Pulled Pork

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Heather says:

From time to time I get emails asking about different cuts of meat: what are they, where do they come from, and how on earth should I cook it? Since we don’t exactly have a huge production budget (it’s my weekly grocery budget after all), these questions are often deferred until the cut in question goes on sale. January, at least in the South, is a great month to buy pork. Traditionally hogs were butchered in early winter for several reasons. Pigs born in the spring were mature enough, it reduced the amount of feed needed over the winter, and it negated the storage problem, since in the grand scheme of things refrigeration is still relatively new.

The Boston butt is not the butt of the pig. Do you feel better now? The name comes from the old way of storing the pork in barrels or butts.  *I have the feeling the last sentence is going to bring out the Google pervs.* The cut is from high on the front shoulder of the pig and may have the blade bone.

You can expect 3 servings per pound, but if it’s been a long time since you’ve had pulled pork, those servings may disappear at an astonishing rate.

Pulled Pork with Barbecue Sauce
Pulled Pork with Barbecue Sauce


  • BBQ Rub (my version is listed below the directions, I need 1/2 cup for a 4lb roast)
  • 1 – 3 TBSP olive oil
  • Boston butt (3-5lbs)


Look a Boston style Blade Roast
Look, a Boston style Blade Roast!

In a bowl, combine the BBQ rub with just enough olive oil to make a paste. Use your hands to rub the seasoning all over the meat. You want the roast well coated. You can perform this step the night before. Wrap the roast tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight.

Boston butt with dry rub

Remove the roast from the plastic wrap and place the it with the fat cap up in a roasting pan on a rack. In this case the rack is important, it allows the fat to drip away and prevents the meat from boiling in its own juices.

The fat cap on top slowly melts and helps prevent the meat from drying out during the long cook time.

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Place the roast uncovered in the oven for 30 minutes. Do not open the door, but reduce the heat to 225F. Check the roast after 5 hours. When the roast is done, you should be able to insert a fork into the center and twist easily. If the meat isn’t falling apart, give it another 30 minutes before testing again. If you use a thermometer it should be between 195 and 205. When placing the thermometer be careful not to have the probe measuring a pocket of fat.

When the roast is done remove it from the oven. The outside will be quite dark, but taste a pinch, it’s amazing. Allow the meat to cool enough to handle, then pull apart with two forks or your hands. Serve over rice with your favorite bbq sauce or on a bun.


Heather’s BBQ rub:

  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons minced, dried onion
  • 2 teaspoons peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

Measure all of the ingredients into a food processor. I use the mini one that came with my immersion blender. It’s perfect for small jobs Blend thoroughly until you have a fine powder. Store in an airtight container.

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21 thoughts on “Pulled Pork”

  1. If you are serving this to children, don’t tell them they are having butt. I remember my sister and I refusing to eat booty when we were in middle school.

    It is a wonder that my mom survived our childhoods.

  2. This sounds wonderful! I’m going to have to try this.
    I’m a decent cook but I have always had a hard time with roasts. I don’t know why! They are theoretically easy — I mean you season the outside and dry roast it ………. how hard can that be? Yet I often end up with meat that is tough. I don’t do so well with pot roasts either.
    Is there a roast gene that I’m missing?!?

  3. Judith,
    The big thing with this roast is to not open the oven door. If you open the door moisture and heat escape and the element will kick back on further drying out the air in the oven. These roasts are very fatty which is great for an extended cook time. The fat melts essentially basting the meat.
    Finally, since you’re going to add bbq sauce to the final product, you’ll be able to disguise slightly dry meat, although yours shouldn’t turn out that way.
    Sometimes it’s hard to leave food alone while it cooks, but I promise this roast will happily sit there and take care of itself while it cooks. Don’t open that door. πŸ˜‰

  4. I second the “don’t open that door” angle. My mom DID tell me this a few years ago when my roasts were a wreck…..and being how we live in the dessert it is even worse to open that door up! It lets out heat and it lets out the humidity.

    Since I do live in a dryer climate that sucks up ALL moisture immediately….I sometimes place a pan 3/4 filled with water in the oven WITH the roast for the last half of the cooking (and I open the door quickly to get it in there and then shut it right up for the remainder!)

  5. Thanks for the advice! I’ll be looking for a Boston butt (on sale, of course) to try this.
    By the way, I did a pot roast tonight for my family — a beef chuck roast with carrots, parsnips, and potatoes — and, for once, it came out really well….. meat falling apart, veggies soft and yummy. I think that it may have been from using a whole can of beef broth in the dutch oven with the meat and veggies. And long, slow cooking. My husband said it was the best gravy I’ve ever made, too. Maybe the roast curse is being broken!

