Slow cooker pulled pork is a classic dish that is perfect for any occasion. Whether you’re hosting a game day party or having a family dinner, this recipe is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. With the help of a slow cooker, this recipe is easy to prepare and requires minimal effort.
To make slow cooker pulled pork, you’ll need a few simple ingredients, including a pork shoulder or butt, barbecue sauce, and seasonings. The pork is cooked low and slow in a flavorful liquid until it is tender and falls apart with ease. Once the pork is cooked, it is shredded and mixed with barbecue sauce to create a delicious and savory dish that is perfect for sandwiches, tacos, or even on its own.
One of the best things about this recipe is that it can be customized to suit your taste preferences. Whether you prefer a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce or a spicy and smoky flavor, there are endless variations to choose from. Plus, since it can be made in advance and reheated, it’s a great option for meal prep or busy weeknights.
Choosing the Right Cut of Pork
When it comes to making slow cooker pulled pork, choosing the right cut of pork is essential. The best cuts for pulled pork are those that benefit from being cooked at a lower heat for 8+ hours. These are tough cuts with more sinew and fat, rather than lean cuts which dry out.
Here are some of the top recommended pork cuts for pulled pork:
|Cut of Pork
|This is the entire front shoulder of the pig. It is a well-marbled cut that is perfect for slow cooking.
|This is actually part of the shoulder, but it comes from the upper part of the shoulder, closer to the spine. It is a fattier cut that is great for pulled pork.
|This is a leaner cut of pork, but it can still be used for pulled pork. It is important to note that it will not be as tender or flavorful as the other cuts mentioned.
It is important to note that the size of the pork cut will also affect the cooking time. A larger cut will take longer to cook than a smaller one. It is recommended to use a 3-4 pound cut of pork for the best results.
When selecting a pork cut, it is also important to look for a cut with a good amount of fat. This will help keep the meat moist and flavorful during the long cooking process. However, too much fat can make the finished product greasy, so it is important to find a balance.
Overall, choosing the right cut of pork is essential for making delicious slow cooker pulled pork. With the right cut and proper cooking techniques, anyone can make a flavorful and tender pulled pork dish that will be sure to impress.
Essential Ingredients for Pulled Pork
When it comes to making pulled pork in a slow cooker, there are a few essential ingredients that you will need to achieve the right flavor and texture. Here are the key ingredients that you will need to make perfect pulled pork:
The first and most important ingredient for pulled pork is the pork shoulder, also known as pork butt or Boston butt. This cut of meat is perfect for slow cooking because it has a lot of connective tissue and fat, which will break down over time and create a tender and juicy result. You can use bone-in or boneless pork shoulder, depending on your preference. A bone-in pork shoulder will add extra flavor to the meat, but it can be more difficult to shred.
A good dry rub is essential for flavoring the pork shoulder before you cook it. A basic dry rub will typically include a combination of salt, black pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder. You can also add other spices and herbs to customize the flavor to your liking. Apply the dry rub generously to the pork shoulder, making sure to coat it evenly on all sides.
When cooking pulled pork in a slow cooker, you will need to add a liquid to help keep the meat moist and tender. The most common liquids used for pulled pork are water, chicken broth, or apple cider vinegar. You can also add other ingredients to the liquid to enhance the flavor, such as Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, or brown sugar.
While not essential, adding barbecue sauce to the pulled pork can enhance the flavor and add a tangy sweetness. You can use store-bought barbecue sauce or make your own by combining ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, and spices. Add the barbecue sauce to the pulled pork after it has been shredded, and mix it in thoroughly.
By using these essential ingredients, you can create a delicious and flavorful pulled pork dish that is perfect for any occasion. With a little patience and attention to detail, your slow cooker pulled pork will be the talk of the town.
Preparation Before Cooking
Before cooking pulled pork in a slow cooker, there are a few necessary preparations to ensure that the meat is flavorful and tender. Here are the three essential steps to prepare the pork:
Trimming the Pork
Trimming the pork is an essential step before cooking it in a slow cooker. Excess fat can cause the meat to become greasy and unappetizing. To trim the pork, use a sharp knife to remove any visible fat. It is not necessary to remove all of the fat, but removing the large pieces will help to keep the meat moist and tender.
