How to easily make slow cooker pulled pork perfect for sandwiches, salads, and tacos. Jump to the Slow Cooker Pulled Pork recipe or read on to see our tips for making it.
Pulled pork is absolutely perfect for the slow cooker. It’s easy to do and is the ultimate make-ahead meal. Our recipe makes pulled pork that’s tender, full of flavor, and juicy. It’s delicious served alone or can easily be stirred into your favorite barbecue sauce.
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How to Make the Best Pulled Pork Using a Slow Cooker
The slow cooker really shines in this recipe. We start with a pork shoulder — also called pork butt or Boston butt.
It’s a relatively tough cut and does well when cooked over a long period of time. It’s also well marbled with fat, which prevents the pork from drying out while cooking. As the pork cooks, the fat melts and sort of self-bastes during cooking. Making pulled pork in a slow cooker or crock pot is easy, but we still have a few tips for you so you make it best.
Season the Meat
This is important no matter what you are cooking, but it is especially important in a slow cooker. Once you hit start, you really don’t want to lift the lid, so taking some time to think about flavors and seasoning up front is a good idea.
We’re pretty heavy handed with salt and pepper in the beginning and like to rub the pork with it, getting the salt into all the nooks of the meat. We also season 15 to 20 minutes before adding it to the slow cooker.
Cook on Low and Cook it Slow
After seasoning the meat, we put together a mixture of cooked onions, garlic, tomato paste and spices. That’s poured over the pork and we’re ready to cook.
When I said the slow cooker shines in this recipe, I really meant it. It’s pretty difficult to overcook pork shoulder. It’s because of this that we happily cook the pork on low for many hours. In our recipe below we call for at least 8, but you really can go beyond that. The pork should be so tender that a spoon can easily cut through it. Doing all of this in a slow cooker makes it easy. Do it overnight or while you are away from the house.
Skim the Cooking Liquid then Save it
When the pork is done, not only will you have juicy, tender pulled pork, but you will also have a rich, flavorful broth. It’s pure gold. Remove the cooking liquid from the slow cooker and skim as much fat as possible — remember, pork shoulder is well marbled with fat, so that’s all going to melt into the liquid. Discard the excess fat (which will float to the top) and then stir the liquid back into the pork to keep it extra moist and flavorful.
Another alternative is to refrigerate the pork in its cooking liquid. When it’s cold, the fat will have solidified, making it really easy to scrape off with a spoon.
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Ultimate Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Recipe
Pulled pork is perfect for the slow cooker. Cooking the pork low and very slow is the secret to the juiciest and most tender pulled pork. This is a base recipe and while it is delicious as-is, you should feel free to stir in your favorite barbecue or other sauces at the end of cooking.
You Will Need
1 (4 1/2 to 5 pound) boneless or bone-in pork shoulder (also known as pork butt), twine or netting removed
2 teaspoons salt, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons neutral flavored oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped small
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon ancho or mild chili powder, see our homemade chili powder recipe
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fish sauce or 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup waterFor Serving (Optional)
Barbecue sauce, see our bacon bourbon barbecue sauce recipe
- Prepare Pork
- Cook Pork
- To Finish
Rub the pork with salt and pepper, and then set aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
Heat oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic then cook, stirring occasionally, until they are sweet and browned around the edges. Stir in the tomato paste, chili powder, and cumin. Cook, stirring often, until the tomato paste turns from bright red to orange in color; about 3 minutes. Add the water, apple cider vinegar, and fish sauce and cook for about 1 minute, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan.
Rest the seasoned pork in the bottom of a slow cooker then pour the onion and spice mixture on top. Wiggle the pork around the bottom of the slow cooker so that some of the onion and spice mixture slides underneath. Cover with lid and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or until the pork can be easily shredded.
Turn off the slow cooker and transfer the pork to a cutting board. If the pork has a bone in it, remove and discard it. Use two forks to shred the meat, discarding any connective tissue, and large clumps of fat.
Remove the cooking liquid and skim most of the fat from its surface. Discard the fat then set the cooking liquid aside.
If using barbecue sauce, add it to the slow cooker and stir in the shredded pork. If the mixture needs to be thinned out a little, add back some of the reserved cooking liquid. If you’re not using barbecue sauce, add the shredded pork back to the slow cooker and stir in enough cooking liquid so that the pork is moistened. Taste and season with salt, additional vinegar, or hot sauce as needed.
Adam and Joanne's Tips
- Fish Sauce: Fish sauce can be found in the international aisle in most grocery stores, in international markets, or online. It has a salty-sour flavor and is something we use to elevate flavors in savory dishes or dishes with lengthy cooking times. On Inspired Taste, you see us use it in our Homemade Pho recipe. If you do not have any, Worcestershire sauce is a good substitute.
- Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA Supertracker recipe calculator to calculate approximate values.