Pulled Pork Recipe

If the thought of noshing on a pulled pork sandwich has your belly rumbling and your taste buds salivating, then you absolutely have to try out this recipe from developer Stephanie Rapone. Prep time is a cinch at only 15 minutes and the hands-off cook time is two hours and 20 minutes. This recipe is so versatile you can use the pulled pork for virtually anything, from piled high on tender buns as a sandwich to the filling of a spicy fajita. Rapone loves using pulled pork with her Mexican dishes made at home.

"Enchiladas, nachos, tacos for sure. It's also good to just roast some vegetables like carrots, potatoes and parsnips and toss it all together for a really comforting bowl," Rapone said.

Dress it up or dress it down, pulled pork is perfect for a comforting meal on a cold winter's night or a hot summer's day when only pork tacos will do. It's also a huge hit at gatherings, like high school graduation open houses or family reunions, although those require bigger batches of food. Give Rapone's recipe a try and you'll quickly fall in love with the flavor, texture, and versatility of this pulled pork.

Gather up the pulled pork ingredients

This recipe doesn't really require much with pork being the main one of course. Look for three to four pounds of boneless pork shoulder roast, also known as pork butt. If the store only has bone-in, grab a four- to five-pound chunk of meat, Rapone recommended. Grab kosher salt, cumin, smoked paprika, oregano, chili powder, garlic powder, brown sugar, black pepper, liquid smoke, canola or vegetable oil, chicken broth, a bay leaf, ketchup, honey, Worcestershire sauce, ginger, red pepper, and apple cider vinegar. You'll also want to grab some buns — Rapone prefers Hawaiian buns — and yummy toppings like pickles, coleslaw or homemade pickled red onions.

"I love this recipe because the pork itself isn't too 'BBQ-ish,' you can also use the leftovers in tacos, nachos, casserole, etc.," Rapone said.

Prepare the pork

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven is preheating, take a sharp knife and trim the excess fat from the pork. Don't trim off too much, just the really thick parts, Rapone said. The fat actually gives the pork additional flavor. Marbling, which is when the fat intermingles with the lean meat, gives the meat more flavor when cooking. Pork producers look for breeds that have substantial marbling with lean cuts, particularly those who work with the restaurant industry directly.

Once you've trimmed the fat, cut the pork butt into five to seven slices, each about 2 inches thick. Then place the pork slices in a large bowl and get ready to get your rub on.

Mix up the pulled pork rub

Grab another bowl and add together the rub ingredients. Take one teaspoon of black pepper and one tablespoon each of kosher salt, cumin, smoked paprika, oregano, chili powder, garlic powder, and brown sugar. Combine these ingredients well and pour them over the pork. Use your hands to turn the meat over and over in the seasonings rub in order to evenly coat each slice.

Smoked paprika, not powdered, can be found in the spices section, Rapone noted. Then heat canola or vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven, big enough to hold all the pork and still be able to cover it with the lid or aluminum foil. Turn the knob to medium heat and let it warm up for a couple of minutes, or until the oil easily slides around the Dutch oven when you tilt it.

Rapone noted that this particular rub would work well on other meats. "The rub would be great on chicken, other cuts of pork, beef like a flank steak, a brisket, or skirt steak especially, or even salmon. It's a great basic flavorful rub to keep on hand," she noted.

Sear in the pulled pork flavors

Add the seasoned pork to the hot oil and brown each piece for two to three minutes per side. Rapone advised that you want the seasonings to toast and a crust to form that's golden brown.

"If there are a few black pieces in the pot, that's okay, but turn the heat down, so you do not burn the seasonings. You will need to brown the pork in two to three batches," she said. "Toasting the pork also helps the spices stick to the meat when you add the liquid to the pot for the braising process. And, it creates great contrast of texture. Otherwise, the whole thing is just the tender pulled pork. Having the little crispy bits is extra yum."

When the last batch is done browning on the last side, add the rest of the already-browned pork back to the pot. Add in a 14.5-ounce can of chicken broth, 2 teaspoons of liquid smoke, and one bay leaf. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Then cover with the lid or foil and put in the oven to roast for two hours.

Make the pulled pork sauces

While the pork is roasting, make one or both of the sauces. Rapone said her favorite is the apple cider vinegar sauce, because "I like really puckery foods, and it cuts through the richness of the pork."

Take a sauce pan and in it mix together 1 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of ketchup, 1/2 a teaspoon of crushed red pepper, and 1/2 a teaspoon of kosher salt. Heat the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the brown sugar and ketchup have dissolved completely. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool for ten minutes before pouring it into a bowl or jar for serving.

To make the honey ginger sauce, add 3/4 of a cup of ketchup, 1/2 a cup of honey, 1/4 of a cup water, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of dried powdered ginger, 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika and 1/2 a teaspoon of kosher salt into another small saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring often, until it bubbles. Then turn off the heat and cool for ten minutes before pouring it into a bowl or jar to serve.

Add the final touches to the pulled pork

After the pork has roasted for two hours, check the temperature of the largest chunk with a digital probe thermometer. You want the chunk of pork to reach 208 to 215 degrees Fahrenheit. Continue to roast if it hasn't reached that temperature, checking every ten minutes. Once it's done, take the pork out of the pan and place in a medium casserole dish or bowl and let it rest for 15 minutes.