Marinating the Pork
Marinating the pork is an optional step, but it can add a lot of flavor to the meat. A simple marinade can be made using ingredients such as apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, and spices. Place the pork in a large ziplock bag and pour the marinade over it. Seal the bag and place it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preparing the Rub
A rub is a mixture of spices that is used to flavor the meat. To prepare the rub, mix together salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and brown sugar. Rub the mixture all over the pork, making sure to cover it evenly. The rub can be applied immediately before cooking or up to 24 hours in advance.
By following these simple steps, the pulled pork will be flavorful and tender. The next step is to cook the pork in a slow cooker for several hours until it is fall-apart tender.
Slow Cooker Settings and Times
Cooker Temperature Settings
When cooking pulled pork in a slow cooker, it is important to choose the right temperature setting. Most slow cookers have two temperature settings: low and high. The low setting is usually between 190°F and 200°F, while the high setting is between 300°F and 350°F.
For best results, it is recommended to cook the pork on the low setting. This will ensure that the pork is cooked evenly and remains tender. Cooking on the high setting may result in tough and dry meat.
Cooking Time Guidelines
The cooking time for pulled pork in a slow cooker depends on the size of the pork and the temperature setting used. As a general rule, it takes about 6 to 8 hours to cook a 3 to 4-pound pork shoulder on the low setting. On the high setting, it takes about 4 to 6 hours.
It is important to note that cooking times may vary depending on the slow cooker model, so it is best to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions. Additionally, it is recommended to use a meat thermometer to ensure that the pork is fully cooked. The internal temperature of the pork should reach 195°F to 205°F.
Here is a table that summarizes the cooking times and temperature settings for pulled pork in a slow cooker:
By following these guidelines, anyone can cook delicious and tender pulled pork in a slow cooker.
To make a delicious slow cooker pulled pork, the first step is to layer the ingredients in the slow cooker. Begin by placing a sliced onion at the bottom of the slow cooker. This will add flavor to the pork as it cooks. Next, add the pork shoulder or pork butt to the slow cooker on top of the onions. It is important to ensure that the pork is evenly distributed in the slow cooker for even cooking.
After layering the ingredients, the next step is to add the liquid to the slow cooker. The liquid will help to keep the pork moist and tender as it cooks. A common liquid used in pulled pork recipes is chicken broth or beef broth. However, other liquids such as apple cider vinegar, apple juice, or beer can also be used. It is important to add enough liquid to cover the pork but not so much that it is swimming in liquid.
Setting the Pork
Once the ingredients and liquid have been added to the slow cooker, it is time to set the pork to cook. The pork should be cooked on low heat for 8-10 hours or on high heat for 4-6 hours. The cooking time will depend on the size of the pork and the desired tenderness. It is important to resist the urge to open the slow cooker during the cooking process as this will release the heat and slow down the cooking process.
By layering the ingredients, adding the right amount of liquid, and setting the pork to cook for the right amount of time, anyone can make a delicious slow cooker pulled pork.
Shredding the Pork
Once the pork is cooked, it’s time to shred it. This is a crucial step in making pulled pork, as it allows the meat to absorb more of the flavorful juices and sauce.
The easiest way to shred pork is by using two forks. Simply hold one fork in each hand and pull the meat apart, using a back-and-forth motion. Alternatively, you can use a pair of meat claws or your hands (with gloves on) to shred the pork.
It’s important to remove any excess fat or gristle as you shred the pork. This will ensure that the meat is tender and flavorful, without any chewy or tough bits. You can discard the fat or save it for other recipes, such as frying or rendering for lard.
Once the pork is shredded, it’s ready to be mixed with your favorite BBQ sauce and served. For a more intense flavor, you can also mix in some of the cooking liquid from the slow cooker.
Here are some tips for shredding pork:
- Let the pork rest for a few minutes before shredding. This will make it easier to handle and prevent any burns.
- Shred the pork while it’s still warm. It will be more tender and easier to shred than if it’s cold.
- Use a large bowl or platter to catch the shredded pork. This will make it easier to mix with the sauce and serve.
