Hootenanny Ribs

Hootenanny Ribs
3-2-1 rib perfection on my Traeger Pro 34 wood pellet grill

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pulling Out All The Stops: A Pulled Pork Primer

Pulled pork BBQ.  I love it but I've never cooked any... until now.  Time to get busy.

Got a couple of small bone-in Boston butt pork shoulders at my local butcher shop with one goal in mind: smoked pulled pork BBQ.  I've researched the methods, studied cooking times, stocked my wood piles, checked my schedule... I'm ready.  Gonna smoke some Boston butt on my day off from work.

Smoking day; time to prep.
First step: set out my 5+ lb chunk of pork to apply seasonings and rub.  I used regular yellow mustard to slather all over the pork first, then applied a commercial spice rub, Bad Byron's Butt Rub, which is very similar to my own homemade rub with a bit more black pepper.  This is then covered with aluminum foil and can be refrigerated overnight if possible.  I was a bit pressed for time so I put my rub on the Boston butt then started to get my smoker ready.

first mustard, then spice rub

Second step: Lit my charcoal chimney using hardwood chunks instead of briquettes for a quicker better fire start, apple and hickory woods used for smoking the meat after fire gets going.

Third step: Once the cooking area of the smoker is up to around 225°F degrees, I start smoking the Boston butt pork shoulder roast.  At proper temperature, the pork should take 1 1/2 hours per pound to fully cook.

starting charcoal as pork rub sets on Boston butt

lump hardwood charcoal in the firebox

split hickory wood and whole short cut apple wood chunks

5+ lb Boston butt pork shoulder

Steady steps: Now I've got the smoker temperature steady at 225°F, adding wood every hour or so while also turning the meat quarter turns every hour.  The scent of the mostly apple wood smoke is tantalizingly welcome - I want to bathe in it! Wow - it is sweet and inviting.  Always great to use fruit woods in the smoker.  I know the neighbors like it.

apple and hickory wood smoke - succulent and sassy

Extra step: Added a special guest to my BBQ, say hello to Chubby Bologna.  Smoked bologna is quite a treat and very easy to add to your smoke deck if you have the room.  Just get a loaf of your favorite brand, open it, put it on the back end of the smoker and turn it every 45 minutes.  A 1 lb loaf will cook in about 3-4 hours.  Easy, delicious, different.

bologna and Boston butt on the smoke deck

Important step: After smoking the Boston butt for around 7 hours and the bologna for about 3 hours, I check the internal temperature of the pork to make certain that it has fully cooked. Using a meat thermometer, I insert it into the meat and the internal temp should be 204°F.  When the desired temperature was reached, I removed the pork to a large tray and covered in foil.  I let it sit for about an hour to cool off so I could pull the pork and remove the bone.  I have already removed the bologna about an hour earlier and wrapped it in foil also.  I check on it and it is still hot!

still hot; beautiful pink smoke ring

Final step: The pork falls apart easily using first some forks then just my hands.  It is still a bit hot but the aroma and the beautiful smoke ring have me motivated and so does my hungry family.  Anticipation gives way to taste tests.  Light on the seasoning, heavy on the smoke, which is just right.  Side of smoked bologna, a couple of bottles of my favorite commercial BBQ sauces.  I'm ready to eat.  So is the clan.  Succulent, juicy, perfect.  I have to say it was the most tender pulled pork I have ever tasted.  And I smoked it!  Another method marked off the list.  I'm ready to tackle beef brisket.  But that is for another time... for this one, I pulled out all the stops - and made damn near perfect pulled pork BBQ.

Bonus step: beer pairings.  There are several really good beers to pair with smoked pulled pork. The best ones I've tried are:
  1.  Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen - a German smoked beer that pairs perfectly with any smoked meat.
  2. Yazoo Pale Ale - locally brewed pale ale that also pairs well with many dishes.
  3. Downtown Grill and Brewery Alt - nice German-style beer that lends itself nicely to hearty meats and roasted dishes.
  4. Sprecher Black Bavarian - a black lager, tasty, light enough for many foods, dark enough to have some flavor.   

Musical step: I always have my iPod on when I'm on my deck attending my grills and smoker, listening to an eclectic mix of tunes.  During this smoking the music that moved me was:
  1. Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls
  2. Johnny Winter - Roots
  3. Tab Benoit - Medicine
  4. The Black Keys - El Camino
  5. Sean Costello - Sean's Blues


  1. I'm a bit shocked that you never did a pork butt before!! Love the wood combo, and I'm using hardwood charcoal about 90% of the time now. It's generally cheaper, burns hotter/cleaner, easier to control temps and easier to clean-up afterwards. My beer choice varies with the sauce I'm using and typically not with the meat I'm using. My person favorite is the Carolina style sauce which, to me, is perfect for pork. Beer suggestions: Pyramid Apricot Wheat, 21st Amendment Hell or Highwater Watermelon Wheat...or something super clean like Anchor Steam. Want to get a little off the beaten path? Go with Orval or a Belgian tripel (Chimay, Westmalle). Music? I don't stray too far from SRV. I've not found a more pure match with BBQ and beer.

  2. Thank you Garrett - good recommendations! I mix my sauces up too - depends on what I'm in the mood for. Lately it has been some of the mustard-based sauces. Can't go wrong with Carolina sauce though. Thanks for the feedback.

  3. Excellent post! Keep up the good work.