Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork

This Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork is a summer staple in our family! It’s made outdoors on a smoker, and then we freeze it in smaller packages for winter meals.

Pulled Pork Sandwich: This is one of my top 3 favorite summer recipes of all time! The pork shoulder is slow-cooked in a smoker all day, and it's absolutely delicious!

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’!”

Pulled Pork Sandwich: This is one of my top 3 favorite summer recipes of all time! The pork shoulder is slow-cooked in a smoker all day, and it's absolutely delicious!

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 wireless digital probe, 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.)

Pulled Pork Sandwich: This is one of my top 3 favorite summer recipes of all time! The pork shoulder is slow-cooked in a smoker all day, and it's absolutely delicious!

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!

Pulled Pork Sandwich: This is one of my top 3 favorite summer recipes of all time! The pork shoulder is slow-cooked in a smoker all day, and it's absolutely delicious!

Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork

This Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork is a summer staple in our family! It's made outdoors on a smoker, and then we freeze it in smaller packages for winter meals.
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Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 hours
Total Time: 10 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 221kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 pork shoulder aka pork butt or Boston butt
  • hickory wood chunks
  • lump charcoal

For the Spiced Signature Smoky Rub

  • 2 Tbsp dry mustard
  • ½ Tbsp granulated garlic
  • 4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp sweet smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • ¾ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¾ tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp sea salt

For Pulled Pork Sandwiches

  • hamburger buns
  • coleslaw
  • barbecue sauce homemade or store-bought

Instructions

  • Fill grill/smoker with lump charcoal and wood chunks.
  • Preheat grill/smoker to 240°.
  • Combine all of the spices for the rub in a small bowl and mix until well blended.
  • Apply rub to all sides of the pork shoulder.
  • Insert probe thermometer into pork shoulder, taking care to avoid touching bone.
  • Place pork shoulder on grill and close lid.
  • Periodically check on the temperature of the grill to ensure it stays around 240°F +/- 10°F.
  • Once the pork shoulder reaches 190°-195° (~1-1.5 hours per pound), remove from grill and wrap in aluminum foil and allow to rest for 1-3 hours.
  • Using a knife and 2 forks, shred the pork into finer pieces.

For Pulled Pork Sandwiches

  • In a small bowl, add pulled pork and barbecue sauce. Mix until pulled pork is well coated. Add a heaping amount of meat on each sandwich.
  • Top with cole slaw and additional barbecue sauce (optional).

Notes

You will likely have plenty of leftovers! (My philosophy when it comes to smoking meats is the bigger the better. It might take longer to cook larger pieces, but once I’ve got the smoker going for the day, I don’t mind an extra couple hours if it means more delicious smoked meats for later!)
Because this style of cooking takes so long, I recommend making the pulled pork the day before you’d like to serve it. That way, you won’t have to rush against the clock to serve it for dinner. (Oh, and the pulled pork freezes quite well, too. So if you have company coming over this weekend, consider making the pulled pork early in the week and throwing it in the freezer for a few days!)

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5 Comments

  1. Hi. I have an electric smoker, which I realize is different than charcoal, but at the end of the day – I am cooking at the same temperature. Around 240/250 degrees. However, it takes the pork shoulder over 3.5 hours per pound to cook. Today for example, I had a 5 lb ‘boston butt’ that I cut into two pieces just to ensure it wouldn’t take FOREVER to cook it. But once again, it is taking a lot more than an hour to two hours per pound to cook. I finally reached 190 degrees in the 2.5 lb boneless piece and it has been cooking for 9.5 hours. Any suggestions on what I could be doing wrong?

    1. Hey Jessica! So that sounds so strange to me. As you mentioned, an electric smoker vs. charcoal smoker shouldn’t make a difference here as both are at the same temperature. But 9.5 hours for a 2.5 lb pork butt?? Something is definitely off! Have you tried sticking on oven thermometer inside of your smoker? (Basically use another tool to check the temperature reading on your smoker.) The only thing I can think that would be causing the pork to cook so slowly is temperature…especially when you’re at 3.5 hours per pound instead of 1-1.5 hours. Double-check the temp inside your smoker…I’m kinda thinking something could be off there! And do come back and let me know what you find out. You’ve got me very curious about this one now… Oh, and I guess it’s worth double-checking your probe thermometer, too. (You can check it by putting the probe in boiling water and making sure that it reads 212°F.) Good luck!

    2. P.S. I just checked out your blog, and I realized you are in Charleston! I grew up in downtown Charleston…and I totally remember going to the Gibbes Museum when I was a kid. Small world, huh? 🙂

  2. Hey David, thanks for letting me know you think something is off too! The 2.5 lb portion with the bone in ended up taking 11 hours!! I agree that the smoker temp gauge might not be working. I will get an oven thermometer and check to see if it is right. I checked the temperature of the pork with a separate thermometer when I pulled it off to see if that was the problem but it was 190 degrees with the other thermometer too.
    How cool you grew up in Charleston – it really is a wonderful place to live. And yes, what a small world. If you ever get back you should check out the Gibbes again. The renovation work has changed it drastically.
    Thanks for your help!

    1. 11 hours!? That’s crazy!! I think I took 11 hours to smoke a pork butt one time…but it was like a 6.5-7 lb piece. Definitely check out that smoker temp! (I’m hoping that’s what it is…) And thanks for the recommendation on the Gibbes. I’m hoping we can get back to Charleston to visit sometime in the not-so-distant future! Have a great weekend, Jessica!

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