by TANNER JOHNSON
When September rolls in there’s one thing that’s on my mind constantly – football season. For this month I wanted to share my absolute favorite tailgate recipe: pulled pork in the smoker! This is a crowd pleaser, will feed a lot of mouths and is so simple – set it and forget it!
All you need for this is your favorite BBQ rub, some mustard and a bone-in pork shoulder (you can almost always find these at any grocery store for around $10-15 depending on size). A good rule of thumb with pulled pork is usually around ⅓ lb per person. So a 10 lb shoulder will easily feed around 15 people, you lose about half of the weight of the meat once it’s cooked and pulled.
A lot of my recipes you can do on any kind of cooking utensil, but for this one you have to do this on a smoker (pellet, traditional, or even a charcoal kettle grill).
Prepare Your Smoker:
Preheat your smoker to 250-275 (you can even go 225 if you want it to take a little longer). With pork I usually run some basic hickory pellets, but any will be fine. If you’re doing this on charcoal, definitely add some hickory wood chunks.
Pork Shoulder Prep:
While the smoker gets up to temp, get your pork butt out and score the fat cap (optional) and remove any excess fat that’s hanging off that could get burned up during the cook. Next, lather it down with some yellow mustard for a binder, to help the seasoning adhere quickly. Then season all over with your favorite BBQ rub. Don’t be shy with the seasoning on this – you want it covered. My favorite for this is Meat Church’s Honey Hog Hot. Let the seasoning adhere and “sweat” out on the pork for 20-30 minutes before you put it on the smoker.
Smoking the Meat:
Now you’re ready to throw the pork shoulder/butt on the pit! Get it on and if you prefer, insert a temperature probe so you can keep track of the temps and have a good idea of when you’ll be ready to serve. Once it’s in there for about an hour and a half, and you start to see some bark forming on the meat, you’ll want to spritz it. I use Meat Sweats Hog Wash, it’s a great pre-packaged spritz made locally here in North Carolina. But you can also spritz with Apple Cider Vinegar, or even apple juice. After your first spritz, you’ll want to keep spritzing it every hour or so.
Once you start to get a really dark mahogany looking color on the butt, you’ll want to keep checking your internal temps. Once we get to 165 internal, we’re at the point where we can wrap it up in aluminum foil, or put it in an aluminum steam pan. I prefer the pan, so all the juices coming out of it stay in the pan and keep everything super moist and tender. You can cover the top of the pan with some aluminum foil and it’ll help speed up the cook.
Let it ride in the smoker until you get to 203-205 internal. That is when you can pull it off the smoker. There’s no exact time you can predict for this big cut of meat, but typically it’s somewhere around an hour per pound. So a 10 lb butt can take at least 10 hours to fully cook, sometimes even longer.
Resting and Shredding:
Lastly, once you pull the pork butt/shoulder off of the smoker, you have to let it rest for at least 30 minutes, or even an hour if you’ve got time. Resting a large cut of meat like this allows all of the juices to redistribute around and makes it extremely tender and flavorful. After the rest period, pull it out of the aluminum pan and pull the bone out (it should pull out with no resistance) and just shred it up with your hands (or some bbq claws) you can then pour the juices from the bottom of the pan all over the pulled pork for even more flavor!