Pulled pork can be made with a fresh ham or picnic roast, although our preference is for Boston butt. If using a fresh ham or picnic roast, remove the skin. Preparing pulled pork requires little effort but lots of time. Plan on 10 hours from start to finish: 3 hours with the spice rub, 1 hour to come to room temperature, 3 hours on the grill, 2 hours in the oven, and 1 hour to rest. Wood chunks help flavor the meat; hickory is the traditional choice with pork, although mesquite can be used if desired. Serve the pulled pork on plain white bread or warmed buns with the classic accompaniments of dill pickle chips and coleslaw. You will need a disposable aluminum roasting pan that measures about 10 inches by 8 inches as well as heavy-duty aluminum foil and a brown paper grocery bag.
¾ cup Dry Rub for Barbecue (see below)
1 bone-in pork roast, preferably Boston butt (6 to 8 pounds)
4 (3-inch) wood chunks
2 cups barbecue sauce (see below)
1. Massage the dry rub into the meat. Wrap the meat tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (For stronger flavor, the roast can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
2. At least 1 hour prior to cooking, remove the roast from the refrigerator, unwrap, and let it come to room temperature. Soak the wood chunks in cold water to cover for 1 hour and drain.
3. Meanwhile, light a large chimney starter filled a bit less than halfway with charcoal briquettes (about 2½ quarts, or about 40 briquettes) and allow to burn until all the charcoal is covered with a layer of fine gray ash. Empty the coals into the grill; build a modified two-level fire by spreading the coals onto one side of the grill, piling them up in a mound 2 or 3 briquettes high, leaving the other half with no coals. Open the bottom vents completely. Place the soaked wood chunks on the coals. Position the cooking grate over the coals, cover the grill, and heat until hot, about 5 minutes (you can hold your hand 5 inches above the coals for 2 seconds). Use a grill brush to scrape the cooking grate clean.
4. Set the unwrapped roast in a disposable aluminum pan (see note) and place it on the grate opposite the fire (see illustration 2 on page 261). Open the grill lid vents three-quarters of the way and cover, turning the lid so that the vents are opposite the wood chunks to draw smoke through the grill. Cook, adding about 8 briquettes every hour or so to maintain an average temperature of 275 degrees, for 3 hours.
5. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Wrap the pan holding the roast with heavy-duty foil to cover completely. Place the pan in the oven and cook until the meat is fork-tender, about 2 hours.
6. Slide the foil-wrapped pan with the roast into a brown paper bag. Crimp the end shut. Let the roast rest for 1 hour.
7. Transfer the roast to a cutting board and unwrap. When cool enough to handle, “pull” the pork by separating the roast into muscle sections, removing the fat, if desired, and tearing the meat into thin shreds with your fingers (see illustrations 3 and 4 on page 261). Place the shredded meat in a large bowl. Toss with 1 cup of the barbecue sauce, adding more to taste. Serve, passing the remaining sauce separately.
Variations Barbecued Pulled Pork on a Gas Grill
1. Follow the recipe for Barbecued Pulled Pork on a Charcoal Grill through step 2. Soak 4 cups wood chips in cold water to cover for 30 minutes; drain. Place the wood chips in a small disposable aluminum pan.
2. Place the wood-chip pan on the primary burner (the burner that will remain on during cooking). Ignite the grill, turn all the burners to high, cover, and heat until very hot and the chips are smoking heavily, about 20 minutes. (If the chips ignite, use a water-filled squirt bottle to extinguish them.) Turn the primary burner down to medium and turn off the other burner(s). Set the unwrapped roast in the disposable pan, position the pan over the cooler part of the grill, and close the lid. Barbecue for 3 hours. (The temperature inside the grill should be a constant 275 degrees; adjust the lit burner as necessary.) Proceed as directed from step 5 of the recipe.
Eastern North Carolina Barbecue Sauce
Makes about 2 cups
This sauce contains no tomato but is rich with heat and vinegar.
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
Salt and ground black pepper
Mix all of the ingredients, including salt and pepper to taste, together in a medium bowl. (The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for several days.)
Mid–South Carolina Mustard Sauce
Makes about 2½ cups
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup vegetable oil
6 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
Ground black pepper
Mix all of the ingredients, including black pepper to taste, together in a medium bowl. (The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for several days.)
Cuban-Style Barbecued Pulled Pork with Mojo Sauce
Mojo sauce (recipe follows) is a citrus-flavored Cuban sauce served with pork. Rice with black beans is an excellent accompaniment to this dish. The use of wood for flavoring is not traditional in this dish and can be omitted if you prefer to keep the emphasis on the pork and seasonings.
Mix 9 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 3 tablespoons), 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon salt, 2 teaspoons brown sugar, and 1½ teaspoons ground black pepper together in a small bowl. Follow the recipe for Barbecued Pulled Pork (charcoal or gas), replacing the Dry Rub for Barbecue with the garlic mixture. Proceed with the recipe, omitting the barbecue sauce. To serve, pass Mojo Sauce separately with the pulled pork.
Makes 1 generous cup
This citrusy Cuban sauce is delicious with pork.
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ cup orange juice
¼ cup juice from 4 limes
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1. Heat the oil in a small, deep saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant but not browned, 30 to 45 seconds.
2. Remove the pan from the heat and add the orange juice, lime juice, salt, and pepper carefully, as the mixture may splatter. Place the pan back on the heat, bring to a simmer, and cook for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and cool the sauce to room temperature. (The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.)
Dry Rub for Barbecue
Makes about 1 cup
You can adjust the proportions of spices in this all-purpose rub or add or subtract a spice, as you wish. For instance, if you don’t like spicy foods, reduce the cayenne. Or, if you are using hot chili powder, eliminate the cayenne entirely.
4 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground white pepper
1–2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
Mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl.