It’s the end of James and Sam’s epic journey, but they’ve saved the very best ’til last as they feast on kilo after kilo of juicy, smokey pulled pork. This primal cut is the king of pitmasters the world over – but fiendishly difficult to get right. James and Sam find out how.
Classic Smoked Pulled Pork
- One whole Boston Butt Pork Shoulder (incl. first three ribs), around 5kg-6kg
- Smoking woodchips of your choice (we used a combination of applewood and cherrywood)
- Several bags of charcoal (amount will depend on your BBQ smoker type)
For the brine:
- 2.5 litres water (enough to completely submerge your pork)
- 150 g table salt
- 200 ml sugar
- 4 rosemary sprigs
- 2 tbsp whole black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 onion, halved
- 6 cloves garlic, cracked
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
For the rub:
- 100g muscavado sugar
- 3 tbsp onion powder
- 3 tbsp paprika
- 2 tbsp Merken Chilean spice powder – or substitute with 1 tablespoon hot paprika and 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tbsp mustard powder
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp barbecue rub (recipe above)
- 200 ml tomato ketchup
- 70 ml maple syrup
- 50 ml cider vinegar (or more if you like your sauce to be tangy)
- Start at least two days before you wish to serve. Take a large watertight plastic container and add all the brine ingredients. Mix well until all the salt has dissolved. To speed up this process you can dissolve the salt in 500ml of the water in a pan on the stove, then add it to the rest of ingredients, ensuring that the brine has completely cooled before proceeding to the next step.
- Submerge the pork fully in the brine, cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, ideally overnight, up to 72 hours. If you have a meat injector syringe you can also inject the brine at regular internals in to the meat, to ensure the brine is fully distributed throughout the pork.
- Around 6pm on the day before serving, remove the pork from the brine. Discard the brine down the sink – it has done its job.
- Lightly pat the outside of the pork with kitchen towel to remove excess moisture.
- In a small bowl, mix all of the rub ingredients together, then pat all over the pork, making sure to get in all the nooks and crannies. Reserve about 2 tbsp of the rub as you will be using it in the barbecue sauce later.
- Soak your woodchips in water (or beer or fruit juice) for at least half an hour.
- Set up your barbecue for indirect cooking, with coals at one side of the grill. Light, then once the fire is properly going, close the lid and wait for the temperature to die down to 110C (225F).
- Open the barbecue lid and place your soaked woodchips on top of the burning coals. Place the pork on the cool side of the grill then close the lid again.
- Check every 45 mins or so. The trick to keeping the moisture in pulled pork is to cook it low and slow at a consistent temperature of 110C (225F). If your barbecue has air vents, use them to increase or decrease the temperature. If your temperature drops too low, add more coals to the barbecue, but bear in mind that each time you open the lid the air temperature around the pork will drop massively, so try to do so sparingly. Total cooking time will be around 11 hours but can be up to 16 hours.
- When the internal temperature of the meat reaches around 65C (150F) you may also encounter a common barbecue problem known as ‘The Stall’ – where the internal temperature refuses to rise further for anywhere between two and six hours. This occurs when the moisture in the meat begins to evaporate and cools the air temperature in the barbecue. Every pitmaster has a theory on how to get around The Stall – with true BBQ connoisseurs insisting that waiting it out gives the very best results. Our method however is far less labour intensive…
- Head inside your house and preheat your oven to 110C (225F). After about three hours of cooking time your pork will have taken on all the smoke it will hold. You can keep adding more woodchips, but it will not increase the smoke taste in the meat. Transfer your pork to the oven.
- Get a decent sleep as the pork cooks overnight. In the morning your home will be reeking of smoked meat (in a good way). Shortly before lunchtime the internal temperature of your pork will reach 88C (190F) – when it does, remove from the oven and let rest for anywhere up to two hours while you prepare the rest of the meal.
- Add all the barbecue sauce ingredients to a small pan and gently bubble for ten minutes over a low heat.
- When you are ready to serve, shred the pork using forks or your hands. Don’t shred too finely – you want some decent sized chunks in there.
- Serve the pulled pork in buns with coleslaw and barbecue sauce, with cornbread on the side. Bon appétit!
Thanks for listening!
– James & Sam