This pulled pork recipe is requested at every get-together we go to. It’s so fall-off-the-bone tender and packed with flavor you don’t even need BBQ sauce. It honestly makes the best pulled pork sandwich ever. Come see how easy it is to make this pulled pork oven recipe.
Remember last week when we were talking about company recipes? This pulled pork recipe is one of those recipes. I’ll never forget the first time I had this perfect pulled pork. I was a guest in someone’s home and this was their company recipe. And true to company recipe fashion, I immediately fell in love with it and begged for their recipe.
This pulled pork recipe is SO tender and packed with flavor — it just melts in your mouth. It’s so good it doesn’t even need BBQ sauce! And it really is perfect for company because everyone I’ve ever made this for has said it’s the best pulled pork recipe ever. You have to try it, at least once. You’ll be hooked on this pulled pork recipe!!
What is the best cut of pork for pulled pork?
Let’s pick out the perfect pork shoulder for your perfect pulled pork. The best piece of meat for this pulled pork recipe is a 4 to 7 pound whole boston butt.
Make sure your pork shoulder has a layer of fat on the bottom:
It should also have a bone going about halfway through it. (It doesn’t go all the way through. Just halfway.)
Pulled Pork Recipe Equipment
After you pick out your perfect pork shoulder, you may want to pick up a few other items for this easy pulled pork recipe.
For this pulled pork recipe you’ll need a 3″ deep roasting pan that’s big enough to hold your pork shoulder so that there is at least 1″ of extra room on all sides. Of course you may have a nice roasting pan at home that you can use. I just pick up one of these disposable ones at the grocery store for easier clean up.
You’ll also need something LARGE to brine the roast in. I use a 2 gallon ziploc bag for this pulled pork recipe.
The last thing is a digital thermometer with an alarm. You don’t have to have one, but I find this digital thermometer to be an extremely useful piece of equipment in my kitchen. The thermometer stays in the meat, in the oven while the digital reader sits outside on top of the stove. You set the alarm and it will go off when the meat has reached the desired temp. I LOVE it because I don’t have to constantly keep checking on the pulled pork. I just put it in and forget it!
You can pick one of these up pretty cheap (less than $20) at the grocery store (and almost anywhere- Amazon, Target, Walmart, etc). And you can use it for everything- chicken, steak, burgers, and especially this pulled pork recipe. I love it for baking chicken because you know exactly when the chicken is done and it doesn’t get dried out.
Step 1: The Pulled Pork Rub
Now that you’ve got all your equipment, let’s start out by making the special pulled pork rub that makes this pulled pork recipe so perfectly seasoned.
Dry Rub Ingredients
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp ground pepper
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 cup brown sugar
Mix all ingredients together well and store in an air tight container.
This smells absolutely divine. Cover it and set it aside.
Step 2: The Pork Shoulder Brine
A brine solution gives this pulled pork recipe the extra moisture it needs for a long, slow cooking process so you don’t end up with tough, dried out meat.
Brine Solution Ingredients
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 qts cold water
3 tbsp dry rub mix
2 bay leaves
Add salt to cold water and stir very well until all the salt is completely dissolved. Then add the brown sugar and dry rub and stir well to combine.
Rinse the pork shoulder in cold water and place in a 2 gallon ziploc bag (or a container big enough so the shoulder is completely covered in the pork shoulder brine solution).
Carefully pour in the pork shoulder brine solution…
And add in two dried bay leaves.
You can find these in the spice section of the grocery store.
Refrigerate the pork shoulder in the brine for at least 12 hours. For this pulled pork recipe, 24-36 hours of brining time is best. I usually brine about 24 hours. I like to clean out a spot in my refrigerator door and keep the pork shoulder there because it helps keep the pork shoulder completely covered in brine.
Step 3: Preparing the Pork Shoulder
After the pork shoulder has finished brining, preheat oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes, 225 degrees, that is not a typo! We cook the meat “low and slow” in this pulled pork recipe. Remove the pork shoulder from the brine solution and place in the roasting pan.
Pat the skin dry with paper towels so you’ll get a nice, crisp crust.
Generously, generously, cover the WHOLE pork shoulder in your dry rub mix.
And massage the dry rub mix into the skin really well. Be sure and get it up under any flaps you may come across.
It should look like the picture below when you’re done massaging. If you have dry rub mix left, that’s okay. We will be using it later.
Make sure the fat layer is facing UP and stick the thermometer into the thickest part of the shoulder, but not touching the bone.
Place uncovered in a 225 degree Fahrenheit oven on the middle rack.
Why 200 degrees?
Set the alarm on the thermometer for 200 degrees. For this pulled pork recipe, we don’t want to take the pulled pork out of the oven until the center of the shoulder reaches at least 200 degrees. The first time I made this, I was like what?? 200 degrees?? Are you kidding?? Isn’t a roast usually done at 170 degrees?? Won’t my meat be tough and dried out??
