Guide to smoking the perfect pulled pork

Harry J's Guide to The Perfect Pulled Pork, Every Time!

Welcome to Harry J's guide to making the perfect pulled pork at home!
If you're a fan of tender, juicy, and flavourful pulled pork, then you're in the right place. Smoking a pork shoulder may seem intimidating at first, but it can be a great place to start, as it's surprisingly forgiving. Plus, with our step-by-step guide and expert tips, you'll be able to achieve succulent and delicious results every time.
In this post, we'll cover everything you need to know about smoking pulled pork, including:

  • The equipment and ingredients you'll need.
  • The preparation process.
  • The cooking technique, and the resting and pulling steps.
We'll also share some serving suggestions to help you enjoy your pulled pork in different ways. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned pro, our guide has something for everyone. So, let's get started and learn how to make the best smoked pork shoulder pulled pork you've ever tasted!

Our Pulled Pork Recipe ingredients:

If you're wondering what ingredients you'll need for pulled pork and how much meat to prepare per person, we've got you covered. We've chosen a rub of SPG (Salt, Pepper, Garlic) to help the flavour of the Pork shine through but you can experiment as you like with dofferent flavours!

Here's what you'll need:

  • Pork shoulder: For pulled pork, you'll need a pork shoulder (Preferably with the bone-in), also known as pork butt, weighing around 1.8-2.5 kg. You can also use a Pork collar instead. Choose the best quality you can for the best results. This will give approximately 6-8 servings, depending on the appetite of your guests.
  • Harry J's classic SPG rub: To give your pork shoulder the perfect seasoning, you'll want to use a rub. Harry J's SPG rub is a carefully mixed blend of different salts, black pepper, and garlic that works great for pulled pork. Use approximately 3-4 tablespoons of rub per kg of meat. You can also swap out the SPG for another rub of your choice.
  • Apple cider vinegar: This tangy vinegar adds acidity to the pork and helps to tenderize it by breaking down some of the fats with its acidity. You'll need approximately 120 ml of apple cider vinegar.
  • Apple juice: The sweetness of apple juice complements the pork's savoury flavour and helps to keep it moist. You'll need approximately 120 ml of apple juice.
  • Wood chips or Chunks: To smoke your pork shoulder, choose your preferred Harry J's smoking wood, such as Hickory, Apple, Whisky Oak or Cherry. You'll need approximately 2-4 fist size wood chunks, or 70-100g of wood chips.
  • Buns: For serving the pulled pork, you'll need 6-8 buns. These can be anything you like. Brioche also works well
  • Barbecue sauce (optional): If you like your pulled pork saucy, you can add barbecue sauce to taste. Use approximately 60 ml of sauce per serving.
    We prefer not to use additional sauce as this recipe gives plenty of flavoursome juiciness anyway!

Equipment You'll Need:

    Cooking a pork shoulder on the BBQ or smoker doesn't require too much specialist equipment, but there are a few things you'll need. 
    Here's a few things you'll want to consider first:
    • BBQ/Smoker: There are many types of BBQ's & smokers available, including electric, gas, charcoal, and wood pellet. Each has its pros and cons, along with a price tag. Choose the one that suits your needs and budget, it doesn't have to be expensive!
      The main things you'll need are:
    • A lid - this is very important to allow the smoker to run efficiently at low cooking temperatures and to keep the smoke inside to help flavour the meat.
    • A way of creating indirect heat - This simply means somewhere to cook the Pork away from direct heat from the coals. This mainly applies to regular kettle BBQ's  such as the Weber 57 kettle as dedicated smokers are usually set up straight out of the box for this purpose. You can use a purchased heat deflector, or make one yourself with a cast iron or stainless steel tray/griddle. A pizza stone can also work but may be liable to crack if you are not careful.
    • Smoking Wood - What are the best smoking woods for pulled pork? Any smoking wood can be used to cook perfect pulled Pork but it typically works best with mild to medium strength woods, such as fruit woods like Apple and Cherry or Hardwoods like Hickory, Oak or Whisky Oak. Chips or chunks is up to you and also depends on the equipment you are using to cook with.
    •  Fuel - You'll need some form of fuel to cook with. This will vary depending on your equipment of course. If using a charcoal BBQ or smoker, we recommend good quality lump wood or briquettes. We prefer lump wood but the choice is up to you. The main thing here is to use the best quality charcoal that you can and NEVER use instant light charcoal!
      Electric smokers only need wood chips to create the smoke.
      Pellet smokers typically run on hardwood pellets that come in various flavours so choose what works for you.
    • Meat Thermometer -  You will need a reliable way to read the internal temperature of the meat during cooking. Just a couple of degrees can make a huge difference to the end result! We recommend a digital thermometer probe to keep an eye on the temperature during the cooking process. With something like a ThermaPen or similar instant read probe for final checks.
    • Long handled tongs - Simple, but perfect for helping to move the Pork around when needed without burning yourself. 
    • Oven mitts or BBQ gloves - Similar to the above, a good set of BBQ gloves will save you getting burnt when handling hot items or coals. Trust us, getting burnt is the easiest way to ruin a good day cooking on the smoker!

