If there’s ever a perfect time to fire up your grill, welcome summer, and master true barbecue, Memorial Day weekend is it. Barbecue is all about smoke and very low heat, transforming tough cuts of meat into a tender mouthful. Try it yourself with this traditional Carolina-style pulled pork sandwich, guaranteed to satisfy your barbecue craving — and have everyone asking for your recipe.
Carolina-Style Pulled Pork
1 bone-in pork shoulder, 4-5 lb. (2-2.5 kg.)
3/4 cup (6 fl. oz./180 ml.) apple cider
1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g.) sugar
1/4 cup (2 oz./60 g.) kosher salt, plus salt as needed
2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs. hot-pepper sauce
Freshly ground pepper
5 lb. (2.5 kg.) applewood or hickory chips, or a mixture, soaked in water for 30 minutes
Classic BBQ Sauce for serving (recipe below)
Lexington-Style Dip for serving (recipe below)
10-12 soft hamburger buns
At least 1 hour before you plan to begin cooking, remove the pork from the refrigerator. In a jar, combine the apple cider, sugar, salt, Worcestershire sauce, hot-pepper sauce, and 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml.) warm water. Cover and shake the jar vigorously until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Load a marinade injector with the apple cider mixture, and inject the mixture into the pork in several places. Season the pork on all sides with salt and pepper.
Prepare a smoker or a charcoal or gas grill for smoking over low heat; the temperature of the grill should be 200-250 degrees F (95-120 degrees C). If using charcoal, bank the lit coals on either side of the grill bed, leaving a strip in the center without heat. Place a drip pan in the center strip and fill the pan with water. Add a handful of the wood chips to the fire just before grilling. If using gas, fill the smoker box with wood chips, then preheat the grill. Turn off 1 or more of the burners to create a cooler zone. Brush and oil the grill grate.
Place the pork on the grill over the indirect-heat area, cover, and smoke for a total of about 4 hours, adding additional wood chips every 30 minutes or so and more coals as needed if using charcoal.
After 4 hours, remove the pork and double wrap it in aluminum foil. You can put it back on the grill and cook it slowly for another 6 hours (we don’t recommend this if you’re using charcoal), or you can place it in a roasting pan in a 250-degree F (120-degree C) oven for an additional 6 hours. The pork is ready when you can easily slide out the bone with a pair of tongs.
Transfer the pork to a cutting board and let cool for about 30 minutes. Remove any fat cap. Using 2 forks, pull and shred all the meat. Sprinkle a little salt over the pork and add about 1/2 cup (4 fl .oz./125 ml.) BBQ sauce and toss to blend. Pile the meat on a platter and put out the buns, remaining BBQ sauce, and the Lexington-style dip. Then dig in! Serves 10-12.
Classic BBQ Sauce
1 cup (8 oz./250 g.) ketchup
2 Tbs. yellow mustard
1 Tbs. cider vinegar
2 tsp. firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml.) low-sodium chicken broth
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, finely chopped (optional)
1/4 tsp. ground cumin (optional)
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the ketchup, mustard, vinegar, sugar, broth, a pinch of salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. For a Southwest-style sauce, stir in the chiles and cumin. Simmer for 5 minutes for a relatively thin sauce or for 10-15 minutes for a thick sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt. Makes about 2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml.).
1 qt. (1 l.) cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups (12 oz./375 g.) ketchup
1 cup (8 oz./250 g.) plus 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
1 Tbs. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pour the vinegar into a saucepan. Stir in the ketchup, both sugars, red pepper flakes, cayenne, 2 tablespoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Rinse the measuring pitcher used for the ketchup with 3/4 cup (6 fl. oz./180 ml.) water and add to the pan. Place over medium heat, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook slowly, stirring often, for 30 minutes. Never let the mixture boil.
Raise the heat to medium-high. A red foam will begin to build on top. When the foam completely covers the surface, the “dip” is done. Remove from the heat and let cool. Use right away, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks. Makes about 1 qt. (1 l.).