Serves: a lot
Preparation: 20 minutes. Cooking time: approx 1 day
(click pic to enlarge)
Pulled pork is delicious - an American classic that isn't well known in the UK. Once you taste it you'll want more.. ..and soon.
Slow cooking in a smoker is not an exact art - the time for the pork to be ready can vary by hours. This is why I recommend cooking and shredding the day before you're planning to eat and then reheating it in a slow cooker for a few hours before serving.
- Pork shoulder joints with the fat trimmed off. (Costco sell them perfectly trimmed and ready to cook)
- BBQ spice rub
- South Carolina Red Sauce
- A smoker - I have a ProQ Frontier bullet smoker. There are others on the market. You can also smoke in a gas barbie, but it uses a hell of a lot of gas.
- 10kg charcoal - I prefer coconut briquettes as they burn longer and cleaner, but other briquettes or lump wood charcoal will do. DO NOT use Instant light charcoal - it will taint your food.
- A meat thermometer
- A low cooker (optional)
- Remove pork from all packing materials, trim off the fat (a little fat is ok), rinse and pat dry with kitchen towel.
- Sprinkle liberally with BBQ spice rub and, as the name implies, rub it into the cracks and wrinkles of the meat. (see left hand photo above).
- Some people then cover the meat and put it in the fridge to allow the rub to penetrate the meat - I don't bother with this.
- Prepare the smoker - this involves lighting some charcoal in the bottom and assembling the smoker with a full water tray.
- Once smoker temperature dial shows 200F to 220F (93C to 105C) put the pork joints into the smoker and close the lid.
- Add a handful of wood chips to the smoker.
- Replenish wood chips whenever the smoke stops coming out of the vents for the first hour and then hourly for the next 3 hours. After 4 hours of smoking like this you can add more wood chips if you like but it makes little difference to the final taste.
- Also replenish charcoal from time to time, especially if the temperature dial dips below 200F. I find it better to add a few unlit briquettes at a time. Keep an eye on the water level in the water tray too - if it dries up the smoker temperature will climb too high.
- Allow the meat to slow cook in the smoker for approximately 2 hours per pound (per joint, so 2, 5 pound joints take approx 10 hours) before you start checking temperature. You're looking for an internal temperature of around 190F to 200F before the pork is ready for pulling. Note: You will probably see the temperature stick for a long time at somewhere between 155F and 170F . Don't worry, this is called the 'plateau' - it's the temperature at which the sinews and fat inside the meat are rendering down to make the pork more succulent.
- Once the internal temperature is between 190F and 200F pull it out of the smoker (see middle photo above) and cover it in foil to rest for at least 30 minutes. In this time the meat relaxes and becomes juicier.
- 'Pull' the pork. This involved shredding it into small pieces using your hands (warning: it can be hot still) or a spoon and fork. As you work through it you should discard any lumps of fat or gristle. Don't discard the outer 'bark' although it looks burnt it is actually full of smoky flavour. It should look like the picture above, right, when pulled.
- You can either serve the pork immediately, in big white buns with your favourite BBQ sauce, or you can put it in the fridge overnight and then reheat it in a slow cooker for 3 hours or so, with a small amount of cider and/or South Carolina red sauce poured over it to keep it moist.