Pulled pork

This is a wonderful American way with pork. Barbecue purists (a curiously wonderful breed made up entirely of American men – I have never met a woman or a non-American who takes the barbecue quite as seriously as these guys do) should haul out their smokers for this recipe. One team at the American Royal Barbecue championship last year had a smoker made from the body of a Cessna aeroplane.

I used my oven and added a tablespoon of liquid smoke at the end.

The smoke flavour in this recipe is a great addition (UK cooks can buy liquid smoke online – I haven’t found a brand I’ve not enjoyed, but Colgin makes a particularly good version). All the same, if you don’t have access to a small adapted aircraft or liquid smoke, you shouldn’t worry. Your pork will still have a wonderful, barbecue sauce flavour.

In the US you’d use pork butt (actually shoulder) for this recipe. In other countries like the UK we butcher pigs rather differently, so just find a nice, fatty, boned piece of shoulder if you can’t get your hands on the exact cut. The fat is important; the joint cooks for a long time and its fat will baste it from within and keep the meat delectably moist.

To serve about six people you’ll need:

One boneless pork butt or boneless shoulder (about 3 lb)
4 tablespoons soft light brown sugar
2 tablespoons coarse salt
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons cinnamon powder
1 tablespoon mustard powder
10 turns of the peppermill
1 tablespoon chilli powder (I used chipotle chilli powder for the smoky taste, but you can use your favourite)
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon onion salt
12 fl oz (1 ½ cups) apple juice
6 fl oz (¾ cup) water

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and rub them thoroughly all over the pork in the same bowl. If your cut of meat has been boned and rolled, you can push some of the rub into the space where the bone used to be as well, seasoning the meat inside and out. Leave the meat in the bowl and leave, covered, in the fridge overnight.

About six hours before you want to eat, preheat the oven or smoker to 150° C (300° F). Place the pork joint, skin side up, on a rack in a roasting tin. Pour the apple juice and water into the bottom of the tin. (The liquid should not be touching the meat.) Cover the roasting tin tightly with a few layers of tin foil and place in the oven for five hours. Don’t poke at the pork while it’s cooking; it should be left to steam gently in its tinfoil hat.

When the five hours are up, remove the tinfoil. If the liquid in the pan looks like it might dry up, add a wine glass of water. Turn the heat up to 200° C (400° F) and cook the joint uncovered for half an hour. Remove the meat to a large bowl, keeping the juices in the bottom of the roasting tin.

Use two forks to shred the pork. It’ll come to pieces very easily after the long cooking time, and should be moist and delicate with a slight crisp to the outsides. Place the shredded pork in a large frying pan with all its juices and the liquid from the roasting tin. Add another tablespoon of soft light brown sugar, an extra teaspoon of chilli powder if you want some extra kick, and a tablespoon of liquid smoke if you can find some (I like applewood liquid smoke for this recipe). Cook over a medium heat until the liquid in the pan begins to become syrupy.

Serve the pork with its sauce in toasted burger buns. The pork will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. Sweetcorn, coleslaw and other traditional barbecue accompaniments make a great side dish. Try not to get too much down your front.

53 Replies to “Pulled pork”

  1. This recipe is definitely worth a try. I just wanted to pipe in and say how much I thoroughly enjoy your food blog – the writing, the recipes, all of it. Thank you!

  2. Liz, Liz, Liz…
    What a fabulous recipe and yes, I love my BBQ and am a man (although not American!)– and my wife, Tracey doesn’t have quite the same passion for charcoal and dead animals. Still, she doesn’t complain when a few shrimps go on the barbie.
    I will try this recipe next week but am already salivating.
    Kind regards, Jerry.

  3. thank you – I have been looking for a non-american recipe for pulled pork for ages – I am trying this one tomorrow on the in-laws so I hope it works !

  4. I used this recipe for our Sunday dinner today and we all enjoyed it. Memories of a holiday in Florida and pulled pork sandwiches in the Race Rock cafe came back immediately!

  5. Just discovered your site while looking around for others that have done pulled pork. I just smoked some in my weber and finished them in the oven and had a great time. They came out smoky tender. I really like your site and the pictures.

    If you have a minute would love for you to come take a look and give me your opinion. http://cookingquest.wordpress.com

    Really appreciate it… I will be back!

  6. Really good recipe!!!

    But at the end where you said that you didn’t know anyone outside the US who take the barbecue as serious. You are so wrong. Here in Argentina the “machos” (men or better said cavemen :P) think they are the ONLY once who can cook a good “Parrillada” (barbecue) and says that women cannot barbecue even a potato. So… not only US men think they are the BEST… but Argentinian too.

  7. Thanks Sasa! Isn’t the men/barbecue thing *weird*. I know plenty of guys who won’t touch the oven in their houses, but who get all territorial the moment their wives try to get the barbecue out (thankfully, Dr W is not one of these). Hunter-gatherers – gotta love them.

