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Nov 6, 2008 07:18 AM

Let the Great "How to Make Pulled Pork" Debate Begin

Hey Hounds.

So with the prompting of some of the Ontario hounds, I've been asked to post my method of how to make a great southern style BBQ pulled pork. Or BBQ if you prefer that term.

I usually try for a full shoulder (Butt and picnic) so I'll have plenty of leftovers which I bag in small batches and freeze. Yes I know it's not as good when it's been frozen and reheated but it's also not too bad and far better than no BBQ.

I have a Charbroil Silver Smoker

So, without further ado......

The fire is started in charcoal chimney. I use half lump and half briquettes. The wood is either hickory or apple which are chunks not chips.

I do nothing to my shoulder. It goes straight onto the smoker naked. Skin side up.

Then we wait. And wait, and wait. Oh and drink. I usually smoke it for about a half hour per pound. So around the 9 or 10 (Or more) hour mark I flip it skin side down into a disposable roasting pan and cover with foil. It then cooks covered for the same amount of time it smoked for. I will occasionally do this in the oven overnight so I can not wake up to tend to the fire.

After it's cooked, I drain the juices and fat in the bottom of the pan into a large measuring cup.

I use a fork in each hand and start shredding the meat, discarding the scraps of course. The bones are saved for beans (green) or peas (black eyed) or something like that.

Once the meat is all shredded I sprinkle it with BBQ seasoning. Not a whole lot and I just do it by eye. I've done it enough to know how much is enough. I then add back as much of the juice (The fat is skimmed off and saved) that I drained as I feel I want. It's pretty moist anyway so not a whole lot is needed. The meat, seasoning and juice are all mixed up and ready for serving.

Served on a cheap burger bun with slaw and a squirt of BBQ sauce for me.

The fat is saved to cooking. I usually make BBQ baked beans so I saute the onion in the fat and add some of the meat as well.

My slaw is a sweet and vinegary concoction that my SIL gave me the recipe for. Mrs. Sippi doesn't go for the slaw on the sandwich but I find it adds a certain something.

I know a lot of diehards will shoot this down but the technique was explained to me by the fine folks at Jack Daniels. It's how they do their pork and I say "If it's good enough for them, It's good enough for me.

Okay, so now the great debate can begin.


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  1. Davwud this is wonderful. I could bring cake and beer next time you do this LOL. How could anyone debate what you have done? Well done I’m jealous (where we live it is not possible to own a BBQ/smoker).

    13 Replies
    1. re: Pastryrocks

      Davwud, I own a few smokers but my tried and true choice (if not cooking in major quantity) is a Weber Smokey Montain Cooker.

      First I rub the butts, It's a mixture of paprika, brown sugar, garlic, oregano, yadda yadda yadda (you can find a million rub recipes on the net). I don't go for complete shoulders because it usually involves trimming off the skin and lots of fat trimming. Butts are usually good to go requiring minimal effort.

      Place them on the Weber:

      I cook them at around 225°F for 12-15 hours using hardwood briquettes with a natural binder. For smoke wood I usually use a combo of apple, cherry, hickory chunks, I occasionally use maple.

      When done they come out looking like this:

      I rest them for a couple of hours double wrapped in heavy duty aluminum foil, then wrapped in a few towels and then placed in a warm cooler (NO ICE).

      Once rested, I pull using a couple of forks scraping out any fatty chunks I find. When pulled, I sprinkle in some more rub and a tiny bit of sauce and serve:

      Serve on a soft white bun topped with slaw and additional sauce if requested.

      I always make ABT's to serve as a side. They're simply a halved jalapeno, stuffed with cream cheese, shredded cheddar, minced onion and wrapped in a slice of bacon. Cook at 350 on the bbq until the bacon has crisped up and the peppers have softened.

      1. re: Dr Butcher

        Hey Doc, how are you achieving smoke? Hardwood directly on the briquettes? Don't they burn too fast? I've been using a clay pot smoker (Alton Brown contraption) and a hot plate to produce smoke from hardwood chunks. I would like a bigger rig to fit more meat, something like a kamodo, or big green egg, just way too expensive. Happy with your weber?