But here’s what I found out. The pork is finished to the point of being sliceable at 170 degrees, but to get that tender, falling apart, melt-in-your-mouth shredded pork, the ideal internal temperature should reach at least 200 degrees. The pulled pork is still just as tender, juicy and flavorful because you brined it first. That’s what makes this pulled pork recipe so amazing!
This 8 pound pork shoulder took 13 hours to reach 200 degrees. Your shoulder will reach 170-180 very quickly, but those last 20 degrees will take much longer. Plan for at least 12 hours, and maybe 15+ hours for this pulled pork recipe.
Here’s how I normally do it… Two days before I want to serve this, I prepare the brine solution and let the shoulder brine over night and all day the next day in the fridge. That night right before bed, I season the shoulder with the dry rub and put it in the oven and let it cook overnight. Even a small shoulder will take at least 10 hours to cook, so you don’t have to worry about the alarm waking you up the next morning.
Check Your Oven!
Some ovens automatically turn off after 12 hours. Note the time you put the shoulder in the oven, and you may want to set an alarm to alert you 12 hours later so you can check and make sure your oven is still on. A large shoulder could easily take 13-16 hours to cook with this pulled pork recipe.
When the thermometer alarm goes off and the pork shoulder has reached 200 degrees, turn off the oven and let the pork shoulder rest for about 2 hours before removing from the oven. Turn off the alarm, but keep the thermometer in the meat, so you can monitor the temperature. If the bottom of the pan is dry (or crusted with dried spices) cover the pan with foil to retain internal moisture of the meat during the resting period.
After a couple hours, when the temperature drops to 170 degrees or slightly lower, remove the pork shoulder from the oven.
Remove the large sheet of crusted fat on the top. Using two large forks, begin pulling the pork shoulder apart. It will fall apart very easily and it should not take you long at all to pull apart the entire pork shoulder.
The inside will be fall-off-the-bone tender, and the outside will have a deliciously seasoned crispy crust. Feel free to add any leftover seasoning if you want a little more seasoning.
How many people will this pulled pork recipe serve?
How much does your pork shoulder weigh? Multiply that by 1.5 for an estimate of how many people it will serve.
For example if your pork shoulder is 4 pounds, it will serve around 6 people. If your pork shoulder is 7 pounds, it will serve around 10.5 people.
To be more precise, you want to have about 1/3 to 1/2 pound of meat per person. But remember that a bone-in pork shoulder will only yield around 60% of its weight when cooked. So if you buy a 5-pound pork shoulder at the grocery store, when cooked it will yield around 3 lbs of meat, which will serve 6-9 people.
Calculate How Many People Your Pork Shoulder Will Serve:
Type this into Google:
What is 60% of (weight of pork shoulder)?
Multiply that number by 2 for a low estimate of how many people it will serve
Multiply that number by 3 for a high estimate of how many people it will serve
How To Make The Best Pulled Pork Sandwich
Put a little butter on some hamburger buns, toast under the broiler until lightly browned, and top with pulled pork. It’s so juicy and flavorful, you won’t even need BBQ sauce.
How to Reheat Pulled Pork
Just pop it in a 350-375 degree oven for about 5 mins. You’ll know when it’s done because the whole kitchen will start smelling so good! Pulled pork also freezes really well, just thaw it and reheat in the oven.
See how easy it is to make this Pulled Pork Recipe!
Watch the video below to see how easy it is to make this pulled pork recipe!
- 1 (4-7 pound) whole Boston Butt or pork shoulder (bone-in with a layer of fat on the bottom)
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 quarts cold water
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 tablespoons dry rub mix
FOR THE DRY RUB
- Mix well and store in an air tight container.
FOR THE BRINE SOLUTION
- Add salt to cold water and stir very well until all the salt is completely dissolved. Then add the brown sugar, dry rub, and bay leaves and stir well to combine.
PORK SHOULDER PREPARATION
- Rinse the pork shoulder and place in a large container, pour in the brine solution until the shoulder is completely covered. Cover the container and place in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours.
- Remove pork shoulder from brine solution, pat dry with paper towels, place in baking pan that is bigger than the shoulder by at least a inch in length and width and at least 3 inches deep. Sprinkle dry rub onto the surface of the shoulder and massage in such that it adheres to the surface. Coat all sides. Make sure the fat layer on the shoulder is facing up before cooking! Place baking pan uncovered in a 225 degree F oven on the middle rack. Insert a probe thermometer into the center or thickest part of the shoulder, but not touching the bone. Monitor the temperature throughout cooking (a digital thermometer with an alarm function is the easiest way to do this). Do not remove from the oven until the center of the shoulder reaches 200 degrees.
- When the shoulder has reached 200 degrees, shut off the oven and let the roast cool for a couple of hours before removing from the oven. If the bottom of the pan is dry (or crusted with dried spices) then cover the pan with foil to retain internal moisture of the meat during the cooling period. When the temperature drops to 170 degrees or slightly lower, remove from oven. Place on a large, clean work surface such as a cutting board, and remove the large sheet of crusted fat on the top. Pull apart with two forks, it will pull apart very easily. Serve for friends and family!
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