How to make pulled pork?

HotbotBy HotBotUpdated: June 25, 2024

Introduction to Pulled Pork

Pulled pork is a quintessential comfort food that has found its way into the hearts of barbecue enthusiasts and casual diners alike. Originating from the Southern United States, this dish is known for its tender, flavorful meat that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways—from sandwiches to tacos. Let's dive into the step-by-step process of preparing perfect pulled pork.

Selecting the Right Cut of Meat

The key to exceptional pulled pork lies in choosing the right cut of meat. Traditionally, the preferred cut is the pork shoulder, also known as pork butt or Boston butt. This cut is marbled with fat, which renders down during cooking, leaving the meat succulent and juicy.

Pork Butt vs. Picnic Shoulder

- Pork Butt: This cut comes from the upper part of the shoulder and is more uniformly shaped, making it easier to cook evenly.

- Picnic Shoulder: Slightly lower on the shoulder, this cut includes more bone and connective tissue, which can add extra flavor but may also require longer cooking times.

Preparing the Pork

Preparation is crucial to achieving the best flavor and texture. Here’s a rundown of what you'll need and how to get started.


- 1 pork shoulder (5-8 pounds)

- 1/4 cup yellow mustard

- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

- 1/4 cup brown sugar

- 2 tablespoons paprika

- 1 tablespoon garlic powder

- 1 tablespoon onion powder

- 1 tablespoon salt

- 1 tablespoon black pepper

- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional for heat)


1. Trim the Pork: Trim off any excess fat from the pork shoulder, leaving a thin layer to keep the meat moist.

2. Apply the Binder: Coat the pork shoulder with yellow mustard. This acts as a binder for the seasoning.

3. Season Generously: Mix the dry ingredients (brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper, and cayenne) and rub it evenly over the pork shoulder. Ensure that the meat is thoroughly covered.

Cooking Methods

Pulled pork can be made using several different cooking methods, each bringing its own unique flavor profile and texture.


Smoking is the traditional method and arguably the best way to achieve that deep, smoky flavor.

1. Preheat the Smoker: Preheat your smoker to 225°F using wood chips like hickory or applewood for added flavor.

2. Smoke the Meat: Place the seasoned pork shoulder on the smoker grates. Smoke for approximately 1.5 hours per pound, or until the internal temperature reaches 195°F.

3. Rest the Meat: Once done, let the pork rest for at least 30 minutes, wrapped in aluminum foil, to redistribute the juices.

Slow Cooking

For those without a smoker, a slow cooker offers a convenient alternative.

1. Prepare the Slow Cooker: Add a cup of apple cider vinegar to the slow cooker for added moisture and flavor.

2. Cook the Pork: Place the seasoned pork shoulder in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours, until the meat is tender and easily shredded with a fork.

3. Rest and Shred: Allow the pork to rest briefly before shredding.

Oven Roasting

Oven roasting is another viable option that can yield excellent results.

1. Preheat the Oven: Preheat your oven to 300°F.

2. Roast the Pork: Place the pork shoulder in a roasting pan. Cover with aluminum foil and roast for 6-8 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 195°F.

3. Rest and Shred: Once cooked, let the pork rest before shredding.

Shredding the Pork

Once the pork is cooked to perfection, it's time to shred it. This is where the magic happens, transforming a solid piece of meat into tender, flavorful strands.

1. Tools: Use two forks or bear claws to pull the meat apart.

2. Technique: Work with the grain of the meat, pulling it apart into strands of your desired thickness.

3. Mix in Juices: For added flavor, mix the shredded pork with its own juices or a bit of barbecue sauce.

Serving Suggestions

Pulled pork is incredibly versatile and can be served in numerous delicious ways.

Classic Pulled Pork Sandwich

Serve the shredded pork on a soft bun with coleslaw and your favorite barbecue sauce.


Use pulled pork as a filling for tacos, topped with fresh cilantro, diced onions, and a squeeze of lime.

Salads and Bowls

For a lighter option, add pulled pork to a salad or grain bowl with roasted vegetables and a tangy vinaigrette.

Storing and Reheating

Pulled pork can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 3 months. To reheat, gently warm in a covered dish in the oven or microwave, adding a bit of broth or barbecue sauce to keep it moist.

Final Tips and Tricks

- Patience is Key: Low and slow is the mantra for pulled pork. Rushing the process will result in tougher meat.

- Flavor Layers: Don’t skimp on seasoning. The rub and any sauces you use will create complex layers of flavor.

- Resting Time: Always allow your meat to rest after cooking. This helps the juices redistribute, making for more succulent pulled pork.

- Experiment: Feel free to experiment with different rubs, sauces, and cooking methods to find your perfect pulled pork recipe.

Pulled pork is as much an art as it is a science, and every cook brings their own flair to this beloved dish. The journey to mastering pulled pork is filled with delicious discoveries.

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