I always love to make a Slow Cooker Pulled Pork. It’s so easy and there’s nothing like a set it and forget it recipe. Of course, this Slow Cooker Pulled Pork takes a bit of time but that’s pretty much time while you’re doing whatever you have to do. And then there is that tantalizing aroma filling your kitchen, driving you nuts, until the moment you open that slow cooker to this glorious pork and snitch that first bite before you even take it out. Don’t you tell me that’s just me!! I know you do it, too. Or maybe it IS just me?
And while nothing can be compared to a bonafide Pork Butt, also known as Pork Shoulder, smoked in a barbecue, this recipe, done in the slow cooker, yields absolutely moist, tender and delicious results. And it could hardly be simpler.
About Slow Cooker Pulled Pork:
Making a pork shoulder, especially in the slow cooker because it’s so hands off, is one of my favorite things to do. Um, food-wise, at least. And while some items can be a bit iffy in the slow cooker, Slow Cooker Pulled Pork isn’t one of them. The slow, moist environment does wonders for that cheap cut of meat, rending out a gorgeous, silky, unctuous pulled pork and surprise, it even forms a “bark” – the wonderful bit of chewy, crispy crust that’s so prized by people who love real deal barbecue.
Even with my small family, I don’t hesitate to make Slow Cooker Pulled Pork because it’s great the first night, leftovers are wonderful, it freezes well and Slow Cooker Pulled Pork can be reworked so many ways. That means you’ve got a leg up on so many leftover possibilities and they’re so good, no one will even think they’re leftovers!
If you’re having a party or a buffet, there’s hardly a more economical or well-loved item to toss out on the table. Served on buns, a little goes a long way. Put out the “fixins” and don’t forget the slaw. And of course, Slow Cooker Pulled Pork practically creates a casual party atmosphere which is great if you are on a budget – keep the sides casual, too. Potato salad & baked beans come to mind, and if you are drawing a blank on options, think about what your fave bbq joint has on their menu.
Making Slow Cooker Pulled Pork:
I’m going to give you all my secrets to make the best Slow Cooker Pulled Pork, and most of these hold true for cooking any barbecue style pork roast or pork butt as they are sometimes called, no matter what the method.
- Keep on the fat cap, and keep it on the top. If it’s very thick, some may be hacked off, but don’t go under 3/8ths of an inch or so. Score it, just down to the meat in a criss-cross pattern, every inch or so.
- Keep some Rib Rub on hand, but don’t keep it too long, three to five months tightly closed in a dark cupboard that doesn’t get a lot of heat. I mix up an extra batch or two each time so I have it on hand.
- Use the Rub generously! A good 1/2 a cup or more for a smaller roast, about 3/4 cup or more for a ten pound. What’s on the outside flavors the whole roast.
- I used to massage then heard that blocks the pores of the meat and doesn’t allow the flavors to penetrate. Now I just sprinkle and give it just enough of a pat to hold it in place.
- Work on a sheet or two of plastic wrap, enough to wrap the roast in when you add the rub. Sprinkle the bottom and sides first, then turn it over and do the fat side. Bring the edges of the plastic wrap up and over.
- Wrap meat tightly and refrigerate in a pan, two or three hours if time is short and overnight if not. Unwrap, place it in the crockpot and let it cook, slowly, until it is nearly ready to fall apart.
- Cook overnight or while you’re at work, but if you’re around, consider draining off some of the juices and fat about halfway through the cooking time. This will give it more surface area to form the bark. Put those juices in the fridge.
- Try not to overcook – it’s hard to do so in a slow cooker but can be done, rendering out all the fat and juices and leaving the meat dry and stringy. There is a difference between being juicy and shreddable and stringy.
- Pulled pork is done when a fork can easily be inserted and turned and just shreds. Most of the fat will be rendered and if there are bones, the meat will be pulled back from them.
- When finished, let rest in the juices until it has cooled significantly and you’ll have the loveliest, silkiest meat.
- Watch the “safe” zone! The two-hour window for leaving meat at room temp.
- Shred the meat before refrigerating! Once the fats and collagen have firmed back up with refrigeration, it’s difficult to shred and excess fat is hardened throughout the meat.
- Remove big chunks of unattractive fat as you shred.
- Toss in some of those juices before either serving or refrigerating for the most unctuous shredded pork. Or add a bit of a barbecue sauce, like Pride of Deer Camp Barbecue Sauce, a thin, vinegary spicy sauce to enhance.
- I never add a lot of sauce, just a touch to help moisten the meat and then pass a variety of sauces so everyone can choose their own poison.
- If you want smoky flavor add a touch of Liquid Smoke, one of my Top Secret Super Stealth Ingredients in with the barbecue sauce or juices when you add them to the meat.
