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While it’s common to cook the shoulder or even go whole-hog, our experts agree on the Boston butt as the go-to cut for pulled pork. Taken from the upper part of the shoulder behind the pig’s neck, it ranges in size from six to nine pounds and is evenly marbled to produce tender, well-flavored meat. Plus, from a practicality standpoint, not much goes to waste with Boston butt—there’s nothing but a shoulder blade to throw away. Cook with the fat cap on top, facing up. “This way, it braises the meat,” says Aaron. The fat eventually melts off, but it keeps the meat moist while cooking. Many butchers pre-trim these cuts, so call ahead and order an untrimmed cut with the fat cap still attached. All Bark, Plenty of Bite • The sugar and spices in your dry rub will caramelize while cooking and form a textured “bark” ranging in color from mahogany to dark brown. This crispy outer layer is looked on as the Holy Grail of pork barbecue; it should distribute evenly when pulled for serving and flavor every bite. • Season dense cuts of meat like Boston butt liberally before cooking; once it’s pulled, these spices have to flavor the entire cut—not just the surface.
Courtesy of Jimmy Hagood 7-9 lb. Boston butt Basic barbecue dry rub Lowcountry Vinegar Sauce
For the Lowcountry Vinegar Sauce: Combine 2 qts. each apple cider vinegar and white vinegar in a stockpot over medium heat. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer. Add 1/3 cup paprika, 1/4 cup oregano, 1/4 cup chili powder, 1/4 cup kosher salt, 1/4 cup black pepper, 2 Tbs. granulated garlic, 1½ Tbs. white sugar, and 1 Tbs. cayenne pepper. Drop in slices from 2 lemons and continue to simmer until liquid reaches 185°F, or 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. With your hands, season the meat with the dry rub. Set aside at room temperature. Light half the coals in the grill. When the briquettes are covered with gray ash, push an even amount of the coals to two sides, leaving a small circle of coals in the center. Place two chunks of wood on each pile. Place the seasoned meat (fat side up) on the grate in the center of grill. Place cover on grill and open ventilation holes. Add additional hot charcoal with shovel when the temperature falls to 220°F. Add additional wood chunks for two hours. When the internal meat temperature reaches 165°F, wrap in aluminum foil and place back on the grill, or finish in the oven at 225°F. When the internal meat temperature reaches 190 to 195°F, remove from grill or oven. Allow meat to rest for 30 minutes, then pull meat from bone and remove remaining fat cap. Chop with a meat cleaver. Sauce to taste.