Paul is a barbecue enthusiast. He is currently grilling and smoking on a Komodo Kamado Ultimate 23.
Low and Slow Smoking on a Kamado Style Grill
Kamado-style grills are perfect for low and slow cooking because they retain heat very well, which makes them much more efficient for long cooking times. My family has used this recipe with excellent results on a Kamado and a Big Green Egg.
What You'll Need to Cook Pulled Pork Shoulder
To cook a pork shoulder low and slow on the barbecue and pull it into tender shredded meat, you'll need the following:
- A barbecue. Almost any grill will work. I use a Kamado Smoker, but a charcoal Webber or gas grill works fine as well.
- A cooking digital thermometer.
- Charcoal and wood chips. I use applewood chips, but some people prefer hickory chips. Either is fine.
- Pork shoulder. I go with the pork shoulder from Costco. The one I cooked in this example is 14lbs.
- A really great rub. Barbecue rubs can make or break the final pulled pork taste. I usually make my own rubs, but I think a combination rub of salty and sweet works best for pulled pork whether you buy one or make it yourself.
- Towels and an ice chest for keeping the meat hot and letting it rest once you finish cooking.
- Barbecue sauce and hot sauce. I like to serve these on the side and I think they add the perfect flavor.
- Kaiser rolls. I like soft white rolls. Don't go with hamburger buns; they are too heavy. Get a very light, fresh white bun.
- Optional: A Stoker temperature control device.
Make Your Own Pork Shoulder Rub Recipe
A pork shoulder has quite a bit of fat that will add to the great pork flavor, but a rub that is rich in spice makes the best pulled-pork. A pork shoulder is a large cut of meat; the shoulder from Costco was cut in half with each side weighing about 7 lbs. So, in order to cover 14 lbs with the rub, it will take well over 1 cup of rub.
A Great Pulled Pork Rub Is Sweet and Salty:
- 2 cups white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1/4 cup seasoned salt
- 1/4 cup garlic salt
- 1/4 cup onion powder
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon lemon pepper
- 1/4 cup celery seed, (optional)
Applying the Pulled Pork Rub
- Apply the dry rub liberally to the pork shoulder. (When applying the rub, dump it on and then massage it into the meat with your hands.)
- Let the shoulder sit for a few hours before putting it on the grill. (This will give the meat some time to warm up to room temperature and absorb flavoring from the rub.)
- Right before putting the meat on the grill, add some more rub.
- There should be plenty of leftover rub. Save some for the end.
Getting the Grill Ready to Cook Low and Slow
First, load the barbecue up with charcoal. My Kamado will hold enough charcoal to do the entire cook in one load. Then, light one chunk of charcoal (I do it on my gas stove), put it on top of the charcoal pile and cover it with a few more pieces. This will help prevent all the charcoal from burning at once, which makes the barbecue get too hot and consume a lot more fuel.
The barbecue should be between 220 degrees and 270 degrees Fahrenheit for a low and slow cook. Try aiming for the lower temperature range because it's harder to keep it low than hot. Shooting for the lower temperature gives you some room for error on the hotter side. The pork shoulder in this example cooked at 267 degrees for the entire cook, even though I was aiming for 220. I just couldn't get the heat to stabilize at a lower temperature.
During overnight cooks, the cool evening temperature helps keep the grill lower than during the day. It takes a bit of courage to do an overnight cook since you can't watch the grill the whole time, but I'll give you some tips on how to use tools to monitor the grill.
Smoking With Chips
You'll want to be careful of how much smoke you use when cooking. I leave the pork completely uncovered during the entire cook. I use charcoal as my main fuel source, but I also add chips for smoke flavoring. I've had the best success with apple smoking chips. The apple smoke compliments the pork flavor nicely.
- Take the apple chips and put them in 2 to 3 cup tinfoil tepees.
- Fold the sides of the tinfoil up like a little chimney, add about 1/4 cup of water, and place on the side of the coals. I use about two tinfoil teepees full of apple chips per cook.
- The smoke is key to a good low and slow cook. For a stronger smoke flavor, try a Texas-style low and slow barbecue with white oak.
- Personally, I think the oak flavor tastes better on beef brisket, but many like it on a pork shoulder.
Using Butcher String
After I put the rub on the meat, when I'm smoking a pork shoulder with the bone removed, I take butcher string and tier three or four loops around the meat to keep it tight together. This helps it cook more evenly and it won't fall apart when it comes time to remove it from the grill.
