Pulled Pork: an Instructable




This is true BBQ, there will be a smoke ring, dry rub, smoke, a baste, and minimal saucing. All of these steps can be to the individual taste, the amounts I give are general guidelines and depending on my mood I'll even alter them somewhat. This is an entry for the BBQ contest.

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Step 1: The Ingredients

Rub: For the size of roast I recommend, one part is roughly equivalent to 1 TB
4 parts paprika
3 parts kosher salt (do not use table salt)
3 parts brown sugar
2 parts chili (not powder of chilies) powder
1 part cayenne pepper
*The following ingredients in a measure that all adds up to one part roughly equal but again it's up to preference*
onion powder
garlic powder
dried mustard
black pepper

1, 4-5 pound Boston butt pork roast or other large, bone in pork roast (not ham)
1 bag of wood chips for smoking (available at wal-mart and maybe even Lowe's/Home Depot)
Charcoal (if you have a charcoal grill)
Propane (if you have a gas grill)

1 cup of ketchup
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 t liquid smoke (buy it at wal-mart or make your own (instructable for another time))
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper

1 yellow onion chopped fine
2 garlic cloves minced
1.5 cups ketchup
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 T mustard
1 T chili powder
1 T worcestershire sauce
1 T maple syrup
salt to taste
pepper to taste

Step 2: The Rub

Note: The recipe you're about to prepare is a synthesis of different "styles" of BBQ for the uninitiated, in general midwestern BBQ is a thick sauce that is often sweet, Carolina BBQ is often very thin sauce with it's main component being vinegar. I go to college in North Carolina and I grew up in Ohio so this recipe consists of a vinegar based baste as well as a thick sweet sauce with vinegar undertones.

1. Mix all the rub components together in a small bowl

2. Rub the rub into the pork roast, be sure to get real friendly with your roast especially if you can't give it a full 24 hours to rest.

3. Wrap the roast tightly in saran wrap and place it in a separate roasting pan so that juices if they escape don't cover the inside of your fridge (I didn't place it inside a pan one time when I made it...horrible choice)

4. Let it sit for at least 8 hours, 12 is better, 18 better still but a full 24 is the best

5. While the meat is relaxing, soak your wood chips in a bowl of water for at least half an hour, a full hour is better

Step 3: Prepare the Grill

Normally when I grill I like to see those distinctive diamond patterned grill marks, the ones that make people say "yum grilled stuff" but this is not the time or place for the heat required for those.

1. If using Charcoal read the next 3 steps then skip to step 5 if using gas skip down to step 4 and follow to conclusion

2. Load a chimney starter (10 or so bucks at lowes/wal-mart/home depot) about half full with charcoal. Place newspaper soaked in cooking oil in the bottom and light. When you see ashes forming on the charcoal it's ready

Note: Please I beg you for flavor's sake DO NOT use matchlight charcoal or lighter fluid. The matchlight is charcoal that has been soaked in lighter fluid, both lighter fluid straight up and matchlight will contribute an unwelcome acrid flavor to the pork because it sits in the smoke for so long. Use a chimney starter or one of those electric lighters that was used in
Home Alone to burn the shit out of the guy's hand.

3. When the charcoal is ready, build what is called a "modified two level fire" this is when coals are placed on one side of the grill only creating a hot zone and a cooler zone. We'll be using the cooler zone.

4. On your gas grill light the far right or far left burner and turn it up to high. the burner in the middle may or may not come into play because temperature regulation is crucial and the middle burner is the temperature control in this recipe. The far burner from the one lit on high will be where the meat sits and will never be turned on. Never.

5. Take your woodchips from the previous step out of the water and place them in an aluminum pie plate with holes poked in the bottom or in a pinch a double layered pouch of aluminum foil also with some holes poked in the top side.

6. Place this packet on the grill grate over the highest heat and let it sit for about 10 minutes while you retrieve the meat.

