Pulled Pork for 40 people

Received an email from Glenn K. from Chattanooga, TN wanting some how-to info for pork shoulder for his daughter’s graduation party. TLW thought it would be a good idea to put it on the blog so that we can share it with everyone.

Here goes! When cooking a pork shoulder or pork butt, the first thing that you have to do is the math. Glenn wants to feed @ 40 people and didn’t know how much meat to buy. In your finished product, you are roughly going to get only half of what you put in the smoker (that is called “yield”…the other term is “shrink” which accounts for the 50% loss during cooking). So in essence, if you put 40 lbs. of meat in you will only end up with 20 lbs. of finished product.

A normal serving on a catering (if you are not cooking for big eaters) is 4 oz. …or 4 people to the pound. When feeding big eaters, you generally figure 3 people to the pound.

Glenn wants to feed 40 people. 40 people x 4 oz = 160 oz divided by 16 oz to a pound. Therefore, Glenn needs 10 pounds of finished product…so he would need to start with 20 pounds.

You have to think in these terms rather than the original question, “How many shoulders should I cook?” You buy enough to yield 10 lbs. of finished product…and if you are like The General it would never hurt to have extra in the freezer.

Let’s do technique….After purchasing the shoulders or butts, rub them generously with your rub or another. Recently someone generously gave me a large quantity of Bad Byron’s Butt Rub and I have used it quite successfully. Using olive to liquefy the rub (you don’t want it ‘cakey’) and yellow mustard (a generous slather) massage it into the meat along with some brown sugar if you want to experiment. Put your meat in the smoker cooking between 220* and 240* for @ 10 plus hours to reach an internal meat temperature of 190*.

Let the meat rest for an hour and here are some tips as to how to get your finished product pulled. I use what is called a pastry cutter or a dough scraper. I like it much better than a cleaver. Put your butt/shoulder(s) in a Rubbermaid dish pan to minimize mess on your counters. Make 4 or 5 good stabs with your pastry tool to break the meat apart and let the heat out so you can handle it. Continue to make stabs until you get the meat fairly well broken down. Then just pretend that you are ‘shuffling a deck of cards’ by holding the larger pieces in one hand and the other hand is shuffling the smaller pieces from the larger piece. You will also be able to pull out any gristle etc. at this time.



This is where personal preference comes in. I like long stringy strands of the pork and TLW likes thicker larger pieces about the size of your index finger. She claims the larger pieces are moister and will not dry out as fast as the thinner ones.

Now go back and add an additional amount of rub (not too heavy) all over the pulled pork. Gently toss it like a tossed salad. At this point your meat should be very moist and will absorb the rub and or liquefy it. Your goal is to put enough rub to add additional flavor to the pulled meat, but not so much that the rub lays on the meat and can be observed by the naked eye.

When you put your meat into a storage container (for instance…a half pan) and you reheat it to 180* in the center of the pan, always mix the meat around before serving it because you will find that all the moisture is in the bottom of the pan and the top will look dry. Simply toss the meat around (we use tongs for this purpose). Then have your sauce bottles on the serving table so your guests can help themselves and you are good to go!


1. Always clean out your dishpan with Clorox Cleanup or 1 ounce Clorox to 1 quart water.

2. Next time you are in WalMart, go to the sporting goods area and look for an orange rubber-nubbed fishing glove. It takes the heat well from the meat and is washes easily in the washing machine.

2 thoughts on “Pulled Pork for 40 people

  1. Patty Wheeler says:

    I will be serving pulled pork sliders for 40 people. I want to use my crockpot. Would you reccomend a different rub for the meat and about how long to cook in crockpot?

  2. Brandon says:

    How would you calculate the necessary purchase quantity if the loss in cooking were 30% instead of 50%?


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