Carolina Pulled Pork

28 reviews

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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.

Carolina pulled pork on a serving platter with text overlay - Carolina Pulled Pork.

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.

Pork shoulder being seasoned with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.

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.

Pork shoulder being mopped with mop sauce.

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):

  1. 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.
  2.  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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Carolina pulled pork being shredded with Hey Grill Hey Meat Shredder Claws.

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.

Carolina pulled pork on a serving platter.

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 YouTubeInstagram, 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

4.97 from 28 votes
Carolina Pulled Pork is one of those classic Americana 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.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time8 hours
Total Time8 hours 15 minutes
Servings12 people


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  • 6-7 pound bone in pork shoulder


  • 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons coarse black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons smoked paprika

Mop Sauce

  • 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.


Calories: 245kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 93mg | Sodium: 232mg | Potassium: 616mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 930IU | Vitamin C: 1.7mg | Calcium: 36mg | Iron: 2.4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Susie is the BBQ Brain behind the Hey Grill Hey website. Her passion for smoked meats and developing fun, new recipes have landed her on the Food Network, cooking turkeys with Shaq, and on a couple of Guinness World Records. When she’s not grilling, she is hanging out with Todd and their three kids, preferably outdoors!

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Recipe Rating

Reader Reviews

153 Reviews

  1. Taylor Lewandowski says:

    Do you think I could make this in a crock pot as well? Or would the oven be better? I’m very excited to try this, but do not have a smoker, only a blacktop “grill”

    1. Hey Grill Hey says:

      You definitely can use a crock pot, but you’ll get a slightly different texture. I would consult a slow cooker pro on the time/temp to be on the safe side. For the oven, just use the same time and temp guidelines and be sure to cook to internal temperature.

      1. Debra says:

        I’ve made Carolina pulled pork on the grill, in the oven, and in a slow cooker. For the slow cooker, after you have shredded the meat, spread it out on a cookie sheet and throw it under the broiler. That helps give a balance of moist meat with some crispier pieces.

  2. S W says:

    We made this in our electric outdoor smoker over the Memorial Day weekend. It came out exceptionally good. For the barbecue sauce, I cut back a bit on the red pepper flakes and I also added some honey. It was really great and everybody loved it. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

  3. Karen Hope says:

    This sounds delicious, I’m in VA but love the original Eastern NC minced or pulled pork BBQ.
    Can you make the roast in the oven instead of a smoker? as I don’t own a smoker! Thank you.

    1. Hey Grill Hey says:

      You can totally make this in your oven. Follow them same directions and be sure to cook to internal temperature.

    2. Leo says:

      I grew up in Smithfield Va. area. I ate this style bbq my entire childhood. This recipe is exactly like the bbq I had as a child and highly recommend it.

  4. Tim Isaacs says:

    The only thing I would change is instead of Catsup I use dehydrated tomato that I dehydrate and grind myself.

  5. Jay says:

    Do you have a type of beer you’d recommend for the mop?

    1. Hey Grill Hey says:

      We used a basic ale for this recipe, but any beer where you enjoy the taste is a great way to go.

  6. Bryn says:

    The Carolina Vinegar BBQ sauce recipe says toJust mix the ingredients in a jar, but the steps for the Carolina Pulled Pork, it says to boil and simmer the BBQ sauce. Just wondering which is correct?

    1. Hey Grill Hey says:

      You can do it either way. I like to simmer for 15-20 minutes. It helps the flavors come together.

  7. Ken Charron says:

    This is the only method I use or recommend. Love your recipes.

  8. Amanda says:

    Absolutely phenomenal! I don’t usually write reviews but this recipe definitely deserves it. I added a little bit of garlic powder to the rub and let it cook on the smoker for 12 hours with a mix of mesquite and apple wood chips. It was by far the most tender pork shoulder I’ve ever made and it was so easy to shred using just two forks. Everyone was in love and asked if they could take some home, I highly recommend this recipe!!

  9. David Bankston says:

    Love the simplicity of this recipe. Friends and family all rave about this pulled pork and ask me to bring it to gatherings. I also have done the Cider Brine Pulled Pork and while it is absolutely delicious, the prep is a little laborious.