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.