        1. re: BiscuitBoy

          I use a technique called the 'Minion Method'. You can do a search for the exact technique multiple places on the net. Basically, I load up the cooker with 8-10 pounds of unlit charcoal and place about 3-5 wood chunks (depending on their size) on top. I then light about 15 coals and place them on top of the unlit charcoal. The fire will spread over time so my smoke wood doesn't burn up immediately, often I find a piece left over that hasn't completely burned.

          I immediately load the meat onto the cooker once I've loaded the lit coals. I run the vents wide open until the cooker hits just under my final cooking temperature. I then close the vents down so I don't overshoot my target temperature and it helps me maintain my target temp.

          Using this method also allows for a longer burn. I can usually get an entire 15 hour cook from one load of 8-10 pounds of briquettes.

          In my humble opinion the Weber Somkey mountain cooker is the best entry level cooker you can buy. It's easy to control, can hold temperatures for hours on end with little supervision, and is a quality product. I own 3, many pros use them in BBQ competetions with great success.

          1. re: Dr Butcher

            Have you ever tried that method using real charcoal? Lots of people use briquettes but I'm not a fan. You can get good quality charcoal at Walmart now (many stores carry Royal Oak - Royal Oak also make Big Green Egg brand charcoal). so I don't understand the use of briquettes unless it's absolutely necessary.

            1. re: HaagenDazs

              I use lump charcoal on my green egg. Of the lump, I've tried up here Maple Leaf suits me the best. The lump size is generally pretty good--I've never got much dust. Not too sure whether Maple Leaf is found south of the border.

              1. re: mikeb

                We get Wicked Good Charcoal here. It's from Maine but I can find it in select locations around Atlanta. It's always top notch stuff. Search for Naked Whiz charcoal ratings if you haven't seen it before.

              2. re: HaagenDazs

                Yep, I use Maple Leaf or Basques if I'm using lump. It works with the Minion Method as well..

                I use hardwood briquettes from Maple Leaf or Duraflame. They are pressed with a starch binder instead of the chemicals and clay found in Kingsford or Royal Oak.

                I find that briquettes give me a consistent burn time. If I load a certain amount, I find that I can judge the approximate burn time. I find it a little more difficult with lump which comes in various sizes.

                I do use lump pretty much exclusively for rib cooks, they are short cook and fuel consumption isn't as big of an issue.

                1. re: HaagenDazs

                  Briquettes burn slowly and at a much lower temperature than lump charcoal, and they are innocuous(no smokey flavour). They have their place as a medium for slow smoking fruitwood or hardwood chips.

                  1. re: jayt90

                    Understood - it can be a fierce debate, but to me it's just not the same. There are some briquettes that are better made than others, but they are all trying to do the same thing - imitate real hardwood charcoal. I would also venture to guess that most people aren't seeking out and using the good briquettes. Super-mass produced Kingsford is not available everywhere because it's the best, it's available everywhere because they have cornered the market. Real, natural charcoal has been around just about forever. Briquettes were invented in the 1920's by Ford.

                    1. re: HaagenDazs

                      I was under the assumption that briquettes were pressed from the remnants from of lump business. If a company produces a hardwood lump, it uses the leftover 'waste lump' to press into briquettes, eliminating the waste.

                      Am I assuming wrong?

                      Taken from Duraflame's Hardwood briquettes:

                      "All natural - Made with 96% hardwood charcoal fines and 4% vegetable starch binder."

                      1. re: Dr Butcher

                        Like I said, there are some companies that produce better briquettes than others. I do not think that Duraflame is one of those companies. I would venture to guess that they get scrap and dust (fines) from elsewhere, not from their own operations.

                        "Hardwood" is relative. Sure, it may be sourced from pieces of true hardwood (not a conifer (pine) tree) but what are they really using? Who knows. I'd be willing to bet that it's not remnants of high quality lump charcoal! I'd be almost 100% positive it's milling scraps, saw dust, and bark... but hey, it's from hardwood trees!!! ;-)


                        If you've got a second you can read through the text in the above link. It is more an industrial explanation of why and how charcoal briquettes are made.

