Great melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork butt is now an easy and economical BBQ dinner recipe. Cooked all day low and slow in your crock pot, pork butt becomes pull-apart tender for the best barbecue pulled pork sandwiches.
👨🍳What is "The Right Way," and why this recipe works?
The four easy secrets to the best-pulled pork in a crock pot the "right way."
- Use pork butt or pork shoulder only. No other meats qualify for this recipe. Recipes for other meats are listed below and in the Pulled Pork Recipe Roundup.
- It is cooked dry with an appropriate rub. Not braised in cola, broth, or other liquids. Just a dry rub—suggested rub included in the recipe.
- It is not cooked in the drained liquid/fat. It drains away in the smoker, so it will with this recipe also. (Elevated with balls of foils.)
- Cooked to an internal temperature where it can shred correctly and the connective tissue melts. If you need a knife, it is wrong. (Long cooking time and check the temperature at the end.)
👨🍳How to make this recipe
- Choose a large crock pot. The oval shape is better since pork butts are generally oblong.
- Use a 3-4 pound pork butt, with or without bone. Bone-in may take a bit longer to cook. You will get 3-4 servings per pound. Large butts will take longer to cook, but if it fits without touching the sides, it will work. Smaller pork butts are will cook a bit faster.
- Wet the pork with some liquid smoke (optional) and then apply a pork rub of your choice—a suggested rub is in the recipe card if you don't have one.
- Place 6 crumpled-up balls of aluminum foil in the bottom of the crock pot to elevate the pork out of the drainage that will occur.
- Place the pork butt on the foil balls—the fat pad up or down does not matter.
- Cook on low for 8 to 9 hours until you reach 195°+ (200°-205° preferred.)
- Wrap tightly in heavy foil for 15 minutes or more before shredding.
🐖What is pork butt
Pork butt, also called Boston butt, is the best cut of pork to make great pulled pork in your slow cooker. This low-and-slow method is not for leaner cuts of pork.
Like many cuts of meat, there are multiple names for the same or similar things. Pork butt and Boston butt are the same.
Pork butt and pork shoulder are not the same things. To add to the confusion, the name "pork shoulder" refers to a primal cut with two major subprimal parts, the pork butt and the picnic shoulder—which is also sometimes called the pork shoulder. The picnic also has other names.
The pork butt is above the picnic shoulder in the pork shoulder primal cut. While the whole primal cut is well-marbled and tougher meat, the butt area has more connective tissue to melt and is the cut of choice for pulled pork and carnitas.
🍽️Serving Pulled Pork
The most common serving method is pulled pork sandwiches with buns or slices of bread. But a pile of pork with some sauce on my plate works fine. Other options are casseroles, pork tacos, or pork enchiladas. But serve your pulled pork any way you want.
Side dishes: The usual coleslaw, potato chips, and potato salad are the standards. Hot sides like potato casseroles, French fries, mac & cheese, or baked beans work well as a side dish.
What BBQ sauce is best for pulled pork?
Barbecue sauce is a lot about personal taste. I like sweeter BBQ sauce like Kansas City or Memphis sauce. There are also Carolina vinegar-based sauces and the many types of Texas sauces.
I suggest my homemade Memphis Barbecue Sauce. This sauce always disappears, and others are left untouched at parties. But use any sauce you love.
I commonly use Gate's of Kansas City sauce and Cooks Illustrated like Bull's-eye Original or Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue Sauce.
One quick reminder, do not reheat in BBQ sauce. The acid in it will destroy the texture of the meat. Always add any sauce at the time of serving.
No, but good-quality liquid smoke enhances the results. You could also coat it with mustard if you want. Or use the dry rub alone.
If you use liquid smoke, please only use one with water and smoke listed as ingredients and nothing else. Cheap liquid will ruin this. I use Wright's.
No, it is unnecessary and will change the texture of the "bark" you are getting with the dry rub.
There needs to be some time for the fluid and melted connective tissue to reabsorb back into the meat cells.
Wrap with foil then a couple of towels, then let the fluid absorb for at least 15 minutes, but one hour is better.
To help in timing, you can delay shedding time by 2-3 hours by wrapping the foil-sealed butt in multiple towels and a small cooler if you have one.
Not a good idea—it will not shred well. Better to shred correctly while hot.
Some crock pots just won't do it. Do not try to shred pork butt that did not reach at least 185°, the connective tissue is not melted, and it just will not be good. I wouldn't stop under 195°.
You can move the pork butt to a 250°-300° oven on a tray and finish cooking uncovered in the oven.
♨️Storing and Reheating
How to store pulled pork.
Pulled pork is good refrigerated for 3-4 days, but I prefer two days since the texture suffers.
