Get your smoked pork fix with a quick and easy slow cooker BBQ pulled pork recipe that rivals the real deal. This also works well for instant pots.
When it comes to BBQ pulled pork recipes, there is zero substitute for the smoky perfection achieved by cooking a bone-in pork shoulder or a Boston pork butt low-and-slow on a smoker or grill.
That being said, one of the most frequent requests I receive is for a full-flavored indoor pulled pork recipe. While I can already imagine the comments that are sure to follow this post, the truth is that there are countless folks who either don’t have access to an outdoor cooker or are in need of a simple set-and-forget slow cooker or instant pot recipe. For the rest of us traditionalists, you can find a great smoked pulled pork recipe here.
When I set out to create a pulled pork recipe for a slow cooker such as a Crock-Pot® or for an instant pot (instapot), I knew that I would be giving up two cornerstones of real pulled pork – well-seasoned pork with nice bark and smoke. With those out of the equation, I knew I’d have to amp up the flavor a bit. I began by creating a braising liquid from my pork butt injection, a flavorful mix of chicken broth, apple juice, apple cider vinegar, dry rub, and a splash of BBQ sauce.
In an effort to keep the recipe as simple as possible, I use store-bought BBQ sauce and rub. If time permits, you can make prepare our Kansas City-style barbecue sauce recipe and Meathead’s famous Memphis dust dry rub. Note that if you are using the Memphis Dust you will need to pre-salt the pork butt with approximately 1/2 teaspoon of Morton’s Kosher Salt per pound of meat not including the bone.
When cooking in my Crock-Pot®, I often use sliced onions as a base, allowing the meat to sit above the collecting liquids so it doesn’t just stew in the liquid for the entire cooking process. For this recipe, however, I opted for placing the pork on the bottom of the slow cooker on top of a bed of apples, as they make a better match for my overall flavor profile. Finally, when seasoning pork shoulder or pork butt with garlic powder, cumin, and other ingredients in your spice mixture, I like to add a thin coating of mayonnaise (a rich alternative to the popular mustard slather) before seasoning with BBQ dry rub.
Once everything was seasoned and in the slow cooker, I set the cooker to low, allowing the pork shoulder or Boston butt to slowly become moist and tender over several hours (approximately 1 hour per pound). If you are short on time, you can prepare this recipe on the medium-high setting, though according to the makers of Crock-Pot®, “for the best results, remember that it’s called a slow cooker for a reason. Simmering recipes over long periods of time extracts all those subtle flavors.”
Once cooked, I shred the pork and mixed it with more of the injection-turned-braising liquid for an additional boost of flavor. While you might be tempted to add some of the liquid from the slow cooker to the meat, be aware that it is full of rendered pork fat so you’ll want to cool it in the fridge and skim as much fat off of the top as possible.
The result? Moist and tender pulled pork that satisfies your taste, whether the pork shreds are used on buns for pulled pork sandwiches, on chips for protein-rich BBQ nachos, on loaded fries, on baked potatoes, on tacos, and so much more! You can even put leftover pulled pork in the freezer so that you have it on hand to reheat in the microwave for a quick weeknight meal alongside potato salad or other side dishes.