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Pulled Pork - Second Attempt

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    Pulled Pork - Second Attempt

    My first attempt at pulled pork was tough...literally. I followed the Traeger recipe to a "T" and it came out hard to pull apart and just wasn't that tender. It was a real let down after all that time...but ultimately, I think the problem was I followed time as opposed to temp and I think it should've stayed on a while longer.

    So...I finally decided to try again this past weekend (I wasn't timid...just have been busy working on figuring out ribs, chicken and steaks). Photos below and lessons learned at the bottom.

    She was 3 pounds, give or take a few ounces.

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    Took my friend's advice and seasoned early...covered it in Meat Church's Honey Hog and put it back in the fridge for 2 days.

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    I'm too new to the game to know how Meat Church stacks up against others...but I know I like this rub, and their Holy Cow rub (have used it on beef short ribs and it was well received).

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    My buddy said he starts at 180* for a few hours to get a little more smoke flavor, and I had the time so I went with that. I used the Traeger probe, which I hadn't been using since I got the OXO Thermocouple Thermometer that was reviewed on AR (https://amazingribs.com/thermometers...mometer-review). I was worried the Traeger probe was a bit inaccurate, so I thought I should give it a test. Turns out it was only off by a few degrees.

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    Had to check on it...couldn't resist. I spritzed it with a water/apple cider vinegar mix (1:1) a handful of times throughout the cook...not on a strict timeline, but probably every 60-90 minutes.

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    She's getting close. After about 5 hours at 180*...I wasn't planning on going that low & slow for that long, but I took the kids on a bike ride and forgot to bump it up before we left and just didn't think about it while we were out. But the internal temp seemed to be climbing at a good rate so I let her ride.

    Then I cranked it up to 225* for about an hour, then up to 275* for about an hour, and finally to 300* just to get her up the last 8-10 degrees so we could eat at a reasonable time.

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    Giving it a little time to rest.

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    Finished product. It was well received by the family (except my daughter...but she's 5 and hates everything we cook). I was a little concerned because it didn't just pull apart like it does in the YouTube videos. I had to work a little bit with the forks, but it tasted great and was a success for the most part.

    We didn't sauce the finished product...just set out ramekins of different sauces so we could try a few. Our favorites were Hak's Chipotle Bourbon BBQ sauce and Jones BBQ sauce out of KC (https://www.jonesbbqkc.com/products/...angy-bbq-sauce).

    Lessons Learned:
    • Go with a bigger piece of meat...after all that time, it was a bummer to not have more leftovers. And with pulled pork freezing well, I should've done an 8 pounder to get more ROI.
    • Cut the strings off. I'd never really seen any photos or videos of tied up meat, but I also never saw suggestions to remove it. I wish I had, as there was a bit of fat I would've cut off and I would've liked to have seasoning and bark on the meat that was hidden in the middle. It would've cooked faster, I'm guessing, which wouldn't have worked as well for my timeline. In the end it didn't have a significant negative impact, but I would do it differently next time.
    All in all, it was fun and tasted good. The wife said it was my best effort yet (just got the Traeger for Father's Day). Will definitely keep trying to refine my skills.

    Well there you go and good on you, second attempt and you've already made improvements and learned lessons. I usually have to make the same mistakes several times before I improve or learn. I guess one of these days I'm going to realise I can't walk through that brick wall! ;-)


      Looks good!

      Next time just set that son of a gun to 250* and let it go. If it’s bone in, it’s done when the bone twists out. Otherwise, meat around 200* should be fine.

      You could actually do it at 275* for the whole cook.


        I spent 15 years struggling to do the perfect pulled pork before I got good at it! There was no discussion around like this back then. You've done a great job making improvements! Congrats!


          Letting it rest is a very important step in the process. It will pull a lot easier after the juices re-distribute.


            I usually do 10 pounders with the bone in, and they take about 12-14 hours. With your Traeger you should be able to do an overnight cook. I like the results better if I wrap it when finished and hold it in an ice chest with old towels for a couple hours. I pull them off the grill at 200 internal and they are still plenty hot when I unwrap them after two ours in the ice chest. I have held them for as long as four hours if I finished the cook early.


              I do my butts and shoulders at 300 all the time, pork will take the heat.
              Don't discount the meat, coulda been some miserable old boar or sow.
              Even the tried and true vets on here are still learning every day.