Note: I said earlier that temperature control was key, under no circumstances should the grill be allowed to reach a temperature over 300 degrees, nor should it dip below 200 degrees, the obvious butter zone is about 250 degrees, at this temperature the meat comes up to temperature slowly and dissolves all the collagen and connective tissue in the meat and makes it delicious.

Step 4: Preparing the Meat

The meat will look different from when you started, namely it will be much wetter. Long scientific/culinary story short, the salt in the rub created a sort of osmosis where the salt sucked out all of the water from the pork (because it's hypertonic to the meat) when all the liquid is pulled out, the meat cells want to achieve hydrostatic equilibrium, so it sucks the water that now contains salt, and all the flavoring compounds of the spices back into the meat. This will not happen in less than 8 hours but the optimum results are after 24. No longer than 24 however or else the liquid will be expelled again and this time it wont come back in. Also all the spices on the outside form a crust after grilling and this is my favorite part of the finished product.

1. Remove the meat from the fridge and open the package over the sink to catch any juices that have collected.

2. Wrap the meat in a double layer of aluminum foil paying special attention to seal the ends/seams.

3. Take outside to the grill

Step 5: Time to Grill

Now it's time to grill.

1. Open the grill cover and place the meat on the cool side of the grill

2. Cover and let cook, minding the heat for 2 hours. For those using charcoal you will need to stoke the flame occasionally. When you notice the temperature steadily creeping down, prepare a new load of charcoal and quickly dump it back into the grill to maintain temperature. For those with gas, make sure to check the temperature about every 15 minutes and adjust using the middle burner as necessary. If you live in a really hot area or are cooking on a hot day the temperature might even creep over 300 with the middle burner off, if this happens, open the cover to let off some heat, turn the burner down to medium and wait for the temperature to come down. Just remember never to let the heat go above 300 degrees!

3. After the two hours have passed, transfer the foil package to a plate (not a serving plate it's not done yet!) and allow it to cool for a few minutes. When it's cool enough to touch remove the foil and place the meat back down onto the grill and continue to cook. Now would be a good time to add more wood chips to develop more smoke flavor but that's up to you.

4. Continue to cook for another 2-4 hours, there;s no way to put an exact time on it as all cuts of meat and all roasts are different, and there's just so many different factors but it will never be less than 2 hours and shouldn't take more than an additional 4.

5. After the meat is put on for the second time you can retreat indoors to prepare the sauce and baste.

Step 6: The Baste

The baste is used to introduce flavor, moisture and by extension flavorful steam into the mix along with the smoke.

1. Combine all the ingredients in a large can (I tend to use a family sized baked beans can but any large can will do).

2. Take the baste along with a pastry brush out to the grill, place the can on an unused cooler section of the grill

3. When you go out to check the temperature in the grill, open it up and quickly baste the meat with the liquid and then close the lid. The liquid will heat up and steam which will provide flavor and basting provides moisture.

4. This is a bit out of order but remember to always keep the bone side down because it's the insulation so that the meat doesn't burn, even the low heat can scorch it if the meat touches the grill directly.

Step 7: The Sauce

This sauce is very much open to interpretation or if you're a slacker you could even use your favorite store bought but it will never taste as good as homemade.

1. Saute the onions and garlic in some oil/butter/ or if you're on a diet go for the cooking spray over medium high heat

2. After the aromatics are a medium golden brown color reduce the heat to low and dump all the other ingredients into the pot.

3. Stir the mixture until everything is combined and then you can pretty much forget about it. Just keep it over low and stir it once in awhile but there's no need to baby it.

Step 8: Grilling: Part Deux

Ok, so you've been basting the meat, monitoring the temperature, you have an awesome sauce waiting now what's left? Checking for doneness, and the finishing touch that will make your pulled pork better than the restaurant down the street.

