BBQ can mean a variety of things across the United States, but in the south east it means one thing… and that’s pulled pork. Made famous in the beautiful southern state of South Carolina, pulled pork is a staple as well as a crowning achievement for many backyard chefs. I guarantee that if you visit any true southern cookout this weekend pulled pork will be in attendance as the main dish!
It took me several attempts to finally pull off some of the best pulled pork that I’ve ever tasted. I’ve found that with a few subtle techniques just about anyone can make some phenomenal pulled pork.
The first subtle step in making great pulled pork is knowing where and where not to purchase your Boston Butts. Basically anything that you pick up at a national chain grocery store such as Kroger or Wal-Mart is going to be a no-go. This is due to the varying amounts of salt solutions added to the meat by the manufacturers. This is done in an effort to preserve the meat and allow for an elongated shelf life. I’ve found that the highest quality Boston Butts come from the small back road grocery stores or from your local butcher shops. As for pricing, Boston Butts tend to be the most cost effective things that one can serve to large groups of people. I regularly pick up Boston Butts for something in the neighborhood of $1.00 per pound. A ten pound Boston Butt once smoked and pulled can easily feed upwards of 20 adults.
Once you’ve selected the appropriate Boston Butt(s) you’ll need to gather a few other simple ingredients. From the produce section you’ll need a medium sized piece of ginger root and one bulb of garlic. You’ll then need to pick up a box of Morton’s Kosher salt and a jar of fill flavored molasses. The molasses is probably the single most important ingredient for the best ever pulled pork. At some point or another I’ve tried just about every variation of molasses from fancy to lit to unsulphured to blackstrap. For the purpose of brining pulled pork I don’t find there to be a huge difference in the taste of the final product. For that reason alone I usually go for the blackstrap due to the full and bold flavor it should be adding to my pulled pork.
Once you’ve gathered all of the necessary ingredients its time to get to work in the kitchen. Start by adding about 8 cups of water to a food grade container. I’ve repurposed some 3 gallon protein supplement buckets. Add two cups of Kosher salt to the water along with the entire 12 ounce jar of molasses. Peel the ginger and garlic and place all of it in a food processor and puree it into a very fragrant paste like substance. Add this with the salt and molasses into the water and stir until all of the salt is completely dissolved.
Submerge the Boston Butt in the brine and refrigerate for no less than 12 hours but no more than 24 hours. The next step is where the fun starts to kick in. I prefer to let my Boston Butts brine for 24 hours, after which I get my smoker going and as soon as the temperature reaches a steady 225 degrees I place the Boston Butts in their resting place. I sometimes use a drip / water pan directly beneath the butts. This step is totally optional and I see it as a bit unnecessary as I’ve never managed to dry out a Boston Butt.
Once everything is in working order just close the lid and find yourself something to do for the next eight or so hours. After the Boston Butt reaches about the sixth hour you’ll want to start probing for temperature. You’ll want to wrap the butt in heavy duty aluminum foil as soon as the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees . In the meantime you’ll need to get your cooker up to about 350 degrees. If you can’t manage to increase the temperature of your smoker then the oven will work just as well if not better. Wrapping in aluminum foil and cooking at a higher temperature for a few hours will break down all of the connective tissue within the butt.
Allow the butt to cook for about another two hours or until the internal temperature reaches 205 degrees. After just a couple of attempts at making pulled pork you’ll come to quickly recognize that the butt is done once you’re able to cleanly pull the bone out with just a slight tug.
Once you’ve given the butt a chance to cool you’ll be ready to start pulling the pork apart. I find that I’m able to get the best shred work done within 15 minutes. From there, the sky is the limit in regards to the versatility a Boston Butt bring to your meal. From sliders, to nachos, to egg rolls and even tacos, pulled pork may be the single most versatile BBQ item known to man.