                Nicely done. I don't have a pellet grill (I use charcoal) so the 180-F thing might be relevant for you and not me but... there's nothing sacred about 225. I smoke almost everything at 250 to 270 and it's fine. Adjust for your own experience, but people get WAY too obsessed about 225 etc.

                Also, if you do a large butt, cut it in half. That will keep the time down but give you the extra meat and it will give you a higher proportion of bark.


                  You're climbing the learning curve!

                  My first few mimics yours....you'll find what works for you and your particular smoker.

                  I generally do a 8-10 lb bone-in butt on my Pit Barrel Cooker (PBC). Here's the routine that I have generally settled into:
                  • Apply rub generously the night before. (I like Killer Hogs Hot Rub)
                  • Smoke on the PBC at 275-300 until the bark is "set" or is starting to get dry/dark. (The PBC is generally a moist cooking environment so I have never needed to spritz.) This setting of the bark usually happens right when the butt is about to stall out at 160-170 degrees. This is roughly 5 hours in. (The PBC runs hotter than most smokers by design.)
                  • Wrap in two layers of aluminum foil and return to PBC. While the foil does soften the bark, as one is going to shred it, I find it doesn't detract much and really speeds up the final cooking time.
                  • Pull when butt is 203 and probe tender.
                  • Rest, still covered in foil, covered in an old towel in a cooler for at least 45 minutes.
                  And you're right, cooking to temp and not time is incredibly important. This one thing has transformed all of my cooking. I don't even set the timer on the oven any more. I go by what the temp probes -- which I now use in the oven -- tell me!
                  Last edited by Michael_in_TX; December 13, 2020, 11:28 PM.


                  • bbqLuv
                    bbqLuv commented
                    Editing a comment
                    "Pull when butt is 203 and probe tender," Michael_in+TX you nailed it. Cook it until its done.

                  • stokester
                    stokester commented
                    Editing a comment
                    My process to a "T" with the exception that I use a SnS in a Weber at 250. Experimentation took me here after reading the different techniques posted. Each piece of meat is a bit different and I found it takes some cooks to learn your smoker.

                  A big bone-in shoulder is the way to go. I run my pit 250-275°F and even then a big shoulder takes 14+ hours.

                  I never wrap shoulder until the post-cook hold. Let it soak up the smoke and form a thick bark. It comes out looking like a meteorite, but it’s filled with super tender meat and the flavor of the bark is to die for.

                  When it’s properly cooked it will be a challenge to take it out of the pit without falling apart!

                  Keep at it...you’re making improvements each time, and THAT is a winning recipe!
                  Last edited by Santamarina; November 30, 2020, 10:31 AM.


                    Lookin good!


                      I would take it a step further next time and just use the internal temp as a guide for when to test for tenderness. But there's a million ways to cook a butt and most of them work just fine.


                        Nice job! Keep learning. Like folks have said a pork butt will tolerate and take heat. I tend to cook unwrapped all the way through until probe tender. The butts tend to be between 198-203. Occasionally after several hours I have been known to wrap if I think I will be pressed for time. As LA Pork Butt mentioned try to build in at least an hour if not two hours of rest time in a faux cambro. Good luck on your next adventure!


                        • Sweaty Paul
                          Sweaty Paul commented
                          Editing a comment
                          I’m usually a cook at 250 degree guy for pork butt, however, occasionally I will go higher or lower depending on time and the hunk-o-meat I’m working with for a particular cook. Forgot to mention.

                        Next time forget the spritzing. IMO there's no benefit but several downsides: Costs you bark, makes the cook take longer and you have to fuss over a cook when you don't need to. I do mine at 225F but I put the meat on cold as soon as the grill is up to about 150F or so. I cook to 203F.


                        • mgaretz
                          mgaretz commented
                          Editing a comment
                          What he said!

                        • Troutman
                          Troutman commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Gonna disagree on the spritzing. Moisture helps bark formation in the initial stages, especially in a pellet cooker with tons of moving hot air. Once the bark is set and the seasoning is hardened, then stop. It’s counterproductive at that point.

                        • bbqLuv
                          bbqLuv commented
                          Editing a comment
                          sip beer, PBR of course.

                        Pork butts are probably about as easy and unforgiving a thing to cook as there is. Like several of the fellas above eluded to, don’t crank your heat all over the place. Smoke setting helps in the beginning (maybe) but choose a higher temp and leave it alone. The most important thing is to monitor the internal temperature, that’s key. Forget time (unless of course if Aunt Peggy is arriving soon), it will get done when it wants to. Probe tender, get the internal temp up over 200* and you’ll be golden.



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