1. The meat is done when it can be "pulled" with a fork. Be careful to start checking this after the 4 hour TOTAL mark or two hours after you remove the foil. Fall apart tender meat happens between the two tough stages. Another science/culinary story short is an example, rare/medium rare steak is tender because it hasn't been cooked very much so the protein structure hasn't cooked to the point where it start's wringing out water like a sponge. Pot roast (when done right) is extremely well done. What happens is after the proteins wring out like a sponge they then move on to being cooked to the point where their bonds are broken and the proteins dissolve. This reaction is what causes good pot roast (and our pulled pork) to be fall apart tender and delicious.

2. When the meat can be pulled with a fork, pull it off the grill place it on a plate and crank the grill temperature. For those using gas it's easy for charcoal dump and entire chimney full of charcoal into the fire in one layer.

3. Take the meat inside and baste it with the sauce. Once the meat hits the rocket engine of a grill outside, the sugars in the sauce will form a glaze. Make sure not to use all the sauce. We want a thin layer so it doesnt make a mess out of the grill or become overcarmalized aka burnt.

4. After sauced move the meat back outside and place it on the grill. DO NOT WALK AWAY! This process happens fast, no more than 5-7 minutes total. Move the meat onto all the sides so the sauce forms a glaze roughly 2 minutes per side. There will be some burning but there's shouldn't be too much, common sense please.

5. After it's glazed pull the meat off and take it inside.

Step 9: Finishing Touches

1. When the meat is inside tent it with aluminum foil and let it rest for 10 minutes

2. After 10 minutes remove the foil and using two forks, dig into the meat and pull it in opposite directions creating shreds of pork.

3. After all the pork is shredded you can either put it all in a bowl, douse it in sauce and serve or you can put the meat on a plate, the sauce in a bowl and let people sauce themselves.

4. Serving Suggestion: I love my pulled pork to be served on a toasted bun with the sauce drizzled over the meat and topped with cole slaw.

Thanks for reading this instructable, please vote for it and I hope you have as much fun making it as I do.

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    58 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    OK so I haven't done a Boston butt yet, but will very soon. I've done full pigs, ribs (pork and beef), tenderloins, ect.... So I've have experience with BBQ. I am no expert by any means and learn something new all the time. I will say my preferred method is charcoal (you can make your own, look it up on this site) and prefer pecan as the wood for smoking (nice flavor, not too strong). OK so to my point. I know many people here (Alabama) who do smoke their butts with tinfoil. Helps keep the juices in and such. When I say many I mean about 10 different people at least. They have won many awards in competitions and such. The trick is in the time, the temps, and the sauce. Thats what wins the awards. Yes time and temp are major factors in the end products, but also the sauce. You can have the best prepared meat, cooked for the right times and at the right temps only to be ruined by the sauce applied (by the person eating it or the cook).

    So heres the trick with BBQ! Make it how you like it! Not everyones going to like your end result, thats a fact! Each person and cook prefers different things in BBQ. Some like chunked, some like pulled. Some like runny sauce, others like thick, some like to put on the amount of sauce they want where others like to hear the meet scream "I'm Drowning!".

    And for sure not all chiefs will agree on the best way to do it. Thats why there are so many different types of BBQ and so many different flavors of sauces. Something I may like you may not.

    Do it how you like, the way you like, and remember yes it's a passion for some but for others it's the joy of getting friends together and drinking some beer and eating some good food, but most of all it's having a good time!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I have a ?...I did my first pork butt on the
    weber yesterday and into last nite and learned that i should start earier in the day! It went okay but having split the 90 briquettes on each side of the drip pan using the minion method and a temp range of 225-275 degrees my  problems were that one side went out before catching the unlit briquettes fully and the piece was only at 162 degrees by 10:30 PM when my hunger overtook my need for authenticity and I took it off wrapped in foil for 10 minutes and sliced off a few slabs for a bun and some slaw. Theprospect of waiting for a 190 internal temp was too much to bear. Can I put it back on the grill  & continue or has slicing it compromised the process? 

