01 of 09
Pulled Pork on a Charcoal Grill - What You Need
A Boston Butt or Boston Pork Roast is about 5 to 6 pounds tough meat filled with bone, cartilage, and fat. Turning this block of a pork roast into delicious and tender barbecue is going to take patience and a full-sized charcoal grill. It is also going to take a charcoal grill and a griller that can hold a consistent cooking temperature of 250 degrees F/120 degrees C. Plan on 6 to 8 hours from start to finish.
How do you know if your charcoal grill is up to the task? It needs to be large enough... that our pork roast can fit on half the cooking surface with space all around and good vent control. To test your charcoal grill, bring it up to temperature with a good charcoal fire, then close all the vents and replace the lid (it must have a lid).
What you will need:
- A Boston Butt pork roast
- A full-sized charcoal grill
- Charcoal (at least 15 pounds)
- Two disposable aluminum pans
- Chunks of hardwood
- An accurate meat thermometer
- An injection marinade
- A meat injector
- A good pulled pork rub
- A good pulled pork sauce
- Insulated food gloves
- Buns or rolls
- Cole slaw
Know the weight of the Boston roast you are using. Typically this process takes about 1 hour per pound of cook time plus an hour preparation time and about 30 minutes to shred and sauce the pulled pork.
If you have a smoker you will want to follow the instruction for Making Pulled Pork on a Smoker.Continue to 2 of 9 below.
02 of 09
Pulled Pork on a Charcoal Grill - Pork Injection
The Boston Butt is a big rectangular block of a pork roast. One side of it is covered in fat. There is no need to do much trimming or preparation of the roast itself. Try removing any loose pieces of fat, but other than that, it should be ready to go.
We want to maximize flavor and tenderness and to do this you want to start with an injection marinade. This requires a meat injector. The marinade needs to be a fine solution without large bits of seasonings which will clog the needle. You can use... most any herb or spice, but they need to be ground to a fine powder. Use a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder to get to this consistency. One good strategy is to use the spice rub that will be going on the outside in the injection marinade. Combine with equal parts vinegar (either white or cider) and water. Mix well and load into the meat injector.
You want to inject the solution deep into the meat in equal parts throughout. The meat will puff up around the injection site. Stop injecting when it starts to leak out and move to the next spot. Looking down on the top (with the fat side on the bottom) inject every two inches in a grid pattern.Continue to 3 of 9 below.
03 of 09
Pulled Pork on a Charcoal Grill - Pork Rub
With the injection done it is time to apply the spice rub. Before you do this pat the meat dry with paper towels. This will help the rub stick to the meat and not run off before it hits the charcoal grill. A good pulled pork rub can be pretty much any combination of herbs, spices, and salt (which is optional actually). It should be a fine, powdery mixture.
For one pork butt you will want about 1 to 1 1/2 cups (240 to 360 mL) of rub. The amount is what sticks to the roast; apply generously to all... sides. It isn't as important to cover the thick fat pieces, but make sure that the meat has a good supply.
Once the roast is covered in the rub, cover it loosely with plastic wrap and set aside while we get the grill ready for smoking.Continue to 4 of 9 below.
04 of 09
Pulled Pork on a Charcoal Grill - Preparing the Grill
Converting a full-sized charcoal grill to smoking is easy. Start with a clean grill, making sure that any previous ashes have been removed. It is best to light the charcoal with a charcoal chimney. This makes lighting the charcoal easier, but will also allow you to light more charcoal later if you need more coals.
The aluminum pans we will be using need to fit inside the grill covering no more than half the grill. These are the water and drip pan.
Light the charcoal and once it gets up to a good... burn pour it out onto half the coal grate in the bottom of the grill. Fit the drip pan on the coal grate next to the burning charcoal. Make sure that it sits flat on the coal grate and that there is not charcoal underneath it. Now put the cooking grate on the grill. Place the second aluminum pan directly over the burning charcoal and fill with water. Put the lid on the grill and adjust the vents, top and bottom, to hold a temperature as close to 250 degrees F/120 degrees C as possible. This is our ideal cooking temperature and you will want it here the entire time.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
Pulled Pork on a Charcoal Grill - Placement and Timing
Once the grill is set up and up to temperature it is time to put on the roast. But first, add hardwood chunks to the burning charcoal for smoke production. You will need to add more every hour for the first four hours to get the proper amount of smoke. These do not need to be moist, but it's best to use large chunks and not the little wood chips. Wood chips will work, but you will need to add them every 30 minutes for the first four hours to get the same amount of smoke.
