Summer is still a few months off, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be dreaming of barbecue year-round! Nothing is better than savory pulled pork that melts in your mouth, paired with a crisp, tangy slaw with a kick.
What’s the secret to making juicy, smoky pulled pork at home without a lot of fuss? For those of us that don’t have access to a smoker, the key is liquid smoke. A bizarre ingredient, liquid smoke is made from the destructive distillation, or decomposition, of birch wood. You can skip it if the idea of fake smoke flavor scares you, but the pork just won’t be the same. It’s no authentic southern BBQ, but it sure tastes phenomenal and is a breeze to make.
I used my 2-quart Crock-Pot, but if you have a larger slow cooker, 4+-quarts, you can double the recipe below. However, I still found this made enough for two people for several days! I also recommend preparing the meat a day before, popping it in the slow cooker before work, and then finishing up when you get home. If you have to stay late at work, no worries, this can cook for a long time.
Lastly, no pulled pork is the same without slaw. This cilantro-jalapeno slaw recipe has become a staple in my life. Combine with some toasted rolls and pickles—and you’ve got one bad-ass sandwich.
Prep time: 3 hours 20 minutes.
Cook time: 9-11 hours.
Yield: Enough for 6 people or 2 people for 2-3 meals.
Crockpot Pulled Pork
- 1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1 tablespoons table salt
- 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon ground white pepper
- 3-4 pounds of bone-in pork shoulder
- 1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
- ¼ cup beer (can substitute with water if none on hand)
- 1/8-1/4 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce (optional)
- Mix all spice rub ingredients in small bowl using a whisk or fork.
- Place meat in a large dish or on a cutting board in a place you don’t mind getting messy. Pour the spice rub on the pork, and massage spice rub into meat until meat is covered and sticky. Save any excess rub. Wrap the pork tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap—you may need more! Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, ideally overnight. To maximize flavor, the meat can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
- After refrigerating for at least 3 hours, unwrap the pork shoulder and place it in a 2-quart slow cooker. Add liquid smoke and ¼ cup beer (or water), as well as any leftover rub. Put slow cooker on low and cook for 8-10 hours, until the pork is tender and falls apart when pierced with a fork.
- Move the pork to a cutting board, and discard any leftover liquid in the slow cooker. Shred the meat by tearing it into thin pieces with your hands or two forks. Discard fat.
- Put “pulled” meat back in the slow cooker. Stir in 1/8 cup barbecue sauce (or more if you like saucier meat). Turn crock-pot back on low for 30-60 minutes, until hot.
While your pork is cooking, you can prepare your slaw!
For a chunkier slaw, you can keep the jalapenos separate from the liquid. For a smoother, even spice, blend with liquid as below.
- 1/2 head cabbage, sliced thin
- 1/2 head purple cabbage, sliced thin
- 1 whole jalapeno, cut in half and thinly sliced.
- 1/4-1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 tablespoon honey (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- stems from cilantro, set aside (optional)
- 2 cups cilantro leaves, barely chopped
- Shred cabbage by slicing thinly with a knife or using a food processor with a shredding disk. Place in a bowl. Optional: combine with the sliced jalapenos instead of blending them with the liquid.
- Using an immersion blender in a separate bowl (or in a blender), combine jalapeño slices, sour cream, milk, vinegar, honey (optional), salt, cayenne, and cilantro stems (optional). Pour over the cabbage and toss to combine until thoroughly coated. Cover and refrigerate for two hours.
- Just before serving the slaw, toss in the cilantro leaves.
Make it a sandwich, by adding pork, sauce, slaw, pickles & maybe even hot mustard on bread of your choice (I recommend toasting soft rolls). Enjoy!