This is the best damn pulled pork recipe i’ve ever made. Yes, you read that correctly. And it’s made in an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker!
Pulled pork is something you always see on those barbecue competition shows where people go to great lengths to prepare and cook with all kinds of methods. Most often, these methods require huge pieces of equipment, lots of space (outdoor space), and a ton of time and commitment to make. Now don’t get me wrong, you have an opportunity to sink you teeth into pork that’s been cooked this way, it’s an experience that’s simply a festival of flavor you’ll never forget. Many of the best real BBQ joints will start making their pulled pork days ahead of time and when it’s ready to eat, people line up. And when these places run out of food for the day, that’s it until next time.
A few years ago, along came electric pressure cookers such as the Instant Pot, and people went crazy for these things! And there’s a reason for that – because they open up all new possibilities for making incredible food. Pulled pork is tops on my list of favorite foods to make with an Instant Pot. From start to finish, it can be done in under 2 hours. No kidding!
Choosing the right pork
We start with a pork butt roast. This can also be called pork shoulder. You can get either bone-in or boneless. If you find ones that are vacuum packed and the packaging indicates that the pork contains a 12% solution, this means that the roast is brined. Those are the best to use. Meat is brined this way to maintain tenderness and juiciness. You can always make your own brine, but that’s a topic for another day. Go with the brined meat if you can. If the meat has a noticeable fat layer on it, you’ll want to trim any excess away.
I generally like to use a roast that’s 4lbs. I cut the meat into 4 pieces of equal size, cutting out the bone if it has one.
Start with a good rub
Our pulled pork will be getting it’s flavor start by applying a rub. We use simple ingredients that include brown sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, ground mustard, salt, pepper and a dash of cayenne. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and add the pieces of pork. Use your hands and toss it all together for a couple of minutes. Make sure that seasoning mixture is well incorporated into the meat.
Sear the meat
Barbecue flavors can be complex and one of the keys of great BBQ is the slow roasting/smoking of the meat. Since we can’t do that, we’ll create complex flavors of our own by searing the meat. We do this by adding 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the Instant Pot and setting it to the saute mode. Once it’s hot, we carefully add our chunks of pork. I generally like to do 2 chunks at a time. It’s just much easier to work with in batches like this. Use tongs and gently place the chunks into the hot oil. Let the meat sear for about 2 minutes and turn over to get the other side for another couple of minutes. Get the sides too if possible. After searing the meat, remove from Instant Pot and set aside on a plate. We then need to deglaze the pot. This is very important! After sauteing, press cancel and add ½ cup of chicken broth to the pot. Use a wooden spoon and scrape all the bits off the bottom of the pot. It should take about a minute or so. Make sure to get it all and do not discard anything! All this goodness is part of the flavor for our pulled pork.
Pressure cook with Chicken Broth
Chicken broth is the perfect liquid for pressure cooking pork. It adds flavor that you simply cannot get with water. To round out the flavors, we’ll be adding some Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke. These flavors work together to bring about a boldness and savory aspect that you’d normally get from the smoking/slow roasting methods of traditional BBQ. Naturally we’re going to emulate those flavors and the combination of Worcestershire and Liquid Smoke in the pressure cooker works wonders.
After you’ve deglazed the pot, add the rest of the wet ingredients and place the chunks of pork directly into the liquid. Don’t stack it, spread it out as best possible. Secure the lid, close the vent and pressure cook on high for 1 hour. After the hour is up, let the pressure release naturally for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes you can quick release any remaining pressure.
Pull the Pork
Carefully remove the chunks of pork from the Instant Pot to a large bowl. The pieces may fall apart and that’s just fine. Once all the pork pieces are in a bowl, use two forks to shred the pieces.
Add Favorite BBQ Sauce and Serve
At this point, your pulled pork will already be full of flavor. Just try a piece and you will be amazed! You can serve just like this (with some of the juice from the pot drizzled in). Or, you can add your favorite BBQ sauce. Add the sauce in small amounts to start. You don’t want the pork swimming in the sauce, but rather the sauce complimenting the pork.
One of my very favorite ways to enjoy pulled pork is with some BBQ sauce and heaped onto a good piece of white bread. Use a fork to enjoy this open-faced sandwich approach. Add a little coleslaw on top, too, for added flavor and texture. Be sure to have some pickle slices on the side too.
Storage and Reheating
Storing your homemade pulled pork correctly is key to keeping it delicious for leftovers! Here’s my quick guide to ensure your pulled pork stays fresh and tasty:
In the Fridge:
- Let it cool down to avoid any steamy container situations.
- Store it in an airtight container or zip-lock bag.
- Get it in the fridge within two hours of cooking.
- It’ll stay good for 3-4 days, so you’ve got meals ready to go!
In the Freezer:
- Cool it off, then portion it out into freezer bags or freezer safe air tight containers.
- Don’t forget to label with the date; it’s good for up to 6 months!
- Thaw it in the fridge overnight when you’re ready to dive back in.
Microwave Reheating Instructions:
- Prep: Place the pulled pork in a microwave-safe dish.
- Moisturize: Sprinkle a little water or broth over the pork to keep it moist. Cover the dish with a microwave-safe lid or plastic wrap to trap steam.
- Heat: Microwave on high for about 2-3 minutes. Halfway through, stop to stir or rearrange the pork for even heating.
- Check: Ensure the pork is heated through. If not, continue microwaving in 30-second intervals until hot.
Stovetop Reheating Instructions:
- Prep: Put the pulled pork in a skillet or saucepan.
- Moisturize: Add a splash of broth, water, or barbecue sauce to help it stay moist during reheating.
- Heat: Warm over medium heat, stirring occasionally to ensure even heating.
- Check: Once the pork is simmering gently and heated through, it’s ready to serve.
Frequently Asked Questions
Make sure your pressure cooker is large enough for larger amounts. You do not want to go past the fill line. To double the recipe, just go ahead and double all the dry rub ingredients. You’ll have to do the searing in multiple batches. Make extra sure to get the bottom of the pot scraped up of any stuck-on bits. Increase the chicken broth to 2 cups. Cooking time will be the same.
You bet it can! Check out our recipe for Best Damn Instant Pot Pulled Chicken!
The liquid smoke, even in its small amount, is an ingredient that really elevates the flavor of this recipe. If you don’t have it, simply leave it out. Alternately, you can use smoked paprika in place of regular paprika.