So Just What Is Pulled Pork?

When I first started writing recipes for my web site I received a lot of questions about "pulled pork" and how best to prepare it. Living in the UK I’d never heard of pulled pork so it presented me with a great opportunity to do some exploring and further my barbecue education.

Pulling pork sounds like an extremely strenuous business but it’s not, it’s simply down to a gentle, slow cooking process that makes it ideal for the meat smoker although many a good pulled pork has been rustled up in a slow cooker or a traditional oven.

Pulled pork is so called because of the way that it is served up. As it says, it’s literally been pulled apart. Nowadays it can be served chopped or shredded (although traditionalist would probably shun this) but one thing remains true and that is the final presentation – in a bun with barbecue sauce and a coleslaw side.

Pork is a very traditional meat that’s been around a long time. In Europe for example, pigs have always been available because they eat anything and that makes them easy to rear particularly through the long harsh winters. In America it’s the pig or hog’s hardy nature that allowed it to survive in more extreme surroundings than cattle. It’s this fact that has made pork such a popular staple in the American South where the years ago the first settlers found that their cattle perished and the hogs happily thrived.

The pig is also popular because nearly every part of the animal can be eaten, even the skin, and let’s face it, who doesn’t like a nice piece of crackling?

Pork shoulder is the most commonly used joint because the long cooking could dry out some cuts but shoulder is quite a fatty joint therefore providing a natural baste. During the long cookout most of the fat will dissolve but most importantly it’s this long cooking process that breaks down the tough fibrous connective tissue called collagen that tenderizes the meat so making it easy to "pull" apart.

Using a meat smoker for pulled pork does add a certain smoked flavour to the job that you’re not going to get from an oven but during this long cooking process (about 90 minutes per pound of meat) it’s sometimes difficult to keep the smoker going long enough at a stable temperature to finish cooking. It’s also arguable whether the smoker adds any more flavour after the first 5 hours and that’s why many folks will complete the second half of the cooking process wrapped tightly in foil in a conventional oven, especially when doing a large joint.

When the pork is finally done, it needs to rest for 60 minutes and then it should be ready for pulling apart and once pulled it can then be warmed a little if required. I find that the eating the pulled pork cold really highlights the smoked flavour but of course this is personal preference. The great thing I like about a pulled pork recipe is that in the end the flavour can vary so much simply by one’s choice of barbecue sauce yet to a traditionalist this is an endless source of debate. Long may these arguments continue!

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About The Author, The Barbecue Smoker Recipe Man
Barbecue Smoker RecipesEasy barbecue recipes for pork, chicken, turkey, beef, fish and seafood including tapas appetizers and vegetarian options. Step by step guides with tips and pictures give perfect results on the portable grill, meat smoker or fire pit.