This recipe for Pulled Pork is going to be one of your favorites. I mean who doesn’t love this succulent and juicy BBQ favorite? We use pork butt/Boston butt and cook it in a slow cooker or crock pot which makes it extremely tender and flavorful. It’s so easy to make during your busy schedule.
Pulled pork has been a favorite recipe of our family for many years. It is a very yummy dish made from shredded pork meat and blended with BBQ sauce, eaten on a roll or on a plate with some favorite southern side dishes.
It is easy to make and can be made in a slow cooker, simmering for several hours which makes a fatty, cheaper cut of meat taste like it’s the top of the line. It’s definitely one of my favorite meats to eat and super versatile.
If you don’t have the time to cook it in a slow cooker, then you will love our instant pot pulled pork recipe which is just as tasty!
What is Pulled Pork?
Pulled pork is an American barbecue dish that is well-known in the southern states, and is popular at picnics. It is made with a fatty piece of pork that is cooked slowly and shredded. After shredding, it is normally covered with some BBQ sauce mixed in.
It is easy to make and delicious to eat and usually served with BBQ sauce on it. It can be eaten on a roll as a sandwich or by itself served next to your favorite side dishes.
Over the years it has become a barbecue classic and with this recipe you don’t even have to go down south to enjoy it.
Pulled Pork Cooking Methods
There are several ways to cook BBQ pulled pork, here are some of the most common:
Slow Cooker – Also known as a crock pot, which cooks food slowly and the meat comes out tender.
Instant Pot – This is similar to a pressure cooker, but it also has the option to fry or sear something before it cooks. It makes the food tender in a lot less time than a slow cooker.
Oven – If you don’t have a slow cooker or instant pot, then the oven is your next choice. If you use the oven, then cover your pulled pork and cook it slowly.
Stove Top – To cook pulled pork on the stove, use a dutch oven with a cover and once again cook it very slowly all day long.
Smoker – If you happen to have a smoker outside on your patio, then pulled pork is a good choice for it because you can also cook it slowly in it.
All of these ways will work but one key to making the best pulled pork is to cook slowly. The slower the better, so do not rush it or else it will be tough instead of tender and juicy.
What Ingredients are in Pulled Pork?
- Pork Butt – This is the best cut of pork because it is a fatty piece that will be tender and in turn will shred well. It is also referred to as boston butt.
- Brown Sugar – This just adds a slight sweet taste to the meat. If you are watching your carbs, you can replace it with Swerve brown which is a zero net carb sweetener which will give the same taste and results.
- Salt – A tenderizer for the pulled pork in the crock pot and also a flavor enhancer.
- Garlic Powder – One of the best spices to flavor the shredded pork.
- Pepper – Black pepper is perfect for pulled pork.
- Cumin – A different spice which flavors meat.
- Paprika – Either regular or smoked version which add just a little kick.
- Chicken Broth – This broth will add some extra flavor to your slow cooker pork shoulder. Beef broth is another one too that can be used when making pulled pork.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – Just a tiny amount will help to tenderize the crock pot pulled pork.
- BBQ Sauce (optional) – The sauce gets mixed into the pork butt after it is done cooking. If you love BBQ sauce and are afraid of the carbs, then take a look at our keto BBQ sauce recipe. It is sugar free and only 2.5 net carbs for 2 Tbsp. I am a person who loves pulled pork just the way it is without the sauce so either way it is the best slow cooker BBQ pulled pork!
Pulled Pork Seasoning
There are a lot of great spices to use on your slow cooker pork butt, and it depends on personal preference.
Here are a few basic seasonings to use:
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
You can also use some spices that will give your meat a slight kick.
- Chili powder
- Crushed red pepper flakes
Best Liquid for Pulled Pork
In my opinion the best liquid to use in the crock pot with the pork butt is chicken broth. Beef broth can work too.
You could use water which would be ok but when you use broth it just gives the meat so much more extra flavor.
I prefer to add the broth but it is not necessary to add any broth if you so choose. Just cook the meat on low in the slow cooker and the fat will start to release from the meat and cause enough moisture to the pot.
What is the Best Cut of Meat for Pulled Pork?
One of the biggest decisions is figuring out which cut of meat is best to use. The best pork for pulled pork is Pork Butt/Boston Butt, or Pork Shoulder, which you have probably heard of before.
If you are like me, what I never knew is that they are both from the same part of the pig. They both do well in the slow cooking process because as they cook a long time the meat breaks down and they become tender the longer they cook.
Instead, some other cuts of meat get tough when they are overcooked.
