Moist, tender, and packed full of flavor, this Traeger Pulled Pork is easy to make and is guaranteed to excite your tastebuds. Smoked pulled pork is delicious any time of year on a bun with some barbecue sauce or just with a fork.
Pulled Pork is one of my favorite meals. Whether I am making pulled pork sandwiches or eating it on the plate next to a salad, smoked pork is full of flavor and absolutely delicious. I have tried making pulled pork in the slow cooker, the dutch oven, the instant pot, and in the oven. I even own a bottle of liquid smoke that some of those recipes call for.
There is nothing better than the real deal.
Whether you go with a dry rub or a wet barbecue sauce, the flavorful taste you get from actual smoke is super delicious and tasty. I have made pulled pork in my propane vertical smoker, with charcoal in my Weber kettle, but those haven't been as easy as it is in my Traeger pellet smoker.
Pulled Pork tips for Beginners
If you are a seasoned old pro, go ahead and jump down to the recipe. If this is the first time you are trying to make pulled pork, these are some helpful tips for you.
Give yourself plenty of time. Every long smoke is different and the cooking time will vary. A good rule of them is that when it is going to take over eight hours to smoke something, give yourself at least an extra three hours from when you plan on serving. Making smoked pulled pork takes over eight hours, so give yourself plenty of time.
Use a leave-in meat thermometer.
Using a meat thermometer is key to smoking pulled pork. I use the Traeger thermometer probe to monitor the internal temperature of the meat. My Traeger can alert me through the phone app when the temperature hits the set goal. You are going to smoke the pork to a certain temperature, not for a set amount of time. If you do not have a Traeger grill, get a meat thermometer with an alarm that will alert you. Some of them run on Bluetooth or Wifi and can be very convenient.
Smoking a large piece of meat, like a shoulder, butt, or beef brisket will hit a stall. You will be watching the internal temperature on your Traeger pulled pork and it will go up and up and up and then appear to stop. This happens when the internal temperature hits the 150°F - 170°F range. Once you get to 160ºF it is safe to serve. But you will not have easily shredded pork if you stop cooking before the internal temperature reaches 202°F - 205°F. You need to be patient and get through the stall.
For more on the stall and how to get through it, read below.
Ingredients for making Traeger Smoked Pulled Pork
Pork - You have several different options when it comes to what pork to use. You can use bone-in or boneless pork. You can use a pork shoulder or a pork butt for smoked pulled pork. The key is to have a large piece (at least 4 lbs) that has a nice fat cap on it. As the pork cooks, that fat will naturally help to baste the meat and keep it moist. I purchased a large combo pack from Costco. It had a boneless pork shoulder and butt. I had never attempted two pieces like this but thought I could treat it as one and cook them right next to each other.
Yellow Mustard - This is to help hold the rub in place as the pork cooks. The mustard will get evaporated as the pork smokes, so do worry if you are not a fan of the flavor of yellow mustard. You can also use honey for the same purpose. Yellow mustard is cheaper than honey if you are budget conscious.
Rub Blend - If you have a favorite rub, go with that. You will need at least a cup of rub to cover this much meat. I went with a combination of garlic powder, salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, and some dehydrated honey for a little sweetness. You can easily swap out some of these for other ingredients. I have also used onion powder in place of garlic and white or brown sugar in place of honey. You can also add a little spice and some heat with either cayenne pepper or chili powder. The choice is up to you.
Traeger Pulled Pork Recipe
Step One: Prepare the pork. Take the pork out of the package and use paper towels to remove any moisture from the outside of the meat. Then you want to remove any excess fat from the meat. Look for areas where the fat is thicker than a quarter of an inch and cut it down to a quarter-inch or less. We want to remove those thick areas so that the smoke can access the meat. We don't want to remove all the fat, because we want it to baste the smoked pulled pork as it cooks.
Step Two: Coat the pork in mustard. Get in there and get dirty. Place the pork on a large cutting board or large baking sheet. Rub a coat of mustard all over the pork being sure to get all sides. This mustard is going to help our rub and seasoning adhere to the pork.
Step Three: Season with the dry rub. Sprinkle the rub on all sides of the pork and massage it into all the nicks and crannies. Be sure to get it thoroughly coated all over.
Step Four: Place the pork into your 225°-250°F pre-heated smoker. Place it directly on the grill grate with the fat side up. Insert your leave-in meat thermometer to monitor the internal temp of the pork.
Once your pork is on the grill, fight the temptation to constantly lift the lid to check it. Every time you open the smoker, you lose your heat and it will add more time to the total cooking time. Because the grill needs to come back up to temperature. Having a meat thermometer that you can read without having to open the grill is key. Watch the temperature until you get to that stall. It will happen about five to six hours into cooking the Traeger pulled pork.
Understanding the Stall
What causes the stall? This stall happens because of evaporation cooling the meat. The heat is drawing moisture out of the meat. This moisture acts like sweat and cools the meat. Once the moisture gets evaporated the temperature will start to rise more quickly.
