The first time I attempted pulled pork I made the mistake of starting it in the morning and inviting friends over for dinner in the early afternoon. After delaying dinner for a couple hours I was forced to extract the pork from the smoker far before it was ready, resulting in more of a sliced pork than pulled pork. Personal disappointment ensued and I made a quiet vow to never make that mistake again.
This summer I was determined to try again, correcting my previous mistakes. I bought two pork shoulders, about 11 pounds total. They were dry rubbed with my favorite pork rub and left overnight. The next morning I fired up my Bradley smoker with hickory, maple, and apple wood, put the pork in and left to go see the Sounders vs Chelsea match. Throughout the game I worried about the pork; would the smoker get too hot? Would the wind blow out the flame? Would it finish on time? (Oh yeah, I had committed to bringing it to a party the next day. After my first go around at pulled pork, this might not have been the best idea.)
My Bradley smoker is a champ, able to hold a steady temperature overnight with no intervention, so I needn’t have worried about it for the few hours I was gone. The hours ticked by while the temperature of the pork very slowly rose. 11 hours after it started, the pork plateaued at 160 degrees. When smoking meat, it is common for the internal temperature to appear to stick at 160, and even drop a couple degrees, for several hours. It is during this critical time that the internal fat and collagen converts to gelatin, creating that unctous, lip-smacking quality in good barbecue.
Finally at 3:00 in the morning, 18 hours after it went into the smoke, the pork was ready to be pulled. I stood in my kitchen, too tired and hungry to care about scalding my fingers, pulling 190 degree pork shoulder into moist, smoky, fatty shreds. The pork had a delicious smoke ring about half an inch deep, and a caramelized, crusty bark exterior.
I paired the pork with a homemade South Carolina-style mustard barbecue sauce and potato rolls. All who tried the pork declared it a tasty success, and despite the time commitment involved, I will definitely be making more pulled pork again.