Slow cooker pulled pork recipe

Stuart Forster introduces his delicious slow cooker pulled pork recipe.

Making pulled pork at home is surprisingly easy. During the coronavirus lockdown I’ve been working on my recipe for slow cooker pulled pork and, after a series of tweaks, I hope you’ll enjoy cooking it in your own home.

Disclosure: Some of the links below, marked with a (£), are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Southern style pulled pork

Pulled pork is a dish primarily associated with the smokehouses of the southern states of the USA.

Southern style food, including pulled pork, served at Piggback's in Lake City, South Carolina
Southern style food, including pulled pork, served at Piggyback’s in Lake City, South Carolina.

While travelling in South Carolina, I had the pleasure of eating pulled pork plus a range of other succulent barbecued dishes at Piggyback’s BBQ and Catfish in Lake City. Served with the likes of grilled shrimps, sauce-lathered barbecued ribs and sweetcorn, the food — and southern hospitality — made a positive impression.

Grilled shrimp, sweetcorn and dipping sauces on a seafood platter served at Piggyback's Barbeque and Catfish restaurant at Lake City in South Carolina
Grilled shrimp, sweetcorn and dipping sauces on a seafood platter served at Piggyback’s Barbeque and Catfish restaurant at Lake City in South Carolina.

Chef Mitchell invited me into his kitchen and showed me how he and the team at Piggyback’s oven cook ribs and other meat dishes hours on slowly rotating trays.

Chef Mitchell shows off the oven at Piggyback's Barbeque and Catfish restaurant at Lake City in South Carolina, USA
The oven at Piggyback’s Barbeque and Catfish restaurant at Lake City in South Carolina, USA.

The real thing — slow-cooked, smokehouse cuisine — is worth travelling to experience. Craving it, I set out to make my own interpretation of pulled pork at home. (My version of pulled pork is not based on Piggyback’s wonderful recipe.)

Sign for Piggyback's Barbeque and Catfish, a restaurant in Lake City, South Carolina
Sign for Piggyback’s Barbeque and Catfish, a restaurant in Lake City, South Carolina.

Homemade slow cooker pulled pork

At first, I was tempted to roast a pork shoulder at a relatively low temperature in the oven. I then decided to make my pulled pork in a slow cooker. I’m glad I did so as it’s easy and the result is delicious, succulent meat that produces sufficient for up to eight generous servings. That even takes into account my tendency to nibble at it while preparing dishes.

If you don’t already have a slow cooker, it’s worth investing in one. I also use mine frequently for cooking stews, soups and meat dishes such as lamb kleftiko. After my Ninja Foodi multi-cooker, it’s the kitchen implement that I use most.

Morphy Richards (£) produces a range of slow cookers (£):

Crock-Pot (£) also has an impressive range of slow cookers (£):

The multi-purpose cooking equipment from Instant Pot (£) includes slow cooker functionality (£):

After cooking, I like to get straight down to eating. However, I’ve found that washing my slow cooker’s ceramic pot immediately after emptying the food has been cooked is easier than cleaning it after it has stood for a while, even if it’s filled with lukewarm water.

Home-cooked pulled pork served shredded with mac and cheese and wilted spinach
Home cooked pulled pork served shredded along with mac and cheese and wilted spinach.

Ingredients for this slow cooker pulled pork recipe

To cook this pulled pork recipe you’ll need the following ingredients:

Approximately 1.5kg (3 pounds) of pork shoulder meat

Paprika powder (2 tablespoons)

Smoked paprika powder (2 tablespoons)

2 chicken stock cubes

2 teaspoons of pink peppercorns (substitute black pepper if you prefer)

3 heaped teaspoons of tomato puree

50 ml (2 fluid ounces) of malt vinegar

25 ml (1 fluid ounce) of balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon of soft dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce

1½ teaspoons of powdered cinnamon

1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce

2 heaped teaspoons of peanut butter (optional)

5 garlic cloves

1 medium-sized onion

Close-up of homecooked pulled pork served shredded on a wooden board
Close-up of home-cooked pulled pork after it’s been shredded on a wooden board.

How to make this slow cooker pulled pork recipe

The method for making slow cooker pulled pork to this recipe requires the following steps:

  1. Using a sharp knife, cut away and discard the skin and excess fat. Then score the remaining joint of meat on both sides — this increases the amount of surface area able to soak up the flavour of the spices and sauce.
  2. Rub one side of the meat with the smoked paprika powder. Rub the other with regular paprika powder.
  3. Make a barbecue sauce by mixing together the malt vinegar, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce into a medium-sized bowl. Add in the tomato puree, brown sugar and peppercorns. Then crumble in the chicken stock cubes (which I use as a substitute for salt). Stir the peanut butter, if you’re using it. Chop the onion and garlic cloves then add them to the bowl. Using a mixer, blend the contents of the bowl into a smooth sauce,
  4. Place the seasoned pork shoulder into the slow cooker and cover it with the sauce. Stir the sauce once or twice during the cooking process.
  5. Cook the ingredients together on a low heat for nine hours, until the meat so tender it’s falling apart.
  6. Using a colander, drain the sauce off the meat. Allow the cooked pork to stand on a chopping board for five minutes. Shred the pork using one fork to hold the meat and another to tear along the grain of the pork. It’s this shredding that gives pulled pork its characteristic ‘pulled’ look.

Serve and enjoy!

I like to serve my pulled pork with mac and cheese, wilted spinach and sweet potato fries.

Close-up of slow cooker pulled pork served shredded on a wooden board
Close-up of slow cooker pulled pork served shredded on a wooden board.

Easy ideas for using pulled pork leftovers

Pulled pork always works well when served in a lightly toasted brioche bun. That said, I prefer serving my leftover pulled pork in sandwiches made with wholegrain bread or as part of a cheese toasty.

Looking for a healthier option? Pulled pork also tastes good when added to a mixed leaf salad with a vinaigrette.

Slow cooker cooked pulled pork after being shredded with forks
Slow cooker cooked pulled pork after being shredded with forks.

Further information

The photographs illustrating this post are by Why Eye Photography, which is available for food photography assignments in the north-east of England and beyond.

Did you find this slow cooker pulled pork recipe easy to follow? Please feel free to give your feedback in the comments field below.

Interested in trying other recipes? Check out this easy-to-cook lightly spiced butternut squash recipe.

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