You can make your own juicy pulled pork right at home with this super easy 5-ingredient slow cooker recipe – no smoker required!Jump to Recipe
Cooking a pork roast can be a daunting thing, or perhaps you just don’t know that you can make a juicy, tender, pulled pork at home without a smoker. Either way, we are here to help show you just how easy it is to make pulled pork at home: all you need is a slow cooker! Our slow cooker pulled pork recipe is a quick and easy way to make pulled pork at home without a smoker.
This basic pulled pork recipe can then be used in any number of dishes, or eaten plain. Later in the post we’ll share our favorite uses for this pulled pork to help inspire you. But first, let’s break down what you’ll need to make our slow cooker pulled pork recipe, and how to do it!
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Ingredients
Slow cooker pulled pork can be made with as little as 2 basic ingredients, pork and water. But to add some extra flavor, here is what you’ll need to make our slow cooker pulled pork:
- Pork shoulder or Boston butt roast
- Water or another liquid for cooking (beer, wine, broth, etc.)
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Liquid smoke
The naming convention for different cuts of pork can sometimes be confusing, but just know that pork shoulder and Boston butt roasts are the same thing. You can get this cut in either bone-in or boneless options. Either will work as long as it fits in your slow cooker.
For this recipe, you will also need a liquid for the pulled pork to cook in. You don’t need much liquid – just enough to cover the bottom of the slow cooker to ensure that the bottom of the pork roast doesn’t burn. This liquid can be as easy as tap water, or you can opt for a more flavorful liquid like beer or wine. We often use beer if we’re already in the mood to sip on one!
We then recommend adding a couple of spices, and most importantly, liquid smoke. The liquid smoke helps to add the smokey flavor that you would get from a true wood smoked pulled pork. Of course this recipe is meant to be easier, but you still want to make sure the pulled pork has that classic smokey flavor.
How To Make Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
In just 5 easy steps, you can have pulled pork ready to eat in less than 10 hours. While it takes a while to cook, letting the pork cook low and slow yields super tender meat that falls apart easily when shredding.
Here is everything you need to know for making our slow cooker pulled pork:
- First, fill a slow cooker with just enough water (or other liquid) to cover the bottom, about ¼ cup for a 4-quart crockpot.
- Then, place the pork shoulder in the slow cooker and sprinkle evenly with garlic and onion powder. Add a dash of liquid smoke, and rub the seasoning into the pork so that it’s coated evenly.
- Next, cover the slow cooker and cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours, or until the pork reaches at least 165 degrees F.
- Once fully cooked, transfer the pork to a cutting board and let it rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until it’s cool enough to pull by hand.
- Finally, pull the pork by hand, picking out and discarding the excess fat.
While pork needs to be heated up to 165 degrees F to be fully cooked, we typically aim for 195 to 205 degrees F so that the pork easily falls apart while shredding.
You can pull the pork using forks or other utensils, but we always recommend hand-pulling. Using your hands will make it easier to find and keep all the juicy pork while separating and cleaning it from excess fat.
What To Use Slow Cooker Pulled Pork For
We made this pulled pork recipe fairly basic flavor-wise for a reason: there are so many delicious ways to season and enjoy pulled pork!
Here are some of our favorite ways we recommend you use this pulled pork:
- BBQ pulled pork sandwiches (so delicious on brioche or sourdough bread with cheddar cheese)
- BBQ pulled pork pizza
- A protein add in for Asian dishes like our udon noodle stir fry
- With mayo, mustard, and cajun seasoning for a sandwich (or really any of your favorite condiments)
- Pulled pork burritos
- Pulled pork quesadillas
- Pulled pork tacos, like these easy Hawaiian-inspired tacos
- BBQ pulled pork mac and cheese
- And much, much more
It’s also delicious as a barbecue style main dish, slathered in BBQ sauce and served with sides of cornbread and mac n cheese or potato salad! For more ideas on how to use pulled pork, check out all our pork recipes here.
