Pulled pork really doesn't get the kind of attention it deserves. It's one of those meals that tend to get lost in the shuffle of fancier dishes or lays buried in the pages of a menu - and we don't really think that's fair! With all the varying dry rubs and marinades you can add to it, pulled pork is one of the more versatile recipes you can make. We're here to bring pulled pork back to the table by teaching you how to make it, what cuts of pork are best, and how you can season it to perfection.

How To Make Pulled Pork: Getting Started

What Kind Of Pork Is Best?

a diagram of all the different cuts of pork on a pig

Even though you can technically use any cut of pork to make this dish, there are some preferred slabs that butchers and chefs recommend. It's suggested that you make pulled pork from the shoulder, which can be divided into several different cuts. Unless you're heading into your local butcher shop, you probably won't find a 10-16 pound pork shoulder hanging around, which means grocery stores will divvy the shoulder up into two cuts: the Boston butt and the picnic roast. The Boston butt comes from the upper part of the shoulder whereas the picnic comes from the lower part of the shoulder.

The reason why the professionals recommend using the shoulder over other sections is that this body part isn't as drying and can still lock in all the flavor without an extensive rub or marinade. When you smoke this part of the pig, the fat dissolves and the remaining meat will still retain its juices and flavor.

What Type Of Marinade Works Best?

a boston butt cut of pork on a cutting board with a dry rub applied

Just because the shoulder maintains its juicy goodness doesn't mean that you should skimp out on additional flavors. Rubs and marinades bring something new to the table and will allow for you and yours to indulge in preferred tastes.

For pork, some of the best herbs and spices you can use range from cumin, thyme, rosemary, garlic, and dill. Of course, you don't need to rely on these tried and true herbs because part of being a chef is all about experimentation. Not to mention, there are tons of different recipes out there that call for different things, so the possibilities are endless for your pulled pork. You can try recipes that include a spicy kick with cayenne pepper and a larger amount of chili powder, or you can stick with a basic pork rub that only really requires salt, pepper, and garlic.

A few tips to remember when you're marinating pork:

  • Pork is a kind of meat that differs from others. You can leave it marinating for longer periods of time, so whether you have guests coming or a quick dinner to throw together, you can leave pork for 3-12 hours.
  • With something like pulled pork, you'll be working with much larger pieces of food, which means you should really work in all the herbs before cooking it. Make sure you use the rub or marinade liberally to ensure a flavorful end result.

What Do You Need To Make Pulled Pork?

an overhead shot of pulled pork on a wooden surface

Before you get started there are some instruments you'll need to make your meal a success. Generally, you won't need too many tools and you probably already have some lying around the house, but here's an extensive list:

  • A fork for shredding. You don't need anything too fancy and a simple dinner fork will do. Some people also shred the pork with two.
  • A slow cooker, smoker, or dutch oven. Smokers and slow cookers are usually the ones that are used when making pulled pork, but other appliances can be used too. Bear in mind that depending on what you own, the cooking times will vary.
  • You'll also need a good knife to trim the fat from the edges of your pork.

Pulled Pork Recipe

two forks next to pulled pork on a cutting board on top of a plaid dish towel

Alrighty, we've officially covered everything you should know before getting started, so let's get into the good stuff! To make this pulled pork, you'll need:

Meat:

  • 1 pork shoulder roast

Ingredients For Dry Rub

  • 2 tablespoons of kosher salt
  • 2 ½ teaspoons of pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of chili powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 1 large chopped onion
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of thyme
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of rosemary

Ingredients For Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • ¼ cup of cider vinegar
  • ½ cup of chicken broth
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of mustard
  • 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce

Steps

  • Slice the fat from the top of your pork but leave the fat within the pieces. Put meat aside.
  • In a large bowl mix together your dry ingredients with a whisk. When everything is well-blended, generously apply the seasoning to your pork until coated.
  • In another bowl mix together all the sauce ingredients with a whisk and put aside.
  • Place the pork and sauce mixture into your slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 5-6 hours. If you want to cook on low, the pork will take about 8 hours until it's ready.
  • Remove the pork from the slow cooker once it reaches an internal temperature of 190-195 degrees, and pulls apart easily.
  • Place the pork on a plate and stick a tin foil tent over the top of it. Leave the meat for about 10-15 minutes.
  • After the allotted time has passed, use one or two forks to shred the pork.
  • If you so choose, you can add the pork back into the slow cooker and stir it in the juices once more before eating.

Additional Methods

pulled pork on a cutting board next to two forks

In our opinion, the above recipe is the best pulled pork recipe, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try out other ones. There are lots of unique and popular recipes for pulled pork out there and they're worth a try if you're adventurous.

For example, some recipes have included Dr. Pepper in the mix. After you add the dry rub onto your meat, you pour the soda on top as opposed to a homemade sauce. Other recipes use an abundance of apples in the marinade, which makes it a great twist for fall!

Remember that you can also marinate your pork ahead of time for up to 12 hours. You can apply the sauce after you pull the pork as opposed to mixing it into the slow cooker. It really all depends on your tastes and what works best for you.

Despite the fact that pulled pork is often seen in sandwiches or as a stand-alone food, it can also be used over nachos, in macaroni and cheese, in poutine, or even over pizza.

Don't be afraid to try new things in the kitchen, especially with a versatile recipe like pulled pork. With all the different recipes and seasonings out there, it's entirely possible to create something new and make it your own. Get into the kitchen, break out the trusty slow cooker, and make a pulled pork dish that you won't forget anytime soon!

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