Homemade Pulled Pork
Shredded pork shoulder has endless possibilities: Mix with barbecue sauce for pulled pork sandwiches or hearty nachos, combine with sauce for pasta, add more flavor to chili, and even sprinkle over pizza! Pulled pork is not only versatile and full of flavor, it’s also easy to make. Simply, trim and season the pork, add vegetables and liquid, cook, and shred. As promised in our blog post earlier this week, here is our recommended recipe for making homemade pulled pork.
- 4 – 6 pounds boneless pork shoulder or butt (or 5 to 7 pounds bone-in)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 – 3 tablespoons mixed spices or dry herbs (see Spice Combinations below)
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped (optional)
- 1 medium carrot, chopped (optional)
- 3 stalks celery, chopped (optional)
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups liquid, such as low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, tomato juice, light or amber beer, white or red wine, orange juice, or a mix of several liquids
- 2 – 4 tablespoons liquid smoke (optional)
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup barbecue sauce (optional)
- Cutting board
- Chef’s knife
- Measuring cups and spoons
- 5-quart or larger Dutch oven, or another heavy pot
- Large mixing bowl
- 2 dinner forks
- Heat the oven to 325°F. Arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat to 325°F.
- Trim the pork. Trim off any large pieces of fat from the outside of the pork shoulder, but leave small pieces and the interior fat. If using boneless pork, cut the pork into several large fist-sized pieces. If using bone-in, leave the pork as is, on the bone.
- Season the pork. Sprinkle the pork with the salt, pepper, and spices if using. Rub the seasoning into the pork with your fingers so that the meat is evenly coated on all sides.
- Sear the pork (optional). If time allows, sear the pork to deepen the final flavor and give it textural contrast. Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a Dutch oven or another heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the pork and sear on all sides, working in batches as needed so as not to crowd the pan. If not searing, just place the pork in the Dutch oven or heavy pot.
- Add the vegetables (if using). Onions, garlic, and other vegetables will also deepen the final flavor of the pork – but vegetables are optional. If using, nestle them around the pork in the Dutch oven or heavy pot.
- Add the liquid. Pour the liquid and liquid smoke (if using) over the pork. The pork should be only partially submerged, with some of the pork remaining above the surface of the liquid.
- Bring to a simmer. Place the Dutch oven or heavy pot with the pork over medium-high heat and bring the liquid to a simmer.
- Cover and transfer to the oven. Cover the Dutch oven or heavy pot and transfer the whole pot to the oven.
- Cook for 2 – 4 hours until fork-tender. Let the pork cook undisturbed for 2 hours, then begin checking it every half hour. Total cooking time will be 2 to 4 hours, depending on the amount of pork and whether it is bone-in which takes longer to cook. The pork is done when it is fork-tender, meaning the meat can be easily pierced with a fork without resistance and falls apart with a little pressure. If you’re cooking bone-in pork, the meat should be falling off the bone. If in doubt, cook the meat for another half hour as it’s almost impossible to overcook meat with the slow-cook method.
- Transfer the pork to a large bowl. Lift the pieces of pork out of the liquid and transfer to a large bowl. When cool enough to handle, use two forks or your fingers to shred the meat into pieces. Remove any large pieces of fat or bones.
- Strain the cooking liquid. Strain the cooking liquid into a measuring cup. The vegetables can be chopped and mixed in with the pork, if desired. Skim the fat off the top of the cooking liquid.
- Moisten the pork with cooking liquid or barbecue sauce (optional). For more moist and flavorful pulled pork, you can mix some of the cooking liquid back into the pork. Start with a little, mix, then add more until the pork is as wet or dry as you like. Alternatively, for barbecue pulled pork, you can mix in barbecue sauce.
- Plain Pork: Most versatile, season after cooking for use in any dish
- Whole bay leaf with no other spices
- Barbecue-Spiced Pork: Good for pulled pork sandwiches, tacos, and pizza
- Brown sugar
- Dry mustard
- Herb-Crusted Pork: Good for pasta sauces, ravioli, and casseroles
- Fresh or dried oregano
- Whole bay leaf
- Mexican-Spiced Pork: Good for enchiladas, burritos, tacos and tamales
- Chile powder
- Dried oregano
- Whole dried chipotle or whole ancho chiles
- Garlic powder
- Asian-Spiced Pork: Good for tacos, steamed dumplings, and stir-fried rice
- Star anise
- Cinnamon (or Chinese 5-spice blend)
- Yield: Approximately 10 cups of shredded pork; 10-12 servings
- Storage: Pulled pork will keep for 1 week in the refrigerator or for up to 3 months in the freezer