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Pulled Pork (and Smoking Flower Pots)

My Lazy Barbecue posts (beef ribs and tri-tip) were an easy and convenient way to make barbecue in an oven, but it also stoked my dormant curiosity about smoking meats…with real smoke. We’re technically not allowed to grill or barbecue where we live, so I started looking for ways to build a smoker that didn’t look so conspicuous. Google eventually led me to an old episode of Alton Brown’s Good Eats where he made a smoker out of a terra cotta flower pot and bowl and an electric hot plate. I’ll write more about the smoker in another post since i want this one to focus on this:

Pulled Pork and Baby Back Ribs

(I’ll talk about the ribs some other time…let’s just discuss the pulled pork.)

Making pulled pork is pretty simple. For this attempt, I coated the entire pork butt with yellow mustard and then sprinkled the meat with a barbecue spice rub and let sit in the refrigerator uncovered for 18 hours. Generally, pork butt is smoked for more than 12 hours at a fairly low temperature (usu. between 225-250F) until the meat reaches a temperature of 195F.

From what I’ve read, the meat stops “absorbing” smoke at around the 3–4 hour mark and any time after that just adds to the smokey bark that accumulates on the meat. Since I was using an electric hot plate and didn’t want to leave it on overnight, I smoked the meat for around 4 hours at an average temp of 240F and then double wrapped it in heavy duty foil and put it in a 225F oven to finish.

The total cooking time was around 16 hours, and after I took it out of the oven, I put it in an empty ice chest where it rested until I was ready to pull the pork and serve it. Here’s what it looked like after removing it from the foil. The “gap” in the meat is where the shoulder bone used to be.

Finished Pork Butt

I served the pork butt with an easy homemade barbecue sauce. The recipe is from Emeril, who’s not one of my usual sources, but I was looking for a vinegary, Carolina-style sauce, and the ingredient list looked about right. It uses equal parts ketchup and apple cider vinegar so it’s very balanced but with a little vinegary kick. I’ve seen other recipes that use the same ingredients but with more vinegar than ketchup. Overall, it was a really good sauce, but I definitely want to try something more vinegary next time.

One thing I wasn’t very conscientious of was the internal temperature of the pork since I was using my probe thermometer to monitor the smoker temp while I was making some ribs. The finishing temp was above 195F when I pulled it out of the oven, and though it tasted great, certain bits of meat were softer than other parts. This just means I need invest in a few more thermometers so that I can do some proper multitasking. Another issue is controlling the heat of the smoker. I was able to maintain a steady temp of around 240F pretty easily, but I really want to get it down to a consistent temperature of 225F.

Overall, for a first attempt, I thought this came out really well, and the smokiness was perfect. I’m really looking forward to doing this again and experimenting even further. If any of you have advice or suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

6 replies on “Pulled Pork (and Smoking Flower Pots)”

I always wondered how feasible Alton Brown’s flower pot rig was, and now you’ve tested it out and it seems to have actually worked! I can’t wait to read about how you set everything up.

I couldn’t tell, but did you start with a boneless, or did you pull the bone out before shredding the meat? Do you think having a bone-in pork butt contributed to the dryness/softness of the meat? Maybe you can try the next one with/without a bone?

@Marvin: The bone basically fell out when we got ready to pull the pork. It wasn’t very big so I don’t think it had that much of an impact. I think I just need to work on temperature control and make sure I pull the pork out when it hits 195F.

I’ll have a post on the smoker construction in a couple days… :-)

I made a smoker out of a 40 gallon trash can and adjustable temp hot plate about 3 months ago. SOOOO much i would have done different… there’s alot to take in consideration when you’re building a smoker. if you’re only going to use it a couple of times then just about any configuration will work. if it’s actually something you want to get away with using for a long time you have to really brace your smoker for the moisture and smoke build up, figure out how to refill the wood chip during smoking, checking temp without disturbing the inside temp, placement of the drip pan, heat shielding your wiring, etc. really it’s all in how serious you want to take it.

Thank you so much for KFC article. I smoke a lot of meat for my restaurant. I like to use 2 inch pieces of applewood so I don’t have to open the rig to fool with chips. 3 six inch long pieces last for the four hour period. I leave the meat in the smoker for the whole period since I am not fighting stupid restrictions. I set it for 190 degrees since I am at a high altitude and never want the meat to exceed the boiling point of water ever. By the way, my smoker is electric like yours and works fine. I also smoke for another restaurant but just leave the butts in for four hours and they finish them in a slow cooker.

Good luck, Paul

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