Slow cooker Texas pulled pork is delicious because the low and slow cooking method delivers tender, succulent meat with a deep smoky flavour. Pork shoulder is one of the best cuts of meat for slow cooking because it’s got plenty of fat and connective tissue, which break down during long cook times to create moist, tender meat. Additionally, the spices and sauce used in this recipe add lots of flavour to the pork. Enjoy!
Slow cooker Texas pulled pork is a mouth-watering, tender, and flavourful dish that’s perfect for gatherings, parties, or a comforting family meal. Using a slow cooker allows the flavours to meld together and creates an incredibly tender and juicy pulled pork that’s impossible to resist. In this article, I’ll walk you through the process of making this delicious dish, answer common questions, and provide tips for the best pulled pork experience. We’ll have you enjoying Texan pulled pork in no time.
Choosing the Right Cut of Pork
The key to a delicious slow cooker Texas pulled pork is choosing the right cut of meat. The best cut for making pulled pork is the pork shoulder, which is also known as Boston butt or pork butt. This cut comes from the upper portion of the front leg and has an ideal balance of fat and lean meat, which contributes to the tender, juicy texture when slow-cooked.
Fun fact: pork shoulder is called Boston butt because it’s the larger or thicker end of the pig; the top of the leg and shoulder – although the internet largely claims it’s to do with the barrels (butts) it was shipped in. Great article on that here: What Is Boston Butt and How It Got Its Name.
When selecting a pork shoulder, look for a piece with a good amount of marbling, as this will help keep the meat moist during the long cooking process. The size of the pork shoulder will depend on the number of servings you need, but a good rule of thumb is to calculate about 1/3 to 1/2 pound of raw meat per person. Keep in mind that the pork will shrink during cooking, and you’ll also need to account for any bone or excess fat that may be removed before serving.
If you can’t find a pork shoulder or prefer a leaner cut, a boneless pork loin can also be used, although the end result may not be as tender and juicy as with a pork shoulder. If you’re in the UK, this is what you’re most likely to find in the supermarkets; rolled pork shoulder. It most likely comes with a big slab of skin you’ll remove. if you can, support your local butcher and get a nice piece of pork shoulder.
Key Ingredients for Texas-Style Pulled Pork
To create an authentic Texas-style pulled pork, you’ll need a combination of flavourful ingredients that will infuse the meat with a perfect balance of sweet, tangy, and smoky flavours. Most recipes will tell you to use BBQ sauce. Although I’m not totally against that if you can get a really high-quality one, I’m going to suggest a set of ingredients that will result in a thick home made sauce, cooked right along with the pork in the slow cooker. I’ll also be using prunes instead of brown sugar. I’s much rather save the sugar for dessert. Here are the key ingredients for this dish:
- Bone broth: This is going to form the basis of our BBQ sauce. If you like it more tomato based, you could certainly add a few tablespoons of tomato puree and half a tin of chopped tomatoes.
- Prunes: Adds a touch of sweetness to balance the tanginess and smokiness of the other ingredients. I use these instead of brown sugar. You could also use dates such as Medjool.
- Apple cider vinegar: Provides a tangy and acidic element that helps to tenderise the meat and enhances the overall flavour profile. I also like to add a little balsamic vinegar for sweetness and depth of flavour.
- Chilli powder: Imparts a subtle heat and smokiness that’s characteristic of Texas-style BBQ. I go for chipotle to add extra smokiness.
- Worcestershire sauce: Adds depth of flavour with its savoury, slightly tangy taste.
- Onion and garlic: Aromatics that add a depth of flavour and complement the other ingredients.
- Bay leaves and thyme: Bring beautiful fresh herb aromatic notes.
Preparing the Pork and Seasoning
Before you start cooking your slow cooker Texas pulled pork, it’s essential to prepare the meat and apply the seasoning properly. Follow these steps:
Step 1: Trim excess fat Remove any large, visible pieces of fat from the pork shoulder. Leaving some fat is fine, as it will help to keep the meat moist during cooking, but excessive fat can lead to a greasy end result.
Step 2: For this recipe, we’re going to apply the dry rub. I’ve put together a simple mix of black pepper, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, chipotle powder, mustard powder and salt. If you’d prefer to buy one ready made, go for a high quality one that doesn’t have sugar in it. Apply the dry rub generously over the entire surface of the pork shoulder, pressing it into the meat. Allow the pork to rest for at least 30 minutes, or ideally, refrigerate it overnight to let the flavours penetrate the meat. If you really don’t have the patience for that, you can miss the step out completely.
Some people like to marinate the pork in a mixture of apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and other seasonings. I prefer to let hose do their thing in the slow cooker over the course of cooking, which also saves this extra step. If you do want to try marinating though, place the pork and marinade in a large zip-top bag or airtight container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight for the best results.
Once your pork is seasoned and ready, you can proceed with the slow cooker pulled pork recipe.
Serving and Enjoying your slow cooker Texas pulled pork
Once your slow cooker Texas pulled pork is cooked and ready to serve, there are various ways to enjoy this delicious dish. Here are some ideas for serving and enjoying your pulled pork:
- Pulled Pork Sandwiches: Pile the pulled pork high on a soft bun, top with your favourite coleslaw or pickles, and drizzle with some extra BBQ sauce for a delicious sandwich. You could also go for a different type of pulled pork sandwich, such as a Cubano.
