Memphis Style Pulled Pork Barbecue

March 29, 2010
1 Ratings
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

This recipe was originally submitted several years ago as oven-barbecued pork and was a Community Pick. Where it really shines, though, is on a grill. The ingredients and prep are exactly the same; I've gone through and edited the headnote and directions, starting with Step 2. You need eight hours on a charcoal grill, but I promise, it's worth it. —Kayb

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe yields some of the best barbecued pork we've ever tasted. After a few low and slow hours in the oven, the roast comes out super moist, sweet-spicy, peppery and crispy. The rub is balanced and really penetrates the meat, leaving a nice, pink ring around the outside edge. The sauce has just the right amount of tomato-y tartness for balance. We found this to be an embarrassingly easy way to get barbecue flavor without having to go outside, or do much work at all. - Emily —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 3 tablespoons each of kosher salt, black pepper, cumin, chili powder, and coriander
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons each of ground ginger, dry mustard, and celery seed
  • 1 tablespoon allspice
  • 2 teaspoons each ground thyme and dried oregano, crumbled
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup neutral vegetable oil
  • 5-6 pounds Boston butt roast or half pork shoulder
  • 4 tablespoons ketchup or tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • hot sauce to taste
  1. Mix the spices, herbs and sugar in a small bowl until thoroughly blended. Set aside 6 tablespoons of the mixture, and use as much as needed to heavily coat the pork roast. You may have rub left over; it keeps well in an airtight container and does wonders for any kind of pork or chicken. Wrap the roast tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  2. The next day, remove roast from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. While it's warming, build your fire: two equal piles of charcoal briquettes on either side of a grill (barrel grills or other rectangular ones work best, though you can also use a kettle style smoker). Let the coals burn until they're covered with grayish white ash. Put the butt in between the two piles, so it gets indirect heat from both sides.
  3. Meanwhile, in n a small saucepan, blend reserved 6 tbsp. dry rub mix, vinegar, water, tomato paste or ketchup, and worcestershire sauce. Add hot sauce to taste (a dash or two is good).
  4. Once pork has cooked for an hour, baste with sauce every 30 minutes for 1 1/2 hours, and then go to an hourly baste for another six to seven hours, or until the bone in the pork wiggles freely. You will probably need to add coals during this process; build a separate fire and add the after they've already burned down to ash-covered. You can probably get by with adding coals twice during the period of cooking.
  5. When bone wiggles freely and meat is pull-apart tender, remove from grill and tent with foil; allow to sit for at least 20 minutes. Serve by pulling chunks of meat from bone. Should, to be authentic, be served with vinegar cole slaw and baked beans; bread is optional, but roasted corn on the cob is nice. And gallons of iced tea and lots of cold beer.
  6. If you want a sauce to serve on the side, take remaining basting sauce (or make more), add another 4 tbsp tomato paste, and simmer until it reaches the desired thickness.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Kayb
  • twinjadojo
  • Pat E. in SLO
    Pat E. in SLO
  • lapadia
  • mrslarkin
I'm a business professional who learned to cook early on, and have expanded my tastes and my skills as I've traveled and been exposed to new cuisines and new dishes. I love fresh vegetables, any kind of protein on the grill, and breakfasts that involve fried eggs with runny yolks. My recipes tend toward the simple and the Southern, with bits of Asia or the Mediterranean or Mexico thrown in here and there. And a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a float in the lake, as pictured, is a pretty fine lunch!

