Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Ella's Carolina Sauce

This post is full of confessions:
1. I like to smoke things 
2. I'm kind of lazy 
3. I'm self-conscious of my non-Southern linage 
4. I've been hanging onto this recipe for a while. 
5. I like to make lists

I hadn't smoked a thing in my life until I moved to Georgia. The only smoked meat I'd eaten in the 22 years I lived before I migrated here consisted solely of smoked salmon. Once I landed in Atlanta, a veritable melting pot of smoked meat (because it doesn't "own" a particular style of BBQ as other regions do), I started eating a lot of barbecue. For my Northern friends and family, barbecue in the South doesn't just mean you just fire up the grill; Oh no, no - in the South barbecue means smoke and time. 

Besides eating a lot of smoked meat, I also learned to cook it myself. Yes, I have gone into work in the wee hours of the morning to smoke brisket, and stayed late to finish a pork butt. I've gotten to rig a cardboard box as a smoker and smoke in custom electric smokers. But at home, I smoke pork on my good ole charcoal grill. 

Here's where my laziness comes to play though - I only like to smoke meat for a couple of hours. Some science suggests that meat can only take on so much smoke anyway, but my reasoning has less to do with science and more to do with avoiding being outside during the hottest part of the day. 

I also use what some might call a Texas crutch, where I smoke my pork for a few hours, wrap it in foil, and finish it in the oven. This is particularly funny because this recipe would actually be considered a Piedmont style Caroline barbecue, but I'm a damn Yankee, so I've taken everything I've learned about smoking meat and married it with my husband's favorite style of barbecue (North Carolina is where he was born and raised).

I actually made this pulled pork for the first time in January for our daughter's birthday. I made extra sauce and packaged it for family to take home and it has forever become known as Ella's sauce. My father-in-law asks regularly when I'm ever going to make more, so this weekend I gave it another go. This recipe is becoming a family favorite, a regular-summer-go-to, and so I'm finally getting around to sharing it here. 

Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Ella's Carolina Sauce
Adapted from Cooking Light 
Serves 12 

I suggest making at least twice as much sauce, so you always have some around. The leftover meat freezes beautifully, so its worth the effort even if you are only feeding a small family.

For the pulled pork:
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon hot smoked paprika
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 (5-pound) boneless Boston Butt pork roast

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 small onion, finely chopped 
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup Dijon mustard
2/3 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

12 hamburger buns, cole slaw (I adapted this recipe for the sandwich pictured), and pickles for serving

For the pulled pork: 
Combine the sugar, dry mustard, paprika, pepper and salt in a small bowl. Pat pork dry with paper towels then rub with sugar mixture and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour. 

Soak 4 cups of hickory wood chips in water for at least 1 hour. 

Prepare the grill for indirect grilling: Heat a large charcoal chimney's worth of natural lump charcoal until hot and ashy white. Pour the coals onto one side of the grill.  Pierce the bottom of a disposable aluminum foil pan several times with the tip of a knife. Place the pan on the hot coals and add 2 cups drained wood chips to the pan. Place another disposable aluminum foil pan (do not pierce pan) on unheated side of grill. Pour 2 cups water in pan. Let chips stand for 15 minutes or until smoking. Place grill rack on grill. 

Set pork on grill rack over unheated side. Close lid cook for 2 to 3 hours at approximately 300°F. Add a handful of additional wood chips every 45 minutes. Remove pork from grill and place in a 13 x 9 baking dish. Cover the dish with foil and place in a 300°F oven for an additional 2 to 3 hours or until the meat is beginning to fall apart. Remove from the oven and rest 20 minutes. Shred pork.

For the sauce: 
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened. Add sugar, mustard, vinegar, molasses, hot sauce, and salt and bring to a simmer. Cook 15 minutes or until thickened. 

Toss shredded pork with half the sauce and serve with additional sauce on buns, topped with coleslaw or a pickle. 

What is your favorite style of barbecue? Have you tried smoking anything recently? And how did you do it? I'd love to know! 


  1. Girl..Yes to these sandwiches.. Those "Ella's BBQ Sauce" jars are just too cute!!

    1. Thanks Erika! Amazing how a little baker's twine can dress up a mason jar, huh?

  2. Girl, stop! You are a southern natural. Using this sauce for sophia's party today. Woot!