Anyone who likes meat loves the succulence and flavor of pulled pork. While pulled pork cooked in a conventional oven can be very good, cooked in a pellet grill it is simply sensational. The rich taste of the pork, mingled with the rub of your choice, plus the smokiness of the wood pellets, will set your taste buds alive. It’s an eating experience you’ll want to repeat again and again.
And it’s simple to do, too. But if you are new to this culinary delight here are a few pointers to get the most out of the pork and pellet grill combo. Follow this advice and your guests and their taste buds (and yours!) will forever be in your debt!
- Which cut of pork is best for pulled pork?
- To rub or not to rub?
- So how long should I cook pulled pork on a pellet grill?
- What internal temperature indicates pulled pork is done?
- Do I need to let it rest?
- What pellets should I use for pulled pork?
- How do you pull apart pulled pork?
- What’s the best recipe for pulled pork on a pellet grill?
Which cut of pork is best for pulled pork?
Commonly, cooks choose pork shoulder when making pulled pork. The front leg of a hog offers superb flavor at a reasonable cost and is forgiving to cook making it perfect for the beginner.
While you can buy the entire leg it is usually divided into two cuts, the Boston butt made from the upper part of the shoulder, and the picnic roast from the lower part. Despite the name, the Boston butt has nothing to do with the rear of the animal!
A full shoulder will weigh somewhere in the region of 12 to 16 pounds with each cut coming in at around 6 to 8 pounds. That’s with the bone in, and for the most intense flavor, that’s what you want. You can get the picnic cut boned and while this might seem more convenient it won’t give the best flavor.
Though either cut can give fine results, given the choice, go for the Boston butt. This has the best proportion of fat and marbling to keep the meat moist through the cooking process and less bone than the picnic roast.
To rub or not to rub?
There’s no question that well-cooked pulled pork can stand up on its own, extra flavoring from a rub is not a must-have. On the other hand… Who doesn’t want the extra subtleties given by a mix of sugar, salt, pepper, paprika, and herbs? There are lots of great ready-made rubs out there for you to try but nothing beats making your own, that way the flavors are freshest and most intense.
Whether you go for ready-made or your own recipe, be generous with the rub. Rinse off the cut of meat, pat dry and simply apply the rub, working it into the surface. You’ll want to do this at least an hour before you cook it but for most added flavor let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. Don’t forget to let the meat come back to room temperature before putting it in the pellet grill. If you don’t do this you risk the outside becoming burnt before the inside reaches the right temperature.
So how long should I cook pulled pork on a pellet grill?
Pulled pork is the polar opposite of fast food. The only way to get that fall-off-the-bone tenderness is long and low – a long time at a lowish temperature. We’re talking big cuts of meat here so you’ll be looking at up to 15 hours of cooking time. Pulled pork is definitely one of those things you have to plan for and it just can’t be hurried. Often, the best things in life are worth waiting for and pulled pork certainly comes into this category. (Don’t panic – if you’ve got a quality pellet grill, you can leave your pellet grill to it during the day or even overnight. You’ll still get delicious results if you’re not watching it!)
You want to set your grill to 200F for the first 8 hours or so then boost it up to 220F for the rest of the time. The total time for an 8-10lb Boston butt will be 12 to 14 hours. Sure, that’s a long time – and worth every second of it! Just remember it is hard to overcook this beautiful dish.
What internal temperature indicates pulled pork is done?
The pork is cooked when the internal temperature reaches 190F at which point the temperature probe will slide in like you’re pushing it into a cupcake. Don’t be fooled, the temperature rise is not consistent. The pork will get to 150F reasonably quickly and then spend what seems like an eternity to rise that extra 40F. Don’t try and rush things, you’ll just burn the outside.
Do I need to let it rest?
Yes, not only is this the best to get the best flavor, but you don’t want to burn yourself by being too eager. Rest it for 20 to 30 minutes to ensure the juices are evenly distributed throughout the cut and that the pork remains moist when you have pulled it.
What pellets should I use for pulled pork?
There is no one correct choice here, it depends on personal preference. You could do worse than go with hickory pellets for your first go, they are many people’s go-to for smoking thick cuts of meat but give others a try. Apple, cherry, and fruitwood are all known for complimenting the flavor of pork and don’t have such a deep flavor as hickory.
How do you pull apart pulled pork?
This is the easy part. After all that time in the grill, the meat will just fall apart and all you need is a pair of forks or just your fingers, there’ll be no need for a knife. The bone will come out clean.
Just keep the pulled pork warm on a low heat and then serve to your grateful guests accompanied by your favorite BBQ sauce or (and this works really well with the sweet meat) a thin vinegar sauce made from apple cider vinegar, cayenne, and paprika.
What’s the best recipe for pulled pork on a pellet grill?
What’s best for you will be unique, so experiment! We have a ton of delicious pulled pork recipes, which you can find by clicking here, but here’s one you can use right away:
Pulled Pork RecipeIngredients:
- 10 lb pork butt
- 2 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
- 1 ½ tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 tsp black pepper
- Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl and then rub generously on the pork butt.
- Leave the seasoned meat in the refrigerator for a minimum of an hour, preferably overnight.
- When ready to cook, remove the pork from the refrigerator and let it come back to room temperature.
- Set the grill to 200F. When it reaches the temperature, put the cut of meat fat side down on the grate and cook for 8 hours.
- Then up the temperature to 225F and leave the pork for another 7 hours. Times will change depending on the size of your cut. If you work on the principle of 1 to 1 ½ hours per pound, you’ll have a good idea about how long it will take.
- The pork will be ready when its internal temperature reaches 190F to 195F.
- Leave the pork covered in foil on a cutting board for 30 minutes.
While you’re waiting make the vinegar sauce:
- 1 ½ cups cider vinegar
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1 ½ tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 ½ tbsp brown sugar
- ½ tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp yellow mustard
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Chili flakes to taste
- Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Don’t forget to taste and adjust as you go.
- When it’s all done, pull the pork and pour the sauce over the top.
- Serve and enjoy!
Cooking a cut that’s bigger than you need is never a bad idea and there are plenty of things you can do with the leftovers. Cold pulled pork makes a delicious sandwich, especially if you add a homemade crisp slaw to the mix. You can also use it for a stew or instead of ground beef for chili. There are so many ways to use this tenderest of all dishes, so get grilling and enjoy!