A Pulled Pork Recipe for The Oven, Slow Cooker, or Instant Pot

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The word “pull” may imply a bit of work, especially to anyone who has ever shredded meat by hand. However, “pulled pork” could more aptly be called “fall off the bone” pork or “practically cooks itself” pork, especially in a world of easy-to-use slow-cookers and speed-cookers. 

Yes, if you have the time and desire, you can barbecue for hours while enjoying the afternoon with friends. You can even have those same friends help you pull all that pork with forks. However, on your average weekday, you likely have the energy to season meat, press a couple of buttons, and relax while you wait for your delicious meal to be ready. 

In this tutorial, we’ll walk you through making tender pulled pork in a slow cooker, oven, or Instant Pot, and then, we’ll show you how to transform that perfectly cooked meat into a delectable pulled pork sandwich with all the fixings. 

How to make pulled pork 

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: Up to five hours (depends on cooking method)

Total time: Up to five hours and 15 mins

Servings: 8


For the pulled pork:

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 4 pounds pork shoulder 
  • 1 cup barbeque sauce (see how to make your own below)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 large onion, chopped or 2 teaspoons onion powder 
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme

Make your own BBQ sauce: 

For the sandwiches: 

  • 8 buns
  • Cole slaw

Preparation instructions

How to make pulled pork: 

  1. Pour the vegetable oil into the slow cooker. (We’ll first show you how to make pulled pork in a Crock-Pot and then give you variations for Instant Pots and ovens.) 
  2. Place the pork roast in the slow cooker and pour in the barbecue sauce, apple cider vinegar, and chicken broth. 
  3. Add the brown sugar, yellow mustard, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, onion, garlic, and thyme. Stir to combine. 
  4. Cover and cook on high for five to six hours.
  5. Remove just the meat from the slow cooker and use a fork (or two) to shred the pork. The meat should practically fall apart. 
  6. Return the shredded pork to the slow cooker and stir to coat the meat with the cooking liquid. 

Recipe adapted from Allrecipes.

Variation for ovens: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
  2. First, add the oil – this time to a Dutch oven-style pot – and then add in the meat and other ingredients.
  3. Transfer the pot to the oven and cook for about three hours. Feel free to check on the roast, ensuring that there is enough liquid, nothing is burning, and that the meat is getting tender.
  4. Remove the lid and continue cooking until the pork is very tender and can be easily pulled apart. This should take an additional one to two hours.
  5. Shred the pork. 

Steps adapted from the Oven-Roasted Pulled Pork Recipe on Delish. Check out the full recipe to learn how to sear the pork for crispiness, make a spice rub, and even add Coca Cola to your recipe the next time around. 

Variation for Instant Pots: 

  1. Follow the same preparation instructions from above.
  2. Cook on manual/high for 70 minutes. 
  3. When finished, let the pot release pressure for approximately 15 minutes.

Assemble your sandwich:

  1. Warm the buns. 
  2. Stuff the buns with pulled pork and add a dollop of coleslaw. 

Nutritional values per sandwich (without coleslaw)

Calories: 528  

Protein: 31.9 grams 

Carbohydrates: 45.5 grams

Fat: 23.2 grams 

Cholesterol: 98.4 milligrams 

Sodium: 802.7 milligrams

Sławomir Fajer – stock.adobe.com

How much meat do I need? 

Pulled pork is a great weeknight meal, but it also goes far at a family gathering. To calculate how much you should make, assume that one pound of pork is sufficient for three people (or two, if you expect folks to go back for seconds and thirds, which we’re pretty sure they will). Keep in mind that your Instant Pot, slow cooker, or Dutch oven has a limited capacity, and you will need to work in batches when cooking for a large event. Read more here

How to store pulled pork

Chances are unlikely you won’t have any leftover pulled pork, but if you do, you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge for two to three days or freeze for up to three months. Thaw any frozen meat by moving it to the refrigerator for several hours. 

Serving suggestions

  • Pulled pork sandwich: See above for inspiration or read up on how different cultures garnish pulled pork and serve it in bread, tortillas, and beyond. 
  • Nachos: Top tortilla chips with creamy queso, pico de gallo, sour cream, chopped green onion, and a hearty serving of pulled pork 
  • Burritos or tacos: Layer a large wheat tortilla or a small corn tortilla with cooked rice, pulled pork, pico de gallo, sour cream, and guacamole. In the case of the burrito, roll up and enjoy. For tacos, just eat! 
  • With sides: Pair pulled pork with rich mac and cheese, potato salad or fries, and cooked greens or salad.

Pulled pork FAQs

Why do you put vinegar in pulled pork?

Vinegar adds acidity, which helps to balance out flavors without overpowering other ones. Try sneaking a splash of vinegar into other savory dishes like black beans or sushi rice, and taste how it helps bring out the dish’s saltiness, richness, and sweetness without making it taste sour.   

What is the difference between pulled pork and shredded pork?

Semantics! These two terms refer to the same thing: deliciously soft, melt-in-your-mouth pork that you can gently pull into shreds. 

What cut of meat is best for pulled pork?

Most recipes recommend pork shoulder, which is similar to the deceptively named “pork butt” or “Boston butt,” which can also be used and comes from the shoulder region of the animal as well. 

What makes good pulled pork?

The best recipe for pulled pork is your own. As is the case with other foods that are popular at family gatherings, infusing the recipe with time-honored traditions and ingredients is the way to go. If you’re looking to start your own traditions and need more inspiration, check out variations of this dish from around the country and world, including sweet pulled pork recipes for slow cookers, tangy Mexican cochinita pibil, or smoky North Carolina-style barbeque.

If you’re looking to make pulled pork and realize you’re out of ingredients, you can order them in seconds and have them at your door in a matter of minutes with Gopuff. With Gopuff, you can spend more time enjoying cooking and less time stressing about shopping. 

Brent Hofacker – stock.adobe.com
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