Are you getting ready to smoke your first pork butt (AKA “Boston butt/pork shoulder”)? Or looking for ways to improve the pulled pork you serve to your family and friends?
In this recipe we reveal a few easy steps you can follow to consistently produce mouth-watering pulled pork… Because who likes chalky dry pork that must be drowned in sauce to make it edible?
It’s not that hard to turn out pulled pork where every bite is amazingly tender with a delicious balance of smoke, seasoning, and meat—if you know how.
I am using an XL Big Green Egg for this recipe, but any kind of smoker you can set up for indirect heat would work. This recipe is for bone-in Boston butts, but boneless ones would work too.
A Boston butt, commonly known as a pork butt, is the upper portion of a whole pork shoulder. Usually they weigh 7–9 pounds, but some grocery stores only carry smaller pieces. If your grocery store doesn’t carry them, check out a larger grocery store or a discount club such as Sam’s Club or a local butcher shop.
Step 1 (optional): Inject the pork shoulder.
You don’t have to inject, but it’s a great way to add more flavor. At Meadow Creek Barbecue Supply, we like to inject our pork shoulders with Oakridge Game Changer Injection. Inject the meat, then pat it dry.
Step 2: Season the pork shoulder.
Option 2: Season it generously with equal parts of the following: Meadow Creek Gourmet Seasoning, Meadow Creek Black Pepper Brisket Rub, and Meadow Creek Spicy Seasoning. A shaker such as this one works great for mixing and dispensing rubs.
Let the pork shoulder sweat at room temperature for 15 minutes or set it in the refrigerator for 1–2 hours.
Step 3: Set up your smoker for cooking with indirect heat at 275 degrees F.
Fill the firebox with charcoal. The peak of the pile should be about as high as the middle of the top ring the ConvEGGtor rests on.
I’m using a Kick Ash Basket which makes it easy to separate the ashes from the unburnt coals after each cook.
Add 2–3 wood chunks (apple, cherry, or pecan are perfect for pulled pork).
Open the bottom screen vent all the way and light the charcoal. Once it’s well-lit, close the lid and open the top vent all the way.
Note: Use the screen vent in the bottom to keep embers from dropping out the bottom of the grill.
Set the ConvEGGtor and cooking grate in place.
Arrange the meat in the center of the grate and close the lid.
Once the heat in the Egg rises to 225 degrees, start fine-tuning the vents to dial it into 275. Start by adjusting the bottom vent to 1" and the top vent to 1/4" (the thickness of a pencil).
Keep an eye on the temperature and open the vents more for a higher temperature and less for lower temperature as needed. It shouldn’t need much adjusting throughout the cook to keep it on track once it’s where it needs to be.
Step 4: Wrap the pork shoulder
Once the pork shoulder reaches an internal temp of 170 degrees (should take around 6–8 hours), it's ready to wrap. The two-step method described here will retain more of the juices that are cooked out of the meat and speed up the cooking process, making it easier to achieve tender, mouth-watering pulled pork.
First, wrap it in Cling Classic plastic food wrap (at least 10 revolutions), alternating the direction of the wrap a couple of times and folding in the sides as you go, to form a good seal.
Most household plastic wrap is not thick enough to use in a smoker and will melt against the meat which is a health hazard. The one we sell works well for this method.
Next, wrap the shoulder in two layers of heavy duty aluminum foil.
Step 5: Cook until done
Return the meat to the smoker and continue cooking it at 275 degrees until the center of the meat reaches 200–205 degrees F (should take another 2–3 hours).
The Thermapen MK4 is lightning fast and easy to clean.
Step 6: Hold it
Remove the pork shoulder from the smoker and keep it wrapped for at least one hour.
If you need to keep it warm for several hours, set it in an empty ice chest and fill in the empty space with a towel or two. This will keep the meat warm for at least four hours.
Step 7: Time to eat!
Put the shoulder in a rimmed dish (such as a 9x13 cake pan) or a large bowl and remove the foil and plastic wrap.
Transfer the shoulder to another dish or bowl to pull it.
Drizzle the juices from the first container over the meat.
Good pulled pork is irresistible without sauce...
But a drizzle of sauce adds a nice touch. Here I used Meadow Creek Hickory Smoked Sauce, one of my all-time favorite sauces.
Sandwiches with cole slaw and potato chips are always a great way to serve pulled pork, but there are many other ways to use pulled pork. A few we like are pulled pork quesadillas, cheesy pulled pork chip dip, and pulled pork scrambled eggs with sautéed peppers, hash browns, and avocado on the side.
About the author: Lavern Gingerich is a writer and the marketing manager for Meadow Creek Barbecue Supply. He runs a digital marketing agency which helps barbecue brands grow their businesses.