Pulled pork probably the most common type of meat for BBQ, and when cooked correctly can taste incredible. It is actually pretty hard to cook it incorrectly as it is a very forgiving cut of meat. Plus, the pork butt is usually pretty cheap, often times on sale at $0.99. Easy, hard to mess up, and cheap. This instructable lays out the simple process of smoking delicious mouth-watering pulled pork. Ready to get smoking?
To smoke pulled pork you will need:
- Electric smoker
- Pork shoulder butt preferably bone in (also known as pork butt or Boston butt)
- Temperature probes (my smoker has a built in temperature probe, but if you can add more probes if you are smoking more than one pork butt or wish to monitor the temperature of the smoker while you are cooking)
- Hickory wood chips (not chunks)
- Rub for the pork butt (start with buying some at the store and experiment with different rubs next time)
- Heavy duty aluminum foil, butcher paper, or pink paper
- (optional) Drip pan, which fits onto the bottom rack of the smoker (this will help make cleaning the smoker easier)
- (optional) External cold smoke generator (this will fit into the side of the smoker and produce smoke over time, instead of you having to replenish the wood chips into the smoker every time that they runout)
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Step 1: Preparing the Pork
The first thing to do is trim the pork. If there is a bone in your pork butt leave it in.The bone creates a pocket in the meat.Leavingit inwill help the pork to cook more quickly and evenly by letting the heat essentially partially cook it from the inside out. Trim as much fat of of the outside of the pork as possible. Trim it form the outside surface and you can trim some of the thick chunks that go into the muscle. Just make sure you leave the meat. After trimming the pork, liberally spread the pork rub over the surface of the meat. Rub and pat. Rub and pat. Rub and pat. After you feel that you have sufficiently rubbed the pork, take a temperature probe, and stick into the middle of the meat. If you have a bone in, you want to keep the probe away from the bone, but still get it into the center of the pork butt. The bone will heat differently than the rest of the pork, so keeping the temperature probe away from the bone gives a more accurate temperature.
Step 2: Preparing, and Starting the Smoker
To prepare the smoker I recommend using heavy duty aluminum foil to line the pans. If there are holes in the pans that you line with foil, poke those holes in the same places in the foil on the pan so that juice and liquid can escape the way it was meant to. Fill the water pan or place a pan of water above the heater element. The water pan is important because it will help to keep your meat from drying out. I can usually get 2 butts per rack, which leaves a rack free for me to place an empty aluminum foil boat or pan to catch the fat drippings. This pan is not essential but helps immensely in cleanup of the smoker. Load the other racks into the smoker and then laid the pork butts onto the racks starting at the top of the smoker. Place temperature probes into the meat (away from the bone) and, if you have an extra, use it to monitor the temperature of the smoker.
If you are using a cold smoke generator, fill the tube with hickory chips, and turn it on, otherwise fill the wood chip scoop with hickory chips and dump them into the smoker box. Set the smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit (107 C), also keep in mind that you should set the timer on your smoker as high as you can because, at least in my smoker, when the timer runs out the smoker turns off! Not good!! You don't want the smoker turning off in the middle of your smoking.
Plan to regularly refill the chips in your smoker. Frequency depends on the smoker you are using. You can stop adding wood chips when the pork reaches 160 F.
Step 3: Cooking and Wrapping the Pork Butts
Between 170 and 180 F the temperature of the meat will seem to stop going up, or slow down drastically as the temperature. This is called the stall. The meat will come out of the stall at about 180 F and start rising again. Towards the end of the stall, pulls he pork butt(s) from the smoker and double-wrap them in aluminum foil, pink paper, or butcher paper. (As a chef bonus, you can get a 'preview' of the final product by eating the pieces of pork that are stuck to the rack. Be sure to inform everyone else how good the 'preview' was...) Put the butts back into the smoker and put the temperature probe(s) back into the meat keeping them away from the bone. Increase the temperature on the smoker to 275 F (135 C). Now wait some more. The wait is worth it. I PROMISE.
Step 4: Pulling and Eating the Pork
After you remove the pork butts from the smoker let them rest for between 30 minutes and 2 hours. I usually rest the butts on a cookie sheet to catch any stray juice that may come out.
After the rest period, carefully remove the wrapping try not to spill juice everywhere. Take a moment and admire your artwork. The beautiful deep red beak (crust) and the mouth-watering smell of your perfectly smoked pork butt. Snap a photo and send it to your not so fortunate friends. (Or would that be mean?) Back to work...
You may wish to wear heat resistant gloves or nitrile gloves at this point. The bone will pull out of the butt very easily with no meat attached to it. Grab the bone and gently slide it out. The butt will pull apart into large pieces (muscle groups). Using your hands and possibly a fork, pull the main pieces of the butt apart and use a knife to scrape any fat away. The pork pieces pull apart with the grain. Also, while you are pulling it, sprinkle a layer of rub on top of the pulled pork.
When you have finished pulling the meat, it is time to enjoy the fruit of your labor. Relax and enjoy the pork on a sandwich, wrapped up in a tortilla with cheese like carnitas, or just eat it by itself. Likely you have already eaten lots of samples while pulling it apart! If you have any leftovers, it will save for several days in the refrigerator, or you can vacuum seal it and store it for longer.
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