Summer is coming upon us quickly and you know what that means – picnics, lemonade, potato salad, and pulled pork! If there is something I could eat all.the.time it would be pulled pork. I love it in a pork taco with cabbage, on a bun with BBQ sauce, in pork enchiladas with corn and black beans . . . it seriously is one of my favorite meats!
I’ve used this technique in making pulled pork for my own graduation party, my sister’s wedding, and a couple different church events (one of which was a meal for 500 people!!) So I like to say it’s the perfect pulled pork and has always been a big hit 🙂 Plus, our local Sam’s Club normally has Boston butt priced at $1.48/lb or so – which makes it a good option for your grocery budget!
Before we get to the recipe, let’s answer a few questions you may have about cooking a pork shoulder roast:
What is the best way to tenderize a pork shoulder roast for pulled pork?
The key to getting the perfect pulled pork is to tenderize it . . . I ALWAYS rub my meat with mustard. The acid in the vinegar tenderizes the meat and adds a little flavor. I use about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of mustard. It’s hard to exactly measure it out since I just squeeze some on and massage it in 🙂 You really have to make sure you get the mustard in every crevice – if there’s a ‘loose’ chunk of meat, lift it up and squeeze some mustard in. This step can get a little messy so make sure you’re near a sink or have a roll of paper towels on hand 🙂
How long do I need to cook a pork shoulder roast for pulled pork?
For a 4-5 pound roast, about 8 hours of cook time would be good. I typically do a 10-pound roast for 12 hours overnight, after letting it sit in the fridge with the mustard and rub on it for 24 hours.
Can I cook pork shoulder roast in a Dutch oven?
Yes!! I recommend this method over any other that I’ve tried. When I use a Dutch oven, the pulled pork turns out incredibly tender and flavorful. I simply place the pork shoulder in the Dutch oven, put the lid on, and cook it overnight at 200 degrees – low and slow is best.
What can I add to pulled pork to make it moist?
“The process of storing the pulled pork also determines its tenderness. If it is expected to be served within a few hours after smoking, it is better to store it in a crockpot set at the lowest possible temperature. Additionally, spray chicken broth or apple juice on the meat to prevent it from losing more moisture in the crockpot. To add a strong flavor during the process, white wine can also be sprayed. You can shred the pork during smoking or in the crockpot.” – BradleySmoker.com
Ok, so as I mentioned above, the Mustard Massage is the first thing you’re going to do to the pork to get it nice and tender. After you’ve given the pork its Mustard Massage, it’s time to add in the dry rub. I’ve experimented and adjusted spices and came up with this dry rub that is perfect!
Sprinkle the dry rub over the mustard-coated meat and rub it in . . . just to warn you, this step is also kinda messy! But the outcome is so worth the messiness 🙂 Make sure you get the rub in all the crevices and on every side of the meat. I like to rub mine on a large cookie sheet – easy for rotating and flipping it, and easy for cleaning up.
After you’ve rubbed your pork, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap (multiple layers!) and put it on a cookie sheet in the fridge. I put it on a cookie sheet because it might leak and I don’t want the juice all over the fridge 🙂 Leave it in the fridge for 24 hours or at least overnight. I recommend 24 hours for maximum pulled pork tenderness.
Now it’s time to cook this hunk of wonderfulness 🙂 I like using a Dutch oven. Unwrap the meat and place it fat-side up in the pan. You want to make sure it’s fat-side up so that while it cooks, the fat runs down all over the meat; if you put it in fat-side down, the meat will be drier. Make sure it’s fat side up!!
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees – cooking the meat at a lower temperature for a longer period of time will help it to be tender and juicy. After the oven is preheated, cook the meat covered for 12-15 hours (depending on the size of the meat – heavier, go more time; lighter, go less time – it’s that simple 🙂 ). I like to rub the meat in the afternoon, let it sit in the fridge till the following afternoon, and cook it all through the night until the next day (the last time I did it, I started it in the oven at 11 PM and cooked it until the following day at 2ish in the afternoon, pulled it, put some in the crockpot for dinner and the rest in the freezer).
After 12 hours, check the meat to see if it’s tender enough – use two forks and try to pull the meat apart. If it’s not pulling apart easily, it’s not tender enough for pulled pork yet – let it go another hour or so and check it again.
For the last hour, take the lid off the Dutch oven and let the meat finish cooking.
When the meat is finished, take it out of the oven and let it sit for a few minutes. Don’t let it get too cooled or it will be harder to pull.
Grab a pair of tongs and start pulling big chunks of meat off. On a cutting board, use two forks to pull the meat – you can shred it finely (which takes longer) or keep it more in chunks (my kind of pulled pork ).
If you aren’t pulling all the meat right now, wrap up the rest tightly in foil and store it in the fridge. To reheat, unwrap and put in crock-pot until heated through. You can pull it right there in the crock-pot. I will say though, I recommend pulling ALL of it at once and then reheating the already-pulled meat when needed so it doesn’t end up too dry.