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Pulled Pork BBQ in the oven Recipe

Follow our step-by-step, photo illustrated instructions for making delicious Pulled Pork BBQ in your oven.  We’re using a dry rub to give the outside a bit of that crispy bark all the championship pit masters go for and, we’re including recipes for both the dry rub and our Eastern North Carolina style Barbecue Sauce.  We’re roasting it low and slow in the oven but you could also do it on the grill.

Pulled Pork BBQ, in the oven.

Pig Pickings, pulled pork, chopped or sliced barbecue, it’s all just a way of life and living here in the South.  BBQ is KING!

I realize I’m stepping into an area that can stir up a lot of emotions and opinions, especially here in North Carolina.  Still, I’m willing to do it so I can share this recipe on how you can enjoy some fresh Pulled Pork BBQ at home.  Purists will say it can’t be done in a crock pot, it can’t be done in an oven and, it can’t be done without wood and lots of smoke.  I’d tend to agree but, sometimes you just have to do the best you can with what you have to work with.

If I can’t cook it outdoors on a big grill or a pit, I’d certainly rather cook it in the oven than in a crock-pot.  Ooops, I’ve stepped on toes again.  Of course, you’ve got time and space for your own opinions about barbecue in the Comments section below.  I’ll be looking for you to chime in and share yours and don’t be afraid to speak up… OK?

While this is my first post about barbecue, lets just say that it probably will not be the last.  There is just so much to cover when it comes to making barbecue and I’m only going to scratch the surface with this recipe.  I’ll provide you with a simple Dry Rub you can use plus, I’ll give you a recipe for our Eastern North Carolina Vinegar Based Barbecue Sauce to finish it all off with it.  I didn’t say I’d give you all the family secrets just yet though.

I have fond memories of my dad stacking cinder-blocks to make a fire pit so he could sit up all night cooking a pig.  It all began of course with “hog killing” time which is a whole bunch of other stories all unto themselves.  Once the pigs were prepared or, dressed, as it was called, daddy would start up a wood fire in the pit he had made a few days before.  He’d sit up all night tending to the cooking pig and by morning, he was ready to start breaking it down so he could bring it into the kitchen where he’d chop it up to make barbecue.

It was all about the smells, the aroma’s, the smoke, the taste and, even the mess of… making barbecue.  Daddy did it all and everyone enjoyed what he prepared.  I could go on but, let’s just dive right in and get started, I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.  How about you?  Ready to cook some pig?  Good… Let’s get cooking!

Pulled Pork, cuts of pork.

You need some pork of course.  Here’s a quick look at where it’s coming from.  If you’re having a pig picking, you’ll need the whole thing.  We do those too but, we’ll be working with either a Boston Butt or a Fresh Picnic Shoulder this time around.  Can you find it on the chart?

Pulled Pork, ingredients.

Oven Pulled Pork BBQ Recipe:  You’ll need these ingredients to get started cooking.  I make my own dry rub and my own vinegar based barbecue sauce.  The store labelled this as a “fresh whole picnic.”  Boston Butts are pretty much a favorite around my area with the picnic shoulder running a close second.  This piece weighed just a bit over 9 pounds.  You’ll need to figure on about half of that for actual barbecue once it’s cooked.

Pulled Pork, remove the plastic.

I just place it in a clean sink and remove the outer plastic wrap.

Pulled Pork, rinse.

Give it a good rinse under cold running water, washing all sides, the top and, the bottom.  If the tray its sitting in has one of those pads that absorbs liquids, throw that away along with the plastic wrapping.  I like to leave it sitting in the tray while I’m working with it.

Pulled Pork, pat dry with paper towels.

Pat it dry with clean paper towels.

Pulled Pork, trim excess fat.

I like to trim off a lot of the excess fat.  This will be another area of contention amongst folks that cook pig.  There’s going to be plenty that doesn’t get removed so, taking off some of the visible excess isn’t really going to be a problem in my humble opinion.  You need a sharp knife and just be careful as you trim away any loose pieces of meat or, any of the excess fat from the top and sides.

Pulled Pork, remove the vein.

You may also find a large vein as you’re trimming.  Hopefully it belongs to the pork and not you.  (Smile)  I like to remove it as much as possible just for better presentation purposes.  Sorry, I guess I should have warned you about this picture ahead of time.

Pulled Pork, trim deep.