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    well what I've found works well is to put some unlit briquettes in first and then dump the lit chimney of briquettes onto the unlit ones and it increasing the chances of them lighting correctly. In terms of being able to put it back on the grill, you should be able to, but I can't promise it will be as juicy as it would be if you hadn't sliced it simply because when you slice you lose some juices. Try it and see what happens

    You made several egregious errors. The first is you used a gas grill and even encouraged it in your instructions. Anyone that cooks a large cut of barbecued meat on a gas grill should be burned at the steak. Get a nice charcoal grill and you will learn that there is not a single advantage of gas over charcoal. The second is you encouraged the use of charcoal briquets. Briquets are the reason most people think charcoal requires more clean up. They are charcoal that has been ground, cut, and glued back together with a number of additives. They are filthy and make food taste like crap. ALWAYS use lump hardwood charcoal. Oak, mesquite, hickory, sweet gum, apple, and cherry are my favorites. The third is you didn't do any smoking once you pulled it out of the foil. Without smoking it heavily you won't have that fine crust that sets really great bbq apart. The fourth is you completely failed to mention the 160-170 degree internal temperature that you have to cook pork to. Nice rub though. Come to the South sometime and you'll see.

    12 replies

    Our charcoal grill used to get hot, and not be tilted, then as we used it over the years it slowly tilted somehow, on cement ground, and seemed not to get as hot.

    First, I wouldn't consider my "errors" egregious. I said from the beginning that things were up for adaptation. I don't use a charcoal grill at home and don't have as much experience with it so I'm sorry for the error about briquettes versus lump charcoal or for "encouraging" gas grill use but again this is personal preference. Secondly, in terms of heavily smoking it, having it in a smoke filled grill chamber for 4 hours will contribute to smoking it, obviously not as much as having it in a dedicated smoker but this still does the job. Thirdly, if you can manage to cook a pork shoulder for 6 hours at the temperatures I recommended and it doesn't reach 160 degrees than you have a super pork shoulder my friend because I'm here to tell you that would be practically impossible. Fourth, I spend 9 months of the year in the south and I've been cooking for almost 15, I make do with what I have and what most people would have. Most people don't have dedicated smokers outback, they have gas grills and can get wood chips so I catered to this demographic of people. That's what instructables is about not making how-to's for a bunch of things that normal people can't do or don't have access to

    You can't smoke meat while it's wrapped in aluminum. It's pretty easy to smoke meat without a dedicated smoker. Just put wet wood chips on your fire and viola..... smoked meat. I suggest you give charcoal a good try. One of the beauties of charcoal is I can keep a consistent temperature for hours and hours and by varying my heat and using direct or indirect heat I can have a large cut done in 3 hours (not recommended) or I can give a pork should or butt, a beef brisket, ribs, etc 2 or more days to get delicious. When I do large cuts they go on first thing in the morning and generally spend ~12 on the grill, about 2-3 of which is smoking with one of my wood chip blends. While I won't get into a debate over experience I will throw out there that I have a number of big bbq competition titles and am very competent when cooking anything over fire.A decent charcoal grill is significantly cheaper than a decent gas grill. This is especially true when you get in the high end but is true across the board. Therefore, charcoal techniques could make this even more accessible. I'm sorry to come across as a dick but I'm very passionate about open flame cooking and there are certain things that shouldn't be sacrificed and don't need to be for accessibility's sake. I'll post an instructable on beef brisket early next week. Look out for it and let me know what you think.