Now, place the pork... roast on the cooking grate of the grill, directly over the drip pan and as far from the fire as possible (which is probably not very far). Place it fat side down. We want to cook this pork with indirect heat, so it can't be sitting over the burning charcoal.
Once the pork is in place, return the lid and let it cook. Charcoal grills don't have the same level of temperature control that you find on most smokers, so this will need to be watched, particularly if this is your first time smoking on a charcoal grill.
Plan on about 1 hour per pound for this to cook, or about 5 to 6 hours. Every hour check the grill to make sure that temperature is being maintained, that there is plenty of water in the water pan. Also, rotate the roast to keep the cooking even and add additional wood chunks to keep the smoke going.Continue to 6 of 9 below.
06 of 09
Pulled Pork on a Charcoal Grill - Wrapping to Finish
After about 4 hours and as the internal temperature rises above 150 degrees F/65 degrees C it is time to wrap the pork. By this time it will have absorbed all the smoke it is going to get and we need the temperature to rise faster while holding in moisture. Wrap the roast tightly in a double layer of aluminum foil and place it on the grill. Once again check to make sure that the fire is burning well and that the grill's temperature is around 250 degrees F/120 degrees C. There is no need to... add additional wood chunks at this point.
Do keep the water pan full. This water pan has not only been keeping the moisture in the grill high, but also acting as a heat sink to help keep the temperature inside the grill level.
Continue cooking for another hour or until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 185 degrees F/85 degrees C. Of course pork is considered cooked at 145 degrees F/63 degrees C, but barbecue requires much higher temperatures to ensure tenderness and flavor.Continue to 7 of 9 below.
07 of 09
Pulled Pork on a Charcoal Grill - Temperature Check
After about 5 hours the temperature of the meat should start getting close to our target temperature (185 degrees F/85 degrees C). Now we want to keep an eye on the temperature. Check the temperature with an accurate meat thermometer. Push the temperature probe into the pork roast as close to the center of the meat as possible.
One of the rules of barbecue is that there are no rules. Sometimes a pork butt can be stubborn and refuse to reach temperature in the time it should. It will eventually... get there if you keep the heat up. One option is to abandon the grill for the oven. Since we are no longer smoking you can transfer the roast to your indoor oven, set at 250 degrees F/120 degrees C. It is possible, if you become pressed for time, to set that temperature higher, but if you have followed these steps you should reach the target temperature as estimated. Once the roast as reached temperature it is time to pull it out for shredding.Continue to 8 of 9 below.
08 of 09
Pulled Pork on a Charcoal Grill - Shredding Pork
Pulling pork can be a bit of a time-consuming process, but one well worthwhile. When we started with this pork butt it was loaded with fat, gristle and bone. Much of the fat has turned to a liquid and the connective tissues broken down, but there are still some things in here that we don't want to eat. As you shred the pork, pick out these things so you are left with a pile of delicious meat.
We want to keep the pork as hot as we can while it is shredded. For this reason, a good pair of... insulated food gloves are great. Start by tearing the meat into smaller and smaller chunks, dividing it up and removing the bone and undesirable parts. A pair of forks or meat claws can be very helpful with this task. Continue shredding until all the meat is reduced to strands.
As the meat is being shredded transfer the finished pieces to a slow cooker or a large pot over a very low heat to keep it warm. When done you can add a pulled pork barbecue sauce if desired. Sauce isn't necessary, but it can help if the meat has gotten a little dry, or if that is just the way you like it.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
Pulled Pork on a Charcoal Grill - Making a Sandwich
Smoked pulled pork is an amazing thing. So many wonderful recipes can be made with it. Of course the traditional method for serving pulled pork in as a sandwich, on plain white buns with coleslaw on top.
Pick a good slaw, with just a hint of tartness and the pork will pop out and it will be delicious. Sauce can be added before or when the pork is served. Often it is best to provide sauce on the side and let people add it if they want. Good pulled pork is perfect on its own, but many people expect... barbecue sauce with it.