BBQ pulled pork is perfect for beginners and expert BBQers alike. Here is how we help our fans make their best BBQ pulled pork ever: how to make smoked pulled pork, how long to smoke pulled pork, what temp to smoke pulled pork, and more.
The Perfect BBQ Pulled Pork
BBQ pulled pork is the perfect practice for both the beginning BBQer and the circuit competitors looking to hone their skills. Of the classic BBQ meats, pulled pork is treasured as the perfect playground when it comes to ease, versatility, and price, compared to ribs and brisket. That it’s downright delicious—think pounds and pounds of smoke-infused, juicy meat pulled together with flavor-packed bark—is more than a bonus. Plus, it handily feeds a crowd. Want to be the next big BBQ legend on the block? Perfect pulled pork is a good place to start.
Pork butt, the cut of meat most often used for BBQ pulled pork, from above the leg of the pig and including the blade of the shoulder, is a great teacher of patience. Cooking a smoker full is one of our favorite ways to spend a day—and it is, in fact, an entire day.
Pork butt, run through with fat and connective tissue that contains collagen, is cooked low and slow, giving those components of the cut plenty of time to soften and dissolve. After many hours—pork butt can take 8-12 of them, sometimes more—those tougher bits break down into gelatin, transforming a tough cut into something rich, succulent, and juicy. With a mahogany bark that took a day (or all night) to build, and the fragrant steam that escapes once you wiggle the blade bone loose, it’s a proud moment to pull this tender, succulent cut off the cooker.
Before the Cook: How to Shop for and Prep BBQ Pulled Pork
Before the smoke starts to roll, it’s important to take the right steps to select and prep the pork butt, and to make sure you have all supplies and ingredients on-hand.
When you’re in the meat section of your local grocery store, or chatting up the butcher at your favorite meat counter, ask for two things: a pork butt that’s about 9 pounds (we like big butts and we cannot lie), and ask that the pork butt be bone-in.
Before you leave the market, be sure you also have:
- Canola oil
- Head Country Championship Seasoning, Original
- Head Country Championship Seasoning, High Plains Heat
- Apple juice
- Spray bottle
- Aluminum half-pans
- Aluminum foil
- Meat thermometer (we love those with an instant-read display)
Once you’ve selected your pork butt, procured your supplies and ingredients, and you’re back home in the kitchen, it’s time to begin. First, the trim.
“Perfect pulled pork starts with trimming as much of the fat off as you can,” said Doug Scheiding, BBQ World Champion, Head Country Brand Ambassador, and BBQ instructor. Doug competes all over the country as Rogue Cookers, and his tips are the backbone of our pulled-pork technique.
“Trim off as much of the fat cap as possible on the bottom of the roast,” he said. “On the top, trim off the pockets of fat. Remove as much fat as possible, to help eliminate the need to remove when it’s time to pull the pork after the cook.”
It’s Go-Time: How to Season and Begin Cooking Pork Butt for Pulled Pork
First, preheat your cooker—grill or smoker, it doesn’t matter which—to 225 degrees F. If you’re using a charcoal grill, light 3/4 of a full chimney and, once they’re lit and beginning to ash, arrange them on only one side of the grill. This is what’s called an indirect-heat setup.
Monitor the temperature of the charcoal grill throughout the cook, and plan to layer on fresh coals about every 90 minutes. If you’re using a gas grill, fire up just half of the burners.
While the grill heats, drizzle canola oil on the bottom side of the roast. Sprinkle with a medium-to-heavy coat of Head Country Championship Seasoning, High Plains Heat. Next, sprinkle with a coat of Head Country Championship Seasoning, Original.
Flip the roast and repeat—canola oil, heavy coat of High Plains Heat, then Original. Don’t forget to do the sides with at least one of the blends of seasoning.
Now, it’s time at last: Put the butt on the grill, directly on the grates. Close the lid.
Low and Slow: Cooking and Finishing Pork Butt for Pulled Pork
Smoke the roast 10-12 hours, until internal temperature is about 155-170 degrees F. Spritz with apple juice periodically to keep the surface moist. The color should turn to a deep mahogany—a very satisfying, mouthwatering sight.
It’s time to place the butt into a half-sized aluminum pan. Add some moisture around the roast, about 3-4 ounces. Some of our favorite options are apple juice, white grape juice, chicken stock, or Coca-Cola. Pick one for this cook, then put another cook on your calendar to try one of the others.
Cover the pan with the roast nestled inside with one sheet of aluminum foil.
Place the pan on the grill. Nudge the temperature up to 275 degrees F. (On a charcoal grill, you can do this by adding slightly more coals than you were using to maintain your temperature of 225 degrees F.)
Cook the butt to an internal temperature of 198-202 degrees F.
Pre-Dinner Nap: Resting, Pulling, and Serving Pork Butt for Pulled Pork
Take the roast off the grill and let it rest for about 2 hours. Do not remove the aluminum foil from the pan, and do not let the steam escape.
After the roast has rested, remove it from the pan and place on a cutting board.
Pour the juice from the pan into a fat separator (if you don’t have one of these, we highly recommend getting one; in the meantime, use a cup and pour or skim off the fat from the top). Mix 1 cup of the cooking liquid and 1 cup of your favorite flavor of Head Country Bar-B-Q sauce in bowl. Heat the mixture to lukewarm.
Place the butt back in the aluminum pan. Enjoy wiggling the blade bone loose from the meat; set it aside. Using forks or meat hooks, pull the meat, removing any fat that might have escaped your efforts to trim.
Next—and do not skip this—pour the warmed cooking liquid/BBQ sauce mixture directly over the pulled pork before serving.
“I think this is the main step affecting overall flavor,” Scheiding said.
Family Get-Together, Meal Prep, and Leftovers: Our Favorite Ways to Use Pulled Pork
We said that pulled pork is the workhorse of the BBQ meats, and this round-up of recipes proves it.
Whether you need to feed a crowd, plan enough meals to feed your family all week, need ideas on how to spice up leftovers, or want ways to enjoy BBQ without breaking out your Thanksgiving pants, we have a pulled pork recipe for you.
Know that pulled pork freezes beautifully. Simply freeze it in family-sized or one-serving batches. Move what you need from the freezer to the refrigerator to thaw. Do this the night before, or before you head to work in the morning, and it will be ready to go by dinner.
Want to reheat pulled pork without losing a drop of moisture? Our favorite way is to add cold pulled pork to a baking dish, cover with aluminum foil, and pop in a 300-degree oven until warm, about 20 minutes. You can also microwave the meat, in a bowl covered with plastic wrap.
Classic BBQ Pulled Pork Recipes
Classic BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich
Pulled Pork Quesadilla
Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese
Pulled Pork Sliders
Pulled Pork Baked Potato
Pulled Pork Poutine
Smoked Pulled Pork with Easy Marinade
Smoked Pulled Pork Stuffed Peppers
Comfort Food with a Twist, starring Pulled Pork
Low Carb, Low Sugar, and Keto Recipes for Pulled Pork
Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders with Sugar Free BBQ Sauce
Low Carb Pulled Pork with Sugar Free BBQ Sauce
Keto BBQ Pulled Pork Burrito Bowls with Cilantro Lime Cauliflower Rice
Asian Lettuce Wraps with BBQ Pulled Pork