Slow-cooked meat is no new thing, but there’s something about US-style pulled pork that has piqued our appetites in a big way. But as familiar as we now are with this Stateside great, it’s still worth remembering that some details are easily lost in the long journey across the Atlantic. Truly authentic pulled pork is actually a barbecue dish, cooked for hours over a charcoal pit until it falls apart, ready to be easily shredded or ‘pulled’ apart to serve.
As so many of us are woefully bereft of a huge outdoor fire pit, you’ll be pleased to know even Americans admit it can be made in a standard domestic oven – although, like any national dish, there’s plenty more debate to be had about seasonings, temperatures and serving methods. Our kitchen team sat down with their best Stetsons on to come up with our ultimate cooking tips. Would we dare serve our version to a South Carolinan? You bet…
Once you’ve got to grips with the method, test out our best ever pulled pork recipes for mouth-watering dishes.
How to make pulled pork
Watch our video guide to making perfect pulled pork:
What is the best cut of meat for pulled pork?
Try our easiest ever pulled pork reipe, with no tricky measurements or unusual ingredients involved.
Should the meat be skinless?
Pork shoulder that’s due to be pulled should always be skinless to allow the flavours to permeate. You can ask your butcher to do this for you, but if you’re removing it yourself, don’t let the skin go to waste – roast it until crunchy and serve it on the side or as a snack. This pork crackling straw recipe gives timings and ideas for seasoning.
What is a dry rub?
The heavenly triumvirate of salt, sugar and paprika gives you a subtle flavour that allows the pork to sing with its own pure flavour, and for you to get more creative with your serving sauces. However, if you want to ramp up the flavour during cooking, food editor Cassie recommends adding garlic powder, mustard powder, cayenne pepper or cumin to your dry rub. We also have a jerk pulled pork recipe, should you fancy the tropical taste of the Caribbean.
If you have the time, try mixing sea salt and sugar in a bag and rub it over the pork before leaving it in the fridge overnight. Make sure you rinse it off thoroughly before putting it in the oven with the spices of your choice or you’ll have super-saline meat, and not in a good way. If you’re cooking pulled pork in one go, American food writer Jennifer Joyce recommends searing the shoulder in a non-stick pan before adding rub.
How to prepare pulled pork
Jennifer Joyce positions her prepared pork shoulder onto a wire rack, which is then placed in the baking tin. Before putting it in the oven, she pours water in the bottom of the tin, then wraps the whole thing tightly in foil to allow a steamy micro-atmosphere to form, safeguarding against dreaded dry meat syndrome.
Temperature and timings
The cookery team recommend cooking your meat for two hours per kilogram on a super-low heat, around 140C, or gas mark 2-3. Barney says it’s ready to be taken out when it can be easily pulled apart using a fork.
Shredding the pork
If you’ve followed our recipes and tips to a tee, the pulling stage should be a doddle, but take a tip from the team and separate your cooked meat using two forks, pushing the meat from the centre outwards. Discard any fatty bits and be careful not to over-shred it, so leave some nice big chunks of meat intact to cater for personal preference.
Pulled pork sauces
How to serve pulled pork
All that pillowy pork and bread needs to be levelled out with something with bite – enter coleslaw, everyone’s favourite shredded salad. We have more slaw’spiration than you can shake a box grater at, but here are some of our favourite versions…
Alternative cooking methods
More pulled recipes
Try it yourself…
Are you a fan of pulled pork? We’d love to hear your experiences of cooking and eating it…