When I make pulled pork, my go-to piece of meat is a pork butt as my first choice and pork shoulder second.
A pork loin, which is considered a good cut of pork because it’s lean, with virtually no fat on it, would produce a tough piece of meat in the crock pot and would not shred too well.
The pork butt is also called Boston butt. The pork butt is a well marbled cut of meat with intramuscular fat, which helps the pulled pork to be so tender. Pork butt will fall apart easily, which is just what is needed to make pulled pork come out the best.
The pork shoulder is also called picnic shoulder or picnic roast, in case you are trying to locate one of these. This is a good piece of meat and from the same part of the pig as pork butt, but not quite as fatty. This cut is my second choice when making pulled pork.
Can I Use Pork Tenderloin for Pulled Pork?
You cannot use pork tenderloin for pulled pork. It is one of the leanest pieces to buy and it makes a good roast which you cook in the oven or in a dutch oven.
It takes so little time to cook unlike the pork butt, and if you cook it a long time it comes out firm and tough. This is because there is no fat to help break down the meat.
It’s much better to bake pork tenderloin in the oven and use one of the other cuts of pork mentioned above for pulled pork.
Can You Put Raw Pork in a Slow Cooker?
Yes, you can. When you make pulled pork in the slow cooker, there is no need to pre-cook or sear it first. Just pop it in the crock pot raw, add your other spices, liquid…etc and turn it on low.
Pulled Pork Sauce
When you think of pulled pork you think of BBQ sauce. They go hand-in-hand.
If you are eating a low carb diet, BBQ sauce is usually one of those things that has too many carbs for your daily allotment. No worries, just look on our web site and pull up the recipe for our sugar-free BBQ sauce. It has the same yummy taste for less calories and carbs.
If you don’t want any sauce, the meat still comes out so soft and tender. Just take it out, shred it and put some salt and pepper on it and eat it like that.
How Much Pulled Pork Per Person?
Sometimes it’s hard to figure out how big of a piece of meat to buy when making pulled pork. This will depend on how many people you need to feed. In general one pound of cooked meat is good for approximately 3 people.
Here are a few important considerations:
- When you cook pulled pork it loses about half of its weight, so for instance a 4 lb roast will cook down to 2 lbs, so you will have to allow for this in your calculations.
- The ages of our eaters play a big part. For Instance, a child would not be able to eat as much as an adult would.
- It will also depend on what else you are eating with the pulled pork. If you are making a sandwich with the meat then you may not eat as much as you would if you were having it on a meat with your favorite side dish.
- It also depends on how many side dishes you have and how heavy they are.
Pulled Pork Cooking Time
Now in the next few sections we will get into the nitty gritty of how to make pulled pork.
How long should you cook pulled pork in a slow cooker? The amount of time you cook pulled pork is important and generally the longer the better.
Here are the cooking times based on the slow cooker/crockpot setting you use:
- On High: 3-4 hours
- On Low: 7-8 hours
What Temperature Should Pulled Pork Be Cooked To?
The internal temperature of the crock pot pulled pork should be cooked to 190-200 degrees.
When you use a slow cooker to cook the pork butt, the meat should automatically be cooked to the proper temperature. However, to be sure it is, check it with a thermometer before serving it.
How to Make Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
Let’s dive right into how to make the best slow cooker pulled pork.
STEP 1: Pat the pork butt dry with a paper towel if damp to ensure the spices stick. This step is optional, so you make the call whether or not to do it.
STEP 2: In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, cumin, and paprika. Stir it all together well.
STEP 3: Cover the pork butt on all sides with the spice mixture.
STEP 4: Place the entire pork butt into the slow cooker.
STEP 5: Pour the chicken broth and apple cider vinegar into the bottom of the slow cooker.
STEP 6: Put the lid on, cook on low for 7-8 hours, or cook on high for 4-5 hours.
STEP 7: Once the pork has been fully cooked, remove it and place onto a tray or into a bowl. Using 2 forks, shred the pork.
STEP 8: If you are adding BBQ sauce, then add in 1 cup now. This step is optional as well.
STEP 9: Serve and enjoy!
Should I Use a Brine for Pulled Pork?
Brining the pulled pork is a personal decision. For this recipe we chose not to brine our meat. I feel if you are going to cook it slowly in the crock pot then there is no need to brine it for tenderness or flavor, because it already comes out very tender and flavorful.
If I was going to cook my pork in the oven, I would brine it because when it’s cooked in the oven it does not get as tender on it’s own.