    If you read the instructable you'll see that after I give the meat a jumpstart on getting tender by wrapping it in foil I remove the foil and allow it to smoke with wet woodchips in the fire. If you keep the fire so low that it takes two days to get to the point of being tender you have more than likely ostracized a good number of people who don't have that much time to dedicate to the project. Regardless of price, most people I know have gas grills. I'm agreeing with you that a good charcoal grill is as effective and depending on what you're cooking can taste better than gas, but it's hard for me to personally do an instructable when I don't have a charcoal grill, and even if I did, I would probably still use my gas grill because in my experience more people have them. In terms of sacrificing and passion for the craft of open flame cooking, I understand but if you can achieve similar results at home with my process without having to buy a specialty smoker, or equipment that most people don't have then it's worth it. You beef brisket instructable I'm sure will be very informative but if it follows what you've been saying about mine, I won't be able to make it because I don't have any of the specialty apparatus you're going to be calling for, nor do I have two days to cook a piece of beef

    "If you keep the fire so low that it takes two days to get to the point of being tender you have more than likely ostracized a good number of people who don't have that much time to dedicate to the project." If you waited until your guests show up for dinner to put the meat on, that would no doubt be true. However, low slow barbecue gets started well before people start gathering around the table, and creating it doesn't occupy you for every minute of the cooking time. I held a q fest for friends last summer where the "cooking time" was mostly spent whitewater rafting, drinking beer on the porch, watching the demolition derby at the town fair, and getting a solid eight hours of sleep. So yes, you probably do have your "two days" (more like 12-18 hours for a pork butt or brisket) to cook a piece of meat. You just have to go about it the right way. Oh, and btw -- at 225F, it really does take that long to come to temp. It's all good -- the longer it cooks, the better the connective tissue breaks down. You dig into that stuff before it's had time to break down in the gentle heat, it'll be gnarly. I think you did quite a decent job of creating pulled pork in something that's not a smoker, but you had to know that this stuff inspires passionate reactions. People will disagree about whether your results are indeed "similar", legitimately so. Heck, there are a ton of recipes for "barbecued pulled pork" all over the net that are made using a crock pot! My personal points of disagreement would be: 1)cooking time...yeah, I know you can knock it down some with foiling, but when you're foiling you aren't smoking. 2)resting time. Let that bad boy rest for an hour or more before you pull it. 3)saucing. Covering the butt with sauce and returning it to the grill, why? Leave the sauce off, foil the butt, let it rest in a cooler (without ice) so it can relax, pull it, and either add the sauce then or leave it off and let people add their own. I'm sure the results are damn tasty, though, and it's a quite good instructible for someone with a gas grill. I would still make changes as noted, though.

    Ok, you fellows might convince me if you'd be kind enough to give an Instructable on starting the fire in a matter of minutes without resorting to lighting fluids [allergic reactions to petrochemicals] the best type/style of BBQ for doing this kind of cooking and how to manage not to create an inferno and therefore blackend chicken with the grease =)
    I use my propane [nope doesn't bother me] BBQ daily to keep the heat out of the kitchen during the summer and the very idea of huffing on a sputtering flame, coaxing it into a hot enough fire to cook our meal is daunting to say the least. Anyone 'Game'?

    Well if you have a propane grill my suggestion would be to turn two of your three burners onto high and leave the third off then start all of your chicken on the hot side until the skin is crispy (not charred) then flip it and repeat on the other side then move the chicken over to the cool side and continue to cook until the juices run clear (an internal temperature of 160 degrees)

    oops! Only 2 burners here =) Got rid of the big one when son left home as it seemed to consume a lot of gas.
    Will give that a try, thanks I think my biggest fault is I have to learn to slow down... always in too much of a hurry to get the job down. Need to plan better for sure.

    Well the same strategy applies, turn on one burner full bore and leave the other one off and then start them on the hot side and then move to the cooler side. Once they're moved over, minimize the amount of times you open the grill because the cover serves to turn the grill almost into an oven when the meat is on the cooler side and the temperature inside a grill will plummet if the cover is kept open too long or opened too many times. Good luck


    11 years ago on Introduction

    instead of basting the pork during the cooking process, you should try brine the butt in 1 part salt, 1 part sugar, and 4 parts water. this will keep the meat moist during the whole cooking process. the 4+1+1 is flexible; instead of water (and sugar) use pineapple juice and for the salt use soy sauce or a salty liquid.