North Carolina Pulled Pork

Ted Allen


For this Carolina-style barbecue, the meat is rubbed with dry spices (usually) and cooked slow and low over smoldering charcoal for upward of 8 hours—until the fat and sinew melts down and the meat falls off the bone (or is actually pulled off, hence the name). Then, you add a spicy, vinegary sauce, pile the pork high on toasted buns, and serve with pickled red onions. Pork that’s cooked this way turns pink from the surface to about half an inch inside, and is covered with fabulously crusty burned bits.


Pulled Pork:
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 (5- to 7-pound) bone-in pork shoulder with a good cap of fat
  • 12 hamburger buns, toasted
Vinegar Sauce:
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Pickled Red Onions:
  • 1/2 cup cider or white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced


Make the dry rub: Combine the paprika, sugar, salt, chili powder, cayenne, oregano, thyme, cumin, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.

Cook the pork: Fire up your grill, then tighten the upper and lower vents until almost closed to bring the temperature to between 300°F and 325°F (if your grill doesn’t have a built-in thermometer, put an instant-read in the upper vent). If using charcoal, be prepared to refuel with hot coals every hour or so.

Rinse the pork and pat dry with paper towels. Rub all over with the dry rub. Put the pork in a disposable foil pan on the grill. Close the grill, and smoke, monitoring the grill temperature carefully, until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 190°F, 6 to 8 hours.

Meanwhile, make the Vinegar Sauce: stir together the vinegar, ketchup, sugar, pepper flakes, salt, and pepper until the salt and sugar dissolve. Reserve.

Then make the Pickled Red Onions: in a small saucepan over high heat, bring the vinegar, sugar, and salt to a boil, then pour over the onion. Cool to room temperature and store in the refrigerator. Drain before serving.

Remove the pork from the grill. Let cool, and then shred with your fingers, setting aside the bone to cook with beans and discarding the excess fat.

In a large pot or Dutch oven with a lid, combine the pulled meat with the Vinegar Sauce. When you’re ready to serve, reheat the pork and sauce to a simmer. Use tongs to load up the toasted buns with meat, and serve with the Pickled Red Onions, Fried Shallots, and Pickled Mustard Greens.


12 servings