Homemade is Better—Smoked Pulled Pork

I teased this recipe on my Facebook page a few weeks ago while I was cooking it.  A few years ago, my wife bought me a stand-up smoker for Christmas.  I have used this smoker so many times over the years and smoked a handful of different items in it.  Some have been great; some have been a learning experience.  I can say one thing; my propane smoker is ok.  It does the job, but it’s somewhat difficult to control the temperature.  If you are considering a smoker propane is a good start.

A cheaper smoker is an excellent way to start, though, as it teaches you about smoking, and it’s a small investment.  The super deluxe expensive smokers probably work great, but they are a more substantial investment.  Electric is a half-decent way to go as well, you can control the heat better, but they can’t stay outside like propane or charcoal smokers.  Charcoal is also a way to go; I’ve been looking to get a charcoal barrel smoker that has a removable offset firebox so I can disconnect it and try to figure out cold smoking.  The bonus of charcoal is that real smoked flavour.  But again, charcoal can be tricky.  It’s easy to get too hot.  But once you have it dialled in, it’s consistent.  Charcoal is also a lot more work, but for some, it’s a fun challenge.  The serious BBQ guys in the southern states only use charcoal.  One of the more famous I’ve seen is Franklin’s BBQ in Austin, Texas.

But what if you want to smoke, but you don’t have a smoker, nor do you want to spend the money one yet?  No problem.  Here are a couple of other ways you can still smoke and don’t have to buy a smoker.  If you have a gas grill, you’ll turn it on to the lowest setting.  Make sure you have a decent thermometer with it.  Most cheap grills have cheap thermometers, invest in a decent oven thermometer, or you can get a digital grill thermometer.  A basic oven thermometer is inexpensive, does the job, and is pretty accurate.  You might have to play with the dials a bit to get to 225, but that’s your target temperature for this recipe.  You can also skip smoking altogether and just roast the meat in your oven at 225F.

If you’re going to use your grill, you will also need a couple of other pieces of hardware.  Two foil roasting pans, a wire rack that fits inside of them, and an ovenproof bowl for water.  Put one pan onto the grills of your BBQ and place a layer of wood chips on the bottom.  You will want a single layer, but good coverage.  Place the wire rack on top of the wood chips and place the pork on the rack.  Then place the bowl filled halfway with water next to the pork.  If your bowl doesn’t fit, you can try setting it under the rack if there is room or get a smaller bowl.  You may need to fill the water a few times, but you may also need to do the same with the wood chips.  Put the other pan on top and close the lid on your BBQ.  IF the cover doesn’t close you can leave it open, but get some of those triangle paper clips and clip down the sides of the pans, this just ensures you keep more smoke in the “smoker” you just MacGyvered.  If you have a digital probe meat thermometer that you can use and leave, you should use it.  If you don’t have one, you’ll want at least an analog meat thermometer.  Buy one when you’re getting the roasting pans, they are incredibly useful!  You might need to ensure it’s accurate first, but YouTube has tons of videos on how to calibrate an analog thermometer.

Let your meat smoke for a couple of hours.  If you bought a 5-pound shoulder, you’d need up to 10 hours.  Smoked Pork shoulder is one of those set it and forget recipes.  At the midway point, check the temperature of the meat.  Once it reaches 140F, you will want to wrap it in tin foil and let it finish to 170F.  Remove it from the heat and let it rest.  If you read my article on grilling, you’ll know that resting the meat is what keeps moisture in it.

Now for a quick rant on pork!  I love pork!  I sometimes struggle with which to order from a restaurant if given a choice between pork or beef.  Pork has had a bad rap for a long time, and it suffered from fears that we’d get trichinosis.  But the CFIA has had a program in place for more than 100 years to control trichinosis, and while pork still needs to be cooked, it can be slightly undercooked.  I try to cook my pork chops to medium or medium-well and resting them.  The threat of foodborne illness isn’t zero, and you still have to treat raw meat carefully.  Keep it in the fridge and thaw it properly from frozen.

The recommended method for thawing meat is in the refrigerator.  This method ensures that the temperature of the meat doesn’t enter the “danger zone” and allow the build-up of harmful bacteria.  The recommendation many years ago was to cook pork to well-done because of trichinosis, but today’s industry is well regulated, and animal testing has increased to ensure safe consumption.  So, cooking pork to well done isn’t necessary anymore, medium or medium-well is safe.  Rant over; let’s get our smoke on!

Smoked Pulled Pork

“Big Daddy’s Meat Rub” Ingredients:

½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
¼ cup Kosher salt
2 TBSP Garlic Powder
1 TBSP ground Cumin
2 tsp black pepper
1 TBSP onion powder
3 TBSP paprika
2 tsp chilli powder

Wood chips (soaked for at least 30 minutes):

1 part applewood
1 part hickory
1 part mesquite
1 Pork shoulder

  • Mix the rub and store it in an airtight container.
  • Sprinkle some onto the pork, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 hours to overnight.
  • Take the pork out and let it come to room temperature.
  • You will need about 1.5 – 2 hours per pound of meat.
  • Preheat a smoker to 225F OR preheat your grill to 225F.
  • Put the meat in your smoker or grill and cook it to 140F. Once it hits 140F, wrap it in tin foil for the rest of the cooking until 175F.
  • Let it rest for 30 minutes, then unwrap it and shred.
  • Shred into a vessel, grab some and put it in a bun and top with your favourite BBQ sauce!