Apple Cider Smoked Pulled Pork Recipe

There are few meals more satisfying than slow-cooked pulled pork. When done right, this delicate dance of swine and sweetness will result in calls for seconds and exultation from everybody at the table. While this recipe calls for pork butt, it's actually just a shoulder — the name comes from the barrels used in shipping, explains recipe creator Petar Marshall.  

Apples and pork make a great combo, hearkening back to images of a whole pig roasting over a spit with an apple in its mouth. Luckily Marshall has put together a simple combination of ingredients with some techniques to maximize flavor without making it overly complicated. A key to this, as Marshall explains, is the low and slow cooking method — "[the pork] needs time to render fat properly and to break down the collagen." It helps that this recipe calls for the unbeatable flavor that comes from cooking in a smoker for a long time. If you don't have one, luckily you can make your own using a charcoal grill.

Gather the ingredients for apple cider smoked pulled pork

To make this recipe, start with a 9 ½-pound, bone-in pork shoulder butt. You'll also need some apple cider vinegar, apple cider, garlic salt, and pepper. Optionally, you can top off the cooked pork with barbecue sauce as well.

Prep the pork

While preheating the smoker to 250 F, score the meat. Using a sharp knife, cut diagonally on the fat which helps to render the fat better during cooking. Finally sprinkle the garlic salt (Marshall suggests 2-3 tablespoons) and pepper all over the pork and let it sit, seasoned and scored, for 15 minutes.

Whisk together apple cider mixtures

Pour the apple cider vinegar and apple cider into a small bowl and whisk. Once your mixture is done, pour it into a clean spray bottle.

Smoke and spray the pork

After the pork butt shoulder has rested for 15 minutes, place it in your smoker with the fat side up. Close the lid and leave it alone. After 2 hours of letting it smoke, open the lid and spray the meat with the apple cider mixture, respraying it all over every half hour. 

"The spray is meant to help keep moisture once the meat starts to dry out," explains Marshall. "Spraying comes in after two hours on the smoker because it would be too wet at first."

Fully cook the pork butt

After letting the pork smoke for 6 hours, the temp of the meat should be 165 F. "At hour 6 temp should be 165, finger should sink into the fat," explains Marshall, adding there should be "no firm bounce back. Smoking is done at this point. It's all about heat cooking now."

Wrap the meat, still fat side up, in foil or butcher paper to keep the moisture while the meat cooks. Then put it back on the smoker and cook for at least another 3 hours. After a total of 9 hours of cooking, check the internal temperature. If the meat is at 205 F, your pork is done cooking.

Let the meat rest

Now you can transfer your wrapped meat to a cooler or an oven (turned off) to give the meat time to rest. Marshall assures us that this 1 hour cooling period is crucial, explaining that the pork "will dry out if ripped apart immediately." 

Pull and serve the pork

Once it's done resting, unwrap the meat. The bone should pull out easily, so follow that up by shredding the pork. Use your hands, or forks, or meat claws to shred it most easily. "I like to pull the fork with my hands on a board, but that's just personal preference," Marshall says. "If I was using forks or claws, I'd put it in a large bowl to make pulling easier and to contain it."

Pour the remaining apple cider mixture into the shredded pork to add even more flavor. You can serve the meat with barbecue sauce over rice, or you could put it on sliders or hamburger buns.

Apple Cider Smoked Pulled Pork Recipe
5 from 63 ratings
This apple cider-infused pulled pork is smoked low and slow, resulting in optimal flavor and tenderness.
Prep Time
20
minutes
Cook Time
9
hours
Servings
9
Servings
smoked pulled pork sliders
Total time: 9 hours, 20 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1 (9 ½-pound) bone-in pork shoulder butt
  • garlic salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup apple cider
Optional Ingredients
  • barbecue sauce, for serving
Directions
  1. Preheat the smoker to 250 F.
  2. Score the meat by using a sharp knife to cut diagonally on the fat.
  3. Season the meat all over, liberally, with garlic salt and pepper. Let sit for 15 minutes.
  4. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the apple cider vinegar and apple cider. Transfer to a spray bottle.
  5. Place the prepared pork on the grill of the smoker fat side up. Close the lid and leave untouched for 2 hours.
  6. Spray the meat with the apple cider mixture every 30 minutes for 4 hours, to keep the exterior of the meat moist.
  7. After 6 hours on the smoker, when the temperature of the meat is at 165 F, wrap the meat fat side up in tin foil or butcher paper to keep the moisture in while the meat continues to cook.
  8. Place the wrapped pork back on the smoker and cook for at least 3 additional hours, until the internal temperature reaches 205 F.
  9. Transfer the wrapped meat to a cooler or in an oven that is turned off for 1 hour. This will give the meat time to rest.
  10. After cooling, unwrap the meat and pull out the bone. Shred the pork with your hands, forks, or meat claws.
  11. Mix the remaining apple cider mixture from the spray bottle with the pulled pork for extra flavor. Serve with barbecue sauce over rice or on slider or hamburger buns.
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