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.
I love pulled pork, but most of us do. I can fake it with other cuts of pork, but pork butt (AKA pork shoulder) is the "right" cut.
Cooking it low and slow is also the right way to melt the connective tissue. And, it should be cooked dry, not braised in liquids. Let's do it the right way like the smokers—low and slow in and not floating in fluid or fat.
There are many slow cooker recipes with condensed soup, packets of onion soup mix, broth, and many other things that should never touch a pork butt. Plus, the suggestion that it is "done" in 4-6 hours on low is impossible.
👨🍳What is "The Right Way" to make crock pot pulled pork?
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 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. Suggested rub included.
- It is not cooked in the drained liquid/fat. It drains away in the smoker, so it will here 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.)
A very nice 5. Almost equal to my oven and grill versions.
🐖About 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 about the same or similar things. Pork butt and Boston butt are the same.
The pork shoulder is the thinner area of this cut but is commonly cooked and used the same as the butt. It has less marbling and less fat and is frequently not separated from the butt and sold as a pork butt.
If you are wondering, butt means thick, so that is why the term "butt" is used. Lastly, the picnic ham and picnic shoulder are not the same as this cut.
👨🍳How to Cook Crock Pot Pulled Pork
- Choose a large crock pot. Oval shape is better since pork butts are generally oblong.
- Use a 3-4 pound pork butt, with or without bone. With bone many 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 alunimum foil in the bottom of the crock pot to elevate the pork out of the drainge that will occure.
- Place pork butt on the foil balls—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.
FAQs for Crock Pot Pulled Pork
No, but a good quality liquid smoke enhances the results. You could also coat with mustard if you want. Or use the dry rub alone.
If you use the liquid smoke, please only use one with water and smoke listed as ingredients and nothing else. Cheap liquid some 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 in the oven.
🍽️How to Serve Crock Pot 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.
♨️How to Store and Reheat Pulled Pork
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.
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.
My 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.