How to Smoke Pulled Pork
Smoking a pork shoulder to make pulled pork might seem intimidating, but can help hone your smoking skills. Learn how to cook pulled pork on a pellet grill or smoker.
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You can begin preparing the meat between 1–24 hours ahead of time. First, place the pork shoulder on a cutting board, and using a sharp knife, trim and remove any silver skin. Trim any excess fat. It’s fine to leave ¼ inch of fat or so as it will mostly render.
Make diagonal cuts in a diamond pattern diagonally across the meat about ½ inch deep and 1 inch apart. Slather the entire pork shoulder with either mayonnaise or mustard to help the rub adhere to the meat. Liberally season the pork with BBQ rub on all sides. Allow the pork shoulder to rest seasoned for at least an hour before smoking. If you have more time, the seasoned meat can rest uncovered in the refrigerator overnight.
Preheat your pellet grill to 225°F. Insert a temperature probe into the thickest part of the meat, taking care to not touch any bone. The temperature probe will remain in the meat for the entire cook, so be sure and find a location that will take an accurate reading. Smoke the pork shoulder fat side up, to an internal temperature of 160°F.
This step is optional. If you choose to spritz the pork shoulder, combine the apple juice, vinegar, and water in a food safe spray bottle and spray every 30-45 minutes after 2 hours of smoking. Reserve about ¾ of a cup of the spritzing liquid, and set aside.
When the meat has reached an internal temperature of 160°F, prepare to wrap it by placing 4 large sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil in an overlapping X pattern on a large baking sheet. If necessary, spread and orient the foil so it will be spread wide enough to generously wrap the pork shoulder snugly and without allowing liquids to escape. Start wrapping the pork in the foil. Before sealing the foil pouch closed, add the remaining spritzing liquid. Then tightly seal the pouch shut.
Although optional, setting the pork into a deep roasting pan or disposable turkey pan when returning to the smoker is advised. Place the wrapped pork back onto the center of the smoker, then increase the heat to 300°F and continue to cook. It’s common for the internal temperature of a pork shoulder to stall or stop climbing for a while between 165°F–170°F. Although frustrating, this is a completely normal part of the process. The stall can last as long as a few hours so do not get discouraged if the temperature does not seem to increase for some time.
For pulled or shredded pork, continue cooking until the pork reaches 204°F and remove the meat from the smoker. Do not open the foil just yet. Allow the meat to rest covered for one hour.
After the meat has rested, transfer it to a large bowl and reserve any juices. If you plan to pull or shred the meat, it’s much easier to do while the meat is hot or at least warm. Warm meat and cooking liquids are also easier to combine. Shred the meat in the large bowl. Remove any large globs of fat. Return any juices to the meat and stir to combine.
For safe meat preparation, reference the USDA website.
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