By following these tips, you’ll have perfectly shredded pork that’s ready to be enjoyed in sandwiches, tacos, or any other recipe you can dream up.
If you’re wondering what to serve with slow cooker pulled pork, there are many options to choose from. Here are some ideas for accompaniments and sauce pairings to make your meal complete.
Slow cooker pulled pork is a versatile dish that can be paired with a variety of sides. Here are a few suggestions:
- Coleslaw: A creamy coleslaw is a classic side for pulled pork. The tangy flavor and crunchy texture complement the rich, savory pork.
- Cornbread: Cornbread is a Southern staple that pairs well with pulled pork. The sweetness of the cornbread balances out the saltiness of the pork.
- Baked Beans: Baked beans are a great side dish for pulled pork. The sweetness of the beans pairs well with the savory pork.
- Mac and Cheese: Mac and cheese is a crowd-pleasing side dish that goes well with pulled pork. The creamy, cheesy pasta is a perfect complement to the smoky pork.
Pulled pork is often served with a sauce to add flavor and moisture. Here are some sauce pairings to consider:
- BBQ Sauce: BBQ sauce is a classic pairing for pulled pork. The sweet and tangy sauce adds flavor and moisture to the meat.
- Hot Sauce: If you like a little heat, hot sauce is a great option. The spicy sauce adds a kick to the pork.
- Mustard Sauce: Mustard sauce is a popular sauce for pulled pork in South Carolina. The tangy sauce pairs well with the smoky pork.
- Vinegar Sauce: Vinegar sauce is a thin, tangy sauce that is popular in North Carolina. The acidity of the sauce cuts through the richness of the pork.
Overall, there are many ways to serve slow cooker pulled pork. Whether you choose to pair it with coleslaw, cornbread, baked beans, or mac and cheese, and whether you choose to serve it with BBQ sauce, hot sauce, mustard sauce, or vinegar sauce, you’re sure to have a delicious meal.
Storing and Reheating
Slow cooker pulled pork is a delicious and versatile dish that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Whether you’re serving it up for a party or just enjoying it for dinner, it’s important to know how to properly store and reheat your leftovers to ensure they stay fresh and tasty. In this section, we’ll cover the best ways to store and reheat your slow cooker pulled pork.
If you’re not planning on eating your pulled pork right away, it’s important to store it properly in the refrigerator. To do this, transfer the pork to an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag. Be sure to remove as much air as possible before sealing the container or bag to prevent the pork from drying out.
Pulled pork can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. If you want to keep it longer than that, you can freeze it.
Freezing is a great way to extend the life of your slow cooker pulled pork. To freeze your pork, transfer it to an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag. Be sure to remove as much air as possible before sealing the container or bag to prevent freezer burn.
Pulled pork can be frozen for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to eat it, simply thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
There are a few different ways to reheat your slow cooker pulled pork, depending on your preferences and available equipment. Here are some of the most popular methods:
- Oven: Preheat your oven to 325°F. Place the pulled pork in an oven-safe dish and cover with foil. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the pork is heated through.
- Microwave: Place the pulled pork in a microwave-safe dish and cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes, or until heated through.
- Stovetop: Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the pulled pork and a splash of water or broth. Cover the skillet and cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until heated through.
No matter which method you choose, be sure to check the temperature of the pork before serving to ensure it has been heated to at least 165°F to prevent foodborne illness. And remember, slow cooker pulled pork is a versatile dish that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, from sandwiches and tacos to salads and bowls.
Safety and Food Handling
When it comes to preparing slow cooker pulled pork, safety and food handling are of utmost importance. Here are some tips to ensure that your pulled pork is not only delicious but also safe to eat.
1. Choose the right cut of meat
It is important to choose the right cut of meat when making slow cooker pulled pork. The USDA recommends using pork shoulder or pork butt for slow cooking. These cuts are well-marbled and contain enough fat to keep the meat moist and tender during the long cooking process.
2. Thaw the meat properly
Before cooking, make sure to thaw the meat properly. Never thaw meat at room temperature as this can promote the growth of harmful bacteria. Instead, thaw the meat in the refrigerator or in cold water. If using the cold water method, make sure to change the water every 30 minutes to ensure that it stays cold.