- Pulled pork sliders: As above, but with mini-buns. So good for gatherings of family and friends.
- How much pulled pork per sandwich? Generally, 4-6 ounces of pulled pork is a good serving size for one sandwich.
- The best BBQ sauce for pulled pork: As I mentioned earlier, you’ll be making your own BBQ sauce during the cook. You’ll blend all of those glorious flavours together which will have mixed with the pork fat. Then you’ll reduce it down to a thick BBQ sauce that gets combined with the pulled pork. However, if you do want to buy a BBQ sauce, get the best you can and make sure it doesn’t have sugar or inflammatory seed oils in.
- Leftover Pulled Pork Ideas: Use your leftover pulled pork in tacos, quesadillas, nachos, or even a pulled pork baked potato or salad.
- Suggested Side Dishes: Serve your pulled pork with traditional BBQ side dishes such as coleslaw, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, or cornbread.
Comparing BBQ Styles: Texas vs. Carolina
When it comes to BBQ styles, there are some key differences between Texas and Carolina BBQ that are worth exploring:
- Texas BBQ: Known for its smoky flavours and focus on beef, Texas style BBQ often uses a dry rub of spices on the meat before cooking. The sauce in Texas BBQ tends to be thick, tomato-based, and can range from sweet to spicy.
- Carolina BBQ: Carolina BBQ is typically pork-centric and is characterized by its tangy, vinegar-based sauces. There are regional variations within Carolina BBQ, with Eastern Carolina sauce being vinegar-based with a hint of spice, and Western Carolina sauce (also known as Lexington Dip) incorporating ketchup or tomato for a slightly sweeter flavour.
By understanding the differences between Texas and Carolina BBQ, you can experiment with different flavors and techniques to find your favorite pulled pork style.
Frequently Asked Questions About Slow Cooker Texas Pulled Pork
Can you cook pulled pork in a slow cooker with frozen pork?
It’s not recommended to cook frozen pork in a slow cooker, as it may not reach a safe internal temperature quickly enough, posing a risk of foodborne illness. It’s best to thaw the pork in the refrigerator before cooking.
Do you put liquid in a slow cooker for pulled pork?
The short answer is no, the pulled pork will create its own juices as it cooks. However, I like to add liquid to for extra flavour. I also like to reduce down the liquid at the end, which mixes with the fat and juices from the pork resulting in a beautiful, thick and smooth sauce to coat the pulled pork.
What’s the best liquid to cook pulled pork in?
You have a few options here. Previously I’ve used a combination of blended tinned tomatoes and chicken stock, just chicken stock, or chicken stock with apple juice.
I’ve found the best liquid to cook pulled pork in is chicken stock with a little apple cider vinegar and balsamic vinegar. This will add all of the flavour of chicken stock and a delicious sweet and slightly acidic flavour of the vinegar to the pork.
How long can you keep pulled pork warm in a slow cooker?
You can keep pulled pork warm in a slow cooker for up to 2 hours on the “warm” setting. Make sure to monitor the temperature, as it should remain above 140°F (60°C) to ensure food safety.
How long can pulled pork sit out without spoiling?
Pulled pork should not sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours to avoid spoilage and the growth of harmful bacteria. To preserve pulled pork longer, refrigerate it promptly.
How do you cook frozen pork roast in a slow cooker?
As mentioned earlier, it’s not recommended to cook frozen pork in a slow cooker. Always thaw the pork before cooking to ensure food safety.
Can you slow cook pulled pork?
Yes, slow cooking is an excellent method for cooking pulled pork, as it allows the meat to become tender and flavourful.
How long to slow cook pulled pork?
On low heat, cook for 8-10 hours; on high heat, cook for 5-6 hours. The pork should be fork-tender and easily shredded.
Can you overcook pulled pork in a slow cooker?
Yes, overcooking can lead to dry, tough meat. To avoid overcooking, monitor the cooking time and check for tenderness.
What’s the secret to tender pulled pork?
The secret to tender pulled pork is to cook it slowly so that the meat is cooked through and moist. One way to do this is to use a slow cooker, which uses low temperatures. It can be done in 4-6 hours on high (still a relatively low temperature), but I’d suggest going for 8-10 hours on low.
How do we get it smoky without a back yard smoker set up?
We’ll be using some smoky spices such as smoked paprika and chipotle in the pulled pork rub. Plus we’ll also be cooking off the vegetables and pork on the stove first, giving them some colour and flavour.
This part is really important. It’s the one thing that a lot of time saving recipes miss out; they put the whole lot in a slow cooker uncooked.
The slow cooker is wonderful, but it’s not a magic box It’s best to think of it like a regular pot in an oven at a low temperature.
Spending that little extra time cooking off the ingredients first will pay back in flavour in the final product.
We’ll simply place the browned veggies and meat in the slow cooker, set it on low and let it do its thing.
