Carolina Pulled Pork: A Classic American BBQ Style

Carolina pulled pork on a serving platter with text overlay - Carolina Pulled Pork

Carolina Pulled Pork is a must-try classic American BBQ style that will leave you craving more. This flavorful dish features tender, smoky pork shoulder slathered in a tangy, vinegar-based sauce, adding a delightful kick to the melt-in-your-mouth meat.

North Carolina Pulled Pork: A Regional Delight

Before we dive into this amazing recipe, let’s clarify something about its branding. This particular recipe represents West North Carolina-style BBQ. In East North Carolina, they primarily use whole hog BBQ with a thin vinegar sauce, excluding ketchup altogether. The color of the sauce plays a significant role, as Carolinians have their particular preferences when it comes to BBQ sauce.

Carolina Vinegar BBQ Sauce is an essential component of this recipe, so be sure to check out the detailed post on our Carolina Vinegar BBQ Sauce for more background and details.

Pork shoulder being seasoned with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika

Carolina Style Pulled Pork: A Flavorful Twist

To create this delicious Carolina-style pulled pork, we decided to add ketchup and brown sugar to enhance its flavor. The combination of these ingredients adds a touch of sweetness and depth to the already smoky and savory meat. However, this recipe is highly customizable, allowing you to adjust the sweetness and tomato flavor according to your taste preferences.

While this recipe leans towards a savory preparation, we believe a hint of sweetness in the sauce elevates the overall taste. For a perfect combination, we recommend serving your Carolina pulled pork with a side of our Vinegar Coleslaw. This crunchy addition adds a satisfying texture to the tender sandwich.

Further reading:  Instant Pot Balsamic Pork Tenderloin

Pork shoulder being mopped with mop sauce

How to Make Carolina Pulled Pork

Let’s get started on this culinary adventure. Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating mouth-watering Carolina pulled pork:

  1. Purchase the right meat: For authentic pulled pork, a bone-in pork shoulder, also known as a Boston butt, is recommended. The bone-in version consistently delivers superior results compared to boneless cuts.

  2. Give the meat a good rub: True Carolinians claim that good-quality salt is all you need. However, we decided to add a little extra oomph by incorporating Kosher salt, coarse black pepper, and smoked paprika for some heat and color.

  3. Smoke that meat!: Smoke the pork shoulder on your preferred smoker, such as the Camp Chef SmokePro LUX, for 8-10 hours at an internal temperature of 200 degrees F. Oak or hickory wood chips are the traditional choices for achieving authentic Carolina flavors.

  4. Mop hourly: Regularly basting the pork with a flavorful, thin sauce ensures it stays moist throughout the smoking process. Our sauce recipe consists of only four simple ingredients, resulting in a thin yet highly flavorful basting sauce.

  5. Rest, shred, and sauce: Allow the meat to rest for 1 hour before serving. This resting period not only brings the temperature down to an enjoyable level but also allows the juices to settle, resulting in moist and flavorful shredded pork. Use Hey Grill Hey Meat Shredder Claws to effortlessly shred the meat, then generously drizzle it with BBQ sauce.

Carolina pulled pork being shredded with Hey Grill Hey Meat Shredder Claws

Tips for the Best Pulled Pork

While pulled pork is relatively easy to smoke, these tips will take your Carolina pulled pork to the next level:

  • Don’t forget to mop!: Since the pork butt is not wrapped during the smoking process, regularly basting it with a mop sauce is crucial to retain moisture and develop flavor.

  • Check the internal temperature: Since this recipe does not involve wrapping the pork, use a thermometer to check the temperature and ensure perfect results. We recommend investing in the ThermoWorks Smoke, which allows you to monitor both the meat and grill temperature.

  • Rest your meat: Allowing the pork shoulder to rest after cooking is essential. Not only does resting cool the meat to an edible temperature, but it also allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in moist and flavorful pulled pork.

Further reading:  Crispy Smashed Potatoes: The Perfect Side Dish

Carolina pulled pork on a serving platter

Pulled Pork Sides: The Perfect Complements

While Carolina pulled pork is delicious on its own, it reaches new heights when paired with delectable sides. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Smoked Baked Beans
  • Best Homemade Coleslaw
  • Smoked Mac and Cheese

Carolina Pulled Pork Recipe and More

Watch the video below the recipe card, and discover step-by-step instructions to make this mouth-watering Carolina-style pulled pork at home. We’re on a mission to help you become the best backyard BBQer you can be, so head on over to YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook for more recipes, videos, and tips from Rowdy Hog Smokin BBQ.

This content was originally published in June 2019 and has been updated with additional information and helpful tips, while keeping the recipe intact.