BBQ Pulled Pork Recipe: Simple Steps for Perfect Homemade Flavor

Discover the techniques to master a succulent BBQ pulled pork recipe, from selecting the right cut to achieving the perfect balance of smoke and tenderness.

Key takeaways:

  • Select a quality pork shoulder with marbling for tenderness.
  • Use a flavorful rub with brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
  • Consider adding ground mustard, cumin, and smoked paprika for depth.
  • Use apple cider vinegar and chicken broth for a flavorful braising liquid.
  • Cook low and slow until internal temperature reaches 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit.



Selecting a quality pork shoulder, also known as Boston butt, is pivotal. The marbling of fat within this cut ensures a tender, moist result.

For an adequate serving size, aim for a piece that weighs approximately 6 to 8 pounds.

Rubs play a crucial role in imparting flavor; a combination of brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper is highly recommended for its balanced profile.

Seeking depth in taste, consider adding ground mustard, cumin, and smoked paprika.

The use of liquid smoke can infuse slow-cooked tenderness with a hint of smokiness if a smoker is unavailable.

For the braising liquid, apple cider vinegar and chicken broth make an excellent duo, enhancing the meat’s flavor while keeping it moist throughout the cooking process.

Remember, ingredients such as onion and garlic added to the liquid foundation contribute aromatic notes that are absorbed during the low and slow cooking.


Begin by prepping the pork shoulder with a generous rub of your chosen spice blend, ensuring all sides are coated. Allow the meat to absorb the flavors for at least an hour, or optimally, overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat your smoker, grill, or oven to a low temperature, around 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit. This low and slow approach tenderizes the meat and permeates it with smoky flavor if using a smoker or grill.

Place the pork shoulder on the grill grates or in a roasting pan if using an oven. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit. This could take upwards of 6 to 8 hours, depending on size and cooking method. It’s vital not to rush this process, as the connective tissue within the pork needs time to break down fully.

Once cooked, remove the pork from the heat and let it rest for at least 20 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute, maintaining moisture and tenderness.

After resting, shred the pork using two forks or shredding claws. It should fall apart with little resistance. As you pull, discard any excess fat or gristle.

The shredded meat can be tossed with BBQ sauce if desired, allowing it to caramelize further upon returning it to the grill or broiler for a brief period, or it can be served immediately, succulent and flavorful.

Cooking Methods

Selecting the right cooking method is crucial for achieving tender, flavorful pulled pork. Each technique has its distinct advantages and contributes to the final texture and taste.

1. Slow Cooker: Ideal for tenderness and convenience. The slow cooker provides a low, steady heat source that breaks down the connective tissues over several hours, leading to fork-tender meat without constant supervision.

2. Oven: Offers more control over the cooking environment. An oven-roasted pulled pork is usually cooked at a low temperature, around 225 to 275°F. Covering the pork in a roasting pan with a tight lid or foil retains moisture, while a consistent oven temperature ensures even cooking.

3. Smoker: Imparts a pronounced smoky flavor. Smoking over low heat with wood chips adds a distinct aroma that is hard to replicate with other methods. The smoker also provides a bark or crust on the meat, contributing to the complexity of textures.

4. Grill: Quick and char-flavored option, albeit unconventional for pulled pork. Grilling can be done over indirect low heat, allowing the pork to cook thoroughly while adding a light smoky flavor, especially if wood chips are used. This method requires more attention to avoid drying out the meat.

Each method should be paired with the appropriate liquid, seasoning, and cooking time to optimize moisture and flavor infusion. Whether opting for a hands-off approach or a more engaging culinary experience, the goal is to cook the pork until it reaches an internal temperature of 195 to 205°F, at which point it’s ready to be pulled apart effortlessly.

Slow Cooker

The slow cooker simplifies the process, allowing for a ‘set it and forget it’ approach. Low and slow cooking breaks down the tough fibers in pork shoulder, rendering it tender enough to shred effortlessly with forks.

Immerse the meat in a blend of your favorite barbecue sauce, spices, and a little liquid smoke if you crave that traditional smoky flavor. This method also keeps the pork consistently moist by trapping steam and minimizing evaporation, ensuring that the meat is succulent throughout.

Allow for 8-10 hours on low or 5-6 hours on high to achieve the optimal texture. Periodically basting the pork with the cooking liquid enhances the depth of flavor, although not strictly necessary due to the cooker’s sealed environment.


Roasting a pork shoulder in the oven translates into a controlled, steady heat source, enabling a bark exterior and juicy interior. Preheat your oven to 225°F (107°C) for low and slow cooking that will tenderize the meat over several hours – typically 1 to 1.5 hours per pound of meat.

Wrap the pork in foil once it reaches an internal temperature of around 160°F (71°C); this process, known as the “Texas crutch,” helps to preserve moisture. Continue cooking until it hits the optimal pull-apart tenderness at an internal temperature of 195°F to 205°F (90°C to 96°C).

Resting the pork for at least 30 minutes before pulling is a crucial step that allows juices to redistribute through the meat. Use this method to excel in even cooking and achieve the desired succulence in your pulled pork.