Here, I’m getting into it pretty deep.  I want to get some rub on these spots before I start cooking and, as you can see, there is still a good amount of fat being left on.

Pulled Pork, fat removed.

I managed to trim this much away from the top and along the sides.  There’s a bunch more on the bottom but I’m not worried about that at the present time.

Pulled Pork, add the worcestershire sauce.

Now, shake on a couple of Tablespoons of the Worcestershire Sauce.  Give it a good overall coating.

Pulled Pork, add some liquid smoke.

Shake on about a Tablespoon of Liquid Smoke.  You can probably find this product in your grocery store, usually around the spices and marinades sections.  We’re trying to add some flavor since we will not have the luxury of actual smoke during the cooking process.

Pulled Pork, rub it in.

Use your hands and just rub the liquids into the meat.  Work it under any flaps that might be attached and cover as much area as you can.

Pulled Pork, add some mustard.

Squeeze a couple of Tablespoons of Mustard onto the meat.  You can use about any type of Mustard you prefer here.  The mustard isn’t going to actually add any flavor to the meat.  We’re going to coat the pork with mustard to help hold the dry rub spices that we’ll be adding shortly.

Pulled Pork, coat the pork with mustard.

Use your hands again and, rub the mustard over the pork to lightly coat it.

Pulled Pork, fat cap.

Flip it over.  This skin side is called the “fat cap.”  We’re going to coat it as well although it’s not really going to absorb any of the spices.  It’s not even going to end up in the finished product, I just wanted to show it to you.  Besides, I like to be thorough in these things.  We could have just trimmed it away in the beginning and baked it later to make pork skins.  I’ll save that for another recipe.

Pulled Pork, more mustard.

Give the fat cap a coat of mustard as well.  It’s going to melt into the fat at the bottom of the pan but may add some flavor along the way.  Just rub it down with a thin layer of mustard.

If we were cooking this out on the grill, the skin would crisp up and get hard.  Some folks like to add a bit of that into their barbecue.  Its pretty tasty when cooked that way and, daddy always chopped it up into the barbecue he made.  However, since we’re baking this in the oven, it will not end up crispy from sitting in the bottom of a roasting pan once the fat starts breaking down.

Pulled Pork, add the dry rub.

Flip it back over and lets add the Dry Rub.  The dry rub is just a mixture of spices for adding flavor to the meat.  You will find thousands of versions of how to make dry rub if you start searching for them.  Most of the folks that cook ribs, briskets, chicken and pork, make their own rubs.  You should give it a try sometime and create one of your own.  Then you can have your own “signature” rub.  Keep it secret though, thats the fun part.

You can also purchase a variety of dry rubs in your local grocery store.  Lawry’s Seasoning Salt would work well along with many others.

Pulled Pork, pat it down.

It’s called a dry rub for a reason.  You’re suppose to rub it into the meat and work it into it really good.  The problem here is that it’s covered in mustard and trying to rub it just causes it to form little balls of spice and doesn’t seem to really accomplish the needed effect.

Just use your fingers and pat it into the mustard coating.  You just want to be sure it’s sticking to the outside.  I did the top, bottom and all sides until it was coated all over.

Pulled Pork, baking pan.

Next, line a baking pan with Aluminum Foil.  You need something a couple of inches deep because this meat is going to produce a lot of fat in the bottom of the pan.  The foil makes for simple cleanup of course.

Pulled Pork, plastic wrap.

Place some plastic wrap across the the pan in both directions.  Place the meat inside the pan.

Pulled Pork, wrap and refrigerate.

Fold the sides of the plastic wrap up and around the meat.  Wrap it securely and then just sit the whole pan in your refrigerator overnight.

Pulled Pork, refrigerate overnight.

That’s right… overnight.  We want to just let it soak up the spices as much as possible before we start cooking.

Pulled Pork, ready for the oven.

Next Day:  Remove the plastic wrap AND, the TRAY, if you had left it in.  We’re ready to start cooking some pig… low and slow.

Preheat the oven to – 250 degrees.  Once you’ve reached cooking temperature, place the pan on one of the lower racks in your oven.

Pulled Pork, baking time and temp.

Just as if we were cooking this on the grill, we’re baking it Low and Slow.  The temperature needs to be at 250º and the time will vary based on the weight of the meat being cooked.  You should figure just about one hour for each pound of meat that you have.

