How to cook pulled pork on a gas grill? Not all of us have smokers. There are a lot of gas grills out there. Shouldn't we have pulled pork too? I say yes. Pulled pork for all, and with a little planning, it is not that hard. Just plan enough time.
Introduction and My Rating
I consider three things as the "holy grails" of BBQ. Brisket, baby back ribs and pulled pork from pork butt. And all three can be done on your gas grill with a little care., but pulled pork from pork butt is my absolute favorite.
The best pulled pork comes from pork butt, which is high in fat and connective tissue. It is cooked low and slow to melt the connective tissue into the meat, producing fall-apart tender meat that is heaven on earth.
Let's learn to do it with the gas grill you already have in a logical way that is easy once you understand it.
Yep, I could live on pulled pork.
Like many cuts of meat, there are multiple names about the same thing. Pork butt and Boston butt are the same. Pork shoulder is the thinner area of this cut but is commonly cooked and used the same as the butt. It has a bit less marbling and less fat and is usually not separated from the butt.
If you are wondering, butt means thick, so that is why the term "butt" is used. Lastly, the picnic ham and picnic shoulder are not the same as this cut.
1) Pork butt. I suggest a 4-6 pound Boston butt. This method should be fine for up to 8 pounds and maybe more. Of course, the cooking time increases. Assume about 1/2 pound per serving.
2) A gas grill with a lot of gas. I have natural gas, so I'm good to go. If you are on a tank, start with a full one. It is always good to have a backup tank. If you run out with no backup. Pop it in the oven at 250. See the oven recipe linked below.
3) A rub. Whatever rub you love The rub should have some sugar, salt, and various spices. Some cooks will rub it on the day before and refrigerate (I did since I had this planned), but others rub on an hour before the cooking, and I believe this is good also. If you don't have a rub, I have included a suggested one below.
4) Some method of smoking. I have a smoking box built-in my new grill. On my old grill, I used a cast-iron smoking box (link in The Cooking for Two Shop.) You could use an aluminum foil pack of wood chips. I generally use hickory, but cherry, pecan, mesquite, and apple are commonly used. Some people like oak but I really dislike oak for this.
5) A way to watch the temperature of the grill surface. I now use my ThermaQ Blue from Themoworks, which you will find in My Shop. There are many other devices that will work. You can also use a cheap surface thermometer, but you will need to keep checking it, and that is not ideal.
6) Time... lots of time. I took 11 hours on the grill then a 2-hour rest before we ate. Bigger will take longer.
NEED HELP WITH THE GRILL?
Do I Have to Use a Grill/Smoker for Pulled Pork from Pork Butt?
No. Check out the oven and crock pot recipes.
⏰🌡️Time and Temperature
How long to cook pork butt?
The general consensus is 1 1/2 to 2 hours per pound at 250 degrees, but it always seems to take me a bit longer. Smaller and bone-in pork butts tend to be a bit longer per pound since the cooking time is more related to thickness than weight.
Always remember, you are cooking to a final internal temperature, not by time.
If you have a time-critical cook, do it the day before and reheat. Or do it early. The wrapping before shredding can be as little as 30 minutes, and I have left it for 4 hours wrapped well in a cooler with great results. That gives you a big buffer of time.
What final internal temperature for pulled pork?
This is dangerous territory I going into since there are many strong opinions. I go for 195°-200° minimum, but I prefer 200°-205°. And I see 208° or 210° argued as the absolute best. Lower will be a bit moister, but a bit less tender and higher is less moist but a bit more tender. I can't tell the difference. I'll take the middle ground.
What rub to use?
Use the rub of your choice. Look around, and you will find thousands of variations, all of which will work. There are many commercial rubs, also.
Here is a simple rub from my 8:3:1:1 rub post, and I included it in the recipe. This makes more than you need, save the excess for another cooking.
- 8 Tablespoons (1/2 cup) Brown sugar
- 3 Tablespoons Kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
Should I inject the pork butt?
I don't, but you can add flavors and moisture with an injection. But pork butt is very moist, and I want it to taste like pork butt.
Fat pad up or down for pork butt?
Per many experts, it doesn't matter. You are not melting fat into the pork. You are melting the connective tissue and fat in the meat.
Bone-in or boneless?
It really doesn't matter much. To me, bone-in just seems right for the grill. It is an unmodified hunk of pork. But bone-in does take a bit longer to cook.
Should I soak the wood chips?
Tradition says yes, but most experts say not it is not needed. Some will say it prevents the wood from catching on fire and that they smoke longer. I have become convinced it doesn't matter, so I have removed that from the process.
What is "the stall" and what should I do about it?
Pork butts and beef brisket will hit a temperature "stall" when it starts to break down the connective tissue, usually in the 160° plus or minus a little. It may last only minutes or several hours. But the temperature will not move.
Think of it as the energy of the cooking melting the connective tissue, a very good thing. But there is also some fluid evaporation you can prevent by wrapping. See the grill brisket recipe for instructions if you want.
What to do about it? NOTHING, in my opinion, for the home grillers.
