This old American favourite is one of the recipes that has come to epitomise low and slow barbecue. The idea of taking a very tough cut of meat, smoking it for a long time at a low temperature to break down all the fats and connective tissues inside it until the point that it literally falls apart is what low and slow is all about. Pulled pork can take anywhere from 6 hours to 26 hours to cook so if you’re looking for a quick dinner, this one isn’t for you.
Here’s what you will need to make the perfect pulled pork.
- Pork Shoulder Joint ( The joint I am using for this cook is a 2.5kg shoulder)
- Approx 1 Cup of my low n slow pork rub
- 100ml Apple Juice
- 100ml Apple Cider Vinegar
- 50ml Water
- A few chunks of Apple Wood
And the most important ingredient of all……… Time!
Preparing The Pulled Pork
Whilst pulled pork is a long cook, there is very little prep work that needs done before letting the meat see the heat. Remove the shoulder of pork from the fridge approximately 30 minutes before you are due to put it on the grill. Using a shaker or your hand, cover the joint in an even coating of the low and slow pork rub then leave it to the side to let it come up to room temperature.
At The Grill
Light a little under half a chimney starter of Weber Briquettes and as soon as they are glowing hot in the middle, tip them out to one side of the bowl. You can use the charcoal rails that come with most Weber Kettles to keep them to one side or one of their charcoal baskets. Close the lid and allow the temperature to level out. Your target temperature here is about 110 – 120 degrees C. You want it to stay in the range of 100 – 130 degrees C so the meat cooks slowly, Any warmer than that and you will be roasting the joint. This will not let the fat render properly and the meat will be tough. Any lower than 100 degrees C and the temperature won’t be high enough to render fat and you will struggle to get a good cook.
If you find your temperature is running a little hot, stab a few briquette with a sharp knife so they fall down through the charcoal grate. Close the lid again and your temperature will drop.
Place a large drip pan on the charcoal grate below the area where the meat will cook to catch any drippings ( you will need these later)
As soon as you are happy that your temperature has regulated, place the joint on the grill opposite the coals. Add one or two chunks of apple wood to the coals then place a small water pan on the cooking grate. This will help to maintain moisture inside the lid. If you have a meat probe, push it into the meat and and close the lid. The chunks will start to smoke straight away so keep the lid on to maintain it and the temperature.
You can walk away and forget about it for a few hours now. Your briquettes should maintain that steady temperature for a while and leaving the lid on will only help. After a about 3 hours is the point that I start spritzing the meat to stop the bark from drying out. Add the apple juice, apple cider vinegar and water to a spray bottle. Spritz the meat every 30 minutes or so to keep it moist and to stop the bark from getting too dark.
From this point on, I am going to talk about temperatures rather than time because the length of the cook really depends on how consistent you have kept your temperature. When making pulled pork, I usually wrap the shoulder in foil when the internal temperature is around 75°C. At this temperature, the pork is cooked however the tough fats and connective tissues haven’t started to break down. By wrapping the meat, you can speed up the process a little but also keep all those juices from running out of it.
There is one more thing I like to do before I wrap. Remove the drip tray from below the cooking grate. There will be drippings in it from the shoulder and I like to use them to add flavour back into the meat as it tenderises. Take a little of your mixture from your spray bottle and pour it into the drip tray. Mix it together with the juices from the meat. When you wrap the pork shoulder in foil, pour this mixture over the top of the meat. Seal the foil and place the joint back onto the grill in the same position as before.
Continue to cook the pork shoulder until it reaches an internal temperature of between 92 – 95°C. At this point, lift the wrapped pork shoulder off the grill and place it in a roasting tin, taking care not to tear the foil. The shoulder will have to rest to allow all those juices to settle back into the meat. This is an incredibly important step. I know you are excited about what you’ve just achieved but it will all be for nothing if it doesn’t rest. The second you pull the pork, all the juice will run out of it and onto the chopping board. You should allow it to rest for at least 40 – 60 minutes.
You can use bear claws, two forks or simply your bbq tongs to pull the meat apart. Serve it in a brioche roll with lashings of BBQ Sauce or it makes a great finger food when entertaining. Try it on Pizzas, in wraps or sandwiches and even mixed into curries.