posted August 15, 2023
Carolina Pulled Pork
Carolina Pulled Pork is one of those classic American BBQ styles that everybody needs to try at least once! Rich, savory smoked pork shoulder is slathered with a thin, vinegar-based sauce to bring a little bite to all that melt-in-your-mouth meat.
North Carolina Pulled Pork
Before we jump into this awesome pork, a quick disclaimer on my branding of this recipe as “Carolina Style.” This recipe is specifically WEST North Carolina-style BBQ. East North Carolina style is primarily whole hog BBQ with a thin vinegar sauce (no ketchup involved!). I even had somebody comment on my Instagram sneak peek of this recipe, “If it ain’t clear, I won’t go near!” in reference to the color of the sauce on this pork.
Carolinians are very specific when it comes to the ingredients in their BBQ sauce, and I don’t blame them! So, for my East North Carolina purists, feel free to make this BBQ sauce recipe without the ketchup. And for those who don’t have North Carolina blood running through their veins, I think you’ll find this recipe a good introduction to the amazing world of Carolina pork.
For more background and details on this sauce, check out the detailed post on my Carolina Vinegar BBQ Sauce here.
Carolina Style Pulled Pork
When creating this Carolina-style pulled pork, I chose to add ketchup and brown sugar to the recipe because I personally love the flavor that they add to the smoky meat. I’m all about making food that tastes good, and I firmly believe you should too! This recipe can be tweaked and adjusted to fit your palate, so if you don’t want additional sweetness or tomato flavor, omit these ingredients. Need something extra to balance the acidity of the vinegar? I think you’ll like the addition of ketchup and brown sugar.
Overall, this is a savory preparation for smoked pulled pork (in opposition to my other pulled pork recipes like Cider Brined Pulled Pork and Bourbon Brown Sugar Pulled Pork), but I still prefer a little kiss of sweetness in the sauce.
Once you have your pork smoked to perfection, I highly recommend eating it with a side of my Vinegar Coleslaw. If you’re making your pulled pork into a sandwich, this coleslaw is perfectly piled high on top of the pork for a satisfying crunch in an otherwise tender sandwich.
How to Make Carolina Pulled Pork
Okay friends. Let’s make some amazing food. Here’s the step-by-step process to making delicious Carolina pulled pork (check out all the ingredients and details in the recipe card below):
- Purchase the right meat. For this pulled pork, I stick with a bone-in pork shoulder (AKA Boston butt). I tried making this recipe using boneless a couple of times and the bone-in version was always superior.
- Give the meat a good rub. True Carolinians claim all you need is good salt. I like heat and color on my pork, so I use Kosher salt, coarse black pepper, and some smoked paprika. It’s still elemental and simple but with a little extra oomph.
- Smoke that meat! I smoked this pork shoulder on my Camp Chef SmokePro LUX for 8-10 hours until the internal temperature reached 200 degrees F. Stick some oak or hickory in your smoker as they are the most traditional hardwoods used in the Carolinas.
- Mop hourly. Mopping your pork with a flavorful, thin sauce helps keep that beautiful hunk of meat moist while it smokes away. The sauce is very thin and flavorful with only four simple ingredients.
- Rest, shred, and get saucy! Rest your meat for 1 hour before serving. Shred your meat (Check out my Hey Grill Hey Meat Shredder Claws), and give it a good drizzle of BBQ sauce.
Tips for the Best Pulled Pork
Pulled pork is good, easy meat to smoke up, but here are some tips you’ll want to keep in mind as you make your own Carolina pulled pork:
- Don’t forget to mop! This butt isn’t covered or wrapped, so the mopping step is crucial. Keep that mop sauce on hand and use it often.
- Check the internal temperature. Because this butt never gets wrapped to speed the process or retain moisture, it is very important that you use a thermometer to check the temp. I recommend investing in ThermoWorks Smoke so you can monitor both the meat and grill temperature. A 6-7 pound pork butt will take about 8-10 hours at 250 degrees F to cook, but the best way to get perfectly smoked pork is to cook to temperature and not to time.
- Rest your meat. Not only does a good rest allow your pork to cool down (you don’t want to be eating 200-degree meat, believe me!), it also allows the juices to settle, making for moist and flavorful pork when it comes time to shred.
Pulled Pork Sides
Smoked pulled pork is amazing on its own, in a sandwich, and doused with BBQ sauce. It’s even better complemented with some tasty sides. Try one of my favorites below:
Carolina Pulled Pork Recipe
Watch the video below the recipe card and I’ll show you step-by-step how I make this Carolina-style pulled pork at home. I’m on a mission to help you become the best backyard BBQer of your life, so head on over to YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook to get more recipes, videos, and tips from Hey Grill Hey.
This post was originally published in June 2019. We recently updated it with more information and helpful tips. The recipe remains the same.
Carolina Pulled Pork
- 6-7 pound bone in pork shoulder
- 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 Tablespoons coarse black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons smoked paprika
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup beer
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
Vinegar BBQ Sauce
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 1 ½ cups water
- ½ cup ketchup (omit for a more authentic East North Carolina sauce)
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons salt
- 1 Tablespoon black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon red pepper flakes
- Preheat. Preheat your smoker for indirect smoking at 250 degrees F.
- Season and smoke. In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the rub and apply liberally on all sides of the pork shoulder. Place the rubbed shoulder in the smoker and close the lid.
- Mop. In a glass bowl, combine all the ingredients for the mop sauce. Apply the mop sauce to the pulled pork every hour. Smoke the pork shoulder, while mopping hourly, for 8-10 hours or until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 200 degrees F.
- Rest. Remove the shoulder from the smoker, cover tightly with foil, and allow to rest for an hour before shredding and serving.
- Make the BBQ sauce. In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients for the BBQ sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes. Cool completely and set aside to serve with the pork.
- Shred and serve. Remove the shoulder from the foil and shred. Discard the bone and any gristly pieces and pull the rest of the meat into shreds. Moisten the meat with some of the BBQ sauce and mix together. Serve with buns, slaw, and additional BBQ sauce.
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