Brisket is glorious. Hot links a treasure. And pulled pork is welcome on my plate any day, if you don’t have some dry rubbed spare ribs on hand. But If there is a problem with the juicy, smoky, delicious world of barbecued meats it is that the choices can feel limited—four epic dishes. Is there anything more to choose from?
Well, no. There are other dishes out there! BBQ lamb, for instance, or even goat! There are shredded chicken thighs and there is sliced pork butt. No not, pulled and I didn’t just make this up! Sliced pork is the pig of choice for no less an iconic BBQ joint that Arthur Bryant’s in KC. And there are loads of reasons you should try it for your next ‘Q.
Sliced smoked pork shoulder
There are two main differences between sliced and pulled smoked pork shoulder: 1) tying and 2)temperature. Sliced BBQ pork is, in essence, a pork roast that you cook in the smoker. In order to be able to slice it, the pork butt must be deboned, and the raggedy, floppy result of that deboning is then tied to create a uniform, tightly packed piece of meat. This eliminates thin edges that will overcook and dry out while cooking and also makes a better package for slicing.
As for temperature, we’re going to aim lower than usual. For pulled pork, ThermoWorks recommends a pull-temperature of about 203°F (95°C). This temperature gives most of the collagen in the pork time to dissolve into delicious gelatin, breaking down the structure of the meat and eliminating any toughness along the way. Pulled pork famously falls apart. However, we will only cook smoke-roasted BBQ pork to 175°F (79°C). This is still hot enough for much of the collagen and connective tissues to break down, but not all of them, allowing some structure to remain that will hold the meat nicely together for slicing.
(For more on pork butt and its history and name, see our article on Pulled Pork Nachos, which goes into some detail on the subject.)
Slicing is a BBQ pork time saver
This method of cooking pork butt is both delicious and a fun change of pace, but it can also save you a lot of time when you are in a hurry. We all know that cooking a big cut of meat on a smoker at 250°F (121°C), or even lower, takes a long time. Those last few degrees or internal doneness, especially, take what seems like forever. By shaving 28°F (16°C) off the back end of the cook, you can literally save yourself hours. Our cook took about 6½ hours total.
Sliced BBQ pork vs. pulled pork: is it good?
And how does sliced smoked pork stack up against the classic BBQ pulled pork? I can virtually guarantee you will not be disappointed! The texture is yielding and tender without being overly soft, and the way it works as either a hot or cold sandwich filler is a plus. Eat it as is, use it in a Cuban sandwich, or try a cold BBQ pork sandwich with homemade chili sauce.
Sliced Smoked Pork Shoulder Recipe
Following the procedures from HowtoBBQRight.com in their article Sliced Pork Butt Sandwich.
- 1 pork butt (Boston butt, pork shoulder), deboned
- 3 Tbsp mustard
- 6 Tbsp BBQ rub
- ½–1 cup BBQ injection (use your favorite)
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 ½ oz hot sauce
- Heat your smoker to 250°F (121°C).
- If your pork butt is not deboned, debone it, but this procedure is not the easiest kitchen task, and unless you’ve done it before, we recommend having your butcher debone your pork shoulder.
- Tie the butt at roughly 1” intervals to create a tight, uniform roast.
- Rub the roast all over with mustard. THis actsa s a binder for the rub and has little impact on the final flavor.
- Coat the roast in BBQ rub.
- Inject the pork butt with your favorite bbq injection.
- Combine vinegar and hot sauce in a spray bottle or a bowl for later application.
- Probe the roast.
- Set up your Smoke® 2-channel Alarm Thermometer with a high alarm to 175°F (79°C) for the meat probe. For the air probe, set the high alarm to 275°F (135°C) and the low alarm to 225°F (107°C).
- If you want a little freedom of movement while you cook, set up the Smoke Gateway and monitor the temps while you, say, attend a fruit tree grafting class.(*)
- Smoke-roast the pork butt for 2 hours.
- Spritz or brush the roast with the vinegar/hot sauce mixture, then apply another coat of rub.
- Continue to smoke.
- When your meat alarm sounds, check the temp with yourThermapen® Mk4 to verify. If you see any internal temperatures below 175°F (79°C), continue to cook until it is done.
- When done, let the meat rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Or let eat it cold by wrapping it loosely in foil and refrigerating it overnight to make for super easy slicing. After slicing, just reheat the slices in any juices that collect in the foil mixed with a little water. Mmmmmmmm…
- Serve on white bread with your favorite BBQ sauce, some good pickles, and white onion.
Traditional is always an adventure—waiting to see how the bark develops, how the muscle fibers soften, what the smoke is like. But if you want to mix things up a little, sliced smoked pork is one way to shake up your BBQ routine! With a lower critical temperature, verified by a Thermapen Mk4 (or a ThermopPop®, if you don’t have one), you save time and ensure you have meat that will be tender and done correctly every time. So slice up some pork butt and enjoy!
*This actually happened to me. I got the pork started a little too late in the day and had to leave for a class on grafting apple trees when the internal temp was only 163°F (73°C). So I hooked up the Gateway, set my alarms and texted a member of our outstanding customer care team when the meat came to temp. Result: Perfect pork!