Pulled Pork on a Gas Grill

Yum.  Does this look great or what!  Pulled Pork hot off the barbecue just waiting for a bun, cole slaw and barbecue sauce.  What a treat this will be.

Pork is pulled and ready for sandwiches!

I've always wanted to barbecue Pulled Pork on the gas grill but never did since it sounded so daunting and difficult.  And although it does take a while, it is totally worth the effort!  The meat is inexpensive and the process is very forgiving.   On a gas grill, be sure to use wood chips to create smoke since you don't have any charcoal for those great smokey flavors. You will enjoy a great pork fest!

What you need:
1 Pork Shoulder Picnic 8-10 lb
or Boston Butt, approx 5 lb.
Merlin's Magic Rub or other dry rub
Apple Juice
Apple Cider Vinegar
Injection Mix (see separate recipe)
Wood chips
Heavy duty aluminum foil or smoker boxes
Full propane tank
Meat Thermometer
Oven Thermometer (not the one built-in to the grill)
Disposable Aluminum Pan

The keys to success: 1) Inject marinade into the meat and apply dry rub, 2) Cook low (225F) and slow (1.5-1.75 hrs per lb),  3) maintain 225F-240F, 4) maintain a pan of water inside the grill and 5) be Patient!

You really cannot ruin pulled pork as long as you cook it "low and slow" and take it off the grill when the meat reaches 190F.  The question is merely how delicious it will be!

You want to end up with 1/2 lb of pork to serve per person.  I've found that a 9-10 lb. pork shoulder picnic with bone will make about 4 lbs of served meat.  A 5 lb. Boston Butt will serve about 3 lbs of meat. Govern yourself accordingly!
This 9 lb pork butt is rubbed and ready for the grill

To prepare a pork shoulder, trim the heavy skin off the picnic and leave a cap of fat. The fat will baste the meat and give it flavor. For a Boston Butt, just trim any excess fat on the exterior.  A few hours before cooking, inject with the solution (see "Injection" recipe) and rub with Merlin's Magic rub (see "Rub" recipe) or with your favorite rub.  Work the rub in well and make sure all of the meat is covered.

Let the meat sit out of the refrigerator for two hours at room temperature. Place it fat side up on the grill.  The fat will baste the meat.

Cooking Low and Slow with Gas
You'll use the indirect method for cooking, which means that no direct heat reaches the meat.  This is important.  Light a burner on one side of the grill and place the meat on the other side. Be sure to keep the top of the grill closed during the cooking process.  Place a pan filled to within 1/2" of the top with water under the meat.  This adds moisture to the meat and catches drippings.  Add more water as needed during cooking.  You don't want the pan to lose all the water.

Water pan and hickory chips wrapped in aluminum
Let's get cooking. Turn on the burner 30 minutes before cooking.  Make sure you have plenty of propane! Expect to use over half a tank. You'll want to maintain cooking temperature of 225F-240F during the entire process.

You do not want the grill's temperature to exceed 250F for any length of time.  If the temp falls below 225F that's OK but it will take longer to cook. If the temperature is over 250F for an extended time the meat will cook faster and will not be as tender as it should be.  The meat will tenderize and sweeten up only if the interior temperature of the meat rises very slowly.

Use a good oven thermometer;  do not rely on the thermometer built-in to the grill.  I use a Maverick Model ET-73 thermometer, which monitors the temperature of both the smoker and the meat, with a remote display.  It allows me to monitor the temperatures from inside the house, and not have to open the smoker unnecessarily.  Every time you open the gas grill you can lose 15 minutes of cooking time. So keep the grill closed!

Maintain Patience!  Do not increase the heat at any point in order to speed up the process.  The meat will not turn out as tender as it should be.  Have a beer.  Have a drink.  But maintain patience.

Smoke and Spritzing
Soak several cups of wood (hickory, mesquite, apple, etc) for at least 30 minutes in water.  About 10 or 15 minutes before putting the meat on the grill place the wood in a smoker box or wrap it tightly in heavy duty foil and punch holes in the foil. Put it on the grate over the hot burner.

If you assemble a few of these foils ahead and then use one or two at a time during the first few hours of cooking, you'll get some great smoked flavors. Just change them when they stop smoking. Try not to open the grill while the wood is smoking.

Butt is almost done
Spritzing helps the meat retain more moisture and apple juice adds flavor. About 3 hours into cooking start spritzing with a combination of 8 parts apple juice to 1 part apple cider vinegar. If you use apple juice too early in the process the bark might burn because of the sugar in apple juice.  A plastic spray bottle works well for this.

When a meat thermometer registers 190F in the deepest part of the picnic, it's is ready. Remove from the grill and let it sit for 30-60 minutes.  Then use two forks (or "Bear Claws") to pull the meat.  You'll find that this is the tenderest pork you'll ever make and the meat will absolutely fall off the bone.  You'll know it's done because the bone will slide out, clean of meat.

Nice bark and ready to pull!
The reason that such an inexpensive cut of meat becomes so delicious is that the "low and slow" cooking renders the fat and breaks down the collagen, the connective tough tissues, into sugars.  This all happens around the 150-160F cooking level.  So the process tenderizes the meat and makes it lean while adding sweetness.  How can you beat that? You end up with a lean, tender, sweet pork dinner!

 Let's Eat

Serve as the main dish or on sandwich buns with your favorite BBQ sauce, baked beans and cole slaw.

Bon Appetit!

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