget, it would be an entry into the Keepin' It Real Fake category.
LVLaserTech: Simply: You are wrong.
Looks like someone needs a history lesson.
Very briefly; when Richard Johnson (the maker of the "Kamado" brand) left Indonesia in the middle of the night, and left a bunch of people out of work, Dennis Linkletter, owner of a flooring business in Indo heard about it. He looked into things found all the shortcommings of the Kamado brand (there were many) He made a completely new cooker with none of the flaws of the Kamado. He named his company, and his original design cooker the KOmodo Kamado. Dennis has patents pending for several of the elements of the KK.
If you are interested in what the Kamado company is up to these days you can find details here. http://tinyurl.com/ph7n7
The KOmodo Kamado was NEVER a contractor for the Kamado company. I owed 2 Kamados. My first one was made of cement and ground lava rock. It cracked and fell apart. After much BS from the Kamado company I finally received a replacement made of cement. I sold it and purchased a KOmado Kamado which is made much better and a HUGE IMPROVEMENT.
I am the builder/owner of Komodo Kamado and have NEVER done ANY business with Richard Johnson builder of Kamado. I hired some his abandoned employees 6 years ago, I believe only one of them still work with me. All of the unique features of my Komodos now have full patent status. Dennis Linkletter "Kamado" is the Japanese name for an earthenware cooking vessel. There are many Kamados sold i.e. Imperial Kamado and Primo Kamado to name two.
Phoghat6 years ago
" True BBQ does not use propane or natural gas so I do not recommend using a gas grill. Remember Hank Hill says: "Taste the meat, not the heat".
but he sells propane.... now my brain hurts.
vandal11386 years ago
looks like an evil steam powered robot coming to destroy your house and leave tasty treats
Cylon-BBQ's of the world, unite! :OP ~adamvan2000
cruzmisl (author)  adamvan20006 years ago
HAHA, thats funny.
Now I am scared and hungry.
kurt.devlin6 years ago
What equipment do you have from BBQ Guru? Is it just monitoring temp or is it flu control too? I looked at their site and some of their stuff is more expensive than my grill/smoker (CharGriller Duo with Side Fire Box).
cruzmisl (author)  kurt.devlin6 years ago
I have the DigiQII. Its essentially a fan that blows when the temperature is low. Once it's stabilized the fan will "puff" air onto the cooker yielding rock steady temperatures. It has many other features though. You have to limit the amount of airflow though so the cooker is almost entirely closed tight. My top damper is open maybe 1/4 turn.
JVC-Force6 years ago
NICE!
allanthal6 years ago
You folks must be from up north. Let me offer a few tips learnt by and passed down my family in more than 300 years of barbecue cooking in Georgia. First, wrap the butt in foil for the last six or seven hours of cooking. When the butt has cooled, break into muscle groups. Take a sharp knife and scrape the membrane off individual muscle groups. The putt the de-membraned muscle groups into a big pan and pull it by using a fork in each hand. Put the two forks into a muscle group and then pull your hands apart. Do this with each small piece until it gets to the size and consistency uyou desire.
Y'all got a good down home sauce recipe?
SinAmos6 years ago
It's on. I just need the cooker.;(
kerns SinAmos6 years ago
Make your own - lots of instructions all over the web, but take a look here http://www.naffziger.net/blog/2008/07/05/the-alton-brown-flower-pot-smoker/ for one writeup. Simple, and can be done for small money!
Wow, that's interesting and reasonably do-able. I guess you have to use an electric burner for a flower pot cooker though, yes? Doesn't the grease fall down on it? Do you get grease fires?
Yep, for the flower pot smoker you really want an electric burner. Though you *could* use coals (maybe on top of trimmed-to-fit fire bricks) you'd have to continually open the cooker and lift out the grate to add fuel. That'd wreck the "low and slow" process.
I have a Big Green Egg kamado-style cooker and itt's fantastic for low and slow cooking. But BGE's are built to allow for messing with charcoal or hardwood fuel during a long cook. .
doc_howell6 years ago
195F sounds awful high. 160F actually sounds like a good landing temp, and I believe it's a safe temp. Why so high?
cruzmisl (author)  doc_howell6 years ago
Bringing the temp up to 160f is certainly "safe" to eat. Its not high enough to break down the connective tissue and fat which is what makes the resulting meat "melt in your mouth". I am a medium rare steak lover and I too was astounded when I first brought a hunk of beast to this temperature. Trust me, its exactly where it needs to be. At 160f you won't be able to pull it.
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