Mouthwatering, tender, juicy pulled pork, loaded with delicious BBQ flavor, made to perfection in your oven. No special expensive equipment needed for this recipe. Just a few simple ingredients to create an unbelievable pulled pork that everyone will love!
This pulled pork recipe might be one of the most impressive recipes you can make. Get ready to serve pulled pork sandwiches at your next party, gathering, event or mealtime.
How to make pulled pork in the oven
Traditionally, making pulled pork is a long process which usually involves smoking the meat for hours in special smokers. It’s kind of a big deal in order to duplicate that process, you’d need a lot of knowledge, equipment, time and space. Of course, with slow cookers and pressure cookers such as the Instant Pot, the process can be simplified considerably. But, let’s take that even further. Perhaps you don’t own slow cooker or Instant Pot… no problem. You can use your oven to make this recipe and the results are spectacular.
What you Need
Our oven pulled pork will need to cook in an oven-proof large cooking pan with lid or a Dutch oven. Either will work just fine. All the magic will happen in this same vessel: the stovetop searing of the meat, and then the roasting in the oven. The lid is important because we’ll be using a liquid to achieve a lot of our flavor profile and juiciness. For this recipe I used a non-stick 5qt deep sauté pan.
Pork Shoulder is Best for Pulled Pork
Pulled pork is commonly made with cuts of pork from the shoulder region: pork shoulder, pork butt, Boston butt, picnic roast. While they will all work for pulled pork, there are slight differences. Pork labeled as butt will generally have more marbling and additional fat, which makes it the best cut of meat for a very tender and juicy pulled pork. Any of these cuts will work for this recipe. If you get bone-in, it will just be a little more work to cut away the bone.
How much pork to use?
With this recipe, we will cook a total of 4-6 pounds of meat, which has been trimmed. This means, our original purchase was a few pounds more. Keep in mind that most cuts of pork shoulder will come with a fat cap (which we cut away), some may have a bone (again, we cut it away), skin (that goes too), and larger areas of fat. So purchasing a cut that is 7-9lbs should be ideal.
Our oven cooked pulled pork starts with the above mentioned pork shoulder/pork butt. Then we make a delicious pork rub consisting of brown sugar, paprika, ground mustard, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, kosher salt and black pepper. This is a fairly standard spice and ingredient list for a BBQ rub. It’s awesome for the great taste, and also because it uses common ingredients you probably already have on hand.
The pork will then cook in the oven while in a large sauté pan/covered cooker or Dutch oven. It will cook in a liquid consisting of chicken broth or chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke. The liquid smoke is one of the key ingredients here. Since we’re not using a smoker to cook the meat, we need that nice smoky flavor. Liquid smoke comes in small bottles and is available at most supermarkets or online retailers. I really like Stubbs liquid smoke which you can get online.
Finally, at the end of the process, we’ll have a wonderful juice which can be added back to the pork. The juice is awesome on it’s own, but you can also add about a ½ cup of your favorite barbecue sauce and simmer it down to create an absolutely amazing sauce for your pulled pork.
Start by trimming your pork. Make sure to use a sharp knife as it will make the job SO much easier! After unpacking the pork, cut away the fat cap and any skin. Then begin cutting the pork into several pieces (around 5-8) which should be roughly the size of your fist. During the cutting and trimming, cut away any large pieces of fat. If using bone-in pork, start by cutting away the bone. It’s not always a pretty process, just do your best to cut around it and remove it. You can actually save it to make stock or for use in other recipes, but that a discussion for another day.
Mix all the dry ingredients in a small bowl to make the seasoning rub. Then place the pork in a large bowl and add the rub. Use your hands and get all those pork pieces well coated with the rub.
Use a large 5qt sauté pan (with lid which will be used later) or Dutch oven and place over medium heat on stovetop. Add the meat and give it all a good sear on all sides. This should take just a couple of minutes per side. We’re now building our flavor profile!
When all the meat is seared, set aside on a plate and deglaze and stuck on bits on the bottom of the cooker. Just pour in a little broth and then use a wooden spoon to scrape up the bits. This is called deglazing the pan. Don’t toss any of that away! It’s all part of the flavor. (Pans/cookers with non-stick coating may not need this step)
With the pan or Dutch oven deglazed, add the chicken broth, Worcestershire and liquid smoke. Now add the pork and cover with the lid. We want the lid to be as secure and air tight as possible. You always want to cover pulled pork when making it in the oven! If the lid has a vent hole, cover it with a piece of aluminum foil.
Now place it in an oven preheated to 300°(F) for 3 hours.
Ready to Pull!
After the 3 hour cooking time is complete, it’s time to see and taste the results. Carefully remove the pot from the oven and remove the lid. Ahhh… just look at that meat! Use a fork and gently pierce one of the pieces. You’ll see how fall-apart tender it is. Go ahead and have a taste if you’d like. Wow, right?! Ok, use tongs and carefully remove the pork to a large bowl. Scoop out about ½ cup of the juices and pour it into the bowl with the pork. Now use two forks or meat claws to shred the meat. You’ll see how easy it falls apart.
Now we still have that full pan of juice that cooked the meat. We have a couple of options: use the juice as-is, which is amazing! Or, add ½ cup of your favorite BBQ sauce and simmer for about 15 minutes to reduce. There’s no right or wrong answer. Personally, once you try the sauce as-is, you’ll be amazed at how good it is. But if you like a thicker sauce, go ahead and add the BBQ sauce and simmer. Again, both are really good.
Time to Serve
Your pulled pork is now ready to serve. This is the best part! Your first decision will be to mix all the pulled pork with sauce, or leave the sauce on the side? That’s totally up to you. If serving for a crowd, I usually mix just a little more of the juices with the pork, and then keep the juice/sauce on the side for optional use. Pulled pork is at it’s best when served on an equally good bread or bun. I love to use brioche rolls. They’re soft, slightly sweet and hold up well to the pork. Pretzel buns are also excellent choice. Another great way to serve pulled pork in on Texas toast! This might be my favorite. Texas toast is simply thick sliced white bread. It’s commonly used to make French toast. Put a slice in the toaster to lightly toast it, then fold it up around a pile of the pulled pork. Oh my goodness! You won’t believe how good it is!
For toppings, there’s really only 2 choices in my book: coleslaw or pickles. The crunch of both go excellent with the savory BBQ flavors of the pork. Of course, you can just pile the pulled pork right on the bun or bread and keep the sides on the side. But for sure I LOVE having pickle slices on the side.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can this recipe be doubled?
Answer: Yes, just double everything. You’ll need to make sure you have a large enough pan/pot for much more. Going for more than 6lbs of meat, consider using a larger sized Dutch oven as the cooking vessel.
Can pulled pork be frozen?
Absolutely yes! Put the pork in air tight containers and freeze for up to 4 months.