Carolina Gold Pulled Pork
Every grill master worth their salt and pepper needs at least one secret weapon, one "Don't-Open-Before-Xmas"-level recipe that says merely impressing the guests is playing it too safe. Straight from the smoker, these tender Carolina Gold stacks don't just impress. They crush expectations. And these tangy, juicy shredded pork sandwiches are easy as heck. Tread lightly when you trot this one out, ladies and gentlemen — you only get to unveil them for the first time once.
Ingredients for Pork Shoulder
- 9 Lb. pork shoulder
- 1 cup olive oil
- Carolina Rub
- Salt (to taste)
- Pepper (to taste)
- ¾ cup water
- ¾ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2–3 cans lager beer
Ingredients for Carolina Gold Sauce
- 1 cup yellow mustard
- ¼ cup raw honey
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 Tbsp hot sauce
- 2 tsp red pepper flake
- ½ tsp chili powder
- 1 Tbsp garlic powder
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
Ingredients for Sandwich
- 12-15 brioche buns
- 5 Tbsp melted butter
- 2 onions, sliced (red or yellow)
Items You'll Need
Instructions for Carolina Pulled Pork
- First up, a good rule of thumb is the early start. Expect at least 1 hour of smoking per pound of pork shoulder. Though the steps will generally stay the same no matter the weight, we’ve timed this to a roast weighing 9 lbs.
- Pat down the pork shoulder. Before the dry rub, you’ll want to apply your binder (olive oil is a great choice here; just make sure to coat all sides). Generously apply the Carolina Rub across the surface and gently rub it in — leave no inch uncovered! Let the pork butt sit out at room temperature while you preheat your grill.
- While the pork shoulder prepares for the delicious road ahead, fill your smoker with a batch of unlit coal. Load up about a quarter of a chimney starter with lit coal and pour over the top of the base layer.
- Your smoker of choice probably has room for a water pan—likely in the cooking chamber beneath the cooking grids. This makes a great heat deflector. For this recipe, we used about equal parts water and apple cider vinegar. Heck, why not beer? Toss some of that on top. It’ll be our little secret.
- More air means more heat. With the top and bottom vents wide open, let the smoker preheat past the 200 degrees Fahrenheit mark (your real target is 250 degrees, but you’ll definitely want to slow down that train before it can breeze past the station). At 200 degrees, dampen down the bottom vents to between half and three-quarters closed. Keep an eye out for that consistent ambient heat of 250 degrees.
- If you’re using smoking wood — we are, and we recommend trying Applewood flavor for low-and-slow pork — now’s the time to toss 4–5 chunks onto the fire. This will seriously enrichen that smoky pork flavor.
- Set that pork shoulder straight on the cooking grates, fat cap side up. This helps your water pan do some heavy lifting, as all that moisture will help said fat cap self-baste during the smoking session. But wait! Before you close that lid…
- …Don’t forget to bust out those temperature probes. An internal probe in the meat, and one at grid level, will cut out a ton of guesswork and equip you with consistent results. Remember: leave the surprises for the birthday party.
- It’s smoking time! For great results, we’d stick to the 220–275 degrees range.
- Congratulations, you have 3 hours spare. While you could always catch up on the to-do list, why not brush up on those other grill skills of yours with our student-to-savant Grillabilities® articles?
- After 3 hours, it’s time to sneak a peek. Admire the nice color that’s starting to form along your impending feast. That’s all you, buddy. Now, if you find your cooking temperatures starting to wane during the rest of the smoke, a few more charcoal pieces will guide the train back onto the tracks.
- About 6 hours in, you should be seeing a rich mahogany color. Spritz your water pan blend (ours, you’ll recall was 50/50 water and apple cider vinegar, which we then cut generously with beer). If you need to take a moment to really meditate on this aromatic majesty before your very eyes, we understand. We even encourage it. Might as well top off the nearly-empty water pan while you’re at it.
- You’re aiming for 200 degrees internal on the pork shoulder. It’ll need a few more hours, so why not take some time to whip up that homemade Carolina Gold BBQ sauce? Start with that cup of yellow mustard to form your golden foundation, then add honey, tomato paste, your thinner wet ingredients, and then your dry seasonings. An immersion blender is your front gate ticket to paradise, but you can sneak in through the back with a regular blender or a food processor.
- By the 9-hour mark, you should be staring down a pork shoulder worth weeping over. Give it another spritz to moisten up those drier areas. Our results found 186 degrees right around here — So close! — which left us arguably the longest 2 hours of our lives to go. Check in on the fire. Give it a top-up for the home stretch.
- At 11 hours, it’s time to pump those brakes — because you’re at your final destination. Lift the pork shoulder from the grill as gingerly as you can; that meat will be so tender that you’ll swear it’s molten. Slap the butt, then wrap it in butcher paper to rest for an hour in a small to medium cooler (that’ll trap all that humidity right where we want it). Sure, you could pull it free at half an hour, but let’s be honest with ourselves here. That sweet spot tastes, well… so much sweeter.
- Barbecue bonus: we browned up some onion rings to keep our minds off the siren’s call of that pork shoulder (and to bring our impending sandwiches to an unreal level of satisfaction). Smoker still hot? Perfect. Pull out the water pan to ready the smoker for direct heat, then stretch those vents nice and wide for a piping hot skillet. You’re not looking to blacken these delicious rings — but “savory and crunchy” goes a long way. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste.
- Any of guests aware of your wizardry so far should be right about at the “enthralled” level of anticipation. That might be good enough. If “completely speechless” is more your speed, here’s a trade secret. Brioche buns. Buttered. Toasted. You’re welcome.
- One hour after setting the roast to rest, guess what? It’s Christmas morning, and the folks say it’s finally time to unwrap the gift. If you smoked a bone-in pork butt, wiggle it free and pluck out that last obstacle between you and the things you’re about to do to this roast. By now, it’s so tender that your BBQ tool drawer will stare in shock and awe as you shred this meat with your bare fingers (well, not probably bare — we suggest a pair of nitrile gloves). Toss it through and through with some fancy wrist twists to seriously mix up the barky exterior with that thick, juicy, downright sinful interior meat.
- This step’s a freebie. You’ve earned it, Champ.
- Here’s how we served this smoky tribute to great taste everywhere. We topped a buttery toasted brioche bun with a handful of mouthwatering meat. Next, we slathered it with Carolina Gold sauce (the Greeks had a word for it in their ancient myths — “Ambrosia,” the nectar of the gods). Pile on some fat, grilled onion rings, top your mountain of mayhem with the other half-bun, then close the blinds and cancel your plans. Unless they’re on the guest list, you don’t want a soul knowing about these Carolina Gold Stacks.
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