- If you keep the crispy barky bits aside and add to the top of the pile of meat to be mixed in before serving (do the same if you are refrigerating part of it) you’ll find bits of crispy, scrumptious pieces in your pork.
- Reheat very slowly and carefully! The meat can easily drain off any juices and turn firm, dry, grey and tasteless! It can be saved by a great sauce, but the meat should be fantastic on its own.
Saving Money on Slow Cooker Pulled Pork:
Pork Butt is generally found in sizes ranging from the six to 12-pound range, and sale prices, depending on where you live, might range from $.89 to $1.99 a pound. Sometimes, I’ll divide a roast like this up to make several different meals and sometimes I’ll cook up the whole roast in the slow cooker like today.
This roast was a 10 pounder, at a great price, probably because I bought it the week before the Superbowl, $1.49 a pound. Cooked, it made about 5 1/2 pounds of shredded pork after the excess fat and the bone was discarded – I say about, as there was some snacking and smacking away of hands as I stood at the counter shredding the meat. This weight should hold true whether smoked, baked or cooked in a smoker, and it works out to a cooked price of $2.70 a pound, dry. That’s a fantastic bargain any way you look at it, and it gives you a base point to compare if you’re ever considering buying precooked pulled pork in a tub.
A cup of the shredded meat (lightly packed and dry, no sauce) weighs in at about 5 ounces, so this roast yielded about 17 1/2 cups of shredded meat. This should give you an idea of how much making your own compares in cost to something like a Curley’s, Lloyd’s or another purchased brand of barbecue. Granted, you’ll still have to add a sauce (which will add weight and cost), but the pricing of $.86 cents a cup is looking pretty good by comparison! I’d guess that around 1/3 of a cup is about right for a sandwich, depending on the size of the buns.
What to do with all the Juices from making Slow Cooker Pulled Pork:
The roast gave off about a quart of juices (four cups) after it was defatted and a little used to moisten the meat. You paid for it, go ahead and use it. It doesn’t go to waste at my house and hopefully, now, not at yours. Since the juices have picked up some flavor from the rub, think about flavors that go well with the flavors of the rub you use: Cayenne, Chili Powder, Garlic, Onion, etc. I’ve listed a few possibilities, but check out my Soups, Chowders & Chilis menu for even more inspiration.
All these flavors will be marvelous in soup/stews that have a natural barbecue flavor like my Vietnamese Pork Noodle Soup (no it’s not Pho) Georgia Brunswick Stew or this Barbecue Chicken Chili (just sub in the pork for the chicken) and the broth can easily be nudged into the realm of Mexican flavors, too. Think about Pork Chili, a Chile Verde, or a Pozole. Save out a few good-sized chunks of the pork, refrigerating them to firm that natural collagen back up. Carefully cut and add them back into your soup or stew towards the end of the cooking and you’ll have marvelous, tender chunks and not just shreds in your finished soup or chili.
Pulled Pork from the Slow Cooker
- 1 ten pound Pork Shoulder
- 3/4 cup of rub of your choice, here’s mine.
- plastic wrap
Remove any skin and excess fat (down to 3/8ths of an inch) on the top of the roast. Score through the fat down to the meat every inch or so in both directions.
Sprinkle and gently pat the rub onto the bottom side (non fat side) of the roast. Turn over onto plastic wrap and sprinkle and pat the rub on the top. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least two to three hours and up to overnight.
Place in crockpot and cook on low for 8 to 11 hours. Cool in juices for 30 minutes or so, until easy to handle. Shred while still warm. Toss with about a cup of the juices (or a barbecue sauce, like Pride of Deer Camp Barbecue sauce) and refrigerate.
Reheat slowly and carefully.
Yield: about 5 1/2 pounds of shredded meat, around 17 1/2 cups.
- Pork shoulder needs to cook low & slow. Best results are had by using the low setting.
- Pork will shred once the internal temperature reaches about 195 degrees or so, but this can vary. For some science around this, read this article from Amazing Ribs.
- Crock Pots vary in cooking temperature, “hot zones” and how long they take to heat up. There will always be variances.
- Rule of thumb: a four to seven-pound roast will need 6 to 7 hours, add an additional hour after that for each pound of meat.
- Don’t lift the lid until you think the roast is done! Check quickly! A lift of the lid will slow the cooking down considerably!
Note: Post updated, text & photos, January 2019. Thanks to my daughter, Jess for the lovely platter, a part of an hors d’oeuvre set, to my Sis in law, Joan who sent me a pic of a “flight” three sliders that got me thinking, and my friend Jaxx, the Bearded Hiker, whose post on Alabama Sliders (Roll Tide) inspired me to spear pickles! Jaxx, I told you I was stealing your idea!