Smoked Pulled Pork Lettuce Wraps with Asian Dipping Sauce
What's better than a pile of smoky pulled pork? A million dollars, but that's about it. Properly smoked pork is a taste sensation that few things can match between its rich, succulent flavor, juiciness, and the versatility with which you can eat it.
That versatility will be what we highlight today. Everyone's already tried it plain, smothered in barbecue sauce, on a bun with some diced onions, and other traditional barbecue styles, so let's get a little out of our comfort zone.
To do that, we'll show you how to make some delicious smoked pulled pork for lettuce wraps with an Asian-inspired dipping sauce. It's a bit more than just slapping some meat on a leaf, though, so let's go through every step of making this recipe to show you just how great it is.
Before you can get cracking on this recipe, you need to get a few things together first. These include both the ingredients for the food as well as the tools you need to make it, those being:
- 1 pork shoulder (~12 lbs).
- 4 shallots.
- 2 clove garlic.
- 1/2 knob of ginger.
- 2 cups fish sauce.
- 1 1/2 cups soy sauce.
- 1 cup Thai garlic chili sauce.
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar.
- 2 tbsp sesame oil.
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil.
- 2 tbsp kosher salt.
- 2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper.
- 8 limes.
- 1/2 cup water.
- 1/4 cup fish sauce.
- 1/4 cup white sugar.
- 1 1/2 tbsp Thai garlic chili sauce.
- 1 tbsp powdered ginger.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- 4 carrots.
- 2 head Boston lettuce.
- 1 cup purple cabbage.
- 1 cup red onion.
- 1 cup green onion.
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves.
Pulled Pork Lettuce Wraps Recipe
When you have everything you need collected, it's time to start cooking. Given all the different parts involved in this recipe, it's good to prepare a day or two in advance, meaning you may wish to buy the ingredients for the sauce and wraps themselves the day you plan to eat for maximum freshness.
Step 1: Marinade the Meat
Begin by trimming off any large bits of fat on the outside of your pork shoulder, then score the surface with a sharp knife. Mix together the other ingredients in the first section sans salt and pepper inside a large plastic container, then place your pork inside. Massage the marinade into the meat, ensuring it's coated all over before allowing it to rest in the fridge overnight. For best results, turn the pork over halfway through to ensure even marination.
After the marination time is up, remove the pork from the container and pat dry with paper towels, discarding any remaining marinade. Season the meat with salt and pepper across the outside.
Another great way to enhance the flavor and marinate the meat would be to use a meat injector.
Step 2: Prep the Smoker
If you're using wood chips, soak them in hot water at the beginning of this step.
Once your pork has been seasoned, move outside to begin prepping the smoker. Fill the smoker with charcoal and set it alight, closing the lid and opening the vents all the way to let the fire burn hot. After giving it a chance to burn down, fill up the water tank and toss on some additional charcoal plus your wood, then place the grate across the top, close the lid, and prepare the smoke.
Step 3: Smoke the Pork
With the smoker prepped, your pork should have raised to around room temperature during the time it took you to set things up. That means you can move right into smoking, placing the pork shoulder onto the smoker with the fat cap facing up.
Close the lid and allow the meat to smoke for the next several hours. For pork shoulders of this size, it can take anywhere from 8 to 12 hours to fully cook to an internal temperature of 195 degrees Fahrenheit. To test for doneness without a thermometer, simply stick a fork in it and see how easily it inserts as well as how easily you can pull off a piece of the meat.
During the long cooking time, make sure you monitor the wood, charcoal, and water levels inside the smoker as well as the amount of airflow through the lid. Adjust these as necessary. Once the pork has met one or both of the above criteria, it should be done.
Step 4: Rest the Pork
Once your pork has fully cooked, immediately remove it to a large aluminum baking pan and cover the top with aluminum foil. Wrap the pan in a clean towel and place everything inside a large cooler. This makes for the perfect environment in which to rest such a big piece of meat, giving ample time for the heat to finish distributing throughout all of it. Allow it to sit inside undisturbed for the next hour.
Step 5: Prep the Accompaniment
Near the end of the resting period (around 10 minutes out), begin putting together both the sauce and the vegetables for the wraps.
Juice the limes and combine with the other ingredients for the sauce in a large bowl and whisk vigorously until everything has dissolved and homogenized. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
Wash and dry all the produce before separating the leaves from the lettuce. Thinly slice or julienne the carrots, cabbage, and red onion, then slice green onion on a bias. Roughly chop the cilantro leaves.
Step 6: Pull the Pork
With everything in order, it's nearly time to eat. Begin by removing the baking pan containing your pork. Using two meat shredding claws, pull the pork apart until completely shredded, removing the bone from the inside. Toss the pork with any collected meat juices and 1/4 of a cup of the sauce, seasoning with any salt and pepper if needed.
Step 7: Serve the Pulled Pork Lettuce Wraps
After all that hard work, you're finally ready to taste what you've been putting together. The beauty of the lettuce wrap is that it allows everyone to put everything together exactly as they like it. Pile up a lettuce leaf with pork and vegetables and drizzle it with a bit of extra sauce, then try a mouthful of that spicy, savory, smoky, and sweet perfection.
While it might take over a day from start to finish, one bite of these amazing smoked pulled pork lettuce wraps with an Asian-style dipping sauce will show you just how worth it it all was. A definite divergence from the more traditional smoked pork flavor profile, it's both an exciting and sumptuous change that you'll want to go back to again and again.
If you enjoyed this recipe guide, make sure you leave a comment telling us down below. The same goes for any tips you've got on marinating or smoking pork. As always, remember to share this page with others, especially if their own barbecue game leaves something to be desired most of the time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which lettuce is best for wraps?
You have a few choices when it comes to the lettuce you use for making smoked pulled pork lettuce wraps. Our top choice is Boston lettuce, a type of butter lettuce. This variety not only has a great flavor, but it also is lightweight and pliable, making it a perfect vessel for your pulled pork. You can also use iceberg, green leaf, or romaine lettuce.
What should I look for when buying lettuce for wraps?
When you’re buying head lettuce, always look for dark green, intact outer leaves. You don’t necessarily want the largest head, which can sometimes produce bitter leaves, but you don’t want the smallest one, either. Look for heads that are compact and well put together. If the lettuce is slimy, put it down and choose another lettuce head.
What sauce goes well with lettuce wraps?
We love this Asian dipping sauce as an accompaniment to pulled pork lettuce wraps. It’s made with tangy lime juice, savory fish sauce, spicy Thai garlic chili sauce, and a touch of sugar. Put it all together and you have a sweet-and-spicy sauce that pairs perfectly with the smoky flavors of pulled pork.
How do you keep lettuce wraps from falling apart?
If you don’t use the right kind of lettuce, it’s easy for the wraps to fall apart. That’s why we recommend Boston leaves, a type of butter lettuce that is soft and pliable. It’s easy to roll the wraps up without them falling apart. Crunchier lettuce, like iceberg, is notorious for falling apart and dripping sauce all over your hands as you eat it!
How do you reheat pulled pork for lettuce wraps?
The easiest way to reheat pulled pork for lettuce wraps is in the oven. Wrap the pork in a foil packet and place it in a 375 degree F oven for about 15 minutes, until it has heated through. You can also use a microwave, but it’s easy to dry out the pork using this method.