24 Reviews

pvanhagenlcsw July 14, 2015
What are the specific oven instructions for this. I was unable to find them in the comment section. Thanks
Kayb July 14, 2015
Start it at 200 and roast for an hour before basting. Baste every 30 minutes for 1 1/2 hours, then hourly for two more. Raise heat to 250 and continue to roast for a total of 6-8 hours, basting hourly, until you can stick a fork in it, twist, and the meat pulls easily. Let rest for 20-30 minutes.
Jan June 28, 2015
KatyWho, I made all the meat in the oven, see comment below. One oven had meat in the Dutch oven ( enamel-coated cast iron, like a Le Creuset ), and my other oven had meat on a roasting rack. I basted the meat on the roasting rack, following the recipe directions: once every half hour for 1.5 hours, then hourly for a total of 6-8 hours. This method produced meat with a thick crust. For the meat in the Dutch oven, I applied the basting sauce 2 times, 30 minutes, then again at one hour of cooking time, and then left it to cook for 6-8 hours total. The Dutch oven meat does not need more sauce as it self-bastes in the Dutch oven.Hope that helps.
KatyWho June 27, 2015
I cannot make this on a grill. Can you provide the oven directions?
Jan January 22, 2015
I made this 7 days ago and my house still smells like cumin! Wayyyy too much in this spice rub! I bought a huge package (15lbs) of pork shoulder from Costco. I did the rub as instructed, but only have one large roasting pan. I put half the pork in the roasting pan on rack, and the other half in 7 qt. dutch oven. I basted as instructed, except after 2 applications of the basting sauce, the meat in the Dutch oven was very moist and did not need anymore. I followed the rest of the instructions for the meat in the rack. We preferred the meat in the Dutch oven, as it was fall-apart tender and moist. The meat on the rack gained a thick crust and was quite dry. We did not like the taste or textrue of the crust. I'm not sure if it wold have been better if I had cooked longer, or shorter, but I think it was in for 6-8 hours, at specified temps and with the basting as instructed. I am not the "meat cooker" in our home, so I was pleased with the dutch oven method and would do again. I will use another rub with fewer ingredients and no cumin. I made double the quantities of the rub mixture and had lots left over, even though I used 3x the meat. A single recipe of the rub is sufficient for a large quantity of meat. I did need the double recipe for the basting sauce, and 90% of that was used on the roasting-rack meat. I would have needed more if both meats were in roasting pans.
Kayb October 24, 2014
email notifications while I'm at my desk are a Good Thing....
twinjadojo October 24, 2014
Hey there, Kayb! I'm blending my rub now and dreaming of BBQ tomorrow. Quick question, where does the 1/2c. oil belong? I'm assuming it's part of the basting sauce, but I'd love confirmation. And please forgive me if it's right up there in black and white and it keeps falling in my blind spot.
Kayb October 24, 2014
Sorry! yes, it's in the basting sauce. It'll keep separating on you, so just stir with the brush before you baste with it.
twinjadojo October 24, 2014
Superhero-speed answer! Thank you so much.
BadCat January 21, 2014
Blizzard fare!! Can't wait to eat this puppy tomorrow evening!
Kayb January 21, 2014
It'll warm you from the inside out! Enjoy!
Bates E. May 30, 2013
This sounds great! I'm going to try it. ONE QUESTION, THOUGH. Why do we need kosher salt when we're cooking pork? ;-)
Kayb May 30, 2013
H'mmm. Reform barbecue, maybe?
cincoymaya October 15, 2012
I just made this and it was delicious. Also super easy though you have to plan on being around the whole time the roast is cooking in order to baste it.
Kayb October 15, 2012
So glad you enjoyed it! always happy to make another convert to Memphis-style barbecue!
Pat E. February 5, 2011
I just pulled a 15 pound monster roast out of the oven to tent and set for 20 minutes....but I couldn't resist a taste. OMG! Yes....there may be a little left for super bowl tomorrow but I know what I'm having for dinner tonight! BTW...the coleslaw is cooling on the counter as well. Mmmmmmmm.
Kayb February 5, 2011
You will be the hostess they'll be talking about for a long time! That stuff is just so good as to not be believed. Glad you made it and glad the taste-test was positive!
Pat E. February 8, 2011
It was incredible delicious! A huge hit. Thanks again.
lapadia November 27, 2010
A lot of tasty possibilities with this recipe; very similar to the one we do that uses a bit of beer too. I was just now thinking that perhaps when done in the oven a little bit of liquid smoke could be added with the wet ingredients, thinking that it might pick up a little of the smoke (?). If I ever do it in th oven I will have to try it. OH....late congrats on the EP!!
mrslarkin May 29, 2010
This sounds terrific. Can it be it that easy?? I can't wait to try it.
Kayb May 29, 2010
Yes. It is that easy. Now, it's better, and more work, if you do it over coals, but it is in fact that easy in the oven.
Kayb April 8, 2010
Excited to be chosen an editor's pick, and so glad the editors enjoyed the barbecue! Thanks, all!
AntoniaJames April 8, 2010
Love this recipe! Any barbeque recipe that calls for a tablespoon of allspice is a winner in my book, hands down. This reminds me a lot of the ingredient combination in my mother's (excellent, family favorite) "19th hole" pulled pork. Your suggestion for a vinegar cole slaw is excellent, too! Congrat"s, Kayb, on this Editors' Pick!
testkitchenette March 29, 2010
Makes me want to run to the 24 hour market and cook pork all night! I want to make it a one bowl meal by shredding it into the cole slaw, roasted corn to the slaw, and stir the beans in. I'll still take the beer on the side though. Great recipe and method!