Aug 26, 2016

How to Make Pulled Pork in the Oven

Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 3 hrs
I love the flavor of pulled pork but don't always have a smoker at the ready. With this recipe you can serve a crowd with ease!

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I love making smoked pork butts in a “Big Green Egg” at home in New Jersey, but unfortunately I don’t have a smoker in my tiny California apartment, so this recipe is an easier at-home variety. In this recipe I will teach you how to make delicious pulled pork in the oven! The goal is to mimic the smokiness and tender meat you get in the smoker but in the oven. The liquid smoke will help to replicate that smoked flavor and smell. Serve the pork by itself, inside sandwiches, on top of fries or any other ways you can come up with.

How to Make Pulled Pork in the Oven

braised pulled pork on a BBQ platter with baked beans coleslaw and pickles on checkered parchment paper

Key Ingredients in This Recipe

  • Pork shoulder – This cut can be referred to as the pork shoulder, picnic shoulder or picnic ham. It’s a similar cut to the pork butt which is higher up on the leg. Because these cuts gets a lot of work, they are very muscle-heavy cuts, making them ideal for braising. These two cuts can both be used in this recipe. Slowly cooking the meat at a low temperature helps to break down the tough meat, resulting in tender, succulent pork. 
  • Spices – Rather than using a store bought BBQ rub I opt to mix my own using brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, mustard powder and cayenne.
  • Liquid smoke – Liquid smoke is used to imitate the flavor created by smoking foods. A little goes a long way. I typically use the Hickory variety,
  • Vegetable broth – Vegetable broth is added to the pork to keep it moist as it braises. The broth can be swapped with chicken stock if needed.

Why You Should Braise Your Meat

Braising is the method of cooking meat at a low temperature for a long period of time in a tightly sealed container like a Dutch oven. It’s a forgiving method of cooking. Slowly cooking the meat allows for tough, lean (and often cheaper) cuts of meat to break down and become tender and juicy. I love a good braise because you really can’t mess it up. With this “hands-off” method, the meat is first seared to lock in the juices. It’s then added to a tightly covered oven-safe pot. Cook it for a long time at a low temperature, so you don’t run the risk of overcooking as you would using other methods.

How to Make Braised Pulled Pork

boneless pork shoulder cut into chunks
Step 1: Prep the pork.

Preheat the oven to 325ºF (170ºC). Position the oven rack in the middle of the oven.

Trim any excess fat off the pork butt and cut it into large hand-sized chunks.

seasoning mixture for pulled pork
Step 2: Mix the spices. 

In a small bowl whisk together the salt, brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, mustard and cayenne. Toss the pork in the seasoning.

seared pork in cast iron
Step 3: Sear the pork.

Heat a 5-quart Dutch oven over medium heat, add the oil and heat through. Sear the pork on all sides, working in batches so as to not overcrowd the pan. Add the onion to the pan then add the vegetable stock to the pan.

how to make braised pork in the oven
Step 4: Braise the pork in the oven.

Add the liquid smoke (if using). Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat then cover and move the Dutch oven into the oven. Cook the pork until it is fork tender, turning halfway through, about 3 hours.

shredded oven braised pulled pork
Step 5: Shred the pork. 

Once the pork is cooked remove it from the pot to a cutting board. Use two forks to shred the meat and add it to a large mixing bowl. Discard any large pieces of fat. Add some of the liquid back to the pulled pork if it needs more moisture.

oven braised pulled pork on baking sheet with pickles and coleslaw
Step 6: Serve with BBQ sauce.

Serve the hot pulled pork topped with your favorite BBQ sauce. Serve alone or on sandwich rolls topped with coleslaw.

Tips for Making the Best Pulled Pork in the Oven

How much pulled pork should I buy?

Some advice on calculating how much pulled pork you need: I always like having leftover pulled pork to make into other recipes, but sometimes I don’t want to have enough left over so that I will be eating pork for every meal for the next two weeks. When buying pork for pulled pork first know that you are going to end up with roughly half of the weight in the finished meat due to “shrinkage”. The fat will render or you will discard some of the fatty pieces. If you start with six pounds of meat like I have here, you will end up with a little over three pounds of finished meat. I would recommend calculating about three people per pound of the cooked meat for average eaters.

Instructions for Making Pulled Pork in a Slow Cooker

This recipe can easily be made in a slow cooker! I recommend searing the pork as directed and cooking on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 5 to 6 hours.

How to Store Pulled Pork

Add leftover pulled pork to a resealable container and store, refrigerated with additional braising liquid (so it doesn’t dry out) for up to a week. Add to resealable plastic bags and freeze for two to three months.

braised pulled pork on a BBQ platter with baked beans coleslaw and pickles

Other Recipes to Try

If you enjoy this pulled pork recipe, I recommend checking out some of these:

Oven Braised Pulled Pork with Homemade BBQ Sauce

Print Pin
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs
Serves 9

Ingredients:

  • 1 (6-pound) boneless pork shoulder or butt
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, quartered
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 teaspoons liquid smoke (optional)
  • Favorite BBQ sauce, warmed, as needed for serving

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 325ºF (170ºC). Position the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Trim any excess fat off the pork butt and cut it into large hand-sized chunks.
  • In a small bowl whisk together the salt, brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, mustard and cayenne. Toss the pork in the seasoning.
  • Heat a 5-quart Dutch oven over medium heat, add the oil and heat through. Sear the pork on all sides, working in batches as to not overcrowd the pan. Add the onion to the pan then add the vegetable stock to the pan.
  • Add the liquid smoke (if using). Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat then cover and move the Dutch oven into the oven. Cook the pork until it is fork tender, turning halfway through, about 3 hours.
  • Once the pork is cooked remove it from the pot to a cutting board. Use two forks to shred the meat and add it to a large mixing bowl. Discard any large pieces of fat. Add some of the liquid back to the pulled pork if it needs more moisture.
  • Serve the hot pulled pork topped with BBQ sauce. Serve alone or on sandwich rolls topped with coleslaw.

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