American Pantry UK


East Carolina Style Pulled Pork

Pulled pork - American recipes - American PantryAt the age of 17, I left Louisiana to study in North Carolina. North Carolina is a spreading expanse of a state, but the easiest way to divide it is by the type of pulled pork on offer (see the North Carolina pulled pork article in Saveur). As North Carolina reaches out east to the Atlantic, pork is garnished simply with cider vinegar and a hint of chili. As the state climbs west into the Appalachian mountains, the pork takes on the sweet and smoky flavours found in the BBQ of the Mississippi valley.

I don’t want to take sides in the Carolina pulled pork debate. I’ve had both and loved both. I feel the eastern style, however, relies a little less heavily on smoke for that defining taste – that taste that can never be replicated by oven cooking. I will concede to the west that the shoulder is the best piece of meat for pulled pork, though, particularly if you can get it on the bone, with a good layer of fat on top. They eat that in the east too, so controversy averted, I hope. 

This recipe is adapted in part from “How to cook perfect pulled pork” as featured in The Guardian, but I felt it needed a more flavourful rub than is featured (at the risk of tasting like roast pork). The rub recipe, as is the sauce, is adapted from the pulled pork recipe featured on the James Beard website.

Preparation time: 15 minutes plus 1 – 2 hours marinading; Cooking time: 7 to 8 hours, plus 1 hour to cool
Serves 10 to 20


1 bone-in pork shoulder, approx 1.6 – 2 kg

2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground paprika
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika (or hot if you are a heat lover)
1/2 tsp cayenne
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 tsp celery salt
1 tsp fennel seeds (optional)
2 tbsp TABASCO® Chipotle Sauce

1 cup cider vinegar
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
3 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp TABASCO® Chipotle Sauce

Other things you’ll need

Large roasting pan, large sheets of aluminum foil, meat thermometer


1) Coat meat of shoulder in rub, and allow to marinade for a minimum of 1 hour, ideally overnight.

2) Preheat oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7. Line a large roasting pan with a large sheet of foil (or two smaller sheets) as if you were roasting a turkey – allow sufficient excess to pull over and fully cover shoulder.

3) Place the shoulder in the pan fat-side up and uncovered. Roast for 30 minutes.

4) Remove and cover with excess foil. Reduce heat in oven to 125°C/240°F/Gas Mark 1/2 and cook for 6 hours, or until meat temperature reaches 89°C/192°F.

5) Allow to cool fully while wrapped in foil. Remove layer of fat and crisp under a medium-hot grill.

6) Pull meat apart with your fingers or two forks. Transfer to an airtight container. Pour remaining juices and half of the sauce. Chop fat into small pieces and mix together. Cover and allow to rest overnight in refrigerator.

7) Reheat over medium-low heat on the hob, stirring regularly, or in a medium oven (170°C – 180°C) covered with foil (time will depend on desired temperature and the temperature of your refrigerator, as well as the portion size you are reheating). Add sauce, salt, pepper and TABASCO to taste.

Serving: Pulled pork is traditionally served on a soft roll topped with coleslaw or on its own with a side of cornbread. You use your extra pulled pork to fill an omelet or jacket potato, add it to chili or top nachos or pizza. Otherwise, pulled pork freezes well. 

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