Whether you need pulled pork for sandwiches, tacos, or a meaty ragu, Pulled Pork is a meal prep maestro. Searing then slow cooking seasoned pork in a Dutch oven results in crispy, tender, melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork. Seasoned with a flexible, flavorful blend of spices, it works in countless dishes and cuisines. Plus, it freezes beautifully!
- Pulled Pork Seasoning
- How to Cook Pulled Pork in the Oven
- Chef’s Tips
- Best Cut of Pork for Oven Pulled Pork
- How to Shred Pulled Pork
- What About Barbecue Sauce?
- Can I Make this Pulled Pork in the Slow Cooker?
- Storing Oven Roasted Pulled Pork
- Serving Pulled Pork
- Sides for Pulled Pork
- Leftover Pulled Pork Recipes
What carnivore doesn’t love a big slab of meat? To be sure, there are drawbacks to cooking such large quantities. We all love a turkey on Thanksgiving, but those Day 4 sandwiches leave something to be desired. The same goes for pork.
If you’re having a good old-fashioned backyard barbecue, you know a slow cooked Boston butt or picnic shoulder will give you the most meaty bang for your buck. These relatively inexpensive, perfectly fatty, and super flavorful hefty cuts will yield the best pulled pork on the planet. And plenty of it!
But if you’re not hosting a picnic, you may not want pulled pork for days, despite the fact that you can use it for tacos, BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, chili, burrito bowls, etc. This is why we’re huge fans of this oven pulled pork recipe.
For a condensed post, click to view the web story for this pulled pork recipe.
Several times a year I dust off this recipe for pulled pork, mix together my custom dry rub, and cook up a big batch of pulled pork in the Dutch oven. I don’t need to rely on the weather being agreeable or having five more recipes on deck to use up the leftovers.
I simply freeze the pulled pork into 1-pound cooked portions and, when the mood strikes, I defrost an individual portion to make an endless variety of quick weeknight recipes that I’ve adapted from their lengthier parent versions. Crispy carnitas in 20 minutes? Yes please. Fast weeknight pork ragu? Sign me up.
All of the flavor with just a fraction of the commitment.
Pulled Pork Seasoning
My best tip for cooking a large batch of pulled pork at home? Use a ubiquitous seasoning blend like the one below to create a dry rub that’s a jumping off point for a variety of different recipes. Feel free to add a tablespoon of red pepper flakes or chili powder if you prefer some heat and spice.
- Paprika: regular or smoked both work great.
- Garlic Powder
- Black Pepper
- Kosher Salt: NOT table salt. If using fine sea salt, halve the amount listed in the recipe card.
- Dry Rub Add-Ins: add a teaspoon of any of the following to mix up the flavor profile to your liking – onion powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, or mustard powder.
- Want it sweet? Add 2 tablespoons brown sugar to the dry rub.
How to Cook Pulled Pork in the Oven
Meet the gold standard of “indoor barbecue.” Slow-braised Oven Pulled Pork is practically perfect in every way. While an initial sear infuses tons of additional flavor into the pork, the fat renders beautifully during the oven braise. When that mixes with the dry rub and bastes this little pig in its own juice… my god, it may just be the best “BBQ sauce” ever.
Before You Start! A Dutch oven is the essential tool for this recipe. Whether you’re using a budget-friendly Lodge or a pricier Le Creuset, keep the following in mind: a 6-quart pot is perfect for a 4-lb roast; ensure the lid fits securely to prevent too much moisture escaping.
Tip! If you love the smoky flavor of classic smoked pulled pork, add a small amount (2-3 tsp) liquid smoke along with the water.
- PREP. Mix the spices until well combined. Divide the pork into 4″ chunks, then coat all sides with the dry rub.
- SEAR. Sear at least two sides of each piece if your fat of choice in the dutch oven over medium high heat. You don’t need to brown all sides, but searing at least 2 sides adds great flavor and texture.
- OVEN BRAISE. Once browned, return all the pork pieces to the Dutch oven and arrange in a single layer. Pour in ½ cup of water, cover, and transfer to the oven. Braise covered 3-4 hours, or until the meat easily pulls with a fork. In the last hour, remove the lid to allow the moisture to evaporate and for the pork to sizzle in its own fat (this creates unbelievably crispy edges with intense flavor).
- SERVE. Remove from oven, then shred with a fork. Serve immediately or divide into 1-pound portions and freeze.
- Use the right cut of pork (see below for more information).
- Be careful when trimming the fat. Fat = flavor, so leave some intact!
- Season generously.
- Get a good sear on at least 2 sides – you can go for more, time permitting, but 2 sides does the job well.
- Use a fat with a high smoke point – we like bacon fat, avocado oil, ghee, or refined coconut oil.
- Remove the lid in the last hour to allow the pork to render (cook down) in its own fat.
- Half a cup of water isn’t a typo!
