Game Day Recipes: Week 6 - Real Deal Pulled Pork

Low and slow smoked pork shoulder is the foundation of North Carolina BBQ. It's also become one of my favorite dishes. Authentic pulled pork takes some time, but the steps are relatively simple and the results are well worth the effort.
Whole picnic shoulders were on sale this week so I picked up two of them (8 lbs each). I typically use boston butts when I make pulled pork, but picnic shoulders work just as well. With picnics, you get the added bonus of the crunchy pork skins.

I start by coating each shoulder with a thin layer of yellow mustard. I then hit both shoulders with a liberal dose of BBQ rub (Nickamillion BBQ Rub on the right and my own signature rub on the left). The mustard is great because it helps the rub cling to the meat and creates a tasty bark as the meat smokes. Note: At this stage, I often inject the shoulder with apple juice. I chose not to this time, but if I have some on hand, I usually squirt about a cup into each shoulder.

Set up your smoker or grill for in-direct cooking. I used a combination of All Natural Charcoal and oak chunks from Maine Grilling Woods for fuel. I always shoot for a cooking temperature of 250 degrees.


Pork Shoulders after 6 hours
Brush or spray the pork with a mop sauce every hour to keep the meat hydrated. I prefer a sweet mop sauce. Try a mixture of apple juice, vinegar and water. Replenish the fuel source as necessary.
After nine hours, I employ a method known as the "Texas Crutch". This technique involves wrapping the meat in foil and adding liquid for the last couple hours of cooking. This tenderizes the meat and adds a great deal of moisture. Some may call it cheating, but it's a technique used by just about everyone on the competition circuit. I placed each roast in a pan, added 1/2 cup of the mop sauce and covered it tightly in foil. I cooked the pork for an additional 3 hours.
Let the pork rest for at least 30 minutes so that it's cooled enough to touch. I usually pull the pork with my hands, but sometimes employ two forks to do the shredding. You can serve the pork as is, but I prefer to toss the smokey meat lightly in a thin finishing sauce consisting of 1 part apple cider vinegar and 1 part tomato based BBQ sauce. Don't drowned the pork in the finishing sauce. More BBQ sauce will be applied later.
I served the pulled pork with cole slaw and BBQ beans adding additional sweet BBQ sauce to the pork. Pulled pork is great on a platter or piled high on a sandwich.
If you're wondering how much pork you'll need for your next BBQ, I usually figure on 2 man sized sandwiches per pound (pre-cooked weight). Let's do the math.....I had two shoulders that were about eight pounds each (16 total). That amount of meat typically yields 32 sandwiches.

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