North Carolina-style pulled pork

North Carolina-style pulled pork

The Hang Fire Cookbook

Pork is the cornerstone of traditional, Carolina-style barbecue. We sell a ton of this, and just when we think people are ‘over’ pulled pork, we sell a ton more. There is an insatiable appetite for pulled pork right now, but nothing beats real pulled pork – and for us, it’s solely a smoked meat.

Pulled pork is fairly straightforward to make when you understand the process and principles. And for the novice pit boss, it is by far one of the most satisfying things to cook out on your smoker. Combine your pulled pork with some delicious side dishes like coleslaw and potato salad.


Quantity Ingredient
1 x 3-4kg bone-in rindless pork shoulder, (Boston butt)
4 tablespoons groundnut oil
or 4 teaspoons american mustard

For the mop sauce

Quantity Ingredient
400ml cider vinegar
100ml worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons Hang Fire's homestyle ketchup
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon Louisiana hot sauce part II:
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

For the rub

Quantity Ingredient
100g soft light brown sugar
100g fine sea salt
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon garlic granules
1 tablespoon onion granules
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chilli powder
1 tablespoon fennel seeds


  1. First, make the sauce. Combine the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat for 5–10 minutes. Remove from the heat and reserve about half of the sauce to mix with your pulled pork meat at the end of the cook.
  2. Next, combine the ingredients for the rub in a bowl and put your pork shoulder in a baking tray. Rub the pork all over with oil or American mustard, then sprinkle liberally with the rub, making sure it is evenly coated. Give it a pat all over but don’t rub vigorously as you’ll end up clogging the fine pores in the pork, which we need open to absorb smoke. Let the pork sit for 2 hours in the fridge while you get your smoker ready.
  3. Set your smoker up for indirect smoking – you want to hold a temperature of 108°C before putting in your pork, fat side up. Add your wood. You’re in for a long smoke, about 18–23 hours, so think about your coaladding strategy to make sure your smoker floats around 108°C. Add in a couple more wood chunks/chips every hour or so for the first 5 hours, or as and when they burn out, to get a good smoky flavour; this is a dense piece of meat, so can take a good hit of smoke.
  4. After the 14-hour mark, start basting the pork with your mop sauce, every hour until it is done. You’ll want to get pretty quick at doing this as your smoker will drop in temperature every time you open it. See also our note about ‘The Meat Stall’.
  5. There are two ways to tell when your pork is done. Firstly, using heat-proof gloves, grab the bone and give it a tug. If it starts to come away easily, you’re there. Alternatively, if you have an instant-read thermometer, you’re looking for an internal temperature of about 95°C.
  6. When the pork is done, carefully remove from the smoker, transfer to a clean roasting tin, cover tightly in foil and leave to sit for 30–40 minutes. After this time, use some claws or heat-proof gloves to pull the pork meat, discarding the bone and anything that looks like fat or connective tissue. We like to keep as much of the bark in the mix as possible. Gently heat up some of the reserved mop sauce and mop it over the shredded meat to keep it nice and moist before serving.

Cooking methods

  • Indirect Grilling/Smoking


  • 50/50 Hickory/Cherry mix

The Stall – Don’t Panic!

  • Your pork shoulder will undoubtedly hit the ‘meat stall’ (that is, it appears to stop cooking) when the internal temperature reaches 65°C–75°C and it’ll stay there for hours. This is normal and there are plenty of theories why this happens. If you want to understand the science, we recommend visiting and checking out their in-depth section on ‘meat stall’. For us, the stall is akin to suddenly being stuck on the crest of a rollercoaster ride. All the connective tissues, fats and collagens and moisture are physically and chemically changing all at one time-consuming apex. As the moisture evaporates from your hunk of meat, the muscle will start to heat up again, setting the rollercoaster cart back in motion. This can take anything from 3–6 hours. Don’t whip the pork out and stick it in the oven (unless you’re really pushed for time) and don’t crank up the smoker heat – you can’t rush good things. If you are desperate to jostle it along, make a ’Texas Crutch’: take 3 metres of foil, fold it twice into thirds, with the remaining third as a flap. Bring the edges of the foil up a little, put your shoulder in the middle, bring the flap over, wrap tightly, expelling as much air as possible, and crimp the edges like a giant pasty and pop it back in the smoker. However, we prefer to open another beer, not worry about it and let it take its own sweet, smoky time.

No Ifs, No Butts

  • We’ve found one of the more consistent ways to communicate this pork cut to your British butcher is by calling it a ‘bone-in pork shoulder, neck end’. Resist the temptation to ask an old-school butcher for a ‘Boston butt’ (as it’s called in the States) because you’ll invariably be met with a blank expression. You can, of course, use a boneless shoulder, but sometimes the finesse required to tunnel the bone out can be hit and miss and you may not end up with a solid barrel or butt shape. Plus cooking for a long time on the bone is sure to impart a little more flavour.
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