If you wanted to cook this on the grill, you should cook it over indirect heat at the same temperature and this will also take about one hour per pound of meat being cooked.

You will want to check it after its cooked for about 4 hours.  At that time, we’re going to start basting it with some of our vinegar based sauce and, we will do that once each hour until the meat is done.  Hopefully, you’ve got a good Meat Thermometer to keep track.

Pulled Pork, Carolina Cookers Grill

Speaking of grills… this is a pig cooker.  Yes, this is a shameless plug for my brothers grills.  We believe its one of the best pig cookers you’ll find anywhere around.  He started renting and selling these years ago at his grocery store.  He kept the cooker part of the business when he retired from the grocery business and he’s sold a ton of these things.  I’ve been riding with him over the past several months as we deliver them to places all over Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky.  He’s got them all across America and down in the Bahamas.  They’re just that good.

I built a website for him several years back and you can learn all about them at  I’ve even got some video’s of the folks we’ve been delivering too.  My brother and I have joked about making a reality type TV show about delivering cookers.  Maybe one day.  Do check out the website though.  The cookers have many available options.  You Know You Want One!

I’m sorry.  I guess it’s just the former radio announcer in me coming out.  I have to do a commercial every once in awhile.  Thank you for listening.  We now return you to our regular scheduled recipe.

Pulled Pork, after four hours.

This is after four hours at 250º in my oven.  It’s looking a little dry on the top but that’s what I wanted.  That crispy outside edge is called the “bark” and it will be full of flavor when its finished.  I love it.

Pulled Pork, baste with vinegar based sauce.

Use a basting brush and, brush on some of the Eastern North Carolina Vinegar Based Sauce.  I’ve included the recipe in the printable at the bottom along with the recipe for the dry rub.  Daddy use to call this a “mop.”  He would make a brush using a stick with some cotton rags tied to the end of it to brush the sauce over the whole pig as it cooked.

It keeps the surface of the meat moist as it’s cooking so it doesn’t dry out too much.  He would also add some butter and a couple of slices of lemon into the mopping sauce he made.  It wouldn’t take much lemon juice, in the small amount of sauce we’re making, to overpower it and, the butter just rises to the top in the sauce after it cools.  I’d do it if it were a whole hog though… just to follow the family tradition.

In case you aren’t familiar with it… North Carolina has a bit of a “controversy” over which way to prepare barbecue.  The Eastern part of the state prefers what we call a Vinegar Based Sauce while the Western Part of the state has it’s Tomato Based Sauce, also often referred to as Lexington Style.  Since I’m in the Piedmont area of the state, I’m pretty much located in the middle but, my house prefers the Eastern North Carolina Vinegar Based Barbecue Sauce as opposed to the ones that are made with ketchup or, some form of tomato sauce or paste.

I like them both but, given a choice, I’ll opt for the vinegar based.  If you travel a bit further South, like down to South Carolina, they have one that is Mustard Based.  I believe its Alabama that has one called a White Sauce that is made of well…wait for it… mayonnaise.

The BBQ Song below will give you a good idea of what all the confusion is about.  Since we’re cooking this pork low and slow… we’ve got time for some entertainment.

You might like to check out THE BBQ SONG, as performed by Rhett and Link from nearby Lillington, North Carolina.  These two guys do a lot of comedy videos about all sorts of things.  They live about 30 miles from my town and, they stopped by for a visit on one of my radio programs back in my broadcasting days.  It pokes a bit of fun about the whole Southern BBQ thing.  Just be back before the pork is done… OK?

Pulled Pork, test for doneness.

Pork is considered done nowadays at an internal temperature of 145º.  You will want to cook your pork shoulder, picnic or Boston Butt up to 190º.  This higher temperature will cause the proteins and collagen to further break down and, make the pork juicer and more flavorful.  Let it cook on up to the full 190 degree mark before taking it out of the oven.

Pulled Pork, pork is done.

When the pork is done, remove it from the oven.  Be careful not to spill all those hot juices on you.

If you recall, I started out with a 9 pound piece of pork.  The actual cooking time for me was 7 hours.  I couldn’t find my oven thermometer and I suspect that my oven is cooking a bit warmer than it indicates.  But again, you’re looking to cook it on low heat for as long as it takes to reach that 190º mark.  Your actual cooking time will vary based on your oven.

