Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

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Slow cooker pulled pork coated in a homemade barbecue sauce. Hunks of juicy pork shoulder simmered in a spiced sauce until fork tender. You can serve this shredded pork recipe with your favorite sides or in a pulled pork sandwich.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Hands down it’s the most effortless way to make a slow cooker pulled pork recipe. The Crock-Pot is the amazing kitchen device that transforms a tough cut of meat into melt-in-your-mouth pieces. The long cooking time and gentle moist heat favor cuts like pork shoulder that are loaded with chewy connective tissue.

For more effective cooking, the pork is cut into smaller chunks instead of left whole. Its simmered in a sweet, tangy, and savory pineapple braising liquid. Once the meat flakes easily with a fork, all of the delicious juices and flavors in the pot are reduced until a thickened smokey sauce is created.

This is a great recipe to feed a crowd either as an entree or stuffed into toasted hamburger buns for a sandwich.

cutting the fat off pork shoulder

How to make slow cooker pulled pork

  • Combine tomato paste, pineapple juice, maple syrup, molasses, mustard, and seasonings.
  • Cut pork into 4 pieces and add to the slow cooker.
  • Pour barbecue sauce over the pork.
  • Cover and cook on High for 5 to 7 hours, or 8 to 10 hours on Low setting.
  • Transfer pork to a plate and shred into smaller pieces.
  • Defat the sauce in the slow cooker.
  • Reduce the sauce in a large saucepan until thickened.
  • Combine the pork with 1 cup of sauce, serve the rest on the side.

homemade barbecue sauce being whisked in a bowl

Choosing the best cut of meat

Use a boneless pork shoulder also sold as pork butt or “Boston butt” which is a large roast from half of the shoulder. If bone-in pork shoulder is the only cut available, make sure to find a 7 to 8-pound piece to account for the weight of the bone.

Cut and trim the fat

To make the meat fit in a 6-quart Crock-Pot cook faster and more evenly, cut it into four pieces. Pork shoulder has a good amount of fat layer on the surface. Make sure to cut away most of the excess fat, leaving just a small amount for flavor. This will make it easier to remove the fat later when making the barbecue sauce.

shredding pork on a baking sheet

Make a barbecue sauce

Even before the pork begins to cook, it’s coated in a mixture of tomato paste, pineapple juice, molasses, maple syrup, mustard, smoked paprika, onion and garlic powder, chili powder, salt, and pepper. As it cooks, the flavorful juices and drippings infuse into the sauce, making it even more rich and tasty.

Make sure to remove most of the fat that’s sitting on top so it doesn’t make the sauce too greasy. All of the liquid left in the vessel is then reduced until it becomes a thickened tomato-based barbecue sauce. It should yield about 1 3/4 to 2 cups of sauce. I also like to make some extra homemade barbecue sauce to serve on the side.

pouring barbecue sauce over pulled pork in a crock-pot

Can you overcook the pork?

It’s hard to overcook the well-marbled and fatty shoulder cut. However, it can become mushy due to the acids in the sauce if the cooking continues too long beyond the recommended cook times. Make sure to keep an eye on the pork and take a bite for the best gauge of doneness.

What to serve this with

pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw

How does slow cooking tenderize the pork?

When braising a large pork roast in the slow cooker, it’s ideal to cook the meat for a long period of time. Holding it between 160 to 180ºF for at least an hour. This ensures that the collagen in the connective tissues transforms and melt into gelatin. This will tenderize the meat and keep it moist.

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Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Slow cooker pulled pork coated in a homemade barbecue sauce. Hunks of juicy pork shoulder simmered in a spiced sauce until fork tender.
Pin Print Review
4.08 from 13 votes
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time6 hrs
Total Time6 hrs 20 mins
Servings 8 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine American

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup tomato paste
  • ¾ cup pineapple juice
  • cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • black pepper, for seasoning
  • 4 ½ pounds boneless pork shoulder, excess fat trimmed and cut into 4 pieces

Instructions 

  • In a medium bowl whisk together tomato paste, pineapple juice, maple syrup, molasses, mustard, paprika, garlic powder, chili powder, onion powder, and salt.
  • Trim the excess fat from the pork shoulder. Cut into four pieces.
  • Transfer the pork to the slow cooker.
  • Pour sauce over the pork, turning to coat the pieces.
  • Cover and cook until pork is very tender and easy to separate with a fork, 5 to 7 hours on “High” or 8 to 10 hours on “Low” setting.
  • Transfer pork to a plate and shred into smaller pieces. Cover with foil to keep warm.
  • Skim and remove the excess fat from the surface of the sauce. The sauce can also be transferred to a fat separator or bowl to remove the grease.
  • Add the defatted sauce to a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Cook the sauce, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to about 1 ½ cups, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Transfer pork to the slow cooker and combine with 1 cup of sauce. Serve the remaining sauce on the side with the pulled pork.

Notes

  • If only bone-in pork shoulder or pork butt is available, purchase a 7 to 8 pound cut to account for the weight of the bone.

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Nutrition Facts
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
Amount Per Serving
Calories 414 Calories from Fat 81
% Daily Value*
Fat 9g14%
Saturated Fat 3g15%
Cholesterol 153mg51%
Sodium 507mg21%
Potassium 1379mg39%
Carbohydrates 22g7%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 17g19%
Protein 59g118%
Vitamin A 880IU18%
Vitamin C 8mg10%
Calcium 56mg6%
Iron 4mg22%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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4 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Janet Henderson says

    Hi Jessica!!
    Can I make this the day before? If so, what is the best way to reheat it?
    Thanks!!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Janet- Yes you can make the pulled pork the day before. You can reheat in the microwave or stovetop over low heat. Or add it back into the slow cooker to warm up if serving later. I recommend adding the sauce the next day instead. It soaks into the meat so if you add it the day before, you might not have as much sauce. Unless you serve it will more BBQ sauce on the side.

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