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Classic North Carolina Pulled Pork

Smoky, sweet, tangy, and tender: North Carolina-style pulled pork is perfect for sharing with friends at backyard barbecues. The deep flavor comes from rubbing the meat with sugar and spices and then low, slow cooking -- just the right pace for this time of year.

  • Prep:
  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 12

Source: Martha Stewart Living, July/August 2015

Ingredients

Meat

  • 1/2 boneless pork shoulder (about 4 pounds), trimmed but with a layer of fat left on
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 5 medium cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press or mashed to a paste
  • 2 tablespoons safflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Sauce

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Potato buns, coleslaw, thinly sliced seedless cucumber, and pickles, for serving

Directions

  1. Season pork all over with salt. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next day, stir together garlic and oil. Mix together sugars, paprika, pepper, mustard, and thyme. Rub oil mixture over pork, then sugar mixture. Let stand while you heat grill.

  2. Open grill vents. Prepare a chimney with 80 charcoal briquettes; place on small lower grate. Ignite; let burn until top layer is turning ash gray, about 20 minutes. Place a small disposable roasting pan on one side of grate. Add 2 cups hot water. Pour coals in on other side. Top with main grill grate.

  3. Place pork on grill, over pan of water. Cover grill with lid, keeping top and bottom vents halfway open. Every hour, add briquettes (about 16) as needed to keep grill temperature at a steady 300 degrees. Cook until a thermometer inserted in thickest part of pork registers about 200 degrees, 7 to 8 hours.

  4. Let meat stand 20 minutes before pulling apart with two forks. Meanwhile, whisk together sauce ingredients in a bowl. Toss pulled pork with 1 cup sauce. Pile pork on buns, then top with slaw and cucumber. Serve, with pickles and remaining sauce on the side.

Cook's Notes

The meat cooks on a charcoal grill for up to eight hours. It doesn't require much work during that time, but you do need to add more coals every hour to maintain the temperature. For a less hands-on method, cook the meat for the first two hours on the grill, then transfer it to a 300 degrees oven for the rest of the time (set the meat on a rack over a pan of water).

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