    Of course there are lots more things you may wish to use and may already have. As you progress in your BBQ journey there will be plenty of new devices, accessories, toys and equipment to add to your arsenal. 

    What Type Of Smoker Do I Need For Pulled Pork

    Preparing to Smoke your Pulled Pork: 

    Before you begin smoking your pork shoulder, there are a few steps you'll need to take to ensure it's ready for the smoker. Here's what you need to do:

    • Trim the pork shoulder: Depending on where you purchased your pork shoulder, it may have a thick layer of fat on one side. While some of this fat will render during the cooking process, you'll want to trim off any excess and definitely any hard fat.
    Don't be tempted to keep the fat on and attempt to do crackling on the smoker. It will become very rubbery. By all means save the fat cap to use as crackling (It's delicious!) but cook this separately at a super-high temperature to get the best results!

    • Apply the dry rub: Once you've trimmed the pork shoulder, it's time to apply the dry rub. Harry J's SPG rub is a great choice for this, but you can use any dry rub recipe you like. Start by generously sprinkling the rub over the entire surface of the pork shoulder, making sure to rub it into any crevices or folds in the meat.

    • Let it rest at room temperature: After applying the dry rub, let the pork shoulder rest at room temperature for at least 30-60 minutes. This will allow the rub to fully penetrate the meat and help to create a nice crust when smoked. Otherwise known as the "bark"

    Follow the above steps to prepare your pork shoulder and you'll be well on your way to the perfect pulled pork. Next we will go over the process of actually cooking it!

    How to trim a Boston Butt Pork Shoulder for pulled pork

     Cooking Your Pork Shoulder On the BBQ/Smoker:

    Follow these steps to ensure you have the perfect pulled pork to impress family and friends every time!
    Try to aim for a consistent cooking temperature throughout but don't stress if you have a few fluctuations. Pork shoulder is quite forgiving on the smoker and provided the key meat temperatures are achieved, you'll get the juiciest, tender meat to enjoy.

    Preheat your smoker: Preheat your smoker to 110°C (225°F) If using a water pan, make sure the water pan is filled with water.

    Add your smoking wood: Once up to temperature. On a charcoal smoker if using chips, a smoker box is best or you can make your own with a foil packet filled with wood chips and a few holes poked through to allow the smoke to escape. If using wood chunks, we like to bury them in the coals to allow them to smoulder rather than catch fire on top of the coals.
    For any other type of BBQ/smoker, follow the manufacturer instructions for adding smoking woods.

    Place the meat in the smoker: Once the smoking wood has settled to producing a nice, thin smoke. Place the pork shoulder on the smoker rack with indirect heat and the fat side facing up. Insert a meat probe thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. to keep an eye on the internal temperature.

    Smoking the pork shoulder: Smoke the pork shoulder for approximately 5-6 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 71°C (160°F).
    This is the point where we typically reach the "Stall" This is where the moisture evaporating from the meat can slow down the cooking process or even, lower the internal temperature temporarily. Don't worry, this is normal! We can help this process along with the following step of wrapping the Pork (Optional) If you'd prefer not to wrap, skip the next step and ride out the stall. (This could be 1-3 hours or more and varies between each cut of meat!) 