Cooking this pulled pork in the oven, rather than a slow cooker
If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can cook this recipe in a pot with a lid in the oven. I’d suggest 140°C (280°F) for 4 hours. Whatever meat you’re cooking, the best way to make sure it’s properly cooked is to test the internal temperature. For pork, the internal temperature should be 63°C (145°F)
Tips for Improving Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Flavour
To elevate the taste of your slow cooker Texas pulled pork, consider these tips:
- Use high-quality ingredients, including a premium BBQ sauce (home made during the cook if you follow my recipe) and fresh herbs and spices.
- Marinate or apply a dry rub to the pork shoulder, as discussed earlier, to enhance flavour.
- Experiment with adding different spices. I like chipotle, but perhaps you like a different chilli powder. Perhaps you’d like to try adding cinnamon, cumin or coriander too.
- Add a splash of your favourite beer or bourbon to the sauce for an extra depth of flavour. I save this for special occasions only, such as having people over, since I want my day to day food to be as healthy as possible.
- For a smokier taste, try adding a few drops of liquid smoke to the sauce mixture. I don’t feel good about using Liquid Smoke regularly for health reasons. As usual with these subjects, there’s a lot of debate about whether it’s actually bad for you or not. The truth is there are some carcinogens in Liquid Smoke because it’s essentially smoke suspended in water. But you’ll find those in all smoked foods too; even foods like smoked salmon. If you want to use a few drops every now and then, it’s probably OK. But for me, it’s easy to leave out day to day because this recipe tastes incredible without it. So again I’ll do this on a special occasion.
Storing and Reheating Leftover Pulled Pork
Proper storage and reheating are essential for preserving the quality of your leftover pulled pork. Follow these guidelines for storing and reheating:
- Allow the pulled pork to cool before transferring it to an airtight (ideally glass) container. You never want to be putting hot or very warm food in a fridge as it will raise the temperature of the whole fridge and affect everything in there.
- Store the leftover pulled pork in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
- To reheat, place the desired amount of pulled pork in a saucepan and heat gently over low-medium heat, adding a small amount of water or extra chicken broth/beef broth if necessary to keep it moist.
- If you have a large amount of leftover pulled pork, consider freezing it in portion-sized containers for up to 3 months. Thaw the frozen pulled pork in the refrigerator before reheating.
By following these storage and reheating guidelines, you can enjoy your delicious slow cooker Texas pulled pork for multiple meals. This is a real godsend for busy people and families. Having this on hand in the freezer gives you options for a nourishing meal with little planning.Print
- 1.5kg boneless pork shoulder join, skin removed
For the rub
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp chipotle chilli powder
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 2 tsp salt
For the sauce
- 1 onion, peeled and quartered
- 2 chillies
- 1 cup bone broth (pork, chicken or beef)
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 50g pitted prunes
- Pat down the pork with kitchen towel. Mix all of the rub ingredients together and cover the pork evenly with the mix. Leave the meat in the bowl and come back to it a few times to re-roll; as the pork soaks up that rub it will take on more until it’s all on there.
- Bring a pan to a high heat, add the oil, then the onion and chilli and char. Transfer to the slow cooker.
- Add the pork joint and brown on all sides.
- Once done remove the pork and transfer to the slow cooker with the onion and chilli.
- To the frying pan add your stock, Worcestershire source, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, bay leaves, thyme and prunes.
- Cook for a few minutes and then pour over the top of your pork.
- For a slow cooker, put on high for 4-6 hours, or low for 8-10 hours. For the oven put on for 140C for 3 to 4 hours.
- When cooking is complete, remove the bay leaves and thyme and discard.
- Transfer the pork to a chopping board and pull apart with 2 forks.
- Blend the remaining juices and transfer to a pan to reduce to a sauce.
- Combine the sauce and the pulled pork and serve.
The best cut of pork for pulled pork is a Boston butt (pork shoulder on the bone if you’re in the UK). This is a cut that comes from the shoulder of the pig and is typically marbled with fat, which makes it perfect for slow cooking. I tend to use rolled pork shoulder which has the bone removed.
If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can cook this recipe in a pot with a lid in the oven. I’d suggest 140 °C / 280 °F for 4 hours.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 6 hours
- Category: Slow cooker
- Serving Size: 1/4 of the recipe
- Calories: 557
- Sugar: 4.3 g
- Sodium: 2072.9 mg
- Fat: 21.1 g
- Carbohydrates: 23.3 g
- Protein: 71.3 g
- Cholesterol: 222.4 mg
Slow cooker Texas pulled pork is a delicious, tender, and flavourful dish that’s just as suitable for a week night meal for two as it is for gatherings, picnics, or big family dinners.
The slow cooker method allows the pork to become incredibly tender while absorbing the rich flavours of the sauce. With customizable options, you can create your ideal pulled pork dish that suits your taste buds.
By following these tips and paying attention to cooking time, you’ll achieve a delicious, tender slow cooker Texas pulled pork that’s sure to impress your family and friends.
Enjoy your culinary journey and remember to have fun in the process!
Did you enjoy this recipe? Did you make any adjustments or have tips for other people making this recipe? Please feel free to leave those in the comments. And if there’s something you’d like to see me cover in the future, let me know that too!