I suggest my homemade Memphis Barbecue Sauce; A Wonderful Thing. This sauce always disappears, and others are left untouched at parties. But use any sauce you love.
One quick reminder, do not reheat with BBQ sauce. The acid in it will destroy the texture of the meat.
What to serve with pulled pork?
Coleslaw, baked beans, cornbread, and potato salad are generally severed. I tend to not do a lot of side dishes; it leaves more room for pork.
♨️How to Reheat?
I like to reheat on a sheet pan; I sprinkle with a little water on my hand (don’t overdo it). Cover tightly with foil and into the oven at 250-300 until hot. The time varies by how you shredded it and the amount on the tray. You can then turn the oven down (keep it covered) or transfer to a crock pot on low to keep warm. (usually 45 minutes or so in the oven for me). I know that is not very exact, but you get the idea.
Never reheat with sauce applied, the acid will destroy the texture.
📖Classic Grill Recipes
My "How to Grill" series, master all these techniques, and you will officially be a grill master.
How to Cook a Brisket on a Gas Grill
Start with about a cup of the rub of your choice. I used a variation from an 8:3:1:1 rub.
Jump in with your hands and apply the rib. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight if you can. But rub and grill is acceptable.
Set up your gas grill for indirect cooking. This means the meat is not over direct heat. You will see a pan under the pork to catch any drippings. This is on the indirect heat side. The other side has a pan of water over the direct heat. Adjust the burners to get a steady 250°.
Add the meat to the indirect side. I went with the fat side up.
Start your smoke. Here I added chips to my smoke box. You can also apply smoke with a separate smoker box or an aluminum foil pouch with slots.
Cook at approximately 250° until 190° minimum in all locations. 195° to 200° is good. I prefer 200° to 205°. It took me 11 hours for my 4 1/2 pound bone-in butt.
Remove from the grill and wrap tightly in double sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Wrap in towels for 30 minutes to 2 hours. You can extend this time by wrapping more and using a small cooler - up to 3-4 hours.
Hand shred with a couple of forks. The bone should come out clean.
Pulled Pork on a Gas Grill – Not That Hard
- 4-6 pounds Pork butt
- 1 cup rub of your choice or 8:3:1:1
- 3-4 cups wood chips - type of your choice
8:3:1:1 Rub - this makes just under one cup which is fine.
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Start with about a cup of the rub of your choice. I used a variation from an 8:3:1:1 rub.
- Jump in with your hands and apply the rib. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight if you can. But rub and grill is acceptable.
- Set up your gas grill for indirect cooking. This means the meat is not over direct heat. You will see a pan under the pork to catch any drippings. This is on the indirect heat side. The other side has a pan of water over the direct heat. Adjust the burners to get a steady 250°.
- Add the meat to the indirect side. I went with the fat side up.
- Start your smoke. Here I added chips to my smoke box. You can also apply smoke with a separate smoker box or an aluminum foil pouch with slots.
- Cook at approximately 250° until 190° minimum in all locations. 195° to 200° is good. I prefer 200° to 205°. It took me 11 hours for my 4 1/2 pound bone-in butt.
- Hand shred with a couple of forks. The bone should come out clean. Best served freshly pulled.
- There are lots of tips in the full recipe post. If you are new to this, please read the post.
- Estimated cooking time is 1 1/2 to 2 hours per pound. But smaller pork butts tend to be longer than that. Bone-in also takes a bit longer.
- You must be able to monitor grill surface temperature to do this. Please do not try without it. You want 250° grill surface temperature. You also must be able to check the internal temperature of the meat.
- You can keep reapplying smoke, but I find 1 hours is good for me. Your choice. I prefer hickory chips.
- Bone-in or boneless does not matter. And fat pad up or down does not matter.
- Use a rub of your choice. I provided a suggested rub. You may decrease the salt if you want.
- Done is really 200°-205° internal temperature. Don't settle for under 190°.
- Do not shred immediately. Wrap with foil and let the fluid absorb for at least 15 minutes but one hour is better.
- You can delay shedding time by 2-3 hours with wrapping the foil sealed butt in multiple towels and a small cooler if you have one.
- Good refrigerated for 3-4 days but I prefer 2 days since the texture seems to suffer. Will freeze well for 3-4 months.
- I like to reheat on a sheet pan, I sprinkle with a little water on my hand (don’t overdo it). Cover tightly with foil and into the oven at 250°-300° until hot. The time varies by how you shredded it and the amount on the tray. You can then turn the oven down (keep it covered) or transfer to a crock pot on low to keep warm. (usually 45 minutes or so in the oven for me). I know that is not very exact but you get the idea.
- Never reheat with sauce applied, the acid will destroy the texture.
- The most common error is poor grill setup. Please see How To Set Up Your Gas Grill for Smoking and Low and Slow Cooking.
Editor's Note: Originally Posted July 15, 2012. This recipe has been one of the more popular recipes on the site and was way overdue for a facelift. I have re-edited the text and added more useful information. Photos have been re-edited and a few taken from other recipes to clarify things. Please enjoy learning how to do pulled pork on your gas grill.