Carolina Pulled Pork

June 4, 2019

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 style pulled pork on a cutting board

North Carolina Pulled Pork

Before we jump in to 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 peak 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 just that 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, the coleslaw is perfect piled high on top of the pork for a satisfying crunch in an otherwise tender sandwich.

Carolina style pulled pork on a wooden cutting board

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 hard woods 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 these bear claw style shredders, they’re my favorite), and give it a good drizzle of the BBQ sauce.

Tips for the Best Pulled Pork

Pulled pork is a 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 a 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 a moist and flavorful pork when it comes time to shred.

Pulled Pork Sides

Pulled pork is amazing on its own, in a sandwich, and doused with BBQ sauce. It’s even better complimented with some tasty sides. Try one of my favorites below:

Smoked Baked Beans
Best Homemade Coleslaw
Smoked Mac and Cheese

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.

Want more sauces for your delicious BBQ? Patio Provisions has 3 new Hey Grill Hey signature sauces available today!

5 from 8 votes
Carolina Pulled Pork
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
8 hrs
Total Time
8 hrs 15 mins
 

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.

Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Barbecue
Keyword: Carolina Pulled Pork
Servings: 12 people
Calories: 245 kcal
Ingredients
  • 6-7 pound bone in pork shoulder
Rub
  • 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 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup ketchup omit for a more authentic East North Carolina sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons salt
  • 1 Tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon red pepper flakes
Instructions
  1. Preheat your smoker for indirect smoking at 250 degrees F.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Remove the shoulder from the smoker, cover tightly with foil, and allow to rest for an hour before shredding and serving.
  5. Make that 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.

  6. 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.

Recipe Video

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81 thoughts on “Carolina Pulled Pork

      1. Hey thanks for the video . We are new to smoking .eat and just bought a big propane smoker. During the 8-10 hour smoking process do you add more wood chips as the burn up?
        Thank you
        Lisa in GA

  1. I followed this recipe this past weekend for my first smoke with the new Primo grill. The results were amazing!!! The BBQ sauce was the perfect finishing touch. We can’t wait to try more of your recipes!

        1. Hey Susan- You can absolutely do this one in the oven! You’ll lose some of the authentic smoked flavor, but the cook time will be about the same as the recipe describes.

          1. I have heard that bacon grease will help with the “smoked” taste 🙂 Have not tried, but plan to.

  2. New to the BBQ sauce making process. Tired of store bought stuff I just don’t like. It seems as though this would be a very runny sauce and not very thick. Would this be an accurate assumption?

  3. I’m thinking about smoking this today…in the morning…and then serving it tomorrow. How do you feel about reheating the meat? I have out of town guests on Saturday and need make sure everything is done and I’m nervous. Lmk what you think! Thanks!

    1. Hey Adrienne! Good to see you outside of Instagram! You can definitely cook and reheat, I would double bag in gallon freezer zip top bags and reheat in a pot of simmering water. OR, you can plan to start them early, then when they are done, wrap them up in foil and beach towels and hold them in a cooler until you’re ready to eat. They will stay hot for 4-6 hours in the cooler and then you all get fresh pulled pork!

      1. I love that you knew it was me, you just made my day. ???? I’m going to start it early and I’ll let you know how it goes!

    2. It reheats great. When you pull it leave all the juice in there. Set your oven at the lowest setting and put it in covered. It could take an hour or two depending on the amount.

  4. I’m currently making the butts now! What would be the best advice for storage and reheating (on a grill preferably). Plan on serving this tomorrow afternoon.

    1. I would recommend pulling them tonight in the pan you plan to reheat in, keeping them all together with their juices. Cover tightly with foil and reheat over indirect heat, just until warmed through to serving temperature.

  5. Can’t wait to try! I’m making this the day before a pot luck and wanted to leave the sauce on the side – what do you recommend for keeping the meat moist the next day while in the foil container? Thanks in advance!

    1. Hey Christine! I would move the pork to the foil pan as soon as you take it off the smoker. You’ll collect quite a bit of moisture from letting it rest for a couple of hours. When you pull the pork, keep it in the pan with all those juices! You can even add in a couple of tablespoons of apple juice to help.

    1. Hey Frank- you can totally sub in apple juice! It will definitely add a sweeter element that isn’t traditional with the vinegary NC style, but if you like sweet then you should go for it!

  6. Had time today and did a Texas Brisket and this Carolina pulled pork recipe. Smoked the beef from midnight to bout 10 AM and wrapped it then put the pork butt on. Brisket out at 3pm and pork just out at 4:15. A great 2fer and since I had room on the GMG I figured might as well.

  7. This may sound silly, but do you have any suggestions on having this ready in less than 8 hours? Smaller roasts? Ever do it in less than 8 hours?

    1. If you want it done quicker, a smaller roast will definitely help. You can also increase the temperature. There isn’t any sugars in this recipe that you need to worry about burning, so it can handle a higher temperature.

  8. So my mom and I followed your directions however it took all day and into the night. We were using a smaller electric smoker so it should be noted that this process takes a lot longer and plan on serving the following day. I found that opening and closing the smoker causes heat to escape and makes it cook longer.

  9. Hi Susie,
    Just wanted to complement you on your recipe here. I bought a pellet grill last year and have made your Carolina Pulled Pork a half dozen times or so. Needless to say, I have become the “go to guy for BBQ” for friends and family. I have been paying the extra dollar to get a better cut of meat from my local butcher. What a difference that makes. I also use Competition Blend Pellets for my smokes. Thank you for sharing your expertise. You’ve created a monster!!

  10. I am in my first hour of cooking in a “tube” smoker vertical chamber smoker vs. a horizontal smoker). Cooking a 7 lb. Boston Butt with shoulder. Cooking the pork in the top chamber with a pan of water and beer mixture in between the heat source and the meat. Top chamber thermometer is consistent at 250 degrees. Do I need to cook longer than 8 hours since my pork is not as close to the heat source (like the horizontal smokers)? Also, I assume the water pan adds a buffer that keeps moisture in while preventing the meat from drying out? Using charcoal briquettes and hickory wood in the bottom.

  11. Can’t wait to try this recipe, I’m planning to make this for our 4th of July Party. If there is leftover, can I freeze it?

    I’ll come back and rate once we try it!

  12. Great goodness!!!
    Awesome replication of Carolina “pig pickin” sauce!
    I followed the recipe to the letter and it turned out awesome!
    Thanks man!!!

  13. Can you cook the sauce early? I tried making it while the pork was smoking but it has now cooled and the ketchup is clumping. Was hoping could keep it in a bottle for leftovers

  14. My most favorite pulled pork came from Short Sugars in Reidsville N.C. back in the mid 70s. Have not been there in many years so not sure if it is still there.

    1. I haven’t tried this in the oven myself. I have had others use the instant pot or crock pot and it has turned out great. If you are going to use the oven, I would follow the same time and temperature instructions as the written recipe.

  15. I ended up buying boneless pork shoulders. About 7.5 pounds each. Can I expect the cooking time to be longer since there is no bone?

  16. Hello heygrillhey,
    Ref: Carolina Style Pulled Pork

    I do not have a smoker. Could I cook the pulled pork on the grill with indirect heat and watching temperature, with pan under the meat.
    Any suggestion, using wood or charcoal, and smoking chips.

  17. What kind of beer do you recommend, a lawnmower beer (Miller Lite or Bud Light) or something heavier (Guinness?)

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