How to Cook & Shred a Pork Shoulder for Pulled Pork
10.28.2019 Meat Tip Monday
Pork shoulder is one of our all-time favorite cuts of meat because of its versatility and flavor! When cooked long and slow, the meat becomes tenderized and the fat melts which gives pork shoulder its meaty flavor and texture as well as a sweet taste when cooked with adequate moisture. 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! In this blog post, you’ll learn how to slow-cook a pork shoulder – from choosing the meat to shredding it for pulled pork – and up your meal-prepping game.
Choosing the Meat
When shopping for meat (preferably at our retail stores The Meat Market and Local Source Foods), look for pork shoulder or pork butt. These terms are usually used interchangeably as pork shoulder and pork butt are very similar cuts of meat. The difference is pork shoulder is cut from the thinner, triangular end of a pig’s shoulder whereas pork butt is cut from the thicker and more marbled end above it. Despite pork butt’s name, it and pork shoulder are both from a pig’s front limbs – not its hindquarters.
Pork shoulder is available with and without bones. Bone-in pork shoulders take a little longer to cook which can result in more flavorful meat. Boneless pork shoulders can be sliced into smaller chunks for easier handling and quicker cooking. As for weight, bone-in pork shoulders can weigh ten pounds or more whereas boneless pork shoulders can weigh between five and eight pounds.
Slow-Cooking the Pork
Cooking a juicy pork shoulder full of flavor is actually quite simple, although it does require some time. Because the shoulder is a hard-working muscle, the meat is very tough. A low, steady temperature cooks pork shoulder the best works to tenderize a pork shoulder. To slow-cook, place the pork shoulder in a Dutch oven or another heavy pot, then pour enough broth, beer, or other liquid to partially submerge the meat. After doing so, cover the pot and let the pork shoulder slowly cook in a low-temperature oven. Once a few hours have passed, check the pork shoulder. The shoulder is done when the meat is so tender that it falls off the bone when poked with a fork. If you’re unsure if the pork shoulder is completely cooked, place it back in the oven for another 30 minutes as it’s almost impossible to overcook meat using the slow-cook method.
Shredding the Meat
Once the pork shoulder is done, remove the pieces of meat from the liquid and place them in a large bowl. When the pork shoulder is cool enough to handle, use two forks or your fingers to shred the meat apart into small pieces. Remove any bones and large pieces of fat.
For a more moist and flavored pulled pork, mix some of the cooking liquid back into the meat. First, strain the liquid from the pot into a measuring cup and skim the fat off the top. Slowly pour the cooking liquid on the pulled pork, a little at a time, and mix. Add more liquid until the pulled pork is as wet or dry as you like! Another option is to add barbecue sauce to pulled pork for moisture.
We hope you now have a better understanding of how to slow-cook a pork shoulder – from choosing the meat to shredding it for pulled pork. Check our blog again on Friday when we share a pulled pork recipe for you to prepare using your new skills!