Making Pulled Pork

We love barbeque, and in our opinion, there’s nothin’ like North Carolina BBQ.  We have many stories about BBQ that we plan to share, but readers of this post only need to know that when we travel, we seek out BBQ.  For decades, my husband, his dad, and anyone accompanying them in the trip to or from Ocracoke Island, NC learn that one of the two mandatory stops is for BBQ.  Over the years, the places we’ve eaten have changed as roadside stands have gone out of business or reopened as restaurants, but we all look forward to a plate of pulled pork as a marker of the journey. Because we love it so much, the man of the house decided to learn how to recreate the North Carolina pulled pork sandwich in family-sized portions, and that is what we made for our Memorial Day weekend treat.  For any of you interested in trying it yourself, a recap of the process is below. 

Step 1. Clear the calendar, ‘cause this is an all day event.

Step 2. Prepare the grill, preferably a Weber, with a deep well where you can keep the coals far enough away from the meat while it cooks. For our family of five, a smoker is not necessary.  Make sure you have enough charcoal and wood chips and chunks.  Remove the grill upon which the coals rest when you usually grill, and place the coals directly on the bottom of the bowl of the grill. Light the charcoal and get your coals going good.  Then, move them to one side and add a good amount of hickory smoked or other hardwood chips – a mixture of small chips and bigger chunks – ‘cause you really want this fire to burn for a long time.

Step 3. Cut the 4 pound pork butt that you plan to smoke in half.  One piece should be bigger, the other smaller.  The different sizes of meat will cook differently – one softer, one a bit drier, but when mixed together, the sandwich will have texture.

Step 4. Rub the pork butt all over with a dry rub.  While there are many variations on this theme, the husband relies on lots of paprika, some red cayenne pepper, a little salt, much pepper, a good amount of sugar, and some chili powder if there is any around.  The key is to have a sweet and spicy mix of flavors, and the sugar is critical to the outer crust of the meat.

Step 5. Place pork on the grill, on the other side of the grill from where the coals are.

 

Step 6.  Wait until coals have established a reliable base, and then put the top on the grill with ventilation open at bottom and top. The flame will go out, but the heat will remain, and the grill will just smoke. This is good, because the goal is to maintain the smoking for 7-10 hours or so.  Periodic checking will reveal that the meat is slowly smoking….

 

Step 7.  About half way through your estimated cooking time, rotate the meat so that the other side is facing the coals.  As the meat cooks, the dry rub will form a hard outside crust – looking burnt, but never having been touched by flame.  The crust that forms aids the cooking and ensures that the meat will be  crazy tender.

Step 8.  After 8 hours or so, the meat is ready.  Take out those chunks of meat, cut them in half to release the heat, and be amazed as the meat falls off the bone.  Let the meat cool enough so that you can hand-shred the meat.  Rip it up into fairly small sizes –mixing the soft inner meat with the drier meat from the small piece, and the burnt bits of crust.

 

Step 9.  Then, make the vinegar sauce.  Mix ¾ cup of apple cider vinegar and ¾ cup regular white vinegar.  Then add hot or pepper sauce (Tabasco in our house), salt, pepper, and not too much else.  Mix meat with vinegar sauce.  There shouldn’t be much of a liquid residue left, it should be absorbed in the meat.

And then, serve on buns with additional sauce (a current favorite is Scott’s Barbeque Sauce) and/or a vinegary coleslaw, and enjoy!

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