  6. I went to FOUR stores last weekend looking for a Boston butt – seriously intense craving! I just can’t understand why it’s so hard to find around here – tomorrow I’ll drive further to the hispanic grocery – at least I know they’ll have ’em!

    • Lisa – that really stinks. Have you tried calling any of the stores and asking to talk to the meat department? We are lucky to live near a very reasonably priced butcher and the the people in our local grocery store (Bi-Lo) are very helpful if we have questions. I bought our Boston butts in a two pack. I cut each one in half and vacuum sealed the remaining three halves for later in the year.
      The employees in the meat department may at least have an explanation of why large cuts have been difficult to find.
      Best of luck!

  7. @Lisa – I don’t know where you are, but I’ve been having the same problem in Central Texas since Christmas – no larger cuts of meat available with the exception of holiday hams (which they still have!). I’ve been wanting to do a pot roast or a Jamaican jerk for over a month now, and don’t want to have to drive 30 miles to buy meat! I thought it was just a fluke….maybe not? Maybe supplies are disrupted? (Thinking about buying several and freezing them when I do finally manage to find them.)

  8. dont trim too much fat off of the butt as that is what helps give flavor and moisture to the meat….rub with herbs and spices or just plain old salt and fresh ground pepper. stick that butt in a roasting pan and cook the recommended time per lb. remembering that to get a good crispy brown you have to take the lid off the last 20 minutes or so. (that is my favorite part of the butt! When the butt is out of the oven let it stand about 20 min. then pull apart or slice. Save your drippings-put in frig. and then scrape off grease when cooled…makes a wonderful gravy.

  9. I had a couple of questions. Should I put it on the oven rack and have a drip pan underneath it? Does cooking time very per weight?

  10. Heather, I've got this in the oven right now…and so far it's a complete disaster. Is 200 degrees a typo? I followed all the instructions, 400 for 30 minutes, then turned it down without opening the door. After five hours at 200 it was nowhere near "twist a fork easily"…half an hour later, still nowhere near that, and a thermometer was only registering 160. I have an oven thermometer, too, so I know my oven was at 200. How on earth can the pork get up to 205 internally if the oven is only at 200?

    I think we are going to have to order pizza… πŸ™

    • I'm so sorry, it should be it only needs to be 160 to be safe, so you're ok there. How many pounds was your roast? Was it one of the giant ones you get at Bi-Lo when they have the 1.69 sales or was it the ones they normally have?
      The 400 oven keeps it well over 200 for a LONG time and most people's ovens fluctuate, that's how it can get over 200. Turn it up to 325, it's had enough time to not dry out.

  11. Heather, I need to make pulled pork for a bazillion people to serve at my daughter's wedding, 10 days from now. And I don't have a "real" oven, just a little countertop oven big enough for a 10 lb turkey. (it's not really a bazillion people, but it's at least 140, and not everyone has RSVPd to say whether they're coming or not)

    I have a tabletop roaster oven. Would that work? I think I could get two pork butts in there at once. Or will this work okay with a boneless cut? That would give me more meat for the cooking time, since I'll have to do this in several batches, and I'm running out of time. I'm planning to cook and pull the meat, then freeze it in gallon size bags. The day before the wedding, I'll pull it out of the freezer into the fridge to thaw, then it can be reheated in the roaster oven at the wedding site. Then I have to do cole slaw and homemade nacho cheese sauce, and maybe the salsa.

    Is there an "official" sauce for pulled pork?

    Oh, and can you come help me cook all this food?

    • It can absolutely be done in your roaster and even the crock pot. You've got 3 servings per pound, typically. I have a vinegar recipe around here from Andre Pope that is fabulous, I'll dig it up for you. I freeze pulled pork all the time, it's great to heat and eat. As far as official sauces go… around here it can come to blows. Use your favorite bbq sauces whether it's vinegar, mustard, or (shifty eyes) tomato based -I like tomato for beef and sorry Alabama, but the whole mayo based idea gives me the willies even if I've never seen it executed.
      Roasters at least in my experience are extremely unreliable for steady heat, so be sure to use a thermometer not a timer.
      Later this summer I'm going to try smoking some boston butts, but it won't be in time for you. Sorry.
      If I weren't under the deadline, I'd pack up the kids and head your way. I enjoy cooking for crowds, it reminds me of my restaurant days.
      Baked beans might round out the menu, but tell the bride and groom to go easy. (What a wedding night, eh?)

  12. I may be wrong, but I think fresh minced garlic work better than garlic powder. I find that garlic powder tends to lose most of its flavor during cooking.


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