Smoker, Oven, or Instant Pot – Three fool-proof ways to make pulled pork. Smoking a pork shoulder slowly over low heat is epitomizes classic barbeque. In the south, in my opinion, they must start teaching preschoolers the art of smoking meats to perfection because Southerners are very, very good at making BBQ. Big inexpensive pork shoulder (sometimes called “Boston butt”) is the starter meat used to hone new chefs skills before moving on to ribs and other meats and cuts. Other than the patience required to cook anything “low-and-slow,” it requires very little energy to make this delicious dish.
Southern Pulled Pork
- Instant Pot, optional
- Dutch oven (optional)
- Instant read thermometer
- 1 RECIPE Southern Pork Rub
- 1 RECIPE North Carolina Vinegar BBQ Sauce (if smoking)
- 1 RECIPE Memphis Red BBQ Sauce (if oven cooking)
- Measurements of ingredients for oven or Instant Pot cooking are listed in each recipe's instructions: Liquid smoke, chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce, and cider vinegar. One cup of bourbon is used for oven cooking.
- 5-7 lb Boston butt or pork shoulder, bone-in for smoking or oven cooking. (Or a 4 lb boneless pork shoulder if using an Instant Pot)
- ½ lb Hickory and/or oak wood chunks or chips, if smoking
- Olive oil
Smoked Pulled Pork
- Prep – Soak wood chunks or chips for at least an hour. If using an electric smoker, don't soak wood chips. Massage 4-5 tbsp of the rub into the meat. Heat smoker to 250°F (130°C) following manufacturer's instructions, including when and where to add wood chunks or chips.Cook – Place pork shoulder in the smoker, fat side up. Adding more wood from time-to-time, cook until meat becomes dark brown and crusty on the outside, anywhere from 6 to 8 hours. It's ready when an instant read thermometer reads 200°F (93°C). Transfer to a large cutting board and loosely tent with aluminum foil. Let rest for 20 minutes.Pull Pork – Pull off fist-sized chunks of meat, discarding any bones and large clumps of fat. Pull the pork chunks into shreds with your fingers (it's hot!), meat claws, or two large forks. Alternatively, you can chop the meat into small chunks with a heavy cleaver or chef's knife. Transfer meat to a large bowl and add 1 cup of BBQ sauce, just enough to keep the meat moist but not soupy.
Oven-Cooked Pulled Pork
- Prep – Adjust oven rack to lowest position. Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C). Massage 4-5 tbsp rub into all sides of the meat.Cook – Heat 1 tbsp oil in a heavy Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook for about 5-6 minutes to sear all sides. Add onion and cook until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Turn off burner and mix in 1 cup of bourbon. Turn burner back on and carefully ignite the bourbon with a long match or lighter. Let the tall flames die out, about 2 minutes. Add ½ cup chicken stock, 1 cup BBQ sauce, 2 tsp liquid smoke to the pot, cover and place in oven. Cook for 4 hours, then remove lid and cook another hour to form a dark bark.Pull Pork – Transfer pork to a large bowl. Skim off fat from reserved liquid in pot and whisk in ¼ cup cider vinegar and ½ cup BBQ sauce. When pork is cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes, shred using 2 heavy forks. Discard any bones and transfer shredded meat back to pot. Mix meat and sauce together.
Instant Pot Pulled Pork
- Prep – Trim pork of excess fat clumps and cut into 4 equal pieces. Transfer to a large bowl and massage rub into all sides of the pork chunks, about 5 tbsp.
- Cook – Add 2 tbsp olive oil to pot and set for SAUTE. When it reads HOT, sear 2 pieces of pork on all sides, Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining two pieces. Hit CANCEL then deglaze bottom of pot with ½ cup of chicken stock and a wooden spoon. Then add 1 cup chicken stock, 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, and 2 tsp liquid smoke. Fit the 4 pork pieces along bottom of pot and secure lid with vent set to SEALING. PRESSURE COOK on HIGH for 60 minutes. Let pressure release naturally until the pin drops, about 20 minutes. Pull Pork – Transfer pork to a large bowl. Skim off fat from reserved liquid in pot. When pork is cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes, shred using your hands or two heavy forks. Mix in a cup of your favorite BBQ sauce or juice from pot, or ½ cup of each.