Sealed airtight in the freezer, leftovers will freeze well for 3-4 months. Many will freeze the pork in reheatable sealed bags; then, they will reheat those in boiling water.
How to reheat pulled pork.
I suggest reheating on a sheet pan in an oven. Sprinkle with a bit of water, apple juice, or chicken broth (don’t overdo it). Cover tightly with foil and into the oven at 250° to 300° until hot. The time varies by how you shredded it and the amount on the tray—usually about 45 minutes in the oven for me.
You can then turn the oven down (keep it covered) or transfer it to a crock pot on low to keep warm. I know that is not very exact, but you get the idea.
Never reheat pulled pork in or with sauce applied—the acid in the sauce will destroy the texture.
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This recipe is listed in these categories. See them for more similar recipes.
🖼️Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
Start with a 3-4 pounds pork butt. And a rub of your choice. I have provided a suggested dry rub if you don't have a favorite.
Prep a large crock pot with six balls of aluminum foil. Make about 2 inch balls of foil, then squish down to 1 inch high and arrange in the bottom of the crock pot.
You may use the rub of your choice or make the suggested rub. ½ cup dark brown sugar, 3 tablespoons kosher salt, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Stir together in a small bowl.
Pat dry the pork roast and then coat with about two tablespoons of good quality liquid smoke (Optional).
Generously apply the rub. You could wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight at this point or cook right away.
Place on the foil balls and cook on low undisturbed for 9-10 hours.
Bake until internal temp of 190°+ about 9-10 hours, but will vary some with the thickness of the meat and the crock pot. If you can reach 195°-205°, the results will be better. Remove from crock pot onto a large sheet of heavy-duty foil.
Wrap tight with the foil, then wrap with several towels. Allow to rest for at least 15 minutes, but 2-3 hours is fine if wrapped well. Shred with forks. It will fall apart.
Serve as Pulled Pork Sandwiches or any way you wish, like tacos or nachos.
Crock Pot Pulled Pork the Right Way
- 3-4 pounds Pork Butt - aka Pork Shoulder
- 2 tablespoons liquid smoke - good quality
- 1 cup dry rub
My Rub if you don't have one
- ½ cup dark brown sugar - light will do
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt - I tend to decrease this some
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Start with a 3-4 pounds pork butt. And a rub of your choice. I have provided a suggested dry rub if you don't have a favorite
- Prep a large crock pot with six balls of aluminum foil. Make about 2 inch balls of foil, then squish down to 1 inch high and arrange in the bottom of the crock pot.
- You may use the rub of your choice or make the suggested rub. ½ cup dark brown sugar, 3 tablespoons kosher salt, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Stir together in a small bowl.
- Pat dry the pork butt and then coat with about two tablespoons of good quality liquid smoke (Optional).
- Generously apply the rub. You could wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight at this point or cook right away.
- Place on the foil balls and cook on low undisturbed for 9-10 hours.
- Done is really 200°-205° but some crock pots just can't get there. Don't settle for under 185°. But please try for at least 195° plus, and you will be happier. Remove from crock pot onto a large sheet of heavy-duty foil.
- Wrap tight with the foil, then wrap with several towels. Allow to rest for at least 15 minutes, but 2-3 hours is fine if wrapped well. Shred with forks. It will fall apart.
- Serve as Pulled Pork Sandwiches or any way you wish like tacos or nachos.
Your Own Private Notes
- This is an all day recipe.
- I designed this for about a 3-4 pound pork butt. You can do bigger. Generally, if it fits in the crock pot without touching the sides, it will work. BUT the time will be longer.
- Bone-in or boneless does not matter. And fat pad up or down does not matter.
- I suggest a good quality liquid smoke, but skip if you want.
- Use a rub of your choice. I provided a suggested rub. You may decrease the salt if you want.
- Done is really 200°-205° but some crock pots just can't get there. Don't settle for under 185°. But please try for at least 195° plus, and you will be happier.
- If your crock pot can not get to the correct temperature, move to a 250° oven on a tray with sides to finish.
- Do not shred immediately. Wrap with foil and let the fluid absorb for at least 15 minutes but one hour is better.
- You can delay shedding time by 2-3 hours by wrapping the foil sealed butt in multiple towels and a small cooler if you have one.
- Good refrigerated for 3-4 days but I prefer 2 days since the texture seems to suffer. Will freeze well for 3-4 months.
- I like to reheat on a sheet pan, I sprinkle with a little water on my hand (don’t overdo it). Cover tightly with foil and into the oven at 250-300 until hot. The time varies by how you shredded it and the amount on the tray. You can then turn the oven down (keep it covered) or transfer to a crock pot on low to keep warm. (usually 45 minutes or so in the oven for me). I know that is not very exact but you get the idea.
- Never reheat with sauce applied, the acid will destroy the texture.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Editor's Note: Originally Published April 9, 2016. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.
