Long ago, the first colonists brought pigs to North America and left them to wander the wild. This climate, where cattle quickly perished, was ideal for hogs, and therefore they multiplied and became the favored meat of the South. In this part of the world, barbecue is synonymous with pork. Were you to mention beef barbecue in the Carolinas you are likely to be shown the door. And once the Texan has been shown the door over his pronouncements of the virtues of brisket, those left behind will most likely start a fight over all the variations of what they call the true barbecue.
Because this tradition is so old and every region has its own variations, it's hard to come up with a definition of exactly what pulled pork is. The most basic definition is pork cooked over a low smoky fire to the point where it can be pulled apart by hand. The variations are sauces, rubs, cuts, woods, toppings and serving style. As you read on you will find out about all the variations and be able to find out for yourself what is the best method and style for you.
On its basic level, southern style barbecue is smoked pork. It is often called pulled pork because of the way it is prepared. The smoked meat is simply pulled apart by hand, although it is also found sliced, shredded or chopped. But it is also more than a meal. One of the oldest definitions of barbecue is an event where people gather to share good food. These events were frequently prepared for political, religious or social gatherings.
The simplified version of preparing pulled pork is to take a pork shoulder and put it in your smoker. Cook until the internal temperature of the meat reaches at least 165 degrees F., the safe temperature for pork. However, a higher internal temperature will make the meat easier to pull and more tender. Do not exceed 190 degrees F.in the smoker. You will want the meat to rest a minimum for 30 minutes. During this time, the temperature will continue to climb, as much as 10 degrees F. more. By this time most all the fat will have melted away and the tough connective tissue called collagen will be broken down. The meat should be tender enough to be pulled apart by hand. Kept warm, the tender meat is served up on a white bread bun with a table sauce for the diners to add as they see fit. You will usually see it served with coleslaw, either on the side or in the bun.
Moving from the general to the specific you will need to know a little about the meat so you know what to buy and how to get it ready for the smoker. The smoke and the process of smoking is simple with pork shoulder, but you do need to know about the time involved and the kinds and amount of smoke needed. If you are so inclined there are a lot of great sauces for you to choose from so you can finish it off in style. The traditional way of serving pulled pork is in a sandwich. It makes a great meal no matter how you put it together, but there are some accompaniments that make it even better. Once you have the basics down, take a look through the recipes so you know all the variations involved.