Pulled pork is a good way to get into low and slow cooking. It is important to have a high-quality piece of meat, a great rub, enough time and to keep your smoker at a low and constant temperature. Sourcing a true pork shoulder or butt (aka Boston butt) can be tricky. A pork butt is square in appearance, and it still has the shoulder blade bone. This not only helps to conduct heat, but also keeps the meat from falling apart.
Smoking pork butt takes time; you’ll notice that the temperature rises quite quickly at first, then after 6 hours or so remains the same, but once this stage has passed, the temperature will gradually increase, and the fats and collagens will start to melt, replacing all the moisture that was forced out during the stall. You can expect to lose up to 30 per cent of the original raw weight of the butt, so bear this in mind when you’re cooking for a large group. Typically, you will need about 200g of cooked pulled pork per person.
1. The day before you plan to smoke the meat, remove the fat cap from the joint and then trim off most of the fat. You want the rub to flavour the meat and not the fat, and you also stand a better chance of getting that crunchy, flavoursome bark that flecks through the finished pulled pork. Check out our recipe for Cracklings (see page 194), and don’t throw that fat cap in the bin.
2. Wash the whole joint under cold running water and dry it thoroughly. For each kg of raw pork, use 1 teaspoon of salt, and rub this all over the trimmed butt. Wrap the salt-rubbed meat in cling film and put it in the fridge overnight.
3. On the day of the smoke, rub the butt with the oil or the mustard, making sure to massage it in. Either of these will help to dissolve the rub ingredients and create the first layer of that all-important bark. Apply the rub evenly over the whole surface of the pork shoulder. Lift up any flaps of meat and get right into all the crevices. Set your smoker for indirect smoking at 110°C (225°F).
4. Set the pork on a rack (never directly on a tray or roasting pan) and place it in the preheated smoker so the smoke can penetrate the whole joint and the rendered fats can drip out of the butt.
5. Now mix the apple juice and cider vinegar in a clean, sterilised spray bottle to make a spritz. A butt of this size will take 12–16 hours to smoke, so it’s important to monitor and maintain a constant temperature at all times. Spray the butt every hour or so with the spritz to enhance the bark and help the smoke flavour adhere better.
6. To get the perfect ‘doneness’ for pulled pork, the internal temperature of the pork must hit 95°C (200°F). This is the temperature at which all the fats and collagen have been broken down, and when the meat will pull easily. A good test and sign that your butt is done is if you can pull the blade bone out without any effort. When the pork butt is ready, take it from the smoker and put it into a large turkey-roasting pan or some other large receptacle to be pulled.
7. Using two forks, slowly tear at the meat and pull it into strands. Don’t over-pull the meat because the larger the pieces, the more fats will be in the meat, and the more succulent each mouthful will be. Now pour in the Kansas City BBQ Sauce, and stir gently to mix. Add the remaining rub and about 100ml of the spritz mixture and stir these in carefully, too.
8. Keep the pulled pork covered to retain moisture while preparing your sandwiches, if making. Never leave it boiling on the hob to keep warm. If you do this the meat will become stringy and all the fat will render. Instead, put it in an insulated container such as a cool box, and wrap it in kitchen paper.
9. TIP:Pulled pork freezes and reheats really well. Place it in an ovenproof dish, cover and reheat slowly in the oven, or simply portion up any leftovers into microwaveable containers, and reheat on full power for 2–3 minutes, stirring halfway through the process