Pulled Pork is an all-time favorite and perfect for casual parties and family gatherings. With football season just getting underway and the holidays right around the corner, I thought this would the perfect recipe to get you ready! Using the slow cooker allows you to assemble it and then forget it for hours. It also does not heat up the kitchen – a real blessing on hot days. Make this once or twice to adjust to your personal tastes and cooking equipment, and you’ll be ready to have this whenever you have a crowd coming over.
I wrote this recipe for a slow cooker, but you could also make this in the oven. Use a large Dutch oven if you have it and brown the meat on all sides in hot oil. Add onions, garlic, bay leaf, and water to the pot, cover with a tight lid, and bake at 300°F until tender. You can baste the roast occasionally during cooking. This technique gives you a crunchy exterior and darker color. And of course you can make this on a BBQ grill. Use the indirect method of cooking, with a disposable foil pan under the roast and the heat on the opposite side of the grill. Spin the meat occasionally during cooking. This gives it a delightful smoky flavor, but does require more attention.
Because of all the flavor the wet rub gives, I don’t think you need to add a barbecue sauce to this pork. I prefer to serve it as is, moist and tender with the cooking juices. But there are some die-hard BBQ lovers out there that will insist it isn’t pulled pork unless there is a sauce. For those people, feel free to serve a barbecue sauce on the side.
Because this recipe yields a lot of meat, you can serve some for your dinner and then use the leftovers in a number of ways. I have used it as fillings for tacos, enchiladas, and burritos. You could roll it into tamales. You can put it in spring rolls or pot stickers. Consider it as a topping for crostini with melted cheese over the top. Or maybe you like Tamale Pie … how far can your imagination go?
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
You can put the dry rub on the pork up to 24 hours in advance. Place in a container or zip top bag, cover, and keep in the refrigerator until ready to cook. Return to room temperature before cooking.
Any meat that has a layer of fat on one side is best when cooked with the fat side up. This way the meat is self-basting and comes out tender and moist!
Kitchen Skill: Using Rubs
Rubs impart a lot of flavor without adding any calories or fat. They can add color (if they contain chile powder, paprika, or turmeric for example), heat (with cayenne or other chile pepper), and of course seasoning. You can use a rub on beef or pork for up to 24 hours before cooking, but if you are using it on chicken or fish, don’t let it sit for much more than about 30 minutes. Any longer and the seasonings will overwhelm the delicate flavors. When rubs have sugar in them they can burn easily, so cook them over a lower heat. Whichever combination of ingredients you use, the ease of use and huge increase in flavor will have you reaching for a rub mix every time you cook!
- Wet Rub
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp dried mustard
- 1 tsp green chile powder
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 to 2 tsp olive oil, optional
- Pork Roast
- 5 to 7 lb pork shoulder or Boston butt roast
- 2 large onions, peeled and sliced thickly
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 bay leaf
- Combine all Rub ingredients in a small bowl. Mix until evenly blended into a thick paste. You can leave out the olive oil if you want, but it does make it easier for the rub to stick to the meat.
- Rinse pork roast with water and pat dry with paper towels. Remove some of the obvious pockets of fat, but not all. You need some for the flavor and moisture it provides. Rub all over with the dry rub.
- Place onion slices and garlic in bottom of slow cooker. Pour in water and add bay leaf. Place pork roast on top, fat side up, cover with lid, and cook on low for about 8 hours or until fork tender. The internal temperature should be about 200°F.
- Transfer meat to a bowl and shred with two forks. Discard any large pieces of fat. Place shredded meat back in slow cooker to absorb some of the cooking juices. You can hold the meat on the “warm” setting until ready to serve.
- Serve on soft sandwich rolls.
- Yield: 7 to 10 servings
- Variation: For a more traditional barbecued pulled pork flavor, you can add 1/4 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce (you may want to try my Root Beer version) at the beginning of cooking and pass additional sauce at the table. Serve with a spicy cole slaw.