Pork is not only a healthier alternative to beef, it’s also just as versatile. I do pulled pork 2 ways – one braised and simmered in beer or broth and the other oven roasted. Both are incredibly easy and both result in tender, delicious pork.
To make either version of pulled pork, start with a shoulder (also called picnic) roast or Boston butt. The larger the roast, the longer the cooking time so a great way around this is to cut very large roasts in half. I do like to leave the bone in, if there is one – it will only add to the flavor of the roast.
To braise a pork roast, heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a heavy skillet. Pat the roast dry, season with salt and pepper and brown on all sides. Remove from heat and place the roast either in a large roasting pan or a crockpot. Add your choice of water/stock/beer or combination of any or all and fill about a quarter height of the pork roast. Add your choice of smashed garlic cloves, sliced onions, thyme, bay, or whatever spices you like. Cover and cook until tender. If you do this in a 325° oven, allow around 3-4 hours for a 5-7 pound roast, in a crockpot allow at least 6-8 on low heat. Don’t make the mistake of boiling your roast rapidly – this will only end in a tough roast and not the tender, pull-apart pork you’re looking for. And be sure and let your roast set in the liquid about 20-30 minutes after removing it from the heat – this will prevent your roast from drying out. It’s also a good idea to reserve the liquid for storing any leftovers in. The last time I made this, I added the leftovers to an udon noodle soup and it was delicious.
Now, on to the second way I make pulled pork: dry roasted in the oven. This version involves a dry rub. A dry-rubbed and roasted pork is completely different in taste and texture, though believe me, it’s just as tender. Remember, I’m only making this for two, so if your roast is bigger, you’ll need to adjust your rub amount and cooking time. (For a 6-7 pound roast, allow at least 4-5 hours roasting time.)
Oven Roasted Pulled Pork Recipe
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon (scant) kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons smoked paprika (regular will work fine if that’s all you have – don’t sweat the details on a basic recipe such as this!)
- 1 teaspoon ancho chili pepper powder (again, don’t sweat this – do you have cayenne? Use that. No hot chili pepper powder at all? Skip it! This will still turn out fabulous.)
- 3 1/2 pound pork shoulder or Boston butt roast
In a small dish, mix the spices together. Pat the pork roast dry, place it in a shallow roasting pan and rub the roast generously on all sides with spice mixture. Place rubbed roast in the refrigerator for at least one hour but up to 8 hours. The longer this sits, the more intense your flavor and crust is going to be. Remove roast from oven about 30 minutes before roasting. Preheat oven to 300° Place roast in oven, uncovered and roast for approximately 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 – hours or until roast is fork-tender and separates easily, with very little effort. Remove from oven and let rest for 20 minutes. Transfer roast to a cutting board and, using either a knife and fork or your clean hands, pull pork off of roast. Discard any chunks of fat.
Can you see those crusty edges on the pork? This is what makes this version so incredibly delicious. I admit that I do like to leave my pork a little chunky but that’s strictly personal preference. From here, you can enjoy this however you like: Add a little of your favorite barbecue sauce for sandwiches, put it in some soup with kale or greens, or make your own version of a beautiful pork cassoulet with beans. Or you can enjoy it one of my favorite ways:
Pile the oven-roasted pork onto a toasted bun and add some of my no-mayo slaw made with Dijon mustard. (as you can see, I like mine heavy on the coleslaw and light on the pork!) The flavor combination is perfect and I promise you’ll love it.