"Resting allows the juices to redistribute into the meat, so it stays juicy. Otherwise, they just rush out of the meat. Also, if you use gloved hands to pull the pork like I do in the video, you need that cool down time," Rapone said.

Take the cooking liquids the pork was just sitting in and run it through a mesh strainer into a large glass measuring cup, glass jar, or fat separator. Let it rest for at least ten minutes, then skim off the fat unless using a fat separator, which does the job for you. discard any fat in the garbage. Once the pork has rested, shred it with your hands or two forks, pulling out and tossing bigger chunks of fat or tissue. Then pour approximately 1/3 of the cooking liquid back into the meat to add flavor or moisture, Rapone directed.

Build the best pulled pork sandwich

Grab your Hawaiian buns or bread of choice and start slapping down heaps of shredded pork for a sandwich that cannot be beat. In addition to pickles, coleslaw, and pickled red onions, Rapone said other toppings that would taste great include horseradish mayo, provolone or pepper jack cheese, and possibly pickled jalapenos.

Some people love to pile crispy and flavorful Funyuns or potato chips on top of their pulled pork sandwich for some extra crunch. Freshly sliced or caramelized onions give this sandwich some kick, too. Serve with a side of baked beans and coleslaw and you'll have a hearty and incredible meal.

Pulled Pork Recipe
5 from 16 ratings
From sandwiches to tacos and nachos, this pulled pork recipe works well with almost anything. It's perfect for both family dinners and celebratory events.
Prep Time
15
minutes
Cook Time
2.33
hours
Servings
8
servings
Pulled pork
Total time: 2.58 hours
Ingredients
  • 3 to 4 boneless pork shoulder roast (aka pork butt); if you can only get bone-in, look for 4-5 pounds
  • 1 tablespoon + 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, divided
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon garlic powder, divided
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons liquid smoke
  • 14.5-ounce can of chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¾ cup + 1 tablespoon ketchup, divided
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried (powdered) ginger
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • buns for sandwiches (we love Hawaiian buns)
Optional Ingredients
  • pickled red onions
  • pickles
  • coleslaw
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 325. While the oven is preheating, trim the excess fat from the pork. You don't want to cut too much, just the really thick parts. Then, cut the pork in 5-7 slices, about 2 inches thick. Place the pork in a large bowl.
  2. Measure the rub ingredients into a separate bowl: 1 teaspoon black pepper and 1 tablespoon each kosher salt, cumin, smoked paprika, oregano, chili powder, garlic powder and brown sugar. Combine well and pour over the pork. Use your hands to turn the meat in the seasonings to evenly coat it.
  3. Heat canola or vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven (large enough to hold all the pork and still be able to cover with a lid or aluminum foil) over medium heat for 2 minutes, or until the oil easily glides around the pot when you tilt it. Add the seasoned pork to the hot oil and brown two sides of each piece for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. You want the seasonings to toast and the crust to be just golden brown. If there are a few black pieces in the pot, that's okay, but turn the heat down, so you do not burn the seasonings. You will need to brown the pork in 2 to 3 batches.
  4. When the last batch is done browning, add the rest of the already-browned pork back to the pot. Add the chicken broth, liquid smoke, and bay leaf. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Cover with lid or foil and put in oven to roast. Roast 2 hours.
  5. While the pork is roasting, make the sauce(s).
  6. Apple cider vinegar sauce: Add 1 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 tablespoon ketchup, ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper, and ½ teaspoon salt into a small saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the brown sugar and ketchup dissolve. Turn off heat and cool for 10 minutes before pouring into a bowl or jar to serve.
  7. Honey ginger sauce: Add ¾ cup ketchup, ½ cup honey, ¼ cup water, 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon dried (powdered) ginger, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, and ½ of a teaspoon of salt to a small saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring often, until bubbly. Turn off heat and cool for 10 minutes before pouring into a bowl or jar to serve.
  8. After the pork has roasted, check the temperature of the largest chunk with a digital probe thermometer. You want to cook it to 208-215 F. If it has not reached that temperature, continue to roast and check every 10 minutes. Remove pork from the cooking liquid to a medium casserole dish or bowl; rest 15 minutes. Pour the cooking liquids through a mesh strainer into a large glass measuring cup, glass jar or fat separator. Let it rest for at least 10 minutes, then skim off fat (not necessary if using a fat separator). Discard any fat, even liquid, into the garbage -- not down the drain or garbage disposal.
  9. Once the pork has rested for 15 minutes, shred it with your hands or forks, pulling out and discarding bigger chunks of fat or tissue, if needed. Pour about ⅓ of the cooking liquid back into the meat to add flavor and moisture. Combine well, taste, and add more if needed.
  10. Build sandwiches with your sauce of choice and enjoy!
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 384
Total Fat 19.9 g
Saturated Fat 5.8 g
Trans Fat 0.2 g
Cholesterol 79.1 mg
Total Carbohydrates 27.3 g
Dietary Fiber 1.5 g
Total Sugars 20.1 g
Sodium 643.0 mg
Protein 23.9 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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