Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

My Venture into Barbecued Pork

This recipe is perfect to make during the winter when access to a smoker or grill is limited. You have to plan ahead to make it but it's painfully easy to make. You could serve this at football parties, New Year's Eve get-togethers, or even during the summer for the 4th of July.

Barbecue recipes vary from region to region in the U.S. Where I'm from, we prefer our barbecue sweet and slightly acidic. If you don't like sweet barbecue, this recipe is not for you. I actually served this for Christmas and several family members raved about it – including teenagers! Sometimes, I like to prepare this without adding any barbecue sauce at all. Sometimes, I take the easy way out and buy some barbecue sauce at the store instead of making my own. However, most of the time, I make this dish by taking the extra time and effort to make my own sauce.

Don't be put off by the long instructions. The ingredients are simple. The preparation is simple. In short, you make a wet rub and let the pork marinate overnight. Then you put it in a slow cooker for 11 to 12 hours. Then you make a sauce and bake the pulled pork with the homemade sauce for an hour. Trust me – it's well worth the time. Best of all, I got nearly all of the ingredients for this on sale! This dish can be very budget-friendly. I got a well-trimmed pork shoulder for only US$1.19 per pound – an inexpensive protein that served a crowd. Leftovers are to die for.

If you have a big family or are planning a party, this is a great choice for an entrĂ©e. It is so good! Enjoy – and happy barbecuing!

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Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork

(Printable Version)

1 6 lb pork shoulder (Boston butt)
2 medium onions, diced
1 head garlic, chopped
Hamburger buns

Wet Rub:
1/4 cup white sugar
2 TBSP paprika
4 tsp table salt
1 1/2 TBSP garlic powder
2 TBSP onion powder
2 TBSP chili seasoning
1 TBSP black pepper
2 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil

Sweet Barbecue Sauce (Optional)
1 large onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic
3 cups ketchup
1/4 cup water
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 TBSP liquid smoke
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

The Day Before Cooking:
Make the wet rub by whisking all of the ingredients together. Set aside while you prepare the pork shoulder. The wet rub will thicken slightly as it sits.

Trim as much exterior fat from the pork shoulder as possible. Cut the shoulder into 3 pieces of roughly equal size. One side will likely have a bone so it may be a little bigger than the other 2 pieces – which is no big deal. Add 1/3 of the wet rub to each piece and rub it in on all sides. Add the pieces of pork to a large dish, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Early on the Day of Serving:
The shoulder needs to cook for 11 to 12 hours so plan accordingly. Remove the pork from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Meanwhile, chop the onions and garlic. After the pork has rested for 1 hour, add about 3/4 of the chopped onions and about 3/4 of the chopped garlic to the bottom of the slow cooker. Add the pork then top with the remaining onions and garlic. If any liquids have come out of the pork while it was marinating, tilt the pan and spoon the liquid on top of the meat. Cook on low for 11 to 12 hours (or high for 6 to 7 hours).

You will be shocked by the amount of liquid that comes out of the shoulder even though you did not add any extra water or broth to the slow cooker. When the pork is done, it will pull apart without any effort. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pork and onions/garlic from the juices in the slow cooker. Place the meat and onion mixture on a sided sheet pan and cover with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 20 minutes. Discard the juices. The pork will taste great at this point and will be slightly sweet. You may serve the pulled pork after it has rested with (or without) a store-bought barbecue sauce.

I, however, like to go one extra step when making this pork. When the pork is almost done, start making the barbecue sauce by adding the roughly chopped onion and garlic to a food processor. Puree the onions and garlic and transfer the mixture to a medium sauce pan. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and stir to combine.

When the pork is resting after it has been removed from the slower cooker, preheat the oven to 350F. In addition, start heating the sauce ingredients over medium heat. Stir the sauce often as it heats so that it does not burn on the bottom of the sauce pan. It may splatter when it begins to simmer so feel free to use a splatter screen or a lid that is kept slightly ajar to allow excess moisture to escape. Simmer the sauce for about 15 minutes (about the length of time you are resting the pork). The sauce will darken considerably as it cooks.

Remove the foil from the pork. Use a couple of forks to shred the meat into smaller pieces. Add about 1/3 of the sauce to the pork and stir to combine. Then, spoon another third of the sauce on top of the meat but do not stir it in. Add the sheet pan to the oven and cook for about 1 hour or until the sauce is very thickened on top and beginning to char in a few places. After I add the pork to the oven, I continue to slowly cook the remaining third of the sauce over medium-low to medium heat until it has thickened (about 10 minutes longer or so). Transfer the extra sauce to a serving bowl.

When you take the pork out of the oven, stir it and serve immediately on hamburger buns. Pass around the extra sauce for those who prefer a wetter/sweeter barbecue sandwich.

1) Don't be tempted to buy a pork shoulder that is significantly bigger than 6 lbs. A 7 lb pork shoulder is a very tight fit in most slow cookers so 6 to 6 1/2 lbs is a better choice.
2) This tastes even better as leftovers. In fact, I rarely serve it on the day I make it. I prefer to make it a day or two in advance then just heat it up in the microwave. In this respect, it's perfect party food.


  1. Hello Blog Buddies!
    Due to a known problem with the blogging software I use on this website, you may get an error when you attempt to post a comment. If you try to leave a comment and get an error, simply click the "Post Comment" button again. It should work after clicking the "Post Comment" button one or two additional times.

  2. YUM! I haven't had pulled pork in a long time and this looks perfect! If only I could devote myself to starting dinner a day ahead of time the same way I can dedicate my time to dessert! :)

  3. This sounds great, I can't wait to try it out this weekend.
    Thanks :)

  4. I have the pork getting "happy" right now. Can't wait until tomorrow! Do you know how well the leftovers freeze?

  5. The pork shoulder is marinating right now. I'm making this for tomorrow because my husband's boss will come tomorrow for dinner, and he looooves pork. Thanks for this recipe.

  6. I'm not sure how well the barbecued pork will freeze but I suspect that it will freeze quite well. If it does freeze well, please leave a comment and let us know.

  7. Vince, this turned out really great. The pork without your sauce was good, the sauce is good. But, combine them... oh I am in pork heaven. I will let you know how well it freezes and reheats, probably in about a week. Thanks for the recipe! Folks if you think this looks too difficult or time consuming you are doing yourself a disservice. It is well worth it!

  8. oooo ooo OOOOO! This looks SO good Vince, nice work! Am going to try it this week...

  9. I'm fixing this today! Can't wait until tomorrow when I can enjoy it!

  10. This is a recipe that I would like to try !
    You sent me a bag with those spices, but I suppose it is better when we prepare it by ourself ?
    I am gonna try it very soon ! Thanks my friend ! :))


  11. I'm getting this ready for tomorrow's lunch that I'm making for some boys. I hope buying a slightly smaller roast doesn't affect the recipe.

  12. A smaller roast should not be a problem at all. A LARGER roast, however, would be a problem because it won't fit in a standard slow cooker with all of the other ingredients. I hope you like it!

  13. This is an awesome recipe and the sauce is amazing! We make extra sauce and keep it in an empty ketchup bottle. This is our go-to dish for football parties. We make two or three crockpots worth and freeze the extra. It heats up great in the microwave!

  14. You're going to laugh but my mother wanted this for Thanksgiving 2011! She always keeps the leftovers because they are cinch to heat up in the microwave. I, personally, like to add a little water to the meat before I microwave it because the refrigeration can sometimes dry it out. Mom also wanted it for Christmas and I said, "NO -- we just had it for Thanksgiving!" So, we had enchiladas instead. We're a weird family. :-)


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