Putting the Meat on the Grill
I like to use a roasting pan for cooking pulled pork. It helps with indirect heat by deflecting the direct heat from the meat. You may be worried about burning the pan up, but I've found that while drippings from the meat do burn up, there is still enough fat rendered from the pork that it doesn't damage the pan.
- Place the meat in the pan on the grill and insert a meat thermometer that can be read from outside of the grill.
- Make sure the temperature is getting taken from the heart of the meat. I use a remote thermometer and set the alarm for 205 degrees. The remote thermometer works really well for overnight cooks.
- If for some reason the meat gets done early, the thermometer's alarm will go off and wake you up to check the meat.
During my last cook, I put on 14 lbs of pork shoulder around 9 pm and the alarm went off at 6 pm while I was sound asleep. Low and slow cooks aren't always as predictable. Sometimes a shoulder will take 2 hours longer than the previous cook. If you're shooting for a lunchtime meal, It's fine if the meat is done early (I'll tell you how to handle it), but it throws everything off if the meat isn't done in time. So, give yourself room for error by planning your cook to be done at least 2 hours early. If it cooks ahead of schedule, that's not a problem for pulled pork.
What do I do if the Temperature Stalls?
Cooking low and slow, it's imperative to get the meat to 205 degrees. At this temperature, the fat will render out of the meat (no big fatty chunks) and it will easily pull into shreds with two forks.
It's really common to see your pork shoulder stall out at 160 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit after 6 hours.
If it continues to smoke for many more hours it may breakthrough the plateau stage, but it tends to dry out. To get the meat back on its way do these two things.
1. Completely wrap the pork in tinfoil and then put it back on the grill. The meat thermometer can be inserted through the tinfoil.
2. Increase the temperature of the grill to 275-300 degrees Fahrenheit.
I've started wrapping my pork in tinfoil after about 6 hours now because I've found it helps hold in juices and adds to the flavor. So, even if the internal temperature continues to rise, I still recommend these steps.
Letting the Pulled Pork Rest
Once the pork shoulder has hit the target internal temperature of 195 degrees, pull it from the barbecue. You will be able to smell the rich barbecue flavor, and the sweet rub will make it smell a little like ham.
It's a great combination. Next, place the meat in thick tinfoil and wrap it up. From there, wrap it in two towels, and place it in an ice chest for at least one hour. It can stay in the ice chest wrapped up for over eight hours and still be nice and warm when it comes time to pull the pork.
Pulling the Pork and Seasoning
After the pork has been resting for over an hour, it will pull apart very easily with two forks. With a fork in each hand, place a large chuck into a big bowl and begin to shred. Pork is fatty, but after a low and slow cook, a lot of the fat is cooked out, so don't remove any that is left. Just shred it and mix it all together.
You might want to taste the bark (that's the dark edges—the tastiest part). Taste the meat and gauge the flavor. I like to mix in some of the leftover dry rubs at this point until I get enough salt flavor into the meat. Continue to add the rub and mix it into the pulled pork to taste.
How to Serve Pulled Pork
Now that the shoulder has been pulled into nice tasty shredded pork, you need to decide how you're going to serve it. My favorite way is on a soft white bun, with my homemade barbecue sauce, a little bit of Tabasco and some fresh coleslaw. Lots of coleslaws are mayonnaise-based, but I use one with a peanut vinaigrette. I put a little on the pulled pork sandwich instead of eating it on the side. As for other side dishes to go with pulled pork, my two favorites are homemade potato salad and fruit salad. Potato chips are also a great match.
Shredded BBQ pork also tastes great on burritos or can easily be served plain. My little kids eat it plain.
A final strange tip about pulled pork: it's the best way to give a dog medicine. Just hold the dogs head up, wrap the pill in some pulled pork and put it into the dog's mouth. Lightly hold the dog's head tilted up as it eats the pork wrapped pill. Nothing else I've tried has worked nearly as well.
Rate the Pulled Pork Recipe on the Kamado
DavidCSchneider on May 25, 2020:
Paul is the ultimate BBQ king. He's been doing this for decades and I've personally tasted his work. This recipe rocks!! I appreciate the tip on getting over the plateau, which has been a problem in the past.
Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on October 25, 2014:
I've had really good luck pushing the temp up to 195 - 200 degrees. If it gets stuck, wrap it in tinfoil and the temp will rise more quickly, but be patient!
obsethed on October 23, 2014:
Hi, did my first pulled pork last weekend and got past the stall then it sat at an internal temp of 80 deg Celsius for a few hours, using a digital thermometer. Eventually tried the fork test and it twirled easily. The bone pulled out easily, it pulled apart easily and the meat was delicious. I ate the lot over the week and wasn't ill.
