Pit Barrel Cooker pulled pork shoulder

Fire up your Pit Barrel Cooker and get ready to indulge in the mouthwatering goodness of a succulent smoked pulled pork shoulder, all thanks to our fantastic sugar-free BBQ rub recipe. It might just become your new favorite pulled pork recipe!

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Spices on a plate
  • Smoked Paprika: Adds a beautiful color and a hint of smoky flavor to your rub.
  • Swerve (or Raw Sugar): Swerve is a blood sugar-friendly artificial sweetener, but if that’s not a concern for you, you can opt for raw sugar for a touch of sweetness.
  • Cacao Powder (100%): The pure cacao powder brings a rich and deep chocolatey flavor to the mix.
  • Chili Powder: Adds just the right amount of heat to spice up your rub.
  • Salt (e.g., Himalayan Pink Salt): Salt is essential for enhancing all the flavors. You can use your favorite, like Himalayan pink salt or any other variety.
  • Garlic Powder: For that aromatic and savory kick.
  • Dried Oregano: Introduces a delightful herbal note to the blend.
  • Black Pepper: A pinch of black pepper for a subtle kick and earthy flavor.
  • Ground Cumin: To infuse a warm, earthy, and slightly nutty taste into your sugar-free BBQ rub.

Mix these fantastic ingredients together, and you’ve got the perfect rub to elevate your pulled pork to a whole new level of deliciousness! Enjoy the cooking adventure with your Pit Barrel Cooker.

Seasoned boneless pork sholder on a tray.

Today, I opted for a boneless pork shoulder, often referred to as pork butt. Whether bone-in or boneless, it’s my top choice for crafting delectable pulled pork. This time, I went with a boneless cut, a great find on sale at Costco.

Before diving into the seasoning process, it’s crucial to pat the pork dry with some paper towels. This helps the spice mixture adhere better to the meat. While some folks prefer spreading a thin layer of mustard as a base before adding the spices, I’ve personally never found it necessary. So, feel free to dive right into seasoning your pork and unleashing those amazing flavors!

Charcoal in the pit barrel cooker basket.

After giving your meat a flavorful seasoning, it’s time to kickstart the fire. Here’s how I do it:

  • Charcoal Preparation: After your meat is seasoned to perfection, it’s time to ignite the Pit Barrel Cooker. Start by filling up the coal basket with charcoal. Since this cook is all about taking it slow, I typically scoop some charcoal from one side of the basket. However, for a regular, shorter cook, you’d usually grab it from the middle.
  • Adapting to Cook Length: This approach is tailored for those extended cooking sessions that make pulled pork truly exceptional.
A Charcoal chimney on a grill with a fire starter
  • Kickstarting the Fire: Place a fire starter on the grate, set the chimney starter on top, and ignite the fire starter.
  • Waiting for the Magic: After about ten minutes, you’ll witness a beautiful flame in the chimney starter.
A Charcoal chimney on a grill with burning charcoal.

Time to Cook: Now, it’s the exciting part. Place the coal basket into the Pit Barrel and carefully dump the burning charcoal into the empty side. Secure the grate in the barrel, set up your temperature probes, and get ready for a fantastic BBQ journey. Add the rest of your ingredients, and let the magic happen!

Monitoring the Fire and Cooking the Perfect Pork:

  • Let the Fire Burn: Allow the fire to burn for approximately ten minutes until it’s well established.
  • Temperature Monitoring: Gently insert a thermometer probe into the thickest part of the meat. Position it on the grate of the barrel.
  • Setting the Temperature: Close the lid and adjust the barrel temperature to fall within the range of 225°F to 275°F. My sweet spot is 250°F, but I’m flexible, depending on the weather conditions. Sometimes, you have to roll with what Mother Nature offers.
  • Cooking Time: The goal is to cook until the internal temperature of the pork roast reaches 205°F (96°C). For me, this usually takes just over 10 hours.
  • Adjusting for Temperature: After about seven hours, you might notice the barrel temperature starting to drop, even with the damper fully open. In this scenario, don’t hesitate to add more burning charcoal.
  • Extend Cooking: If you need extra cooking time, you can bring the pork inside and use your oven to maintain that perfect temperature.

Rest and Shred:

  • Resting Period: Once the pork hits 205°F, carefully remove it from the cooker and tent it with aluminum foil. Let it rest for about thirty minutes.
  • Extended Holding: If you need to keep it hot for longer, wrap it with aluminum foil and place it in a small ice chest (sans ice, of course). This clever trick keeps it hot without risking overcooking. In fact, some pit masters do this to allow it to become even more tender without drying out.
  • Shredding Time: After the rest, it’s time to shred the succulent pork. If you fancy some extra flavor, now’s a perfect moment to add your favorite BBQ sauce.

I’d love for you to check out my Pit Barrel Cooker pulled pork video on Instagram which is just above this.

And if you’re hungry for more Pit Barrel recipes, don’t miss my Pit Barrel beef brisket or chuck roast recipes

Closeup of pulled pork. This is a pin for Pinterest.

If this recipe tickled your taste buds and brought a smile to your face, don’t be a culinary secret agent! Share it with your friends and let the flavor revolution spread faster than a foodie’s appetite at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Perhaps you will also like these recipes smoked chuck roast or smoked chicken leg quarters.

Cooked pulled pork on a tray.

Pit Barrel Cooker Pulled Pork

Juicy and tender pulled pork made with boneless butt cooked in a Pit Barrel Cooker with a sugar-free rub. Perfect for a low carb or keto diet.
Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 hours
Total Time: 11 hours 30 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: pit barrel cooker, pulled pork
Servings: 10 servings
Calories: 376kcal
Author: James Strange


  • 9 pounds Pork shoulder boneless boston butt

Spice rub

  • 1 Tablespoon Smoked paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon Swerve Or sweetener of choice
  • 1 Tablespoon Cacao powder Pure
  • 1 Tablespoon Chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon Salt I used pink
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Oregano Dried
  • 1 teaspoon Black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cumin Ground


  • Trip your pork roast of excess fat.
    9 pounds Pork shoulder
  • Mix all ingredients for the spice rub.
    1 Tablespoon Smoked paprika, 1 Tablespoon Swerve, 1 Tablespoon Cacao powder, 1 Tablespoon Chili powder, 1 teaspoon Salt, 1 teaspoon Garlic powder, 1 teaspoon Oregano, 1 teaspoon Black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon Cumin
  • Evenly distribute the spice rub onto the pork roast.
  • Start a fire and preheat the cooker.
  • Place the pork roast onto the grate, and inset probe into the thickest part of the roast.
  • Place the lid onto the cooker and maintain the temperature of the cooker from 225F to 274F.
  • Cook until the internal temperature is 205F (approximately 10 hours).
  • Remove the roast from the cooker and cover with foil and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  • Pull the pork into shreds and serve.


Calories: 376kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 49g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 167mg | Sodium: 436mg | Potassium: 899mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 0.2g | Vitamin A: 603IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 45mg | Iron: 4mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @james_strange_eats or tag #james_strange_eats
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5 stars
This rub is spectacular! I used it to smoke a pork loin in my pellet grill and holy cow! (pig?) it turned out great! We loved the flavor!

5 stars
This was so tender and smoky! Can’t wait to make again.

5 stars
Love this recipe! So smokey and delicious!

5 stars
Great high protein recipe. Full of flavor and perfect for meal prep.

5 stars
This was mouth watering! EVERYONE loved it and I think it was the best pulled pork I have ever had in my life. I will never use a different recipe than this. Seriously it was SPOT ON!

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