Over the years we have tested many different meats, with as many different stylings to match. Long and short cooks, different sauces and rubs, and even simulating cooking strategies between the oven and the grill. The one constant that we have found, is the pork butt. Versatility abound, this cut never disappoints.
One of the greatest recipes and one of the most popular one includes pulled pork, and in order to complete this recipe, you need to know what is the best way to pull pork. Knowing this little secret technique will make your dinner guests happy and the meal more enjoyable and delicious.
Choosing the Best Cut for Pulled Pork
If you want to make the best pulled pork, then you first have to choose and cook the best cut of meat for this technique.
Most cooks, especially competitive cooks lean towards the pork butt. Don’t associate the name with the section of the hog it comes from. The actual rear end of the hog is where you get your holiday spiral cut ham from.
The pork butt comes from the front shoulder, specifically the top half of the shoulder. The bottom of the pork shoulder is referred to as the picnic ham. Some cooks will use the picnic ham, but the high bone and fat content of the picnic ham versus the low bone content and more connective tissue of the pork butt makes for a more tender meat after cooking with the butt.
Another winning point for using this cut is the price. A pork butt will run you somewhere in the neighborhood of two dollars a pound. Compared to other meats used for barbecuing, this is a good deal.
Preparing & Cooking the Pork Butt
In order to properly pull pork in the best way possible, first you have to cook and prepare it.
We usually slow cook a pork butt, 9 ½ pounds, with a dry rub. We slow cooked this with peach wood for a total time of 6 hours.
To prepare it, we trimmed it of a couple of pieces of skin that were still attached. The skin is an edible part of the hog, but not best for pulled pork. If you include the skin during this process, we will have tough inedible pieces throughout our final product.
After about 5 hours of slow cooking at 225°-250°, we start looking for an internal temperature of 160°. There is an inside secret that professional cooks will share when it comes to a pork butt to test readiness, the shoulder blade. We use a fresh pair of dish washing gloves, or a set of tongs. If you can grab hold of the blade and remove it with ease, you’re close to the perfect product and the finalized cook will be more delicious. You still want to confirm with a meat thermometer, but feel pretty confident that you are done.
Preparing to Pull Pork
To get started, use this list to collect the required supplies to properly pull your pork.
- Pork Butt (Cooked)
- Disposable Dish Washing Gloves
- Disposable Aluminum Tray
- Cutting Board
- Chef Knife
After you have collected the required supplies and ingredients, it is time to make the pulling process.
Whether from the oven or from your smoker of choice, transfer your slow cooked piece of meat to the cutting area.
We suggest that you leave the meat in the disposable tray for two reasons. First, it’s easy, especially if you have cooked your butt in the tray. Second, when you start pulling, leave the meat in the tray, it should be still holding the juices from being cooked, and this will keep the meat moist and warm.
- Quick Kitchen Tip: When it comes to trimming your meat for a pulled pork sandwich, less is more. You want to trim away excess skin that might still be on the cut of meat. Learn to live with the fat. This should render off the meat, but it still holds flavor. You’ll want to let that render into the meat as it cooks, it works well that way.
The Best Way to Pull Pork
With your meat at the cutting area, cover it with foil and let it rest for about thirty minutes. This will allow the temperature to come down slowly, and the juices will naturally settle within the meat.
With your disposable dish washing gloves on, start breaking the meat apart in your hands, while it’s in the disposable tray. Start by scraping away any noticeable fat on the top of the butt. Remove it and place it on the cutting board, or a trash bag for disposal.
This meat should be very tender, and it should have no problem breaking apart into bite size morsels in your hands, and right before your eyes.
It is recommended to leave it sitting in the rendered juices from its long slow cook. You may find pockets that are tough and held together by an unexpected piece of fat that didn’t render away. It’s important to remember that each hog is different, and should be similar, but sometimes they will differ from one to another. If you find this, use your knife to break the meat apart. This would be a good piece to chunk up and add to beans.
How to Serve Pulled Pork
You should now have a tray full of pulled pork. The best way to eat this wonderful treat is on a sandwich. Utilize some of the rendered juices to make your favorite barbecue sauce. People often lean towards a sweet sauce that features ketchup and molasses among other things as the dominant ingredients. To make the best of this recipe, we suggest a vinegar based sauce to lightly drizzle it on your meat. This should include a couple of tablespoons of rendered fat, 2 parts apple cider vinegar to 1 part ketchup. Add a tablespoon of molasses, a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce, a little salt and a little pepper.
Your friends and family have been salivating about how you pulled pork. The smells, the flavors from tasting as you went along, everyone is worked up to a frenzy.
Serve your pulled pork sandwiches on a toasted onion roll. Sprinkle a little sauce on it, Leave the lettuce and tomato aside, top your pulled pork with some fresh Cole slaw, sliced pickles or jalapenos, depending on if you are up to the heat. Serve with seasoned barbecue beans that have a few chunks of your now infamous pulled pork in it, some onion rings, and chunks of fresh sliced melon.
Compliment the whole meal with a cola, some sweet tea, a light hearted craft beer, or a soft chardonnay, and enjoy.