Best Cut of Pork for Oven Pulled Pork
My go-to cut for Dutch oven pulled pork is a boneless Boston butt. The pork butt usually has its fat cap still attached (see picture on the far right below), with beautiful marbling throughout.
It’s readily available in most grocery stores and butchers, and relatively frugal given the portion size. Because it’s boneless, it’s much easier to cut it down into manageable chunks for searing.
We do NOT recommend using pork loin or a pork roast. These cuts simply do not have enough fat to hold up well for slow roasting in the oven.
Read more about different cuts in our guide to cooking Pulled Pork.
How to Shred Pulled Pork
When cooked properly, oven braised pulled pork will practically fall apart at the slightest prodding. But that’s not to say you don’t need to give it some elbow grease.
- The two fork method using sturdy forks. Precutting your pork butt or pork shoulder into smaller chunks should make it easy peasy.
- Purchase barbecue claws. I’m not a big fan of single-use kitchen aids but if you make pulled pork recipes regularly, people swear these are worth the investment.
- Repurpose your mixer. That’s right! You can use a stand or hand mixer to shred oven cooked pulled pork. Tutorials are available online but honestly, it’s pretty intuitive and ever so satisfying to see it live and in person.
What About Barbecue Sauce?
What about it?!? Just kidding.
What we really love about pulled pork in the oven is that as the pork cooks down, the combination of the dry rub and the pork’s own rendered fat essentially creates its own barbecue sauce – right in the pot! We don’t add any additional sauce when serving in sandwiches or bowls.
That being said, of course you can toss the cooked, shredded pork in your favorite barbecue sauce, whether homemade or store-bought! Add the sauce after the pork has been cooked and shredded.
Can I Make this Pulled Pork in the Slow Cooker?
Sure can! But there are several modifications you’ll need to make. Click to view our recipe for Slow Cooker Pulled Pork.
Need it faster? Try our Instant Pot Pulled Pork recipe!
Storing Oven Roasted Pulled Pork
Store leftover pulled pork in an airtight container or ziplock bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in a skillet over medium high heat until the fat melts and the pork is warmed through.
To freeze, wrap 1 pound portions of pulled pork in plastic wrap, then store in a gallon zip-lock bag. (Tip: squeeze out as much air as possible.) Cooked pork keeps well in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge or in the microwave, then reheat in a skillet over medium high heat.
Serving Pulled Pork
TRADITIONAL: We like pulled pork sandwiches on brioche buns with Apple Cider Vinegar Coleslaw. The tangy vinegar slaw cuts through the rich pulled pork for a perfectly balanced sandwich.
KETO, PALEO, or WHOLE30: For a grain-free option, make pulled pork bowls. Layer shredded lettuce in a bowl, then top with pulled pork, vinegar slaw or Keto Bacon Slaw, and half a diced avocado.
Sides for Pulled Pork
Leftover Pulled Pork Recipes
Did you try this recipe for pulled pork in the oven? I’d love to know how it turned out! Leave a comment and a rating below.
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- Heat the oven to 300°F.
- Prepare the spice mixture. In a small bowl, combine the paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano; mix until well-combined.
- Optional. Using a sharp knife, trim the fat cap from the pork; do leave some intact (fat=flavor!).
- Dive the pork into 4" chunks. Dunk each side of the pork into the spice mixture, covering all sides.
- Heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add your fat of choice and heat until shimmering. Add a batch of pork in a single layer (about 4 pieces). Sear until a good crust forms, about 4 minutes. Turn the pieces and brown one more side. Remove using tongs and set aside. Repeat with the remaining pieces, searing at least 2 sides per piece. To ensure optimal browning, leave room between each piece of pork and add more cooking fat as needed.
- Transfer all pork pieces back to the dutch oven and arrange in a single layer at the bottom of the pot – for this stage it's totally fine for the pieces to be touching, and the fit will be snug. Pour ½ cup water over the pork pieces.
- Cover and transfer to the oven. Braise in the oven for 3-4 hours, or until the meat easily pulls with a fork. In the last hour, remove the lid to allow any remaining moisture to cook off and for the pork to render (cook down) in its own fat.
- Remove the pot from the oven, then transfer the pieces to a cutting board or shallow bowl. Shred using two forks, discarding any intact fatty pieces. Return the pulled pork to the pot and toss in the rendered pan sauce. Serve immediately on buns with coleslaw.
- Make sure your dutch oven has a tight seal! If there are any chips or cracks along the edge, place a piece of foil or parchment paper between the pot and the lid to ensure a tight-fitting seal.
- Customize the Dry Rub
- If you’re sensitive to salt, start with 1 tablespoon.
- Add a teaspoon of any of the following to mix up the flavor profile to your liking: onion powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, or mustard powder.
- Want it sweet? Add 2 tablespoons brown sugar to the dry rub.