Slow Cooker Pulled Pork — Kitchen|Pit Barbecue

by R.B. Quinn
crockpot pulled pork

Kitchen|Pit Barbecue is the platform for making great barbecue anytime, anywhere, in any weather, no matter your situation, equipment, or time.  

What are your parameters? Barbecue is a continuum and from the outdoor smoker to the indoor kitchen there is greatness at all points. It’s all good. Sometimes an all-day project sounds fun, sometime you just need to feed the soccer team, or hang out and watch the game. Whatever else you’re doing, you can make your own great barbecue.

If you’ve got a slow cooker, a pressure cooker, or an oven, aluminum foil, a bottle of liquid smoke, and some time, you can make terrific barbecued ribs and pulled pork, chicken and turkey, and beef brisket and chuck and also get a good night’s sleep, spend a full day at work, or have plenty of time to do anything but think about the barbecue. Why go out for great barbecue when you can make it at home? And there’s nothing easier than slow cooker pulled pork. 

What do we mean we mean by “barbecue.”

The Kitchen|Pit definition is simple: barbecue is meat plus heat plus smoke and seasonings. 

Pick the meat: pork shoulder or ribs; beef brisket, chuck, or ribs; chicken or turkey, or lamb.

Pick the heat: outdoor smoker, smoker and oven hybrid, oven, slow cooker, or pressure cooker.  

Regardless of the heat (i.e., the method) used, remember that making barbecue is a very straightforward process. It’s people who make it complicated. 

What does it take to make barbecue:

Cook a tough cut of meat with moist, low temperature heat over a long period of time. Moist, low heat dissolves the collagen (which holds the muscle fibers together) into gelatin. As this occurs the tough, connected meat fibers begin to separate, become tender, and then are easy to shred. 

To enhance the natural flavors of the meat and its juices, introduce hardwood smoke in some form and other seasonings like salt, pepper, and whatever else you like. 

There are many roads to great barbecue at home. Decide what you want to make, assess your parameters and situation, pick the heat, and get busy. Then, go do something else. Your barbecue doesn’t need you (not that much).

Crockpot Pulled Pork -- Kitchen|Pit BarbecueSeason the Pork ButtKitchen|Pit Barbecue Meat Rub

Place the pork butt into the cooker with the fat side facing up. Pour on the liquid smoke.

Kitchen|Pit Barbecue


The goal: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Barbecue

The method: Slow Cooker

FIRST: Pork shoulder roasts run anywhere from 3-4 pounds and up to 8 or 9 pounds (bone-in or boneless). They will lose about 40% of their uncooked weight after cooking. 

Meat preparation is simple. Generously rub the entire pork butt on all sides with Kosher salt, coarse ground black pepper, and everyday paprika for a little color. Exact amounts are unnecessary, but our rule of thumb is about 1 tablespoon each of salt and pepper per pound of meat. Most often we just eyeball it. 

Packaged dry rub seasoning blends are fine, so use what you like. We’ve quit mixing up our own dry rub blends because it’s important to see how much salt we are using and you can’t do that when it’s already mixed into a spice blend. 

Place the butt into the cooker, Dutch Oven, or pressure cooker fat side facing up. This allows the fat to make its way down through the meat during cooking.

SECOND: Pour a small bottle of all natural, heart healthy LIQUID SMOKE (about 3.5 – 4 ounces) straight into the vessel. Colgin and Wright’s are typically the most available liquid smoke brands. Yes, dump in the whole bottle. There’s plenty of meat (and fat) that will absorb the smoke, so the barbecue will not become sharp or bitter tasting (i.e., not over-liquid smoked). You won’t get your pink “smoke ring” around the edge of the meat, but you’ll get a great smoke taste just the same. 
NOTE that, except for the pressure cooker method, NO OTHER LIQUIDS are added to the cooking vessel. No barbecue sauce, no broth, no beer, no vinegar. Save the sauce for after it’s cooked. There are four reasons for this:

  1. All of the moisture, gelatin, and fat trapped in that covered crock will generate plenty of liquid to create tender, juicy meat. A pork shoulder does not need barbecue sauce while cooking.
  2. A nice crust will develop on the outside that looks like it came from an outdoor smoker. Liquids and sauces prevent a crust from developing. 
  3. When fully cooked the liquid in the crock can be separated from the meat and chilled in the refrigerator so the fat, which will rise to the top, can be easily removed and discarded. The remaining gelatinous broth can be added back to the meat when warming and serving.
  4. Since there are so many interesting meals based around a smoky, tender pulled pork shoulder, why limit the leftovers by committing to a flavor so early in the process?   

