bbq-pulled pork

Following on from our Texas style short ribs, this week we continue our foray into low and slow barbecue with North Carolina pulled pork. It may take up to 12 hours over the coals, but is far better than anything the slow cooker will produce.

We have used a rub for the pork, and a North Carolina style mop sauce to go with. Add some soft white rolls and our Lexington red slaw, and you are good to go. The recipe has quite a few ingredients, so let’s dive straight in…

Recipe for North Carolina pulled pork

2kg pork shoulder

Sea salt

For the rub

1 tsp fennel seed

1 tsp ground garlic

1 tbsp onion powder

A pinch celery seeds

1 tbsp paprika

Freshly ground black pepper

4 tbsp brown sugar

For the sauce

250ml vinegar

3 tbsp ketchup

75ml apple juice

3 tbsp soft brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp hot sauce

1 tsp chilli flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

For the red slaw

½ head white cabbage, shredded

1 carrot, grated

3 tbsp sugar

3 tbsp salt

150 ml red wine vinegar

120g ketchup

50g sugar

1 tsp hot sauce

Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Add plenty of sea salt to the meat and stand aside whilst the fire gets to temperature.
  2. Light your BBQ on one side only. Once the flames have died down, put an oven thermometer on the rack opposite and close the lid. Now wait until it hits between 225F and 300F. The lower the better. By the time you hit this temperature, the coals will be almost spent, so you need to keep it topped up gradually, but too much or you will raise the temperature. The more often that you cook this way, the better you be at controlling the heat.
  3. Meanwhile you can get on with the rub, the sauce and the slaw.
  4. Mix the ingredients for the rub together, in a pestle and mortar if you have one. Don’t worry if you don’t; those fennel seeds are hard to crush down anyway.
  5. Mix the sauce ingredients together and leave to stand.
  6. Mix the shredded cabbage and carrot together. Add the sugar and the salt. Set aside for about 15 minutes, or until it has released its moisture.
  7. Mix the rest of the slaw ingredients together to form the sauce.
  8. Rub the spice mix all over the pork, and if the fire is ready, add to the rack opposite the coals. Insert a meat thermometer.
  9. Scatter a few handfuls of wood chippings on the fire (we used beech) and close the lid. Check the fire every hour to see if it needs topping up.
  10. Drain the liquid from the slaw, using kitchen roll to make sure it is completely dry. Stir in the slaw sauce.
  11. When the pork hits an internal temperature of 150F (this may take 6 hours at least) wrap it tightly in foil and put back on the rack, with the lid closed. It may take a further hour to hit 203F, which is where the red zone on the thermometer is likely to stop.
  12. Unwrap the pork and leave to cool slightly before shredding with two forks.
  13. Toss the meat in sauce and serve piled into bread buns with the red slaw.