If you choose to brine your meat here is a quick recipe on how to do it:
- ½ cup salt
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 8 cups cold water
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 Tbsp of the dry rub spice mix
How to Do It:
In a big pot prepare the solution and add the meat, throw in the bay leaves and then cover the pot and refrigerate it overnight. If the pot does not fit in your refrigerator then put the pork butt and solution in a ziploc bag.
The next day take the meat out and then dry it with paper towels, then put it into the crock pot, and rub the spices all over it.
FAQs & Best Tips
You may have some questions about how to make pulled pork and we will try to answer them for you as well as some helpful hints to make it come out as well as possible.
- Use a cut of pork with a lot of fat and marbling like a pork butt or pork shoulder.
- If you have spare time the night before making the pulled pork then rub the spices on it and refrigerate it overnight. Then it will be ready the next morning before you leave for work to place it in the slow cooker.
- Feel free to substitute any of the spices and replace them with any others of your choice.
- If you want that real smokey taste in your pulled pork then use smoked paprika instead of the regular one.
- Cook the meat as slow as possible for the most tender results.
- The meat is still very tasty even if you decide not to add any BBQ sauce.
How to Keep Pulled Pork Moist
The best way to keep your pulled pork moist is to cook it on low in a slow cooker. The longer it simmers the more tender and moist it will become.
If you try to rush through cooking it, no doubt it will be tougher. So take your time and set the timer on low when making pulled pork in the crock pot. For the best pulled pork you absolutely can’t rush it.
When the pork is done, there will be some nice broth/liquid to use to pour over it to keep it moist.
How to Add Flavor to Pulled Pork
The spices that you add to the pork will add a lot of flavor to the meat, along with the broth that you can add to the crock pot. Here are a few ideas:
- Smoked paprika adds a real smokey taste to the pulled pork.
- Bourbon is a common flavor to add.
- And who doesn’t like the taste of bacon….everything tastes better with bacon!!
Do I Need to Sear the Meat for Pulled Pork?
Even though some people do, it’s not necessary to sear Boston butt when making pulled pork. It’s one of those things that you can do or not do, so it’s not 100% necessary to do.
Typically when we cook pulled pork in the crock pot we do not sear it, but when we make it in the instant pot the cooking process is completely different and we prefer to sear it. Look up our recipe for instant pot pulled pork for the difference.
What Can I Do with Pulled Pork?
The most common way to eat shredded pork is to make a pulled pork sandwich on a nice roll, with some coleslaw on top.
It is also good to eat on a plate with your favorite side dishes, like mac and cheese, coleslaw, potato salad, macaroni salad, or green salad.
Shredded pork tacos are always a favorite. Also any other mexican dishes like enchiladas and carnitas.
Wraps are a great option too.
I love making something for the first time and then having some of it leftover for the next day. I think most foods taste even better after they have been sitting several hours for the flavors to be enhanced.
The easiest thing to do is grab a fresh roll, throw the BBQ pulled pork on top with some coleslaw on it and you will have a gourmet shredded pork sandwich.
Another option is to grab a salad and add some pulled pork to the top of it.
Different Variations of This Recipe
Another way that you can cook your pork butt/pork shoulder is to use an instant pot. Check out our website for instant pot pulled pork, and try making it this way too.
You can also use soda in your crock pot pulled pork. Yeah I know it sounds crazy but the bubbles make the meat tender. We have used ginger ale and cola before and I have also heard of using Dr Pepper and with either one the meat comes out delicious.
If you are watching your carb intake, then try the diet version of these soft drinks.
What to Serve with Pulled Pork?
- Coleslaw – The most common salad to eat with your shredded pulled pork.
- Mac and Cheese – When you eat pulled pork at a restaurant this is the most popular side to have with the pork.
- Cauliflower Mac & Cheese – A healthier twist on this classic side dish.
- Baked Beans – A good southern side dish to have with BBQ pulled pork.
- Pickles – Anytime you eat out and you have a pulled pork sandwich there is always a pickle on the side of your plate, not only for decoration but also for the nice tart crunch.
- Corn on the Cob – Who doesn’t love a nice piece of corn on the cob in the summertime, which goes well with the pulled pork, baked beans and any other picnic foods that you can think of.
- Cucumber Salad – A nice refreshing thing to eat with your pulled pork, also reflective of a fresh garden in the summer.
Diets This Recipe is Good For
- Gluten-free – There is no gluten in pork. Just make sure if you use BBQ sauce on it, check to make sure it is GF.
