This recipe is so simple I feel silly writing it down, but it needs to be written down because so many recipes out on the internet for pulled pork are just wrong. Good pulled pork should be tender and juicy. It should almost melt-in-your-mouth. The smoke and pepper flavors should be intense. Great pulled pork does not require barbecue sauce.
You get tender and juicy by holding the pork at the right temperatures while cooking. Like the Texas Crutch, if you seal the pork from air after smoking it and before bringing it above boiling you’ll retain most of the moisture. A healthy amount of salt will help retain moisture during the smoke.
This recipe cooks the pork in two phases: low and slow in the pellet smoker followed by a higher-temperature period in a dutch oven.
Start by rinsing the pork shoulder and patting dry with paper towels. Cut the pork into 3-4″ chunks. (Don’t worry about removing the bone, it will fall out later). Then mix equal parts salt and pepper and thoroughly cover the pork with the salt and pepper blend.
Use salt and pepper where the granules are the same size, such as classic table salt and medium grind pepper. This is important, because salt and pepper of different sizes won’t mix together thoroughly and you’ll struggle getting the right balance.
Place the pork into your pellet smoker set to 150°F and let it go for at least 6 hours, I usually just set it up overnight for 8-10 hours.
Next, move the pork into a cast iron dutch oven and place it in the oven at 225°F for at least 4 hours. (If you have a crock pot large enough it also works to use a crock pot set on high, but more moisture tends to escape with a crock pot vs the dutch oven in my experience).
After 4+ hours in the dutch oven you should be able “pull” the pork using two regular table forks. If there is still a bone in the meat it should easily separate out. Separate all the pork, mixing it back with its own juices.
If the pork is not tender enough to separate give it another hour and try again. Resist the urge to increase the temperature on the oven–this will just dry it out. If you really can’t wait to eat it would be better for you to just eat it, as it’s already well-above a food safe temperature by now. But if you wait you will be rewarded.
Serve straight up on a plate with a side of beans and coleslaw, or serve on a classic white hamburger bun, slaw optional.
If your guests asks for barbecue sauce stare at them with an expression of horror on your face, and then calmly assert the pork does not require “sauce”. For extra kick it may be acceptable to add a little cayenne pepper, but I would recommend this be done sparingly and mixed into the dutch oven before serving.