    Wrap the pork shoulder (optional): If you want to speed up the cooking process and keep the meat extra moist, wrap the pork shoulder in foil or butchers paper once it reaches an internal temperature of 71°C (160°F). Before sealing the foil, pour a mixture of apple cider vinegar and apple juice over the pork shoulder. You can also add some butter here if you like.
    Using a double layer of foil here and placing in a deep metal tray is also recommended to make sure all those wonderful juices are retained for later.

    Continue cooking: Return the wrapped pork shoulder to the smoker and continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 95°C - 95°C (203°F - 205°F). This should take an additional 3-4 hours or so.

    Rest the Pork: Once the pork shoulder reaches an internal temperature of 95°C - 96°C (203°F - 205°F), remove it from the smoker and let it rest for 30- 60 minutes before shredding the meat. If needed you can rest for several hours. This is best if you can wrap tightly in some spare towels and ideally placed in a cool box to retain the heat.

    Pulled pork on the Weber Smoky Mountain smoker

    To Wrap or Not to Wrap Pulled Pork?:

    Wrapping the pork is a personal choice. There's much debate over whether to wrap or not. Both methods will give excellent results. Some might say that wrapping will ruin the bark of the meat and whilst it can soften it a little, it's not really a big deal like it would be with a Brisket for example. We prefer to wrap as it gives a great opportunity to add extra moisture and tenderness along with flavour. It also speeds up the cooking process a bit too. Ultimately, you can decide which you prefer to do, try both methods to see what you prefer.

    Shredding The Pulled Pork:

    This is it, the best bit (Apart from the eating!) All that time and effort has come down to this. The Shredding! Some top tips for the best results are below:

    Shred the pork: This is best done in a large tray or large cutting board. Using a pair of forks or meat claws, begin shredding the pork shoulder into small pieces. Discard any excess fat or connective tissue.

    • Add cooking juices: Pour any remaining cooking juices from the foil or drip pan into the shredded Pork and mix well. This adds extra juiciness and flavour back into the meat. If desired, you can also add in a little chilli or other flavour at this stage but it really doesn't need it. The flavour will be so great, it doesn't need anything else! You can also reduce the cooking juices if you like. Just add the juice to a saucepan and reduce by roughly half over a medium heat. Doing this will create a stronger flavour.

    Serving Suggestions:

    Serve: Serve the pulled pork immediately with your favourite sides, such as coleslaw, BBQ pit beans, or corn on the cob. We like to keep things simple with the Pork, so a nicely toasted bun, heaped with the delicious pulled pork is perfect. Add in a few pickles and a little cheese to finish or consider some refreshing shredded lettuce. The choice is yours....Enjoy!

    There's so much more you can do with pulled pork too! Especially as it's perfect for re-heating any left overs!
    Consider the options below:

    • Pulled Pork Nachos
    • Pulled Pork Tacos - Extra points for making your own Taco shells!
    • Left-over Pulled Pork Chilli
    • So much more - It's great in a sandwich, added into pasta dishes and anything else you can think of!

    Beautiful pulled pork tacos


    In conclusion, smoking a pork shoulder to make pulled pork requires some patience and effort, but the results are well worth it. By following the steps outlined in this post, you'll be able to produce juicy, tender, and flavourful pulled pork that will be the star of any barbecue or gathering.

    Remember to choose a good quality pork shoulder, smoke the meat low and slow until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 195°F or 95°C, and allow it to rest before shredding and mixing with the cooking juices.

    We chose our SPG rub to keep things simple and allow the flavour of the Pork to really shine. You can choose to use our other flavours, such as BBQ, Coffee Jerk, or Smoky Cola rubs. You can experiment with your own too.

    We hope you found this guide to making perfect smoked pulled pork helpful and informative. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. Don't forget to share this post with your friends and family who love barbecue and to check out our website for a range of rubs, sauces, and smoking woods that will help you take your BBQ game to the next level.

    Thank you for reading and happy smoking!
    Much BBQ love,
    Harry J's.

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