With a lot of time and the right equipment, pulled pork is very easy to cook and extremely tasty. It is no surprise that it is an American classic. It seems very paradoxical that while a steak would seem dry and seriously overcooked if it reached 150 degrees, the target temperature for pulled pork is in the 190 to 205 degree range. This is not far below the boiling point of water, yet the pork is moist and tender. Strange but true.
In this recipe, I generally followed guidance in Steven Raichlen’s book Project Smoke and used a MasterBuilt electric box smoker. It went into a smoker preheated to 250 degrees at 7:50 a.m. and was pulled out at 195 degrees at 6:30 p.m. for a 7 p.m. dinner. In other words, this took all day.
7 lb. pork butt
4 tsp. kosher salt
4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. cayenne pepper.
The night before, mix together the salt and spices and rub them all over the pork. Cover the pork in plastic wrap and put it back in the refrigerator overnight.
In the morning, take the pork out of the refrigerator to start warming up, and preheat the smoker to 250 degrees. When the smoker is warmed up, put the pork into the smoker with a disposable pan underneath to catch the drippings. Insert a temperature probe into the meat. Add wood chips every 45 minutes for most of the time the pork is cooking.
When the pork gets to somewhere in the 190 to 205 range, pull it out and cover it loosely with aluminum foil to rest. (The loose covering is to help the bark stay crisp.) Here is the pork after resting.
With claws or large forks, tear the meat into shreds, throwing away any large clumps of fat. Mix the torn bark into the meat since it is exceptionally flavorful. (In eastern North Carolina, slow cooked pork is chopped by two cleavers rather than pulled, as it is in most of the South.)
Enjoy with your favorite sauce. I ate mine last night on an onion roll with some Frank’s Red Hot and a sweetish barbeque sauce. (In eastern NC, the dominant sauce is based on vinegar.)