Tender, juicy, and full of flavor are just a few ways to describe this perfect pulled pork. This recipe starts out with a pork shoulder brined overnight, then it’s covered in a delicious spice rub and seared for extra flavor. Toss it in your slow cooker and 8 hours later you’ll be eating the best meal ever!
Remember last week when I said that these zucchini pancakes are my favorite recipe I ever shared? Well, they are, and you should go make them. Now.
Today’s recipe also falls into my list of favorite recipes I’ve ever shared. Pulled pork is one of those things that I make once a year, devour it, and then kind of forget how much I love it until next year. Well, this year for the 4th of July, I made it for my family and I could not stop eating it. I’m pretty sure I ate my weight in pulled pork that day.
When I make something that I really really love it doesn’t matter how full I am, I just can’t control myself and stop eating it. That’s probably why I only make this once a year… otherwise I’d probably be carrying around quite a few unnecessary pounds.
I made an exception to my “once a year pulled pork” so that I could share it with you. It’s just too good not to share!
Now, it’s going to seem like a long process and a lot of steps, but I assure you they are quick and easy. You just need to plan ahead when you want to make this.
First, you’ll start with brining. I’m a huge fan of brining as it adds tons of flavor to meat while keeping things tender and juicy. Brines are really simple to make – a quick mix of liquid, a little vinegar, sugar, salt, and some flavorings. I like to mix the brine in a pitcher, which makes it easy to pour into the bag over the pork.
Let’s talk about the pork. The best cut to use for making pulled pork is the shoulder. I buy a boneless cut, which is just easier in my opinion, but either will work. To serve 4-6 people, I use a 4-5 pound pork shoulder. This size fits well inside of a gallon-size zip top bag, which is what I use for brining.
So, you’ll place the pork into the bag and pour the brine over top. Seal it and then double bag it for extra protection! Now, place it in your fridge for at least 12 hours (I do this the night before I want to make it).
Once you’re done brining, you’ll discard the brine and then pat the pork really dry. Cover it in my delicious homemade spice rub and then sear it in a hot pan on all sides. This gives it a nice crust and pulls out a lot of flavor from all of the different spices. Pop the seared pork into your slow cooker, add a little broth or water, set it on low and forget about it for 8 hours.
After 8 hours, your whole house will smell divine and the pork will fall part when you touch it. The pulling apart of the meat will be effortless with 2 forks. I like to pull the pork out and place it in a bowl to pull it apart. There will a lot of liquid left in your slow cooker. Pour it out into a measuring cup and let it sit while you pull the pork. Once you’re done with the pork, you can place it back in the slow cooker on warm if you aren’t ready to eat yet. Then, skim the fat off the top of the liquid and add some of the liquid back into the pork to keep it nice and juicy.
To serve, you have a few options. You can just eat a big bowl of it (my preferred method smothered in coleslaw) or add some of your favorite barbecue sauce and pile it high on a roll. I recently discovered the Udi’s gluten-free hamburger buns, which are pretty darn good! So, if you need gluten-free rolls I highly recommend them.
I’ll leave you with a few notes:
- You can make this completely ahead of time and just place it in your slow cooker on warm to heat it up. Add in some of the reserved juices to keep things moist and delicious.
- The coleslaw is completely optional, but I just love the combination of it on my pulled pork. Check out my recipe to make your own. (Don’t mind the photos, this is one of my very early recipes that I clearly need to update!)
- I generally eat this without the roll – just a nice pile on a plate with creamy coleslaw on top. However, for the photos I thought it would look better on a roll, so I gave those gluten-free rolls a shot. They are great when I want to indulge a bit!
- Fresh sweet corn is a must-have side to this pulled pork. It’s my favorite summer meal. Ever.
There you have it! The best slow cooker pulled pork. The leftovers are amazing, and are calling my name right now from my fridge…
- ¼ Cup Light Brown Sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Paprika
- 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
- 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
- 1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
- 2 Teaspoons Cumin
- 2 Teaspoons Kosher Salt
- 2 Teaspoons Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- ½ Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper*
- 6 Cups Cold Water
- ¼ Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
- ¼ Cup Kosher Salt
- ¼ Cup Light Brown Sugar
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 2 Tablespoons Spice Rub
- 3 Garlic Cloves, smashed
- 1 Pork Shoulder, 4-5 lbs.
- ¼ Cup Chicken Broth
- Your Favorite Barbecue Sauce, if desired
- Gluten-Free Rolls*, if desired, or your favorite rolls if you aren’t gluten-free
- Coleslaw, if desired
Combine all the spice rub ingredients in an airtight container; shake or stir well to combine.
Combine the water, vinegar, salt, brown sugar, bay leaves, the spice rub, and garlic cloves in a large pitcher. Stir well to combine.
Place the pork shoulder in a gallon-size zip top bag. Pour the brine over the top and seal the bag. Double the bag for extra security!
Place the bag upright in the refrigerator (I clear a spot on my refrigerator door for this).
Allow the pork to brine overnight (at least 12 hours).
In the morning, remove the pork from the bag and discard the brine. Pat the pork dry with paper towels and cover it with all but 2 tablespoons of the remaining spice rub.
Heat a large skillet over high heat and 1 tablespoon of oil. Sear the pork on all sides until a lightly golden crust forms.
Transfer the pork to your slow cooker and add ¼ cup of chicken broth (or even water). Place the lid on top and set the heat to low.
Cook the pork for 8 hours on low, or until the meat pulls apart very easily.
When you’re ready to serve, transfer the pork to a large bowl and start pulling it into pieces with two forks. This process will be very effortless as the meat is very tender and will fall apart easily.
You’ll have extra liquid left in the slow cooker. Pour it into a measuring cup and let the fat separate to the top. Skim it off and then add a little of the juice back into the pork to keep things nice and juicy. This also helps add moisture back to the leftovers, so don’t toss it!
Serve the pork with your favorite barbecue sauce, on rolls, and with coleslaw. Or, just eat a big bowl of it! 🙂
*I like to buy Udi’s gluten-free hamburger buns, which you can find in most large grocery stores in the freezer section. Soften them up lightly in the microwave for 15 seconds for the perfect sandwich roll!