Pulled Pork, place on foil.

Remove the pork from the pan and place it on a large sheet of aluminum foil.  I just used a couple of forks to lift the pork from the pan.  The fat cap on the bottom stuck to the foil in the pan and it just pulled away from the meat as I lifted it up.  I’m not using it anyway so, no problem.

Pulled Pork, wrap tightly.

Gather the foil up and wrap it tightly around the cooked pork.  What… you thought you were fixing to eat it NOW?  (Smile)

Pulled Pork, wrap with a towel.

Next, grab a clean towel and, wrap it up really good.

If you have a cooler, you can place this inside the cooler.  If not, just do like I did and leave it out on the counter top.  The meat needs to REST for about one hour before you pull it apart.  This just requires patience and restraint.  You can do it though and you’ll be happily rewarded for it.

Allowing the meat to rest like this will make it much more juicier than if you just started ripping it apart now.  During this time, the internal temperature will rise another 5º to 10º or so.  This carry over temperature allows time for the juices to absorb back into the meat and, makes the finished product hold the juice that you would otherwise see running out if you sliced it right away.

Pulled Pork, fat cap removed.

After the meat has had an hour to rest, remove the towel and the foil and, place the meat in another clean baking or roasting pan.  As you can see in the photo above, this is the bottom.  The fat cap pulled off when I lifted it from the roasting pan so I don’t have to bother with that.

Pulled Pork, removing more fat.

I grabbed two forks and just scraped away some more of the fat that was remaining.  You may like the fat and want to leave it in but, I just have never acquired a taste for it.  Some folks leave it in their BBQ while others remove it.  Its a personal choice so make yourself happy and do what pleases you.  I promise not to argue with you about taking it out though.

Pulled Pork, remove the bones.

Use the forks like bear claws and start pulling the meat apart.  Remember, its still pretty hot so, don’t burn your fingers trying to pull it apart. The bone will pull out really easy if the meat is cooked properly.

Pulled Pork, pull the meat apart.

Continue to use the forks and pull the meat apart… thus the name… Pulled Pork.  Creative huh?

Sometimes, when we do a whole hog or, pig picking, we just let folks come up and pull off what they want of the pig thats been cooked.  That’s OK if you’re cooking with wood and smoking the meat a good bit.  You’ll have some good flavor from the smoke ring that forms just beneath the skin as it cooks.

Pulled Pork, pulling apart some of the bark.

Here’s a piece of the top of the meat with it’s bark.  Once it was all mixed up, it had a good flavor from the spices that had been baked into the meat.  It was really quite tasty at this point but… let’s make it even better.

Pulled Pork, pulled pork.

I weighed this out and had just an ounce or two over five pounds of meat.  I started out with nine pounds so, I lost four to the trimming, cooking and removal of the bone.  Its still a lot of meat and well worth the time to fix it.  To be considered “pulled” you will want to leave it in shreds like its pictured.  You could also chop it up if you desire, its just whatever makes you happiest when it comes to barbecue.

Pulled Pork, adding sauce.

Start out slowly in adding the sauce.  Sauce is meant to compliment the meat and not overpower it.  Of course, this is the good part because, you get to add a little sauce, taste it… then add some more and taste it again.  Drizzle the sauce over the cooked meat and then stir it in.

Pulled Pork, mix by hand.

Just jump in with both hands and mix the sauce in really good.  Be gentle with it though… you don’t want it turning into a bunch of mushiness from overworking it.  Taste it, then add more sauce, vinegar, pepper, whatever you think it needs.  Make it your own Special Sauce.

Pulled Pork, serve and enjoy.

Serve it while it’s warm.  Barbecue is best when enjoyed shortly after its made.  It will keep in the refrigerator for several days… if it lasts that long and, it can be frozen if absolutely need be.  It will change the taste a bit in my opinion but, I’ve got several cartons of this in my freezer as I write.

This stuff makes some great sandwiches.  Just add some of our Creamy Cole Slaw and you’re good to go.  Serve it with Baked Beans, Potato Salad or, whatever your favorite side dish might be.  Don’t forget the Sweet Tea either.  Just be sure to keep some extra sauce close by, along with the Texas Pete and some pepper flakes so, your family and guests can spice it up the way they like it.  I could eat this stuff everyday… even for breakfast.  Must be a Southern boy… right?


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