  8. This is a fantastic recipe. Did it for a New Year party (alongside some other bits and pieces) and everyone commented on how much they enjoyed it.

    If you love barbeque food but live in the UK (therefore only get two or three genuine barbeque days per year) then this recipe is a must.

    Serve with soft rolls and homemade coleslaw and I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

  9. As a female and an American, I have to say pulled pork is one of the easiest things to make. I plop my meat in a slow cooker and leave it on med to high all day. Then I add whatever ingredients the last hour of cooking. People think I have slaved all day over a bbq or the cooker but in truth..it was all done in the crock pot.

  10. Hello Anon. Give American Sweets, a UK-based online company, a go – they’re selling Stubbs liquid smoke at the moment (I have a few bottles of it in the cupboard from my last visit to America, and it’s good stuff).

  11. Great recipe, but I think I managed to botch it. Firstly, I misread last night and marinated the pork in all the dry and wet ingredients. I don't think this took away from the flavour, but it may have contributed to the second problem, which was that it totally overcooked. I'm not sure if it was my roaster, oven or insufficient foil wrapping, but my pork came out all charred and somewhat dry, even before the final step. It still pulled apart and tasted great, despite not being able to find chipolte or anything smokey. Nice, but nowhere near Tommy Dinics in Reading Terminal Market in Philly – best pulled pork sandwich ever. And where do you buy provolone over here in the UK?

    Brilliant blog, by the way, I'm an avid reader and regularly cook your Normandy belly pork.

  12. Rotten luck, Mr Theremin. (Do you make a lovely woobly noise if I bring my hand close to you?) I suspect your problems may have been manifold, but if you try it another time, make sure that there's always liquid in the roasting tin underneath the meat, and that the tin foil tent is as airtight as you can get it (so the steam can circulate around the joint). A shame yours didn't work out, because the moistness of this recipe is usually a joy. I suspect the flavour of the rub also won't have penetrated as much as you might have liked, given the addition of the liquid – the nice thing about a dry rub is that you can push it into the cavity where the bone was, so the meat marinades from inside and out. Hope you give it another shot!

  13. One of my very favourite dishes, Liz. I normally use Martin Blunos' recipe, which uses chilli flakes and mustard seeds, but I reckon the outcome is probably the same. My son loves this too, and likes to eat it with soft tortillas and hoi sin sauce. Pretty bloody nice.

  14. Hi,

    I too stumbled across this site searching for pulled pork recipe using UK ingredients and terminology, and I really love the sound of it. Drooling already – and given the other half is vegetarian it's not too often I get to make something so delicious! (I've not made it yet but I can tell it's going to be good)

    My only experience of pulled pork is Bodean's restaurants in London which are great but I'd love to make it with my own twist so thanks for the recipe.

  15. Tried this recipe and my family said it should be my signiture dish! Say no more! Tates amazing and a firm favourite! many thanks!

  16. Hi, I’m planning to make this for my 21st, it sounds so good! 🙂 I need to make enough for about 14 people so how do I adjust cooking times if its two 3lb pieces or one big piece?

    Thanks x

  17. Hi Leanne

    If I were you, I’d go for two 3lb pieces (you’ll get more penetration of flavour that way). You can keep the cooking time the same as it is above with two pieces, but make sure you have a good deep dish underneath the pork. And happy birthday!

  18. Just made this, so easy and the result is absolutely delicious! I cut back on the chili as I was feeding kids but used half sweet and half smoked paprika, with excellent results. I just posted the link on my FaceBook page so my brother is going to make it as well.

    I shall have to try some of your other recipes now… 🙂

    Many thanks!

  19. Hi Liz, I’m using a 9lb lump of shoulder for a well it was going to be a barbie but with all the meat on the go it’s now called a meat feast!

    Well the shoulder is now in the oven and hoping that it will go down well to our 37 guests.

    Just read you take on crispy pork crackling, just wish I read it before I put the beast in (10.5lb)

  20. So excited to try your mouth-watering recipe.
    It is my daughters wedding bbq this weekend and I will be cooking the pork here in the oven…then I will shred it and cool it into foil trays, keeping the juices seperate. Hopefully then we can fire up the bbq, pour the liquid/sauce into the trays and heat everything up on the barbie. Fingers crossed 🙂

  21. OH!!!MY!!!GOODNESS!!!! Just did a trial run of this recipe ~ what an absolute corker! The pork I cooked ahead as per your instructions and I broke it up into a foil tray, reserving the juices in a jar. This kept in the fridge overnight.
    We lit the barbie and put the foil tray on, pouring on some of the juices..within 10 minutes the whole thing was a sticky, slightly blackened perfection…the meat was succulent and beautifully flavoured. STUNNING! This is going to be such a hit with our guests on Saturday. My husband claims it is the best, moistest flavoursome pork he has EVER tasted! I will not be going to any more hogroasts hehe!! BRAVO! and thank you x

  22. Hi,

    I’m going to give this a go tomorrow. We’re having the last BBQ of the summer tomorrow. I’ll let you know how I did and what the guests thought!

