Choose your pork. A pork shoulder is great, but a pork butt (sometimes called Boston Butt) is better. They are similar cuts of meat and have all the fat and connective tissues we need to break down into a tender and juicy pulled pork (Butts have just a little more). Use a bone-in butt or shoulder if you can find it, but boneless if fine too. Choose one that is well marbled with white fat.
Marinate with spice rub. In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 2 teaspoons black pepper, 1 tablespoon paprika, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 2 teaspoons onion powder, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 2 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder, and 1/3 cup packed brown sugar. Measure out 3 tablespoons of this mixture and set aside in a small ziplock or covered bowl; you will need it later.
If you would like to speed up the cooking process, use a sharp knife to cut the pork in half. This will increase the surface area of meat that you are able to brown on the stove (increasing flavor) and shorten the crock pot time to about 6-7 hours. (It's totally okay to leave the pork butt whole, it will cook in about 8-10 hours.)
Use paper towels to dry off the pork as best you can. Massage 3 tablespoons olive oil into the meat, making sure it's well distributed. Drizzle 1 teaspoon liquid smoke over the pork and massage it in. This step is optional but I like the smoky flavor it adds, which helps make up for the fact that we aren't cooking this pork in a smoker or on the grill. Use your hands to rub the spices (all but 3 tablespoons) into the meat, getting every nook and cranny and under every flap. Place in a large ziplock bag and seal (I love these 2 gallon bags).
Marinate in the fridge for at least 6 hours, or up to 48 hours.
Remove the pork from the ziplock and pat dry if it is wet. Rub the remaining 3 tablespoons of the spice rub mixture into the pork.
Set a large dry skillet on your stove over medium high heat. Let the skillet preheat for at least 3 minutes on medium high. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and swirl to coat the pan. The oil should shimmer immediately.
Add the pork and sear for about 2 minutes until well browned. Use tongs to flip the pork and sear the other side until browned. Flip again onto its side, until all the outside of the pork is seared. Add more oil as necessary. Repeat with the other piece, if you split it in half.
Place the seared pork into your dry crock pot. Cover with the lid and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours if you split it in half, and about 8-10 hours if you left it whole.
Do not overcook your pork. You only want the temperature of the meat to reach about 200 degrees, so start checking it with a meat thermometer at the lowest recommended cook time. It's tempting to set it and forget it, but your pork will taste dried out and stringy if you leave it in too long. Rely on your meat thermometer. You can remove it from the slow cooker anywhere between 195 and 200 degrees F, since the meat will continue rising in temperature even after you take it out of the slow cooker.
Remove the pork from the slow cooker and let rest on a cutting board for about 5 minutes, tented with foil.
Shred the pork using two forks. It should be just completely falling apart. Remove any gristle, but do not discard all the fat! Shred it up and toss it in with the meat. Fat=flavor, and that slow cooked fat is part of what makes pulled pork so amazing. (You don't throw out the strips of fat on bacon, do you? I think not. Show your pork some respect.)
Add the shredded pork back into the crock pot (or whatever you plan to serve in) and toss with the cooking liquid.
You can stir about 1 to 2 cups homemade or store bought BBQ sauce into the pulled pork, or serve it with BBQ sauce as an optional topping. Serve warm on sandwiches (more instructions on that below), top a salad, use for meal prep, whatever your little heart desires.