If this is your first time smoking a large piece of meat, the stall will give you a tough time if you are not prepared. Here are some tips to handle it.
Ways to beat the stall:
- Give yourself enough time. On larger smokes, I will start my smoked pork shoulder the night before I plan to serve it. I will get the smoker going around 10 pm and let it smoke overnight. The Traeger temperature alarm will alert my phone and allow me to monitor it at any time. I can let the meat rest for several hours in a cooler before it is time to serve.
- Wrap the pork in foil. Wrapping the pork in foil will drastically speed up the cooking time and accelerate getting through the stall. I would only do this if absolutely necessary. Once the meat is wrapped in aluminum foil, it is unable to absorb any more flavor from the smoke. The moisture gets trapped inside the foil and quickly cooks the meat bringing it to the final temperature. This should be a last resort.
- Wrap the pork in pink butcher paper. This is one of the best choices for pushing through the stall a little more quickly. The butcher paper is porous, so the smoke and moisture are able to get through it. Wrapping the pork still adds some acceleration to getting through the stall.
- Finish it with another cooking style. Once you have smoked the pork and it has developed a solid flavorful bark. You can easily change the way you finish it. You can crank the heat on the smoker to get the cooking temp up and raise that internal temperature quicker. You can wrap it and finish it in the oven. You can even put it in your crockpot to finish cooking it. These might also be helpful if you didn't prepare enough fuel to finish the smoke as originally planned.
Pro Tip: Once you are about five to six hours into the smoke, the pork will have a nice bark crust. I like to pray it with apple cider vinegar to keep it moist. I will give it a quick spritz every 45 minutes or so. Just use a clean spray bottle and put about a cup of apple cider vinegar in it. If you don't have apple cider vinegar, you can also use apple juice.
Step Five: Once the pork has made it through the stall and the internal temperature has reached 202°-205°F, remove it from the smoker and let the smoked pulled pork rest in a cooler for at least two hours before shredding it. Be sure to check the temperature not only from the thickest part of the meat but also test a few spots throughout to ensure it has cooked evenly.
Step Six: After the meat has rested, place the pork in a big bowl and shred it apart with two large forks or claws. It should shred apart very easily. Serve it hot with your favorite bbq sauce.
Resting Tip: Rest the pork in a cooler with a tight lid. The cooler helps to keep the heat inside. It allows the pork to rest, without cooling. This is important because the heat in the cooler will keep the food at a safe temperature for several hours as it rests before you serve it.
How to serve Pulled Pork
- My favorite is stacked high on a bun, with bbq sauce. You honestly don't even need the bbq sauce, this pork is perfectly moist without it. But if you want an extra punch of flavor, go with your favorite sauce.
- Serve Traeger pulled pork on small slider buns for a fun and flavorful appetizer.
- You can also serve it on top of a salad, or not as a sandwich at all if you are cutting carbs.
- You can also use pulled pork in place of pork carnitas if you are looking to serve tacos. Change up some of the flavors in the rub to make it more of a Mexican flavor profile.
- Here are some of our favorite sides to serve with Traeger Pulled Pork:
How to Reheat Trager Pulled Pork
This recipe makes a pile of food. If you aren't having a large party, you will definitely want to freeze some of this for a later date. The easiest way is to put it into zip lock bags and freeze it. Be sure to put into the portion sizes that you would use. If a pound feeds your family dinner, put it into one-pound portions to freeze.
When it comes time to reheat it. Let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Then an hour or so before you want to serve place the pulled pork into an aluminum pan or a roasting sheet. Add a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or bbq sauce for moisture. Cover with aluminum foil and heat in the oven or on the grill for about 30 - 40 minutes at a temperature of about 300°F. Make sure it is thoroughly heated and then serve.
Try our other Traeger Pork Recipes
- 6 lbs pork shoulder either shoulder or butt, boneless or bone-in
- ½ cup yellow mustard
- ¼ cup salt
- ¼ cup garlic powder
- ¼ cup smoked paprika can substitute paprika
- 1 tablespoon dehydrated honey can substitute brown or white sugar
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- Remove pork from packaging and dry with a paper towel. Remove any excess fat.
- Coat pork with yellow mustard.
- Mix dry seasonings(salt, pepper, dehydrated honey, smoked paprika, and garlic powder) and rub seasoning all over pork being sure to cover every side.
- Preheat smoker to 225°F
- Place pork on smoker fat side up. Insert a meat thermometer to monitor internal temperature as it cooks.
- Once the internal temperature reaches 160°F, lightly spray with apple cider vinegar every 45 minutes or so.
- Once the internal temperature reaches 202°F in the thickest part of the meat, remove pork from the smoker, wrap in butcher paper, and place in a cooler. Allow pork to rest for at least two hours.
- Remove pork from the cooler. Remove from butcher paper. Place it in a large bowl and shred pork apart. Pull it apart with either two large forks or cooking claws.
- Serve with your favorite bbq sauce and sides.