What Is Pulled Pork?

A short history of everyone's favorite Southern barbecue dish

Pulled Pork

Pulled pork is a staple of Southern cooking, particularly in the Carolinas, where chefs have perfected the art of barbecue.

This tender, fatty, and flavorful meat is usually made with pork shoulder (sometimes referred to as pork butt, Boston shoulder, or picnic shoulder). Pork shoulder is an inexpensive cut that can weigh anywhere from eight to 20 pounds, yielding a sizable amount of meat for barbecuing. (Photo courtesy of flickr/A Mazuna)

Making sensational pulled pork requires smoking the pork shoulder over low heat for a long period of time. This slowly softens the connective tissue, making it so tender that it practically falls apart before it even needs to be “pulled.” (Photo courtesy of flickr/Alaska Cooks)

The process of smoking pork was created when the Spanish settlers first arrived in the United States. They watched natives building a smoky fire underneath their game, and took notice of how the process kept bugs away and preserved the meat. This is said to be the first known barbecue process. Over time, the process evolved, with the migration of Africans and Europeans to the South. Pigs became a main source of meat for people in the Southern colonies, due to their cheap price tag and easy maintenance.

Paired with a little barbeque sauce, cole slaw, and a bun, pulled pork makes for one of the best sandwiches out there. In Mexican cuisine, pulled pork is refered to as carnitas and is paired with onions, cilantro, beans, and guacamole, and makes for a delicious taco.


While traditional pulled pork is smoked, it can also be made at home by braising the shoulder in the oven, until the meat falls apart. (Photo couresty of flickr/wynk)