Competition pulled pork

Competition pulled pork

The Hang Fire Cookbook

We went along to several regional barbecue competitions while we were in the States; it’s a fascinating world, full of tips, tricks and determination to gain the edge over the competition and make the judges giddy with one bite of meat (as that’s often all they take). We observed this pork recipe in action at the ‘40th Annual World’s Oldest BBQ Cooking Contest’ in Covington, TN. The pit boss of one particularly successful team kindly talked us through his recipe, and we even got to take it to their ‘turn in’ entry to the judges’ table with a crew member (way more nerve-wracking than it sounds). They humbly requested to remain nameless as a team because they use a very similar recipe for most competitions. All we can say is, thanks to the pit master we called ‘Soda Pop Bob’, we hope we’ve done your recipe justice. Anyone that makes, or is interested in, competition barbecue won’t be put off by this process, but it can feel intimidating to attempt for the first time, plus if you look at the timings, you’ll be working on this piece of meat every few hours, so you won’t get much sleep. Take your time and go through the recipe stage by stage, we’re sure you’ll enjoy the final product.


Quantity Ingredient
1 x 4.5kg bone-in, rindless pork shoulder
100ml groundnut oil
fine sea salt, to taste

For the flavour injection

Quantity Ingredient
150ml apple juice
5 tablespoons soft light brown sugar
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon fine sea salt

For the competition rub

Quantity Ingredient
50g dark brown sugar
30g paprika
30g garlic salt
30g onion powder
20g fine sea salt
20g ancho chilli powder
20g toasted fennel seeds, ground
10g cayenne pepper
10g ground black pepper

For the spritz juice

Quantity Ingredient
100ml apple juice
100ml cider vinegar

For the wrap juice

Quantity Ingredient
50g * south carolina mustard sauce [rid:33217]
50g soft light brown sugar
50ml cider vinegar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the finishing sauce and glaze

Quantity Ingredient
100g Hang Fire smokehouse barbecue sauce
100g see method for ingredients
50ml cider vinegar
100g unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fine sea salt



    In a pan, combine the flavour injection ingredients with 100ml water over low heat. Cook, stirring, for 4–5 minutes until the salt and sugar dissolve. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  2. Trim off any excess fat from the pork – you only want to leave about 3mm on the top. Place in a baking tray while you inject the flavour injection. Fill a basting syringe with the flavour injection mixture and, working in straight lines about 5cm apart, push the needle in and slowly pull the needle from the pork as you squeeze the plunger. Repeat, until you have used all of the mixture. If you plan on handing in what’s known as ‘The Money Muscle’, see the recipe note before you make a start on preparing the shoulder. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 2 hours. Bring the pork out of the fridge to allow it to rest at room temperature while you prepare your smoker.

    In a bowl, combine the ingredients for the competition rub. Pat the pork dry with kitchen towels and rub the oil in, liberally sprinkle on about half the competition rub, reserving the other half for later. Make sure it’s well coated, lightly patting the rub into the oil as you go. Bob kindly reminded us that ‘it ain’t no massage parlour’ – so don’t rub in too vigorously! Put the pork back in the fridge for 2 hours. After this time, take the pork out of the fridge for 30 minutes before you put it in the smoker.
  4. Set your grill up for indirect heat at 108°C. As it starts to come up to temperature, it’s time to add your wood. Arrange your pork shoulder on the grates, fatside down. Cook for 3 hours. Meanwhile, combine the spritz juice ingredients in a clean spray bottle. After the 3-hour mark, flip your pork so the fat is facing upwards and spritz all over with your apple and cider vinegar mix. Continue to cook for another 5 hours, spritzing and adding wood every hour or so, or as and when needed for up to 5–6 hours. Spritz the pork again, then continue to cook for another 3 hours. At this stage, use an instant-read thermometer to check that the internal temperature of the pork is about 77°C (careful you don’t hit the bone when you are checking the temperature of the pork). This is the temperature you want to hit before thinking about removing the ‘Money Muscle’

    In a small pan, warm the ingredients and stir well until fully combined. Remove your pork shoulder from the smoker and put in a disposable foil tin. Pour the wrap juice all over the pork, make a foil tent with a double layer of foil over the tin, and ensuring there are no holes. The foil should be crimped tightly around the tin but should not touch the pork. Transfer to the smoker, crank the heat up to 121°C and cook for 6 hours. Carefully remove the pork and set it back in the smoker. Cook for a further 2–3 hours, or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 93°C.

    While your shoulder is just coming to temperature, prepare your finishing sauce and glaze.
  7. In a small saucepan, combine the ingredients and warm through over medium-low heat. Strain through a metal sieve into a bowl, using a spoon to push through to get a smooth spreadable glaze and sauce.
  8. Remove the shoulder from the smoker and carefully remove the foil tent – it will be piping hot – and reserve this if you can. Brush on some of the finishing glaze and sprinkle over some of the reserved championship rub, then return to the smoker for 30 minutes. Remove your pork from the smoker, cover tightly with a fresh sheet of foil and put it in a cool box for 1 hour.
  9. With either bear claws or heatproof gloves, start to pull the shoulder blade bone out. Shred the meat into small and medium pieces, being careful to remove and discard any connective tissue and excess fat. Don’t over-shred the meat – you want to get plenty of bark in there and some pieces that show off your smoke ring. Mix through some of the finishing sauce so each piece is beautifully glazed. If you are serving the ‘money muscle’, brush some sauce onto each slice of that, too. Finish with a light sprinkling of fine sea salt.
  10. Place a loose ball of pulled pork, about fist size, in the top of your perfect ‘putting green’ parsley box and lay your glazed slices of money muscle below. Most importantly, get to the turn-in well on time. You really don’t want to have to sprint and squeeze through crowds with your precious cargo, so plan your route and have a dedicated person do this. We’ll pass on the final piece of advice that ‘Soda Pop Bob’ gave us… ‘Don’t drop it, girls!’

Show me the money (muscle)

  • It seems to be the modus operandi for today’s competition teams to hand in the ‘money muscle’ with their pulled pork boxes. However, we did notice that not all teams did, and we also noticed their names weren’t called. We’re assuming that it shows the judges an extra level of skill and expertise. The money muscle is pretty easy to identify – it’s the long muscle on the side of the pork shoulder that has evenly spaced stripes of fat running horizontally down it. Most Kansas City Barbecue Society sanctioned barbecue competitions prohibit any separation of a ‘whole’ piece while it’s uncooked. You’ll want to work with a flexible boning knife to try and separate this muscle as much as possible from the main shoulder, leaving a little at the base so it remains connected. Sneaky huh? Trim any excess fat from around the muscle.

    Just before the wrapping stage, cut the muscle off and make a separate foil parcel for it. Add a large knob of butter, Hang Fire Smokehouse Barbecue Sauce and a sprinkling of brown sugar to the foil parcel and put the muscle on top. Wrap tightly and return to the smoker along with your shoulder.

    After 30 minutes of cooking, open the money muscle foil parcel so the bark reforms (you may want to brush the contents of the parcel all over the muscle). Return to the pit for 15 minutes. Take it out again, discard any excess liquid from the foil parcel, and wrap back up again in foil and return it to the pit. Keep an eye on the temperature and remove it when it hits 82–85°C. Set the parcel in your thermal box until you’re ready to carve into slices and serve with your competition pulled pork.

Cooking Methods

  • Indirect Smoking/Grilling


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Deep South
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