This is the best smoked pulled pork recipe you'll ever make. Traditionally made, in North Carolina style, I use tangy mop sauce for basting and wood chips for smoking on the grill.
You can't get better than slow cooked, smoked pulled pork. Savory, tender and versatile, this BBQ pulled pork recipe with a traditional North Carolina Mop Sauce will be on rotation for the grill. Perfect for a crowd.
North Carolina BBQ
Heat up the grill (but not too hot!) for this traditional North Carolina pulled pork recipe. A pork butt or shoulder cooks on a low-heat grill with wood chips, and gets basted with a pepper and vinegar sauce, to make an authentic Southern dish.
North Carolina barbecue has a signature flavor that comes from the Mop Sauce the meat (typically pork) is cooked with.
Carolina mop sauce is very thin, vinegar-based sauce that has an almost water-like consistency. You use it to cook meat on low, for longer periods of time, or for smoking meats.
Other liquids used in place of, or with vinegar, are beer, Worcestershire sauce, or fruit juice help to enhance the flavor. Yum!
Find my favorite BBQ mop here.
Smoking on the grill:
Don't have a smoker at home? No worries! Check out this tip on how to cook with indirect heat using your regular gas or charcoal grill.
If you don't have a smoker, or grill smoker like a Traeger, I've got an infographic here that will help you smoke on your grill.
How to make smoked pulled pork:
To make authentic, perfect pulled pork on the grill, follow these steps.
- Gather your ingredients: Pork shoulder, spice rub, mop sauce, and wood chips.
- Prepare pork shoulder by scoring the skin and seasoning with spice rub.
- Heat grill and arrange smoking chips.
- Roast pork, basting with mop sauce every 30 minutes, until the internal temperature is 190ºF to 200ºF, 6 to 7 hours.
- Let cook slightly then shred pork, discarding large pieces of fat.
- Serve with reserved mop sauce or BBQ sauce.
To know just how long to cook pulled pork, follow the guidelines in the recipe for grill temperature, and check the internal temperature of the meat with a thermometer.
You want to cook the tough cut of meat on low heat for a long time to let the cut tenderize. It will fall apart easily and shred when it is done. This will take 6 to 7 hours.
What meat to use for pulled pork:
Pork of course! But just what cut of pork do you used for the best pulled pork?
The pork shoulder is the cut to use. This is often called the pork butt. No, it's not from the pig's tooshie! The pork butt is actually the shoulder.
Why is pork shoulder called pork butt?
Despite the name, pork butt, Boston butt and pork shoulder are all the same cut. It is located on the top shoulder area of the pig and includes parts of the neck, upper arm and shoulder blade.
The name derives from an old New England practice of storing cuts of pork, like the shoulder, in barrels or casks, called butts. Popular in Boston, that name stuck as well.
I love this Carolina pulled pork because you can serve it with or without barbecue sauce. The flavor from the smoke and the mop sauce is enough to make it delicious. But I know some of you out there NEED your sauce!
This is an excellent meal for a crowd. Serve it with your favorite sides, or on a roll with coleslaw.
Try these sides:
Pulled pork in the slow cooker or multi cooker:
In the depths of winter you'll find me making pulled pork in my slow cooker or multi cooker.
You can make this recipe in the slow cooker too. You won't get the smoke flavor, but it is still delicious and tender.
Adjust this recipe for the slow cooker:
- Season pork with Terrific 10 Rub.
- Place in slow cooker and add 1 cup Mop Sauce
- Cook on low for 7 to 8 hours. (Or cook on high pressure for 1 hour 30 minutes in a multi cooker)
- Remove pork, let cool slightly and shred.
- Pour juices into a fat separator and discard fat.
- Serve pork with slow cooker juices and extra Mop Sauce.
North Carolina Pulled Pork
- Let your 5 to 7 pound pork shoulder stand at room temperature 1 hr. Score the skin in a crosshatch pattern (forming 1-inch diamonds); avoid cutting into meat. Rub all over with 4 tablespoons Terrific 10 Rub. Place, skin-side up, in an aluminum pan, or a foil lined baking pan.
- Set aside a few cups of Mop Sauce for serving. Heat grill to medium low (275°F) for indirect cooking and arrange smoker box or wood chips in grill. Place pork in the pan away from the heat. Cook with the grill covered, basting meat with Mop Sauce every 30 min, until fork-tender and an instant-read thermometer registers 190°F, 5 to 6 hrs total.
- Let pork rest 15 min, then shred with a fork or gloved hands, discarding large pieces of fat. Serve drizzled with some reserved Mop Sauce.
- You can also serve the meat with Memphis BBQ Sauce, or on rolls with coleslaw.
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Recipe by Tara Teaspoon
I’ve been in the food publishing business for over 20 years, creating recipes and food styling for magazines, books, television and advertising. Find out more about me!