There’s no point in denying or hiding it, pulled pork tastes best when smoked. By smoking it, the fat of your pork shoulder will be enriched with a delectable set of tasting notes brought on by the wood, not to mention how tender it’ll come out tasting.
The tender and juicy nature of smoked pulled pork is why, if you take your BBQ seriously, you’ll smoke it.
A good wood for smoking pulled pork should never overpower the pork’s flavor, it should only enhance it. So, to ensure you and your family are tucking into the juiciest, smoke-infused pulled pork in town, we’re going to hit you with the top three woods for smoking pulled pork today.
With each of these premium wood varieties offering its own distinct flavor profile, all you need to decide is which one tickles you best, and let the smoking commence.
The most common wood varieties for smoking pulled pork are hickory, apple, maple, pecan, cherry, oak, and pear. Notice how the majority of these wood types are fruit species?
This isn’t by accident. The reason is that fruity woods infuse pulled pork with a mild sweetness, and have less chance of overpowering the taste of the meat.
That being said, hickory is extremely popular for smoking pulled pork because it too offers sweetness, but it also brings a more impactful smoky flavor.
One wood you have to watch out for, and that most chefs tend to avoid is mesquite. Its intense, earthy flavor is known to overpower the subtleness of pulled pork.
Just as there are different wood species that can smoke pulled pork, there are different sizes too. Wood pellets are the smallest type of smoking wood that is formed from a mixture of hardwood and sawdust.
Although they are generally used in pellet grills, they can also work well in small to medium-sized smokers. They are also the most economical option.
Considered the “all-rounder” of smoking, wood chips are where most home smokers turn to. They are roughly cut 1-2 inches in diameter, and work well in small/ medium-sized grills and smokers (for which most backyard smokers tend to be).
If you’re the proud owner of a particularly large smoker then you’ll be in the market for wood chunks or maybe even wood logs. Because of their size, wood chunks and logs burn longer and are perfect for smoking larger cuts of meat.
Ask any smoking extraordinaire what the best wood for smoking pulled pork is, and nine times out of ten you’ll get the answer “hickory”.
This medium-intensity wood gives pork a sweet and distinct flavor with an underlying sense of intensity that keeps you coming back for more and more.
Think about how downright delicious hickory-smoked bacon is. Then remember how bacon and pulled pork come from the same animal, and it suddenly all falls into place.
When looking to smoke a good-sized pork shoulder for pulling purposes, you simply can not pass up Oklahoma Joe’s hickory wood smoker chunks.
There’s little point in spending your hard-earned dollars on a hefty pork shoulder only to go and smoke it with sub-par wood chunks, and these are nothing of the sort.
All killer, no filler, each chunk is real wood that will ignite in no time and create an even burn through. Oklahoma Joe’s is also known for the noticeable lack of bark that is left on their chunks, which is another telling sign of their premium smoking nature.
Since the dawn of time - there have been apples, and there has been pork. This flavor pairing is one that needs no introduction, but it's so dang good, we’re going to give it one anyway.
Apple wood is a low-intensity wood that leans on the sweeter side of life to be brilliant. The delicate sweetness that apple gives pulled pork is a match that must be made in the heavens.
Hitting the barbeque scene way back in the early 70s, Mr Bar-B-Q has established itself as the wood company that Americans turn to when there’s some BBQing to be done.
Their premium, 100% apple hardwood chips are perfect for smokers (that we already know), but they also make great assistants for grilling on gas and charcoal grills as well
On top of their supreme smoking means for pulled pork - effortlessly treading the line between sweet and extreme ensures these wood chips work well with other meat varieties too.
Pork, beef, chicken, fish, ribs, lamb - name one meat that wouldn’t benefit from a mild apple flavor through its juicy, tender flesh, and we’ll wait? Because it doesn’t exist!
This 1.6-pound bag doesn’t come cheap, but can you really put a price on the best apple wood chips in America?
Also, 1.6 pounds is more than enough for multiple smoking sessions. Especially if you use the wood in conjunction with charcoal (as most smokers do) for a more complex flavor and frugality.
If the price tag of the first two wood types gave you a gulp of hesitation, then you’ll be pleased to know Western keeps its prices very competitive.
Although maple may not be the first wood that comes to mind for smoking pulled pork, that doesn’t mean it isn’t one of the best.
Sure, it may not have the fruity notes that come through in an apple, but its moderate smokiness and subtle sweetness make it certifiably delicious in its own right.
While maple may be a harder smoking wood to find in stores, Western’s smoking chips are currently flying off the internet’s shelves and straight into backyard smokers across the country, and we’re guessing yours might be next?
Western does their wood chips in 180-cubic inch bags with clear instructions, cooking tips, and tricks printed to help you smoke your game day spread to perfection.
Whether you’re doing pulled pork sliders, sausages, veggies, salmon, ribs, whatever it is, the subtle sweetness of Western’s maple comes eager to flavor.
Gas grill, electric smoker, whatever your setup is, these wood chips burn for 20-30 minutes and come dry and ready to slide right in and start smoking in no time.
Pork shoulder is considered the optimal cut of pork for making pulled pork. As a result of its high-fat content, pork shoulder yields to offer tender, juicy meat that practically falls to pull apart.
However, if you’re smoking shoulder for pulled pork, there’s no question, you really do need to let it cook slow, low, and long to get the best of it.
If you try to cook it too quickly on high heat, the proteins won’t have time to break down, and that tender, juicy pulled pork you’ve been dreaming of eating will still be just a dream.
This question comes with a can of worms attached to it, because both have their pros, and both have their cons.
If you’ve got the time and energy to dedicate to making the best-pulled pork that you possibly can, then there’s no other cut to turn to than a large, bone-in pork shoulder.
However, the quicker and easier option of the two is most definitely boneless pork shoulder. Not only is it quicker to smoke (which also uses less wood), but it can be cut into slices and is therefore noticeably quicker to shred than bone-in.
This sped-up handling time means people in a time bound with a million other components on the go that all need to come together for Sunday lunch generally turns to boneless for their pulled pork.
Smoked pulled pork is notoriously tricky to get right, and that is because it is prone to cooking dry. Even BBQing experts and chefs alike can be apprehensive when it comes time to try their pulled pork, as no cut of pork is safe from going drier than the wood that cooked it.
Two tips that can help steer your smoker to pulled pork mastery is choosing one large cut of meat and reducing the amount of its surface that is exposed to the heat.
By keeping the chunkier side of your meat off the heat, you’ll ensure the smoker can do its thing while preserving the moisture within the meat, and without fear of it getting overcooked on a long-time smoke.
Choosing to smoke pulled pork is a clear indication that you care about the end result. Using premium maple, hickory, or apple wood is an even clearer indication that you want that end result to taste its best.
With each wood having its own unique flavor profile and tasting notes, it really comes down to personal preference and how much you want your meat to take on the wood type’s intensity, or not.
We hope this article and the premium wood within it will be helpful in your reaching pulled pork success. Allowing you to safely assume the self-appointed position of being “that guy”, or “that gal” that people turn to when they’ve got smoking woes.
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