This Pulled Pork made in a slow cooker may well be the most tender, moist, and flavourful you’ve ever had in your life! High returns for minimal effort, pork is rubbed with a secret spice mix, slow cooked until the meat pulls apart effortlessly then tossed in a simple-yet-flavour-loaded homemade BBQ Sauce.
No self respecting BBQ Shack would cook pulled pork in a slow cooker. They do an overnight smoke, with a pork babysitter on duty all through the night to stoke the coals, monitor and maintain the temperature, and occasionally give the pork a good spray with their secret-formula spritzer.
I do not do that.
I need my beauty sleep.
(Also, I don’t have a smoker).
So here’s how I make pulled pork in a slow cooker. Simple. Totally hands off. Makes loads, super economical. Amazing result for minimum effort!
What you need for pulled pork
Here’s what you need for pulled pork made in a slow cooker – a spice rub and some kind of liquid for a braising liquid to infuse with flavour, add a touch of sweetness and keep everything nice and moist.
I like to use beer – any beer other than dark brown beers like stout or Guinness. Apple cider – alcoholic or non alcoholic – or similar fruit ciders (like pear) are also terrific. For non alcoholic, apple juice works really well. Emergency fallback: water!
Best pork for pulled pork?
The best pork for pulled pork is bone in Pork Butt – also known as Boston Butt – or pork shoulder. It’s well marbled with fat so it’s juicy, and it’s a tough cut of pork so it needs the long cook time to become tender enough to shred – which means more flavour infusion time!
Difference between pork butt and pork shoulder
While both are cut from the shoulder of pig, the pork shoulder comes from the lower end (upper leg) whereas pork butt is the upper part near the back which is why the shape is more rectangle block-like. Here’s an excellent diagram from Cooks’ Illustrated!
Homemade barbecue sauce
Sometimes I change it up a bit – depends on the protein and purpose of the dish, but fundamentally the same ingredients!
How to make pulled pork
We’re bypassing the step to sit by a smoker through the whole night, and just opting for a simple home version here. So all I need you to do is:
rub pork with spice mix;
plonk in slow cooker with beer, set and forget;
brown in oven – optional step, but totally worth it for that extra little edge of flavour (besides, you need to use a pan for shredding anyway, so you may as well throw it in the oven for a bit!);
shred, douse with BBQ sauce, devour.
PS I slow cook it with the thick layer of fat on it so it looks blubbery and unappetising when you pull it out of the slow cooker but it does all sorts of wonderful things to the pork as it slow cooks – imagine the spice rubbed layer of fat slooooowly dripping down the pork and basting it for hours!
Pulled pork should be tender…but not mushy!
When I see pork being shredded with a food processor and vigorously mixed with sauce until it resembles baby food, it makes me want to cry.
We want tender, juicy pork that can be pulled apart effortlessly, but still has the texture of meat – we don’t want mush! To achieve that, you just need to cook it for the right length of time (10 hours on low is long enough) and toss with the sauce gently rather than vigorously stirring it like it’s a pot of soup!
How to serve pulled pork
The two classic ways to serve pulled pork are:
1. Sliders – stuffed in soft rolls with Coleslaw*. Terrific way to serve loads of people – this recipe will make around 20 sliders;
* If you or your hips are anti mayo, try the RecipeTin No Mayo Coleslaw – it’s very, very good!
2. Southern BBQ Dinner Plate – complete with classic sides like Baked Mac and Cheese, Corn Bread, steamed corn slathered with butter, Coleslaw (or this No Mayo version) and a side of something green (pictured: simple steamed greens drizzled with butter, salt and pepper).
This recipe makes loads of pulled pork. Pork butts are BIG – so there’s no getting around that!
If you use shoulder you can get smaller pieces. But actually, you don’t want to make this with much less than 2kg / 4 lb because otherwise the pork will cook too quickly and lack the time it needs for the flavour to infuse.
Besides, it freezes 100% perfectly. And imagine how smug you’ll feel knowing you’ve got a stash of this in your freezer??? Shove it in a bread roll for a quick meal anytime! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Pulled Pork with BBQ Sauce
- 3.5-4.5kg/ 5-7lb pork butt / pork shoulder , bone in, fat cap on (Note 1)
- 1 cup beer , apple cider or apple juice (Note 2)
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp paprika powder
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp mustard powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar (Note 3)
- 3 cups tomato ketchup (or Aussie tomato sauce)
- 1 cup water (or use remaining beer!)
- 3 tbsp molasses , orginal (not blackstrap, Note 4)
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 4 tsp mustard powder
- 3 tsp garlic powder
- 4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp Tabasco or cayenne pepper (optional, for spiciness)
- Mix the Rub together, then rub all over the pork.
- Place in a slow cooker, pour over beer. Slow cook on low for 10 hours. Pork should be tender enough to easily shred.
Browning in oven (optional, recommended):
- Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F.
- Transfer from slow cooker into a roasting pan (reserve liquid).
- Scoop fat off surface of juices in slow cooker and drizzle over pork (about 1/3 cup), then roast pork for 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven, cut thick layer of fat off top and discard. Spoon over 1/4 cup fat from slow cooker juices, then roast 15 minutes.
- Shred pork using 2 forks. Pour over BBQ sauce, toss gently.
- Place all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes or until thickened.
- Add 3/4 - 1 cup of juices from slow cooker until sauce is syrup consistency.
- Adjust to taste: sweetness with brown sugar / honey, salt and sour with vinegar. Use per recipe.
- Pressure cooker / instant pot - With a slightly smaller pork (2-2.5 kg/4-5lb), I make this in my pressure cooker, 1 hr 20 minutes on high.
- Oven - 7 to 8 hours at 130C/270F, covered with double foil in a roasting pan with 2 cups of water (plus the beer per recipe). I rarely do this simply because of logistics - I don't like to leave the house or sleep with the oven on! But by roasting, you do get an amazing crust which I compensate for by roasting the pork briefly after slow cooker. Note: slow cooker yields juicier pork.
Life of Dozer
This is how my post-trip reunions with Dozer go down…..