Using a Kamadoe and temp was at 100 deg Celsius.
Most sites say to aim for 198 to 205 degrees f which is 93 degrees c but there were a few saying 70 deg c was ok.
Have another shoulder rubbed and in the fridge which I will cook tomorrow, should I try for 93 c or go with what I know?
Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on January 21, 2014:
I'm thinking of redoing the first picture by adding some text to it. Any suggestions?
Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on January 21, 2014:
I love pulled pork and especially when it's smoked. This is an easy to understand recipe with plenty of detail...including the benefit of using pulled pork to give medicine to a dog! 5 stars and voted up!
Agaltom on January 21, 2014:
I want some of this pulled pork... It looks so delicious!
Victoria Van Ness from Fountain, CO on January 21, 2014:
Yummy! Yummy! Growing up in Texas, I have always been all about the BBQ! I love this recipe! Thank you so much for sharing it!
FullOfLoveSites from United States on October 15, 2013:
Mmmmmm.... that blackened smoked pork on the grill is heaven! I would partner that with rice also. :)
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 24, 2011:
Looks great. Can almost smell and taste it from here. BTW...another tip about giving dogs pills is wrapping them in Velveeta cheese. We used to keep Velveeta on hand at all times when we had to medicate one of our dogs. Of course the others also had to get their Velveeta "treat"...just without a pill. Easier to keep on hand if one does not have a constant supply of pulled pork. :)
Veronica from New York on June 13, 2011:
I love bbq especially pulled pork, great hub! I have a recipe for bbq pulled chicken that I make in a slow cooker, you might be interested to check it out. Voted up!
Quanza from Charleston, SC on May 27, 2011:
Thank you for sharing this! I always imagined preparing pulled-pork being difficult and surprisingly it seems pretty simple. Definitely on the menu this holiday weekend!
Cloverleaf from Calgary, AB, Canada on May 21, 2011:
WOW! Paul, I'm absolutely drooling at your incredible hub. I just showed my husband and he said he will try it out (that's great because I'm always the official taste tester!).
Great job, voted up - awesome!
htodd from United States on May 21, 2011:
Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on May 20, 2011:
It's awesome and a really good value for feeding a lot if people.
Jamie Brock from Texas on May 20, 2011:
THANK you for sharing! The pics look so yummy.. making my mouth water.
Joseph Davis from Florida on May 17, 2011:
excellent hub, as usual. I thoroughly enjoy smoking with my smoker, but tend to use an offset smoker that has a large firebox. The wood I generally use is either oak or pecan, sometimes hickory. Apple seems like it would give great flavor, but not easy to get around here. There is a website somewhere out there where a smoking enthusiast in England recommends certain types of wood for certain foods. To me, oak or pecan smoked boston butts or T-bones are about the best eating around.
Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on May 16, 2011:
There are plenty of slow cooker recipes for pulled pork, but tough to get the smoke flavor.
carpesomediem on May 16, 2011:
I am so, so sad I can't try this with my current setup. I only have a crockpot to work with, and this looks so delicious.
Hello, hello, from London, UK on May 16, 2011:
Thank you for a great recipe and well detailed.
tom hellert from home on May 15, 2011:
The recipe sounds great the cooker os a gem, but alas I do not eat pork- makes me sick to taste it but a beef ribs/tenderloin would probably be boss!!
hanks for sharin,.. Its weird though pork fried rice from some places won't make me sick... kinda makes me wonder if its pork and if NOT WHAT IS IT????/
keep on cookin.
Paradise7 from Upstate New York on May 14, 2011:
Aboslutely delicious!! And not that hard to do, either, with Paul's excellent directions and thorough advice.
Carolina Dursina from Spring Green WI on May 13, 2011:
Great post, now I'm ready to grill!
Paul Edmondson (author) from Burlingame, CA on May 13, 2011:
It would be great in tamales. I'll have to try it.
Earth Angel on May 13, 2011:
Good Morning Paul and Edmondson Gang!
That sapphire blue smoker is a work of art in itself! Thanks for sharing!
Blessings always, Earth Angel!
Eiddwen from Wales on May 13, 2011:
A great hub and one to bookmark also.
I have a good few recipes bookmarked and I really look forward to giving this one a go.
Thank you for sharing this hub with us.
elizabeth from Buncombe County, NC on May 13, 2011:
I would love to have some of your pork to make tamales with. I've tried so hard to make them and I fail every time.
sherrylou57 from Riverside on May 12, 2011:
The salad looks yummy!