Embrace summer with your sunglasses on and two feet stuck firmly in the sand — not stuck in the kitchen. Slow cooker pulled pork helps keep those vacation vibes going as long as possible since it practically makes itself. All you have to do is decide whether you want to build tacos or BBQ sandwiches.
And don't stress about needing an arsenal of spices — this recipe just needs salt, pepper, and brown sugar, plus a bottle of BBQ sauce or a packet of taco seasoning. Serve the pork piled high onto buns or stuffed into tortillas — you can't go wrong with either.
You'll want to commit this easy slow cooker pulled pork to memory, whether you're at the beach or just daydreaming of an island oasis from your cubicle.
Low and Slow Is the Key to Irresistible Pulled Pork
Want to make irresistible pulled pork? Just give it time — time to dry brine and time to slow cook. Start by seasoning the pork with a shower of salt, pepper, and brown sugar. Leave the dry-brined pork — yes, the same technique you tried with last year's Thanksgiving turkey — in the fridge overnight. While you sleep, those seasonings pull juices from the pork, which the salt and sugar dissolve into before being reabsorbed by the meat. If you're strapped for time you can skip the rest time and head straight to the slow cooker.
Next comes a low-and-slow braise in the slow cooker. Pull the pork from the fridge to take the chill off while you chop a few onions and smash garlic cloves. Transfer everything to a large slow cooker and add a splash of liquid — water is great, but so is broth, apple juice, or beer if you have them handy. Cover and cook on low until the meat is tender and pulls apart easily.
Here's the thing about slow cooker pork: You can't rush it. It needs to be cooked on low for the best finished pull-apart texture. So plan ahead so you're not tempted to get dinner finished by cooking this on high.
Choose Your Own Adventure: Tacos or BBQ Sandwiches
When the pork is tender and the cravings hit, it's time to decide which direction to take. With its simple rub, slow cooker pulled pork is prime for filling tacos, burritos, and BBQ sandwiches, or topping salads and soups. Spice it up Tex-Mex-style by seasoning the warm pulled pork with a packet of taco seasoning. Toss with tongs to evenly coat the meat before stuffing into tacos or rolling burritos. Or opt for a Southern-style barbecue supper and toss the pulled pork with barbecue sauce (homemade or store-bought) and pile it high on soft buns.
Try These Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Recipes, Too
Simple Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
Serves 8 to 10
Prep time: 10 minutes ; cooking time: 10 hours to 12 hours
pork shoulder or pork butt (6 to 7 pounds with bone, 5 to 6 pounds if boneless)
packed light or dark brown sugar
freshly ground black pepper
garlic, peeled and smashed
small onions, peeled and cut into 1-inch wedges
- Option 1: Tacos
(1-ounce) package low-sodium taco seasoning
- Option 2: Barbecue Sandwiches
barbecue sauce, plus more for serving
Trim off any large pieces of fat from the surface of the pork. Sprinkle the salt, sugar, and pepper evenly over all sides of the pork, then pat the seasonings into the meat. If not cooking immediately, place in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to cook, place the pork shoulder (and any accumulated juices if seasoned overnight) in a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Pour the water, around, but not on top of, the pork. Scatter the garlic and onion around the pork.
Cover and cook on the LOW setting until the meat is tender and can be easily shredded, 10 to 12 hours. Transfer the pork to a clean cutting board or rimmed baking sheet. When it is cool enough to handle, use 2 forks or your fingers to shred the meat into bite-sized pieces. Discard the bone (if present) and any large pieces of fat.
Pour the cooking liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a measuring cup or bowl and discard the solids. Skim the fat from the surface of the cooking liquid. Reserve the cooking liquid to keep leftovers moist. Transfer to a serving bowl if serving as-is. If serving as tacos or barbecue sandwiches, transfer back to the slow cooker for seasoning.
Option 1: Tacos
Sprinkle the pulled pork with the low-sodium taco seasoning mix and toss to coat. Serve on warm tortillas with jalapenos, tomato, and onion, or your favorite taco toppings.
Option 2: Barbecue Sandwiches
Add barbecue sauce to the pulled pork and toss to coat. Serve on hamburger buns with pickles, more barbecue sauce, and coleslaw, if desired.
Storage: Refrigerate leftovers, moistened with some of the reserved cooking liquid, in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Or, freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
Make ahead: The pork can be seasoned and refrigerated in a bowl covered with plastic wrap up to 1 day in advance before cooking.