3. Wash your hands and utensils
Always wash your hands and utensils before and after handling raw meat. This will help prevent the spread of harmful bacteria. Use hot, soapy water to wash your hands and utensils, and make sure to dry them thoroughly before using them again.
4. Cook the meat properly
Cook the meat to an internal temperature of at least 145°F (63°C) to kill any harmful bacteria. Use a meat thermometer to ensure that the meat is cooked to the correct temperature. If using a slow cooker, make sure to cook the meat on the high setting for at least four hours or on the low setting for at least eight hours.
5. Store leftovers properly
Store any leftover pulled pork in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking. Make sure to store the meat in an airtight container to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Leftover pulled pork can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days or in the freezer for up to three months.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the optimal cooking times and temperatures for slow cooker pulled pork?
The optimal cooking time and temperature for slow cooker pulled pork depend on the size of the pork and the desired outcome. Typically, a 3 to 4-pound pork shoulder or pork butt should be cooked on low heat for 8 to 10 hours or on high heat for 4 to 6 hours. However, it is recommended to use a meat thermometer to ensure that the internal temperature of the pork reaches 195°F to 205°F for the best results.
Can you recommend a BBQ sauce that complements slow cooker pulled pork?
There are many BBQ sauces that can complement slow cooker pulled pork, and the choice depends on personal preference. Some popular options include sweet and tangy Kansas City-style BBQ sauce, smoky and spicy Texas-style BBQ sauce, and mustard-based Carolina-style BBQ sauce. You can also experiment with making your own BBQ sauce using ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, and spices.
What are the essential spices and herbs to use for a flavorful pulled pork rub?
A flavorful pulled pork rub typically contains a combination of spices and herbs such as paprika, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and black pepper. Some recipes also call for brown sugar, mustard powder, or cayenne pepper to add sweetness, tanginess, or heat. It is recommended to rub the spice mixture generously on the pork before cooking for maximum flavor.
How do you achieve tender and juicy pulled pork in a slow cooker?
To achieve tender and juicy pulled pork in a slow cooker, it is important to use a fatty cut of meat such as pork shoulder or pork butt, which will break down and become tender during the cooking process. It is also recommended to sear the pork before adding it to the slow cooker to enhance the flavor and texture. Additionally, adding a small amount of liquid such as broth, beer, or apple cider can help keep the pork moist during cooking.
What are some creative serving suggestions for slow cooker pulled pork?
Slow cooker pulled pork is a versatile dish that can be served in many ways. Some popular serving suggestions include making pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw and pickles, serving pulled pork on top of baked potatoes or nachos, or using it as a topping for pizza or tacos. You can also serve pulled pork with a side of baked beans, cornbread, or mac and cheese for a classic Southern-style meal.
How can you tell when pulled pork is perfectly cooked in a slow cooker?
The best way to tell when pulled pork is perfectly cooked in a slow cooker is to use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the pork. The pork should reach an internal temperature of 195°F to 205°F for the most tender and juicy results. Additionally, the pork should be easy to shred with a fork and should have a rich, smoky flavor.
Here is an easy recipe for slow cooker pulled pork:
– 3 lbs pork shoulder roast
– 1 cup barbecue sauce
– 1⁄2 cup chicken broth
– 1⁄4 cup apple cider vinegar
– 2 tablespoons brown sugar
– 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
– 1 teaspoon each garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper
- Trim excess fat from the pork roast and place it in the slow cooker.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the barbecue sauce, chicken broth, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper.
- Pour the sauce over the pork.
- Cook on low for 8-10 hours, until the pork is very tender.
- Remove the pork from the slow cooker and shred with two forks.
- Return the shredded pork to the slow cooker and stir to coat with sauce.
- If the sauce is very thin, cook on high with the lid off for 20-30 minutes.
- Serve pulled pork on buns with extra BBQ sauce. Enjoy!
The meat should shred very easily after cooking low and slow for 8+ hours. The flavorful barbecue sauce mixes right in for moist and delicious pulled pork sandwiches.