World’s Best Carolina Pulled Pork
“Want to make the best pulled pork from your own kitchen? This recipe for the world’s best Carolina pulled pork all starts with a brine.
When I think of BBQ I can’t help but think of slow and low style, the Carolina way. In order to cook the World’s Best Carolina Pulled Pork, it is essential that you plan ahead, and spend some time prepping and cooking that delicious meat at those lower temperatures. This helps bring out all those flavors that melt in your mouth and allow that pork to literally fall apart. I know, we are all lazy and don’t want to, but trust me, this is so easy your dog could do it.
BBQ and South Carolina is a pretty big deal in my life. It better be so tender and juicy you want to bathe in it, but the sides are just as big of a deal. From fried okra and pickles to boiled peanuts, yup boiled peanuts, there is a lot of tradition that comes with these recipes and some you can even get on the side of the road! A lot of people (aka Carrian) don’t like the texture of the boiled peanut but it’s one of my favorite little snacks while watching some football and eating some BBQ. If you haven’t tried them you must! Let me know if you’re a fan or if you side with my wife.
Alright, let’s get to a few secrets that will help you make the best pulled pork recipe ever. This may seem like a process, but here’s the deal, you really just plop it in the fridge and then the oven and while it takes a long time you’re just going about your every day life, so it’s really not extra work on your part. These ideas come from asking questions back in South Carolina and I have to admit, Diners Drive Ins and Dives. Shout out to Guy who gets to eat for a living! Carrian and I occasionally watch his show on Netflix at night and first of all, it makes us so hungry, but also we feel like we can totally guess when he doesn’t really enjoy something. We wish we could find out what he really thinks are the best and the worst of the places he has tried.
Anyway, I got a little off topic. Here are the secrets…
- Always brine your pork. One thing I’ve heard over and over again from great chefs is to brine a turkey for better flavor and more tender meat. Carrian and I put it to the test with pork years ago and found that while we already did it for Thanksgiving turkeys it was now a must do for our pork as well.
- Apple cider in the brine adds a little more flavor without ever tasting like apple, and all you have to do is dump it in.
- If you’re southern you know this isn’t just a secret but practically law in the south, LOW AND SLOW. I always laugh when people tell me they can’t make bbq, “I let it cook for over an hour and it was dry and hard as rock!”. Listen, bbq is very relaxed just like southerners. It wants to hang out all day and while you may think you’re overcooking it, you’re not! Our pork cooks for at least 12 hours. Sometimes more if it’s a bigger butt (I feel like there should be a joke in there). Do not rush it.
- This is definitely a secret I think is often missed, once the meat is done let it rest some more. I told you, it’s lazy. Letting it rest redistributes the juices and because it’s big and cooked for a long time you’re going to want to let it rest longer, like an hour or even two before shredding.
- And finally, the biggest secret of all, and one that I cannot claim as my own as this is where Triple D (Diners Drive Ins and Dives) comes in, sprinkle a little more of the rub on the meat before serving. We noticed many bbq joints weren’t just slathering on the sauce, but actually sprinkling that dry rub all over the shredded meat and tossing to let it sink it. You wont believe what a difference it makes.
Of course I should tell you about the sauces, Carrian like a thick, sweet sauce or a Carolina vinegar bbq, and I love those but I also go for the Carolina mustard sauce. We did a whole new post on all of that. In the meantime, invite friends over for the next Gamecocks game, make this pork and think of us!
Carolina Pulled Pork For a Crowd or to Freeze
Reader Kate asks:
“I’m heading up to my cabin and need a dinner for a large crowd a few hours after we arrive, wondering if I can cook the pork and then finish it off in the grill when we arrive? Or if it’s better to do all steps and then reheat it on arrival? Looks delish.”
And here’s our response as we get soooo many emails about this very question.
Great question! We do this ALLLLLLL the time. Go ahead and make it all and then you have two choices. Pull it out of the oven straight into the car and it will rest on the way to the cabin and be ready to eat two hours later, or make it, rest it, cool it and place in freezer bags or to be honest, we use this Foodsaver, and just suck the air out and freeze pork for use over the next three months. It’s super easy, and tastes perfectly fresh when we reheat. We just place it in the fridge to defrost and then reheat in a large pan with foil in a low oven or stove top with a little oil in the pan and a lid to keep the steam in so it’s juicy. Sorry for the long response, hope that helps!
- 5-8 pound Pork Butt, bone in and fat pad on top
- 4 Cups Water
- 4 Cups Apple Cider
- ½ Cup Kosher Salt
- ½ Cup Dark Brown Sugar
- 3 Heaping Tablespoons Dry Rub
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 1 Pinch Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
- 1 Heaping Tablespoon Smoked Paprika
- 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
- 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
- 1½ Tablespoon Kosher Salt
- 1 Tablespoon Pepper
- 2 Teaspoons Cayenne Powder
- 2 Teaspoons Dry Mustard
- 1 Tablespoon Cumin
- ½ Cup Dark Brown Sugar
- *this is optional but we love it
- ½ Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
- ½ Cup White Vinegar
- ¼ Cup to ⅓ Cup Brown Sugar
- ½ Teaspoon Chili Powder
- 2 Pinches Red Pepper Flakes
- Salt to taste
- **This recipe should be started 2 days ahead of time as you need 24 hours in the fridge, 12-14 in the oven and 2 hours of resting.
- Mix all of the ingredients together in a ziploc bag. Set aside.
- In a large stock pot, add the water, apple cider, salt, sugar, 3 tablespoons dry rub, pepper flakes and bay leaves. Rinse off the pork and add to the pot making sure it is completely covered in the brine and add the lid. Place in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours.
- In a glass jar, add the ingredients and place the lid on then shake to combine. Set aside.
- Heat the oven to 225 degrees.
- Remove the pork from the brine and place in a roasting dish or 9x13" baking pan as long as the sides don't touch the pan. Pat very dry with paper towels. Remove 2 tablespoons of the dry rub to another ziploc and set aside for after it is cooked. Rub the remaining seasoning all over the pork and in any cracks or flaps.
- With the fat facing up, place the pork in the oven with a meat thermometer. Bake for 12-14 hours or until 200 degrees registers on the thickest part of the pork with a meat thermometer.
- *Remember to watch your oven, ours turns off automatically at 12 hours so I have to turn it back on.
- At this point you can turn off the oven and leave the pork in there to rest for two hours or if you have more baking to do place foil over the meat and allow to rest on the stove.
- Once the meat has rested, remove the fat from the top and using two forks, shred the meat and remove the bone. Drain half of the juices out and add the remaining dry rub to taste, toss to coat and drizzle a little vinegar sauce over everything. Serve immediately as is or on buns.
When you visit the Carolinas you’ll notice there’s either a mustard sauce or a vinegar sauce and you’ll tend to love one over the other. Here are our two favorite recipes.
Want your favorite dip for a party but don’t want to make a mess? Pizza dip in little wonton cups are perfect!
Oh how we love these little appetizers wrapped in bacon! And our guests do too!
Now that you’ve made the pork, what in the world do you plan to do with leftovers? Make nachos of course!