This summer I attended a small, almost neighborhood sort of, pulled pork contest presented by Grappa Growlers in the adjacent town of Belleville, Illinois. Owner Jodi was kind enough to invite me and look who joined in—the Code 3 Spices fellas, Chris and Mike:
We sampled several versions of pulled pork while sampling several versions of craft draft. One of the samples (pork) really resonated with my taste buds and I thought it to be one of the best recipes I’d ever tasted. Now the Code 3 fellas thought highly of the recipe also and since they are also competition grillers (award-winning at that) I valued their opinion. I then sought out the gentleman that had prepared this scrumptious moist pulled pork to pry his secret recipe from his brain and into mine. This stuff was so good…you know…one of those things that you just didn’t want to stop eating. When asked, the gentleman laughed and said he really didn’t measure anything, he just poured soy sauce and added some of this and that, then poked the pork butt all over to allow the mixture to permeate the pork and smoked it on a pellet smoker with apple pellets for 6 hours then foiled (3 sheets to be exact-could’ve described us when we left) the butt, while adding more mixture, then back on the grill for 6 more hours all at the temperature of 180. Low and slow he said and the bone will simply slide out with minimal effort. So I’m going to share with you my best recollection of his recipe-somehow I feel I’ll be refining this one for a long time to come.
A 6-lb bone-in pork butt was selected. This hunk o’ pork is a meaty rascal and I’m going to cook it in half the time the champion gentleman did. I’m planning on 6 hours total cook time at 300—time will certainly tell.
I gathered every poking device (that’s ice pick) I could find and began poking the pork.
I poked it high! Then I rolled it over and poked it low…several times…less than an inch apart. I continued to poke it all over:
Pick Poked, Pulled Pork Ingredients:
6 lb pork butt/shoulder
½ bottle soy sauce
2 cups brown sugar
¼ cup John Henry’s Pecan Rub
¼ cup John Henry’s Texas Brisket Rub (I know it’s pork but this is what the man said!)
Your favorite BBQ rub(s) to dust
Pour soy sauce into non-reactive container, dump the brown sugar (I’m hearing vintage Stones in my ear) into the soy, then combine the rubs to add to the concoction (sounds like a dirty word doesn’t it?) and then stir it up:
Now…very carefully…pour the mixture evenly into each little bitty hole poked in the butt:
Slowly pour half the mixture to coat the top and massage into the poked butt. Remember the bottom got poked too so roll the butt over and coat the bottom with the mixture also. It wouldn’t hurt to massage the liquid mixture into the poked pork a bit. Reserve the other half of the mixture for later. Perhaps next time I’ll let this soak, call it a sugar brine, for a couple of days. Finally shake on a good coating of each rub—want to put a lot of flavor into the expected bark here:
Place bottom (fat cap) up and into a couple foil pans-I use 2 with such heavy pork.
Take it to the grill. Coals on the left and pork on the right but depending on your type of grill I’d suggest checking the wind direction:
If you have drafty equipment then follow the wind direction with coals and smoke wood first and meat last. That may sound silly to some of you, but believe me, you don’t want the smoke blowing away from the meat. Next step, save up for a better grill but until then get the most out of what you have.
Smoke wood for the pork — apricot for sweetness and cherry for more sweetness but going for a deeper color and darker bark:
If you don’t have access to apricot (or even cherry) then check out our extensive list of smoke wood varieties and what meats and veggies they pair the best to find a suitable substitute.
Here’s a look at 1 hour into the smoke. It is browning a bit:
Now at 2 hours in I have some separation and fat melting and oozing away from the butt.
3 hours in and it’s barkin’ at me! No spritzin’ and no moppin’ necessary because we’re going to enrobe this beautiful butt in delicious liquid soon:
Temp at 145 and 3 hours in then 155 at 3 ½ hours in:
Time to juice up and foil up this pick poked, pork butt for the final chapter in this cook. My trusty Char-Broil 940X has held a steady 300 degrees throughout this cook with coals and smoke wood added every 45-60 minutes. Don’t forget to rotate the pan each time smoke wood and charcoal is added.
3 sheets (not to the wind) per the gentleman’s instructions — heavy duty foil:
Lifted the pick poked, pork butt onto the foil after 3 ½ hours of smokin’ with my new Bear Claws which I love for pulled pork as you’ll see later:
Pour half the reserved mixture onto the poked butt before sealing in triple foil:
This is where we are at 2 ½ hours in foil (six hours total on the heat). It’s time to pull from the grill and allow the pork butt to rest for 30 minutes:
The bone removes easily from the butt as the gentleman said, but in half the time:
The Bear Claws made short work of the poked and smoked butt. Some of the liquid mixture has been reserved for serving:
No bun! No slaw! Just give me that wonderful pork texture from the inside and the intense caramelized flavor of the bark topped with a bit of the concoction and a drizzle of my favorite bbq sauce. I don’t ever want this dish to end:
This method provides great pulled pork without a lengthy cook. Upon reflection I would make a larger batch of the mixture and use it to keep the pulled pork moist while warming in an appropriate vessel. I would also permit the poked butt to soak in the mixture for 2-3 days in a large re-sealable plastic bag rotating and massaging frequently. This cook resulted in full-of-flavor bark but I would’ve liked a bit more flavor from the internal meat. Inject it? Maybe, but I was following the champion’s instruction. My next cook just might be 12 hours on the Grill Dome Smoker/Roaster at 180. Better still, 12 hours on the Dome and 6 hours later begin again with another poked and soaked butt on the CB 940X for a side by side comparison…here’s betting they’ll both be super tasty pulled pork.
If you have any questions or comments about the pick poked, pulled pork, shoot me and email or leave them below.
- 6 lb pork shoulder/butt
- ½ bottle soy sauce
- 2 cups brown sugar
- ¼ cup John Henry’s Pecan Rub
- ¼ cup John Henry’s Texas Brisket Rub
- Your favorite BBQ rub(s) to dust
- Poke many holes in the pork shoulder with an ice pick
- Combine the rest of the ingredients except the last item in a bowl and pour half the mixture over the meat, working it into the crevices
- Prepare the grill for two zone/indirect grilling with coals and smoke wood on one side and the meat on the other
- Place the pork butt into a disposable aluminum pan
- Dust the butt with the rubs
- Place the aluminum pan on the side of the grill with no coals and put smoke wood on the side with the heat
- Smoke for three hours, adding smoke wood and fuel as needed
- Remove from the heat, place on three sheets of tin foil and pour half of the remaining mixture over the meat, leaving the rest for serving
- Place back on the heat until the pork butt reaches an internal temperature of 190-200 degrees (about 2.5-3 more hours or a total cook time of 5.5-6 hours)
- Let rest for at least 30 minutes, then remove the bone and pull
- Serve naked, with sauce or even on a bun with cole slaw