Tender pulled pork spiced with a 5-ingredient rub, garlic, tomato paste, and apple cider vinegar. Perfectly seasoned, melt-in-your-mouth tender, and excellent served in sandwiches, wraps, tacos, and on salads. Jump to the Pulled Pork Recipe
We make this tender pulled pork in the oven. However, if you want to make pulled pork in a slow cooker, look at our Ultimate Slow Cooker Pulled Pork. The flavors are very similar.
This pulled pork is:
- Flavorful thanks to our easy spice blend, garlic, and tomato paste.
- Melt-in-your-mouth tender.
- Easy to make.
- Perfect for making ahead of time.
How to Make Pulled Pork in the Oven
Making tender pulled pork in the oven is easier than you might think. Here are the basic steps we follow when making it — the full recipe is below.
- Make our 5-ingredient spice rub, and then generously rub it all over a 4-pound pork shoulder.
- Sear the pork, on all sides, in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
- Make the cooking liquid right in the Dutch oven after searing the pork so you can scrape up any stuck bits on the bottom of the pan.
- Roast the pork in the cooking liquid, and with the lid on, until fork tender (about 3 hours).
- Pull the pork, and serve with the cooking liquid.
Note: As the pork cooks, the fat melts down. Before serving, we skim some of this fat from the cooking liquid. How much fat you skim from the cooking liquid is entirely up to you.
More Of Our Favorite Recipes That Feature Pork
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the secret to tender pulled pork?
Cooking the pork low and slow is the secret to tender pulled pork–the same goes for pot roast. When we use more marbled cuts of pork, like pork shoulder, cooking at a lower temperature for an extended period ensures that the tough cut of meat transforms to be tender and succulent. As it slowly cooks, the gelatin in the shoulder breaks down, which is why slow-cooked pork shoulder is so good.
What is the best cut of meat for pulled pork?
Since we are looking for melt-in-your-mouth tender pulled pork, we need a fattier, more marbled cut of meat. Pork butt and pork shoulder (both come from the shoulder) are perfect. Leaner cuts of meat, like pork loin or pork tenderloin, will not break down the same way and will be tough.
How long does pulled pork take to cook?
Pulled pork takes 2 to 4 hours in a low oven (about 300° F). You are cooking it until fork tender, so the cooking time might vary depending on how many pounds of meat you have.
How much pork do I need?
My favorite thing about this recipe is that you can cook a lot of pork all at once. For example, four pounds of pork shoulder gives you roughly 8 cups of pulled pork, which easily feeds a crowd. For larger cuts of meat, the cooking time will increase slightly.
Should I use boneless or bone-in pork for pulled pork?
We have used both boneless, and bone-in pork shoulder with this recipe and honestly have not found much difference in flavor or cooking time. So use what you have available to you. What does matter is fat, so buy the fattiest cut of pork shoulder you can find since that is what will keep the pork from drying out as it cooks.
Why won’t my pulled pork pull apart?
There’s a good chance you need to cook the pork for a bit longer, especially if you follow our low and slow method in our recipe below. If you have cooked your pork at a higher temperature, you might have overcooked it, which causes the pork to be tough. Finally, ensure that you use a fattier, more marbled cut of meat like pork butt and pork shoulder (both come from the shoulder). Leaner cuts like pork loin will not break down the same way and will be tough compared to the shoulder in this recipe.
Can I make pulled pork in a slow cooker?
You can make pulled pork in a slow cooker, which is quite delicious. Head over to our Slow Cooker Pulled Pork to see how we do it.
Can I make pulled pork in a pressure cooker (like an Instant Pot)?
You can make pulled pork in a pressure cooker. Follow our recipe, but use the pressure cooker on its sauté function to sear all sides of the pork. Make the cooking liquid, then cook the pork on high pressure for one hour. After the pressure cook cycle is complete, follow the manufacturer’s guide for quick release. When the pressure cooker’s quick-release process is complete, open the lid, remove the pork, and shred. Use the pressure cooker’s sauté function to simmer the cooking liquid until reduced slightly, skim some of the fat, and then serve with the pulled pork. (We base the 1-hour cook time on 4 pounds of pork shoulder).
Juicy Tender Oven Pulled Pork
- PREP 15mins
- COOK 3hr 30mins
- TOTAL 3hr 45mins
Pulled pork spiced with a 5-ingredient rub, garlic, tomato paste, and apple cider vinegar. Perfectly seasoned, melt-in-your-mouth tender, and excellent served in sandwiches, wraps, tacos, and on salads.
Makes 8 cups
You Will Need
1 (4 pound) boneless or bone-in pork shoulder with any twine removed
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder or use a mild chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup water
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fish sauce or 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- Prepare Pork
- To Finish
Adjust an oven rack towards the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 300° Fahrenheit.
Make the spice rub by stirring the brown sugar, salt, black pepper, chili powder, and cumin together.
Rub spice mixture over all sides of the pork, so it is well coated.
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the pork. Cook for about two minutes per side until browned on all sides. Be careful the sugar in the spice mix does not burn. (See notes for making this without a Dutch oven).
Transfer the pork to a plate.
Add the garlic and tomato paste, then stir them around the pan until the tomato paste turns from bright red to a dull orange, about 1 minute.
Pour in the water, apple cider vinegar, and fish sauce. Scrape the bottom of the pan to release any stuck bits.
Position the pork back into the pan with the fattiest side facing up. Cover the Dutch oven with a lid, and slide into the oven. Cook until the pork is fork tender, about 3 hours.
Transfer the pork to a cutting board and allow it to cool until you can handle it. Pull the pork with forks or your fingers. Discard the bone (if there is one), any connective tissue, and large clumps of fat.
Remove the cooking liquid and skim most of the fat from its surface. Discard the fat, then set the cooking liquid aside.
Return the pulled pork to the pot and add some or all of the reserved cooking liquid.
Taste and season with salt, vinegar, fish sauce, or hot sauce. If using, stir in barbecue sauce.
Adam and Joanne’s Tips
- No Dutch Oven: If you do not have a Dutch oven, sear the pork and make the cooking liquid in a high-sided saucepan or cast iron pan. Transfer the pork and the liquid to a roasting pan and cover tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil.
- Fish Sauce: Find fish sauce in the international aisle of most grocery stores, in international markets, or online. It has a salty-sour flavor and is something we use to elevate flavors in savory dishes or dishes with long cooking times. For example, you see us use it in our Homemade Pho recipe. If you do not have any, Worcestershire sauce is a good substitute.
- Storing Tips: Keep pulled pork in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to four days and up to three months in the freezer.
- Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values.
Nutrition Per Serving: Serving Size 1/2 cup / Calories 154 / Total Fat 7.1g / Saturated Fat 2.8g / Cholesterol 66.9mg / Sodium 510.6mg / Carbohydrate 1.9g / Dietary Fiber 0.3g / Total Sugars 0.9g / Protein 21.1g