Pulled pork. One of my favorite things to smoke. So tender and so good. It is perfect on tacos, rolls or simply eaten with a fork. The only problem is that it takes forever to make. Setting up the smoker, smoking the meat and then pulling the pork can take about 12-15 hours. That's brutal considering a good portion of that time is spent adjusting smoker vents, adding wood and checking the temperature. When Char-Broil showed me their electric smoker I instantly rolled my eyes. "I'm an Ugly Drum Smoker kind of guy, I don't need an electric gizmo to smoke my pork," I said proudly to myself. Then fast forward a few months. Here I am sitting in a temporary house, while we are having a new house built. There are three smelly dogs living here that require way too much care. Add in a 3 year old and a 6 year old and all of their school and after school activities. Also add in that full time job that ends up causing me to work until about 9pm some nights. And that new house, that requires nonstop decision making such as windows, doors, carpet, tile, and everything else you can imagine. Well, I noticed that I haven't made pulled pork for a while. It's not that sitting out next to the Ugly Drum doesn't sound like the most relaxing activity. It's that free time is at a minimum with this crazy rat race, so sadly pulled pork took the back burner for things like burgers, wings and other items that can cook within an hour. Then I get an e-mail from my friends at Char-Broil. They wanted me to test out this electric smoker, the one I blew off originally. I decided to give it a try and this is the result. Check out the easiest way to make pulled pork. Mindless pork! (If you are looking for another electric smoker, check out the 10 best electric smokers from Sweet Lady Cook).
The goal here was simplicity and to have minimal work. As such, I did no injection, no mop and used a pre made BBQ rub from Pork Barrel BBQ Co. I used two bone in pork butts and rubbed them and let them sit while I got the smoker going.
Using the Char-Broil digital electric smoker results in much less smoke than what I am used to with a fire based smoker. Because of this, you should pick mesquite or another type of smokier wood. A lighter wood like apple or cherry isn't too wise for an electric smoker. Fill that smoke box to the top with wood chips (not chunks).
The Char-Broil electric smoker offers a preheat setting which is a short period of time where the temperature ramps up, warms up all of the metal and gets the smoke starting. After that period is over you can add the pork right on the grate. As a clean up tip I always cut a small piece of foil the same size as the pork shoulder and sit the pork on the foil. This stops the pork from sticking to the grates. I also do zero fat trimming on a pork butt. If there is a fat layer, I put it down on the bottom to act as a little bit of a heat shield. The smoke can't penetrate the fat anyway, so laying it on the bottom, on the foil, is the way to go. This lets the smoke enter from the top and sides.
I set the smoker for 240 degrees after the preheat cycle. I added the rubbed pork shoulder to the electric smoker and then I went inside! I didn't check anything. Smoke was rolling out of it when I added the pork and it was still rolling out of it when I went to bed a little later.
To give you a time frame, I set the preheat cycle at 5pm. The pork went on at about 6pm. I went to bed. The smoker comes with a cool little remote which not only tells you the meat temperature but also the inside chamber temperature. You can adjust the temperature from the remote too. Pretty cool. I sat the remote next to my bed.
The next morning I woke up at 7am and the pork had an internal temperature of 206 degrees. By the time I got the noisy dogs fed and some coffee in me, the pork had reached 210 and it was 7:30AM. A little high, but whatever. I shut the smoker off, took the pork inside and covered it with some foil for about 30 minutes. I then used two forks (my fancy pulled pork pullers are in storage!) and the pork fell right apart. It was so tender. I put it into a foil tin and put it in the refrigerator until dinner time.
After a long day at the pool I preheated the oven to 350 degrees F, sauced the pork with some Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce from The Shed and covered it. About 45 minutes later the sauce was bubbling and it smelled amazing I mixed it up and made one of the best sandwiches I've ever had.
Now for the electric smoker analysis. Did the electric smoker make good pulled pork? Was the electric smoker able to make it taste smoky? Did the electric smoker make competition style pork?
I'm going to start with the cons. The only negative thing I can say about the smoker is that it was not as smoky as when I smoke pork on my Ugly Drum Smoker. However, that is expected because the nature of the Ugly Drum is that the pork fat drips right down on the charcoal and smoke wood and is smoking and burning pork fat nonstop during the 12 hour cook. That results in a serious pink smoke infused piece of pork. Usually my pork is so smoky that I do not use all of the "bark" in the pork mix. One way to add some smoke flavor here is to use all of the bark in the pork mix. That's really the only negative thing I can say. Actually, when I think about smoke and potential stomach cancer, sometimes I wonder if less smoke is a good thing!
The pros of using the Char-Broil electric smoker to make pulled pork is that it was simple. I set it and forgot about it until I woke up the next morning. Using my "no work" method described here, I didn't have to make a mop or an injection and I used a typical BBQ rub that I found at Costco. I also didn't use the Texas crutch or any foiling methods. Clean up was rather easy too as I sat the pork on foil, so there was not too much mess, and the grates went right into the dishwasher. Most importantly the pork tasted amazing. I mentioned above that it wasn't very smoky but that's ok for me as I've been getting some terrible heartburn lately from too much smoke. Burping smoke at 4am isn't that lovely (and yes I know that it has happened to all of us!). To be clear, I could still taste smoke. It just wasn't overly smoky. This was also leagues above that terrible crock pot pulled pork stuff. This pork sandwich was honestly better than any restaurant pork that I've ever had. Was it better than some of the pork I've had from professional BBQers at competitions, such as Melissa Cookston? Hell no! But that wasn't the point. The point here is for the average guy to be able to make amazing cook out style BBQ pulled pork and that's what this does. You might not win a BBQ competition (or maybe you will?!) but you can sure will turn out some of the best pulled pork your friends and family will have ever had. It's a winner and this is the easiest way to make pulled pork.
Did I mention I made pulled pork nachos? They were incredible!
This smoker was sent to me to test out. If I liked it, I was supposed to write a Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker Review. If I didn't like it, I wouldn't have reviewed it!