One of my absolute favorite things to do in the summer is to get up early and get the smoker going for an all-day smoke-a-thon. Ok, so maybe the getting up early part isn’t my favorite…but the results are worth it! I’ve been really craving Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork lately, so a couple days ago, I hopped up and got the smoker all set up and had the pork shoulder on by 8am. The key to delicious Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork is low and slow. The meat cooks at a low temperature for many, many hours, and as a result, the taste and texture of the meat is absolutely incredible. When it comes to this style of cooking, there’s an old adage that says, “If you’re lookin’, then you ain’t cookin’!”
The beautiful thing about making Pulled Pork (and other similar smoked meats) is that they require a bit of preparation up front, but then you can sit back and let the grill do the work. In fact, while this Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork was in the smoker, I was off doing all sorts of chores around the house. If you don’t already own a probe thermometer, then you will find this to be a very handy (almost essential) tool to have. I personally like this digital probe by CDN, but any probe style thermometer will work. Simply insert the probe into the middle of the meat before placing it on the grill, and then just check the temperature occasionally to make sure you are on track. (Tip: Make sure the probe isn’t touching any bones as that would give you an inaccurate temperature.)
For this Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork recipe, your target grill temperature is about 240°F. If using charcoal, light your charcoal and let it stabilize at about 240°F before starting the meat. (As long as your temperature is between 230°F-250°F, you should be fine. If it starts to get further away, then you’ll need to adjust the air vents to get the temperature back in line.) This pulled pork will take about 1-1.5 hours per pound to cook, so make sure to start early…or plan on staying up late to keep an eye on it. (I used an 8.5 pound pork shoulder, and it took about 12 hours to reach the target internal temperature of 190°F-195°F. Since this will be cooking literally all day, I highly recommend using lump charcoal (instead of briquettes) and wood chunks (instead of wood chips). Both are designed to burn longer, which means you won’t need to stop and add more charcoal throughout the day. I started with a full load of lump charcoal and about 4-5 large chunks of wood, and I easily made it to the end of the day without adding more. (On a side note, my wife gave me a large Big Green Egg for my birthday last year, and it is amazing!)
So grab a pork shoulder (also called pork butt or Boston butt) at the market, pick up some lump charcoal and wood chunks, and spend a great summer’s day making homemade pulled pork. But beware…as the day goes on, your neighbors will likely come over to see what’s for dinner!