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Pulled Barbecued Pork Shoulder

The cut you want for this is pork shoulder (also known as “Boston butt”), with a strong preference for bone-in. Pork shoulder is very tough if you try to cook it quickly, but responds with a wonderful texture and flavor if it’s smoked slowly. The expression “pulled” means that the meat is not sliced but torn from the bone. In the case of pork shoulder, it comes off in lovely long morsels, perfect for sandwiches and not at all bad for a platter. Tongs are the usual tool for pulling the meat from the bone, but you can sometimes do it with a fork. On the other hand, even in Memphis–where this is the primary barbecue meat–lots of famous places chop it. That’s considered a no-no among barbecue fanatics.

Under no circumstances should barbecue sauce touch this until the pork is completely cooked. Unless you like a burned-sugar taste.

  • Whole pork shoulders (Boston butt), as many as you want and will fit on the grill
  • Marinade, per shoulder:
  • 2 cloves garlic, pureed
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tsp. Tabasco chipotle pepper sauce
  • Barbecue dry rub (recipe below)
  • Creole barbecue sauce

1. A few hours before you start cooking (or the night before), cut the skin (if any) off the pork shoulder. Don’t trim any more fat than what comes off with the skin. Brush the outside with the marinade.

2. Start a charcoal fire in your pit, with all the charcoal on one side of the grate. If you’re using wood chips (which you will have to if using gas), wrap them in heavy aluminum foil and punch a few holes in the resulting packet.

3. Brush the shoulder with the marinade, then coat with a thick coating of dry rub. Place it as far away from the fire as you can, and drape a sheet of aluminum foil down to prevent direct heat from hitting the meat. Top the fire with the smoking wood. Put a pan of water over the fire and close the cover.

4. Maintain a temperature of about 175-200 degrees in the pit, adding fuel, wood and water as needed. After four hours, check the internal temperature by inserting a meat thermometer (without touching bone). You want to ultimately see 170 degrees, but if all goes well it won’t get there for at least six hours. The longer it’s in there, the better. Eight or ten or twelve hours is fine, as long as the pork isn’t drying out.

5. But don’t look at the clock. It’s ready when you can pull the meat from the bone with tongs. When that happens, remove it from the pit, let it rest for about ten minutes, then pull away. Serve with your best barbecue sauce on the side.

Serves four to eight per shoulder.

5 Readers Commented

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  1. Ben on July 23, 2014

    Tom: Where is the dry rub recipe? Ben

    • Tom Fitzmorris on July 27, 2014

      All of my receipes can be found by starting at our home page (nomenu.com), then clicking on Recipes in the main menu near the top of the page. You next click on Recipe Index A-Z, which brings up a listing of all my 750 recipes. They are in alphabetical order, but some recipes don’t have the main ingredient as the first word.(I’m working on that, but it’s a big job.) Just scan the list and you’ll find all the recipes I mention on the air or in the newsletter.

      This and hundreds of other bits of information about the New Orleans food scene appear in the website of the New Orleans Menu Daily, my report on restaurants, cooking, and food. If I told you that you can pay any amount you like for a subscription, would you consider subscribing?

      Go to http://nomenu.com/?page_id=40030

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

  2. Lance Bowling on July 23, 2014

    Is there a recipe for Creole BBQ Sauce, I would love to try it?

    Thanks,
    Lance

    • Tom Fitzmorris on July 28, 2014

      You can find this recipe by hovering your mouse pointer on Recipes in the main menu at the top of the nomenu.com home page (or the one you’re on, if you’re already on the site).

      From the dropdown click on “All Recipes A-Z.” The recipe you’re looking for is on the alphabetical list. Most of the time, the listing is of the most important ingredient in the recipe, but not always. (I am currently creating new indexes that will make this easier.)

      If you don’t find it right away, press Control-F on your keyboard, and in the bottom left of your screen enter the main ingredient. By clicking the down arrow on this, it will go through every recipe mentioning that ingredient, and you’ll find the recipe faster than this routine sounds.

      This and hundreds of other bits of information about the New Orleans food scene are covered in the New Orleans Menu Daily, my report on restaurants, cooking, and food. If I told you that you can pay any amount you like for a subscription, would you consider subscribing?

      Go to http://www.nomenu.com/subscribe

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

  3. David Broughton on May 12, 2016

    Tom,
    I made your pulled pork recipe recipe for 10 people recently using a bone-in 10lb butt. Great results! Thank you. Now, I am planning to go bigger, in terms of crowd size (80) and number of butts (6). So, given the greater task planned and in a moment of self doubt, I thought I would at least check the internet for other opinions; no offense intended. Thanks to internet wisdom (a dubious pursuit) I cannot find any source (besides your suggested 170 degrees) that does not recommend an internal doneness temp of 190 degrees or higher. Can you enlighten me with your thoughts of 170 degrees of doneness versus the overwhelming mass opinion of 190+ degrees of pulled pork doneness?

    TOMMENT:
    Recipes that call for internal temperatures that high are in the thrall of the idea that all pork must be cooked to death. At 160 center temperature, the pork butts are full cooked, but still juicy. Taking it to 170 makes it tighten up a little, which I like. 190 is unnecessarily overcooked to my taste. But if you prefer the 190 result, by all means go for it! This stuff is not mathematical.

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