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Pulled Pork: What to do without a smoker

I am thrilled to share this recipe for pulled pork with the world. The smoky taste of BBQ is something I love, anywhere from succulent ribs to tender and moist pulled pork. Unfortunately, I do not have a professional smoker, and I am sure most out there do not either! This recipe is my way of bringing a hint of BBQ to my home and my stomach.

My husband came up with a fantastic rub that includes spices such as smoked paprika and cumin. In the rub, I add a spice blend called “First Frost” by Fairweather Farm, and I bought it at a festival for my husband as a gift. It is a blend of spices (salt, sage, lemon thyme, smoked green tomato) and a bunch of smoked peppers (green pepper, ancho pepper, green chipotle pepper and fish pepper). If you do not have or cannot get this spice blend, you can replace it with something similar as long as it is smoky.

We have always used this rub for this pulled pork, and we use the rub not only on the meat but in the brine. I brine the pork shoulder in salt, sugar, the rub mix, some other ingredients, and an Ancho Chile Pepper which is a dried ripened poblano pepper. Then rub it with the amazing spice mix and roast it overnight in a very low temperature oven. It comes out perfect every time.

This makes a lot of pork, and it freezes perfectly. I freeze some of the pork in Ziploc bags and use it for things like pork quesadillas or tamales!  I am making pulled pork sandwiches with this pork, slathered with BBQ sauce and coleslaw.  But you can use it however you like!

Pulled Pork
Makes about 16 servings
Time: 20 minutes prep time, 8-24 hours brine time, and 13 hours cook time

9.5 lb Bone in Pork Shoulder
1/2 cup salt
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. of molasses
4 cups cold water
3 tbsp. dry rub mix
2 bay leaves
1 Ancho Chile Pepper
Dry Rub:
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. ground pepper
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp of “First Frost” spice blend


Combine all ingredients for spice mix. Mix thoroughly and store in an air tight container.


Combine all ingredients of brine in a large pot or container.

I used a pot, but any vessel that will hold your whole pork shoulder and the brine without overflowing will work fine. Just make sure the brine is covering the shoulder completely. It can be weighted down with a plate if necessary.


Add pork shoulder to brine, cover, and refrigerate for a minimum of 8 hours, preferably overnight.


After brining, remove pork from brine and pat dry.

It is important to get the pork very dry at this stage, so the rub will stick.


Preheat oven to 220°.


Fat side up, score the fat in a diamond pattern.

This allows the rub to penetrate the fat and therefor drip down to the meat.


Place pork in a 9×13 pan. Use the remaining dry rub, and coat the whole shoulder, including sides and bottom, making sure to massage the rub into the meat.


After rubbing, rearrange the pork fat side up again in the pan.


Place in oven and roast for about 13 hours, or until the internal temperature is 185º.

I roast it overnight, putting it in the oven at 11 p.m. the night before I am serving it.


Once shoulder hits temperature, turn oven off and allow pork to come to room temperature in oven.


Remove drippings from pan.

You may freeze drippings to use at a later date.


Pull pork in pan, removing all fat, sinew, and the bone.

Use the pulled pork however you like! Between a bun is how I like it, but you could use the pork in: tacos, tamales, quesadillas, a cuban sandwich, on a salad, on a pizza. The possibilities are endless!

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