                        I'll go back to my original stance by saying charcoal briquettes are made from wood scraps and dust and are merely trying to imitate the real thing. It's a money making scheme. Obviously the product is made from leftovers. It was invented as a way to sell what would have otherwise been trash. If briquettes were superior to real lump charcoal then all lump charcoal would be ground into dust and remade into briquettes, but that obviously doesn't happen.

                        I'll highlight one thing from the text: "Charcoal fines have a much lower purity than lump charcoal. The fines contain, in addition to charcoal, fragments, mineral sand and clay picked up from the earth and the surface of the fuel wood and its bark."

                        1. re: HaagenDazs

                          Interesting, thanks for the info HaagenDazs!

            2. re: Dr Butcher

              Good stuff Doc. That is just about the same as my method (besides the rub probably, which like you say, there are many recipes available).

              One thing that I've done a few times now to some amazing results...Rub the pork down with balsamic vinegar and the dry rub the night before and let it marinate a little. The vinegar adds a tangy sweet flavor that is really terrific.

          2. With all due respect, I don't think there's much point in debating on how to make pulled pork. Pulled pork should attain a temperature of about 180ish (give or take a few degrees based on preference) for it to easily pull apart. There are many ways of cooking it, just as long as it gets to that temperature. Sure you can cook it for a specified amount of time, but thermometers (especially probe thermometers) should be the ultimate authority of "doneness."

            If you're referring to a debate on BBQ, well that's kind of silly too. There are so many variants and so many different styles of sauce, smoke, cooking method, etc. that you will never achieve a winner.

            As for me, I like a bone in Boston Butt and I cook with real charcoal and hardwood. Time is irrelevant - it's cooked until it reaches 180 and then rests for about an hour before pulling.

            1 Reply
            1. re: HaagenDazs

              I usually cook to 185-190°F and then rest them for a couple of hours.

              In my pics of the finished butts you can see a probe sticking out of the side. You are correct about internal temperature being a final guide but timing is a decent guideline. I usually don't even plug in the probes until the butts have been cooking for 8-10 hours.

            2. I cook mine the shole time in a Big Green Egg, using hickory chunks and hardwood charcoal. I like a spice rub, and I keep it skin side up over a drip pan. It usually goes 18-22 hours, but I too test by temperature--but I go for way above 180. My spice rub usually has chili powder, cumin, salt pepper, brown sugar. sometime I use a vinegar mop--bruch meat with vinegar and saesonings a few times during cooking.

              I serve pulled pork on soft buns and I use a viegary sauce--cide vinegar, ketchup, red pepper flakes. Very Carolina.

              1. Davwud, thank you very much for posting your method. I noticed that you don't use a rub on your meat. Do you still get the "bark" on the outside?

                1 Reply
                1. "Pulled pork for dummies"... Interesting that Cooks Country just did a show on Lexington pulled pork that took some shortcuts. Before you scoff, there were good reasons for the shortcuts and the results were amazing. They start by putting the butt on the cool side of a Weber with about 50 coals and 4 cups of soaked chips on the other side. Just cover and let smoke for 3 hours. THen move to an oven, wrapped tightly in foil for 2 - 3 hours and an hour to rest. The big advantange is not to have to replenish the coals and chips all day long and control the heat. You still get great smoke flavor (the neighbors went nuts over it). And, yes, this recipe called for a dry rub for several hours, which I actually like, but could see it being great with just the pork and smoke. Served with a NC style sauce on bread or rolls with pickle slices and some Memphis syle slaw.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: bnemes3343

                    Cook's Country used a Weber Kettle Grill, not to be confused with the aforementioned Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker. They also foil their meat to cut cooking time, a step which isn't necessary if you take the very low and slow approach. I think the texture of the meat is different when you "steam" the meat in foil.

                    I also like hardwood briquettes. I don't use water in the WSM water pan, just sand, although that makes it a little more difficult to get the initial temperature stabilized. The WSM used with the Minion method keeps a nice low temp (200-225) for a good 15 hours.