Storing and Reheating
Once you have made and pulled your pork, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. We like to weigh out smaller portions of our pulled pork (usually in half pound or two-thirds pound portions) to package in freezer-safe zip top bags for easy defrosting later on.
From the fridge, you can easily reheat the pulled pork in the microwave, crisp it up in a frying pan on the stove, or enjoy it cold. We love to heat it on the stove over medium for about 5 minutes until it’s lightly crisped, then add some BBQ sauce and melt cheddar cheese into it for a delicious sandwich filling.
From the freezer, you can easily defrost pulled pork in the microwave (instantly) or in the fridge (overnight) and then heat it up as noted above. Frozen pulled pork is an awesome easy freezer dinner on nights when you just don’t have the time to cook something from scratch!
Frequently Asked Questions
What cut of meat is best for pulled pork?
It is best to use either a pork shoulder, Boston butt, or pork butt for making pulled pork. These are all actually the same cut of meat, but you may see it labeled differently depending on where you buy it. This is the best cut of pork for pulled pork due to its fat content, which allows for a tender meat that pulls easily.
What is the best liquid to cook pulled pork in?
This really just comes down to preference. Water always works well, but if you want to get more flavor or use the pork for a specific reason, beer, wine, broth, or even a juice or soda will work. Try making pork a couple different ways and you’ll learn what you like best. We tend to cook our pork in beer or water.
How do you shred pulled pork quickly?
Being able to shred pulled pork quickly comes down to cooking the pork to the right temperature over a long period of time. Aim for 195 to 205 degrees F and the pork will start to fall apart on its own.
That being said, using a potato masher or stand/hand mixer can shred pork very quickly, you just have less control over the process than doing it by hand.
How to make pulled pork ahead of time?
You can easily make pulled pork ahead of time for a family gathering, parties, or your weekly meal prep. Depending on how far ahead you want to make it, you can either:
- Wrap the pork roast in foil after it has finished cooling and store it in a cooler (room temp, no ice). This will keep the roast warm for a couple hours and be ready to shred when your guests arrive.
- Follow our recipe as normal and store the pulled pork in an airtight container in the fridge, if you’re making it about 1 to 4 days ahead of time. When you are preparing for guests to arrive, you can heat the pork in a covered container in the microwave or oven.
- Follow our recipe as normal and store the pulled pork in the freezer for up to 3 months, to be used for easy dinners and other recipes later on. Defrost and reheat as usual.
How long do you have to wait to pull pork?
As with any meat, you want to let the pork rest before you shred it. Aim for at least 1 hour of rest time before pulling the pork..This allows for the fibers in the meat to relax and the moisture to be absorbed properly. You also need to let it rest so that it is cool enough to shred if you plan to do so by hand.
At what temperature does pulled pork easily shred?
To have a tender and juicy pork shoulder that shreds easily, you want to allow the meat to cook slowly to 195 to 205 degrees F. Allowing the pork time to cook above its “done” temperature of 165 degrees F yields meat that will fall apart more easily.
Try our recipe for easy slow cooker pulled pork and see for yourself how easy it is to make at home! Let us know your favorite uses for pulled pork in the comments below. And please don’t forget to rate and share if you enjoyed this recipe.
Love this recipe? You may also enjoy these easy slow cooker recipes:
- Slow Cooker Carnitas
- Slow Cooker Chicken Tinga
- Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan (Gluten-Free)
- Crockpot Shredded Chipotle Chicken
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
- ¼ cup water or beer or other cooking liquid
- 4 lb boneless pork shoulder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 dash liquid smoke
- Fill a 4-quart slow cooker with just enough water or beer to cover the bottom.
- Place the pork shoulder in the slow cooker and sprinkle the top evenly with garlic and onion powder. Add just a dash of liquid smoke. Then, rub the seasonings into the pork for an even coating.
- Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours, or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches at least 165 degrees.
- Once fully cooked, transfer the pork to a cutting board and let it rest for 1 hour.
- Pull the pork by hand, picking out and discarding the excess fat.
- Serve with your favorite BBQ sauce or on a sandwich, or store away to use later.