Can't wait to try this for Memorial Day weekend! My one question, I usually pour the bbq sauce over the shredded meat inside my slow cooker. How would I reheat then if I shouldn't reheat with the sauce on the pork? Do you just pour the bbq sauce on some of the pork at a time?
Dan Mikesell AKA DrDan
Welcome to the blog.
Pulled pork butt will get "mussy" if reheated with BBQ sauce which is acidic. Meats like brisket and shredded pork loin tend to hold up better to the acid. So most experts will only use sauce at serving pulled pork butt—I agree. I switched about 15 yrs ago and will never go back, the texture is much better.
This is the best recipe I have ever used for pork in the crock-pot and I have tried many through the years adding liquids of all sorts. Using dry rub seasoning and the aluminum foil balls cooked the pork perfectly. The first time I didn't have liquid smoke, and it didn't matter, it still cooked beautifully. Superb!
Hi Dr. Dan - great recipe! Any suggestions on what to do with the juices left in the bottom of the crock pot after cooking the pork? Any way to make a gravy or BBQ sauce out of it?
Dan Mikesell AKA DrDan
Welcome to the blog. I do love pulled pork...
It is mostly fat so you could make gravy but it would have a BBQ twang to it so I don't see that as useful. I have never seen anybody use it for anything. I toss paper towels in it and then disgard.
Made this today and it was awesome! Came out absolutely perfect! Followed the instructions exactly! Thank you so much for the step by step instructions and the pictures too! This is going to be on the menu often! Mind blowing!
Pork butt was 4.6 lbs and it took 8 hours and 40 minutes to reach 209F degrees.
Wrapped it in foil and towel for several hours. Hub shredded it and just wonderful!
I gave this method a try and agree that this is the BEST pulled pork I’ve ever made in my slow cooker!! The foil balls in the bottom is a game changer. No more soggy pork sandwiches!
I've followed this recipe exactly.
Two times ...
1st time Boneless
2nd time with Bone
OMG how delicious 😋
1st time did the rub & left it overnight
2nd time did the rub & put it in the slow cooker immediately.
BOTH times excellent
What an easy & tasty pulled pork recipe.
Not to mention the awesome aroma in my house all day as it cooked.
Thank you xx
I don’t understand how to make this so it isn’t cooking in liquid. I didn’t put liquid in the slow cooker, but when I checked on it at 7 hours it was swimming in it’s released juices. It was 2/3 covered with liquid. Should I have been draining out liquid every hour?
Dan Mikesell AKA DrDan
Welcome to the blog.
I will jump in here. Since you added nothing liquid, all if it had to come from the meat.
1) Be sure you have the meat elevated on that balls of foil. That should allow space or a few cups of fluid before getting up to the meat. Be sure not to "flatten" the foil balls. They are there to elevate.
2) The most fluid I have had is about 1 1/2 cups. If the pork butt had been previously frozen, it is possible that the cells were damaged and released more fluid (a bit). Also, if the pork butt was injected for more flavor, that would add fluid drainage.
3) A very large pork butt in a smaller crockpot may not have much space for the drainage.
Hope that helps. You shouldn't need to drain while cooking.
This recipe is fantastic! This was my first time cooking this type of meat and it came out sooo good!! I substituted the chili powder for paprika and I didn't have kosher salt, so used regular - but just 1 tbs! Mine was just over 6 pounds and it cooked in the crockpot on low for 11 hours and 15 minutes and was 195 - (I would have let it cook a little more, per your suggestion for a doneness temp, but worked around when to have supper on the table - and wanted to give it time to rest! I let it rest for 1/2 an hour wrapped in the foil. This came out so good, my family said it was like the winner from a contest!! Also, the foil balls were a great idea!!
Excellent! I substituted maple syrup for the brown sugar, as others suggested. Used the juice to cook rice as a side dish. Delicious!
Reading the blog about the crockpot above was a revelation. My crockpot is over 15 years old. This explains why things get done faster than I expected. Of course, I woke up this morning at 5 to put my pork in and by 10:45 it was at 210°, about 3 hours sooner than anticipated!
Anyway, the foil balls was brilliant and my pork is absolutely perfect. Currently resting wrapped in foil and towels in a cooler for a bit longer than was planned!
Just signed up for your emails and look forward to making more of your recipes. And yes, will now be purchasing an Instapot to replace the crockpot, rice cooker, and pressure cooker!
Great method and recipe. I made enough for two meals for us. Last night as we eating dear husband asked when I was going to make it again. DELICIOUS! The best I've ever had!
Dan Mikesell AKA DrDan
Welcome to the blog.
I do love pulled pork and this recipe so easy and makes a manageable amount.
Thanks for the note and rating.