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pulled pork in a black slow cooker, topped with barbecue sauce.
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4.92 from 61 votes

Pulled Pork Recipe: Slow Cooker or Oven Roasted

The BEST pulled pork recipe in the crock pot! Get the most tender, melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork with almost zero effort from your slow cooker. It's such an easy recipe, the results are AMAZING, and you can feed a crowd an impressive dinner lickety-split. I'm also including instructions for oven roasted pulled pork!
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time8 hrs
marinating time6 hrs
Total Time14 hrs 20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6
Calories: 664kcal
Author: Karen

Ingredients

  • 5-7 pound pork butt or pork shoulder leave the fat cap on
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil for rubbing on meat
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke* optional, for rubbing on meat
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil for searing, more as necessary

For the rub/marinade

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt use 2 and 1/2 teaspoons if using table 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 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar packed

To serve

  • barbecue sauce homemade or store bought
  • brioche hamburger buns if you're making sandwiches
  • butter softened
  • Coleslaw this is my favorite herby recipe!

Instructions

Slow Cooker Instructions

  • 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.

Oven Pulled Pork Instructions

  • Cut your pork butt or shoulder into 3 equal pieces. This is to speed up the cooking process and to increase the amount of edges that will get browned in the oven. Hello flavor!
  • Follow the same instructions above for preparing your pork: pat dry, rub with 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional), then rub with all but 3 tablespoons of the spice rub. Place in a large ziplock and marinate for 6 to 48 hours.
  • Remove the pork from the fridge and let sit at room temperature for about an hour. This ensures more even cooking in the oven. Nobody wants a dry outer edge.
  • Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Let it heat up for at least 20 minutes.
  • Place an oven-safe wire cooling rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Spray with nonstick spray. Add 1 and 1/2 cups water to the bottom of the pan, to provide a humid environment while the pork is cooking.
  • Remove the pork from the ziplock and rub each piece with the remaining 3 tablespoons spice rub. Place the pork on the cooling rack, making sure the pieces are not touching each other. Fat caps should be on top, if you can.
  • Roast in the oven for 30 minutes at 425 degrees. This initial blast of heat is to help sear the edges of the pork. After 30 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Open the oven door for 30-60 seconds to cool the oven down a bit. Close the door.
  • Roast at 300 degrees for another 3-5 hours, depending on how large the pieces are. Add more water to the bottom of the pan as necessary.
    Rely on your meat thermometer to test for doneness. Take the pork out of the oven when a meat thermometer reads 195 to 200 degrees F. Do not let the meat go above 200 degrees, as the temperature will keep rising a few degrees after you take it out of the oven.
  • Remove the pork from the oven and let rest for about 15-20 minutes, tented with foil. Transfer the pork to a cutting board.
  • 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.
  • Make a sandwich: To make the best pulled pork sandwich of your life, butter both sides of a brioche bun. Heat another tablespoon of butter in a pan over medium heat on the stove. Toast the buns for 2-4 minutes, until lightly golden.
  • Add shredded pork to your bun. Top with more BBQ sauce, if desired. Top with an unreasonable amount of lemony herb coleslaw, if you're like me. Smash with the top of your toasty brioche bun and devour messily.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. It will keep for 4-5 days in the fridge.
  • Pulled pork freezes very well. Seal in a ziplock bag (with or without BBQ sauce mixed in). It will freeze for up to 4-6 months. Let thaw in the fridge overnight. Heat leftovers in the microwave, or place in a tin foil covered pan, sprinkle with water, and bake in an oven set to 300 for about 20-40 minutes, depending on how much there is.

Notes

*Use a decent brand for liquid smoke, Wright's is good. The only ingredients should be water and smoke. 
Don't miss out on making this recipe on the grill at least once in your life: It's so good. Smoked Pulled Pork on a Gas Grill.

Nutrition

Calories: 664kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 72g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 16g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 227mg | Sodium: 1423mg | Potassium: 1380mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 824IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 82mg | Iron: 6mg