- Nut-free – There are no nuts in pulled pork recipes.
- Sugar-free – There is no need to add traditional brown sugar if you are on a sugar free diet. Instead, use Swere brown which is sugar free and has zero net carbs and best of all it tastes the same as real brown sugar.
- Dairy-free – There are no dairy products in pulled pork.
- Paleo – Pulled pork fits in nicely with Paleo, especially without traditional BBQ sauce on it.
Make Ahead Options
If you have some time the night before, you can prepare your piece of pork butt with the spices and then stick it in the refrigerator until the next day. Then you need to put it in the slow cooker in the morning before leaving for work.
How to Store Pulled Pork
It is very easy to store pulled pork. Just put it in an airtight container and stick it in the refrigerator. It will stay fresh for about 4 days.
If you are not going to eat it all within that time frame, just stick it in the freezer so that you do not waste all that delicious meat.
How to Reheat
You can reheat your pulled pork in the oven. Preheat it to 350 degrees and it will only take about 5 minutes before you start smelling the yummy pulled pork. Enjoy!
You can also heat it up in the microwave for about 1-2 minutes, which is especially helpful when you don’t want to put the oven on or if you are at work and need to heat up the pulled pork you brought in for your lunch.
Can You Freeze Pulled Pork?
Pulled pork freezes beautifully. Just stick it in an airtight plastic container and then put the plastic container in a ziploc freezer bag.
You could also do it the opposite way. First put the meat in a ziploc freezer bag and then put the bag into a plastic airtight container. Both ways will keep the meat fresh for 2 months in the freezer.
Tools to Use
- Slow Cooker/Crock Pot -This is your main tool needed to cook the pulled pork.
- Bowl – to blend the spices together.
- Forks – To shred the meat. That’s how you ensure to get that shredded texture.
- Thermometer – To check the internal temperature of the meat.
Other Easy Dinner Recipes
Here are a few of our other recipes already on our site that are similar to our pulled pork recipe.
- Instant Pot Pulled Pork
- Instant Pot Chops with Gravy
- Roasted Pork Loin
- Baked Pork Tenderloin
- Fried Pork Chops with Garlic Butter
- Crockpot Pot Roast
All of them are easy-to-make dinners and will have your friends raving!Print
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
- Total Time: 4-5 Hours or 7-8 Hours
- Yield: 14 Servings (1/2 Cup per serving) 1x
This pulled pork recipe is an American BBQ favorite, especially cooked in the slow cooker or crock pot. It is made using a pork butt or pork shoulder and can be cooked several ways, but the key to some tender and juicy meat is to cook it slowly for many hours on a low temperature. It is easy to make and so delicious to eat on a sandwich or on a plate next to any of your favorite side dishes. It will be a favorite in your home just as it is in ours.
- 4–5 lb pork butt
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- ½ cup chicken or beef broth
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup BBQ sauce (optional)
- Pat the pork butt dry with a paper towel if it is needed to ensure the spices stick.
- In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, cumin, and paprika. Stir together.
- Cover the pork butt on all sides with the spice mixture.
- Place the entire pork butt into the slow cooker.
- Pour the chicken broth and apple cider vinegar into the bottom of the slow cooker.
- Put the lid on and cook on low for 7-8 hours, or cook on high for 4-5 hours.
- Once the pork has been fully cooked, remove it and place into a bowl or on a tray. Using 2 forks, shred the pork.
- If you are adding BBQ sauce, then now is the time.
- Serve and enjoy!
0.7 NET CARBS PER ½ CUP SERVING (DOES NOT INCLUDE BBQ SAUCE)
Once you decide how you will cook your pulled pork, the key is not to rush it. Cook it slowly in order to get a soft and tender result.
Feel free to change any of the spices that you like or don’t like.
The pulled pork will be just as delicious without the BBQ sauce if you choose to leave it out. In fact that is the way I like it best.
Storing: It is very easy to store your leftover pulled pork. Just put it in an airtight container and stick it in the refrigerator so that it will keep fresh for about 4 days.
Reheating: To reheat your pulled pork, you can preheat your oven to 350 degrees and stick it in an oven-safe dish for as little as 5 minutes and it will heat up quickly. Don’t overheat it so that it doesn’t dry out.
Freezing: This is a good way to preserve any leftover pulled pork to have another day. If you wrap it in an airtight container and then put that container in a freezer bag, it will be just as tasty when you have the leftovers as it was when you first made it.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 4-5 Hours on High or 7-8 Hours on Low
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Slow Cooker
- Cuisine: American
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