  23. Great recipe this – fed 11 adults and 6 children last weekend and everybody loved it. I got some hickory liquid smoke from http://www.americansweets.co.uk/ who were very effecient at sending me some. I used two 3lb pieces of rolled, boned shoulder, doubled the quantities of everything and kept cooking time the same. After the final 30 minutes in the oven I decided to take the skin and layer of fat underneath off in one piece and stick it back in the oven on a clean tray while I did the shredding and sauce making. Crackled up very nicely indeed! I think the key is a good butcher who can do you a nice fatty piece of pork. Thank you!

  24. I’ve had this recipe bookmarked for weeks and finally today is the day. I got a nice 1.5kg rolled shoulder joint from Tesco for only £5.00 and have rubbed all the seasoning inside and out. The smell coming from the oven is gorgeous and we’ve still got 3 more hours of cooking to go! I’m serving it with homemade slaw, corn fritters and wedges…oh and of course toasted buns (well French baguette). Couldn’t find liquid smoke in any UK high street store (it is October!) and left it a bit late for mail order, so I cheated and got a bottle of Jack Daniels Smokey Barbecue Sauce. I’ll probably take the skin off nearer the end and let it crackle up like the above poster did. Hubby said he can’t wait to get back from playing football and sink his teeth in!

  25. Just come back from North carolina – our host served a wonderful ‘pulled pork with corn’ but it wasn’t like our sweet corn. What would he have used?

    Can’t wait to try this recipe.

    1. Hard to say, Jenny – can you describe the corn you had? There are a bajillion different varieties and ways to prepare it out there; I’d be interested to hear what the variation you had was!

  26. I tried it at my BBQ way back in the summer, went down very very well 🙂 I’ve tried something a little different when you cook the pork in the juices at the end. I’ve found if you add a little apple juice, cider vinegar and brown sugar. it really brings out the flavor in the pork.

  27. Tonight, I’m cooking this recipe for the third time. Yes, in the space of only two months it’s become a real favourite.

    The first time I cooked it, some friends came round. We devoured glistening shreds of pork between floury baps, with home-made American-style coleslaw and home-made BBQ sauce. It was amazing and my friends loved it.

    The second time I made it, I used the pulled pork for sandwiches. Got a weeks worth of lunches out of one pork shoulder, plus some ‘pork in pitta bread’ snacks, and plenty of leftovers to pick at.

    This time, I’m planning on dropping bits of the pulled pork into a kind of Chinese/Thai soup. It may be a hugely successful fusion of American and Asian flavours, or it may just be a big bowl of soup with shreds of meat at the bottom. We’ll see how it turns out.

    Either way, this is a fantastic recipe. Thank you very much indeed for posting it.

  28. I did this for a dinner party/indoor barbecue tonight. Rapturously received, I had requests for the recipe from the first mouthful.

    I’m very pleased, as it’s a style of cooking I’ve not tried before.

  29. This really is the greatest way of cooking pork I’ve ever tried. It’s so juicy, tender and packed with flavour I just never tire of it.

  30. This was amazing! Just had it on tiger baguette which seemed to compliment the flavour really well, and there’s enough left for sandwiches for the next few days. Win! Om nom nom 🙂

  31. Excellent recipe!! Had Pulled Pork for the first time at Bodeans, came home and just had to find a recipe and make it myself. Did that yesterday and it was superb, will be a family favourite from now on. Followed your recipe to the letter thanks so much.


  32. This really is a full proof delicious way to cook pork. I make up triple volume of spices and use 100g each time. I also put omit the water and put it in a slow cooker overnight as I don’t like using the oven for that long. Then do the everything else as stated and it comes out fantastic every time. Just tried it with leg of pork and it’s meatier but still great. If you’re trying it, make more than you need because you end up eating a lot while it’s finishing off.

  33. have tried this again and again and again and it’s amazing. I’ve actually had people, who have had been to new york and had pulled pork there, say it’s one of the best they’ve tasted. It never lasts more than a couple of days in my house and it gets picked at straight from the pan after it’s been finished. Have used a hand of pork from my butchers as it’s a big yet inexpensive cut and it bastes the meat beautifully. Also tried molasses rather than light brown sugar and that works really too. Thanks for this!

  34. I made this with two pork shoulders for my mum’s 50th and everyone absolutely loved it. I took some into work for some die-hard Bodeans Pulled Pork fans and they said it was the best they’d ever tasted. It was so easy and was a great party dish as I could leave it slow-cooking while I got the place ready and welcomed guests.

    This is a brilliant recipe and I seriously urge anyone to give it a go!

  35. This is a great recipe we are having it today for about the 5th time ,we all love it, we serve it on tortilla wraps with hoisin sauce, its the business. Top dish,thank you.

  36. I have made this recipe about 5 times now it is delicious, I now serve it on large tortillas with coleslaw, sweetcorn and Hoi-sin sauce . Everyone loves it. 5 star.

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