Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
This Slow Cooker Pulled Pork is incredibly easy to make, and works great as the main course or as added protein for other recipes. We make a batch every week, and after testing various methods for doing it (like searing vs no sear), this is my favorite way to make it.
Pulled pork is the next best thing to chicken breast as far as keeping protein on hand goes. You can do SO many things with it! Even though you can make pulled pork via many other cooking methods, like in the oven, in the smoker, or even braised on the stove for several hours, making it in the slow cooker is the easiest method by far. Plus, you won’t be heating up the entire kitchen for several hours like you would if you used the oven.
If you don’t own a slow cooker yet, the one that I purchased was a $17 investment (lol) and has lasted me for 10 years with no problems. It’s one of the cheapest and best kitchen purchases I have ever made. Plus you can make tons of recipes in them, like Slow Cooker Beef Ragu or Crockpot Buffalo Chicken Dip.
Tips for Best Results
Rest the meat before shredding – Try to let the pork sit for an hour after cooking before you shred it. This will maximize the moisture of your meat. If you shred right away after cooking, the juices won’t have a chance to redistribute evenly back through the roast (even though technically those juices will still be in the pot, it won’t be as evenly moist).
Have a plan for spicing or saucing the meat – When I make Smoked Pork Butt I don’t add a spice rub or sauce, because the point is to taste the applewood. But here, even though it’s the same exact cut, you’ll want to add some flavor because there’s no browning happening. I share suggestions below.
Strain and add the juices back to the meat – By the end of cooking, you’ll notice that the pork will be sitting in its own juices. Do not throw these juices away! I pour the liquid through a strainer and incorporate it back into the meat. If it’s too liquidy for you, I recommend reducing it on the stovetop and still including it. Don’t waste the flavor.
What Cut of Meat to Use
The classic cut to use for pulled pork is a pork shoulder, which you may also see named at the store as “pork butt” or “Boston butt.” I prefer a boneless roast that has been tied, but you could do a bone-in cut as well.
For a leaner pulled pork, you can get away with using the top loin boneless roast, but it won’t be as moist as your typical pulled pork. I have a method below for removing excess fat from the meat that you may find helpful.
Unless you are planning to toss in some BBQ Sauce at the end, I recommend seasoning the pork shoulder. This could be as simple as salt and pepper, though I absolutely love rubbing on some homemade Sazon Seasoning. You could try any pork-specific rub here.
Another simple flavoring is to cook the pork in pineapple juice, which is a magical flavor combination with this kind of meat. Simply add a small 6-ounce can to the slow cooker along with the other ingredients.
Once the meat is seasoned, it’s ready to go into the slow cooker!
Do you need to add liquid?
It is not necessary to add any liquid to the slow cooker, unless you want to. When I do a spice blend, I add no liquid at all. Even if you add a can of pineapple juice, the meat will not be completely covered, and that’s fine.
Why I don’t sear the meat
In short: because I don’t think it’s worth the trouble. I’ve tested searing and don’t think it makes a noticeable difference in flavor here. Most of the meat you’ll be eating later is interior, and doesn’t get a sear anyway. I’ve concluded it’s not worth the effort, which is nice because honestly it’s a pain to sear a 4 pound hunk of meat.
How Long to Cook:
Cook the pork butt for 8 hours on low, until the interior reads at least 200F. I’ve owned a few different brands of slow cookers over the years, and the timing can vary by an hour or two, which is why it’s best to go off temperature. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can grab a fork and see how easily the pork shreds. If it doesn’t seem easily shreddable, it’s not done yet.
Once you’re done cooking, there will be liquid in the crockpot that the meat gave off while cooking. Don’t throw this away!
Remove the pork to a board and let it rest for at least 20 minutes, but ideally an hour. This allows the interior juices to redistribute evenly throughout the meat, giving you a moister end result.
Once the meat has rested, shred it with a fork. It should yield quite easily to the fork, and fall apart nicely.
Now, collect the remaining liquid from the crockpot. You can see that most of it is pork juice, but there’s a small layer of fat at the top:
If the fat bothers you, chill the measuring cup in an ice bath and in the fridge until the fat hardens on top:
Then you can easily discard the fat.
Pour the remaining liquid through a strainer all over the pulled meat:
If you don’t mind adding the rendered fat back to the meat, you can just pour the liquid through a strainer all over the pork right after cooking.
How to Serve It
This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, Whole 30 compliant, low carb, paleo, and keto friendly.
Recipe Tips and FAQ:
Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Yes, it freezes beautifully! Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
While you can reheat it in the microwave, I think it tastes best when it’s reheated in a skillet. Add a small amount of fat like neutral olive oil, butter, or lard, and cook the leftover meat for a few minutes until warmed through. If you want to reheat frozen pulled pork, thaw it in the fridge overnight first.
I’ve owned a few slow cookers and all of them have only had two settings: low and high. I always use the low setting. In my opinion, the high setting is too aggressive for this cut of meat. If you do high, it still typically takes a minimum of 4 hours.
Yes, definitely. The best way to combat this is to first get a feel for your own slow cooker, since models can vary in heat intensity, and also the size can impact cooking time. If you’re cooking a smaller pork shoulder that’s 3 pounds, you should check the temperature earlier than you would for a 5 pound shoulder. The pork is done when it reaches at least 200F and shreds easily with a fork. Try not to go over 205F.
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
For the Pulled Pork:
- 4 lb boneless pork shoulder (aka pork butt)
- Sazon seasoning optional
- Season the pork all over with salt, pepper, and any other seasonings you’d like, then place it in the slow cooker.
- Cover with a lid and cook on low for about 8 hours**, until it reaches an internal temperature of 200F.
- When the pork is done cooking, remove it to a board, and let cool for at least 20 minutes but ideally one hour, before shredding with a fork.
- Take the leftover liquid from the crockpot and strain it to remove any solids.
- If you don't mind the fat, add the liquid back to the shredded pork and toss well. If you want to remove the excess fat, chill the liquid in an ice bath in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes until the fat solidifies, then discard, and pour the remaining liquid over the meat.
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
Post updated with more tips, instructions, and photos in June 2018. Originally published in September 2013. This post contains an affiliate link.