Crockpot Pulled Pork -- Kitchen|Pit BarbecueCrockpot Pulled Pork -- Kitchen|Pit Barbecue

THIRD: Exact timing is not critical here. What is critical is that the meat reach the fall-apart tender stage when pierced with a fork or tongs. An instant read thermometer should read at least 190-200F. If it’s a bone-in roast, the bone will easily slide out when pulled.

FOURTH: When the meat is fork tender scoop/lift it out of the pot and set it on a sturdy foil pan or casserole dish. Now pull the meat apart with a pair of forks. We’ve made this a zillion times and each time it’s still a beautiful and amazing process. The barbecue is tender and moist, nicely smoky, and clean-up is a cinch. Hard to believe it’s crockpot pulled pork.

Crockpot Pulled Pork -- Kitchen|Pit Barbecue

Method 1: The Electric Slow Cooker/Crock Pot

Why use the slow cooker? 

It’s an easy, hands-off, safe cooking vehicle. Once up to cooking temperature the heat is even and steady. When slow cooking a pork shoulder there is no need to baste, turn over, or check on the meat during cooking. In fact, it’s best not to remove the cover until it’s time to check for doneness and internal temperature.

Lifting the lid just lets heat and moisture escape which takes time to build back up. Removing the cover just extends the cooking time. 

The meat will develop a nice crust in a covered slow cooker, especially since the meat is not submerged in liquid. 

Electric slow cookers are safe kitchen appliances which allow you to leave the house without worry while they work.  


Place the butt on a clean surface or directly into the cooker. Season all sides of the butt by rubbing in the salt, pepper, and any other seasonings evenly into the meat. Once it’s rubbed, set the butt in the cooker with the fat side facing up.  

Pour the liquid smoke over the butt.

Cover and cook on low 8 to 12 hours, or about 6 to 8 hours on high, until the meat is pull-apart tender and reaches an internal temperature of 190 – 200F. If there is a bone, it will easily slide out. Use tongs as the bone will be too hot to touch. 

Using tongs and a large slotted spoon remove the meat from the pot and into a bowl or onto a large foil pan with raised sides to catch the juices. Let rest until cool enough to handle.

Pour the meat juice from the pot into a bowl large enough to hold it, cool, and refrigerate. As the liquid cools the fat will rise to the top and solidify. When fully chilled, skim off and discard the top fat layer. The remaining gelatinous liquid can be added back to the meat when reheating.

Pull the meat into strands. It should shred very easily. Now that the meat is cooked it’s ready for any pulled pork application you can think of. The simple seasoning applied before cooking allows the meat to go toward any flavor destination you desire.

To simply reheat the meat, place it in a saucepan moistened with some of the reserved (defatted) cooking juice. Gently heat the meat on medium-low, stirring occasionally. Or, place it in a covered casserole or foil steam pan with some of the reserved juice and heat in a 325F oven for 20 to 30 minutes.

No one will know that you made this fantastic slow cooker pulled pork barbecue or be able to tell that it didn’t come out of a conventional smoker. It came out of your own kitchen smoker, otherwise known as a slow cooker or a crock-pot. Crockpot Pulled Pork — Kitchen|Pit Barbecue.

A word about liquid smoke. We understand the skepticism about liquid smoke. The ughs, the yucks, the eye-rolls. We were plenty hesitant ourselves until we experimented with and researched it. We’ve all been eating it for decades in all kinds of foods (and not just bacon, by the way), we just didn’t know it. It is a great and useful ingredient, especially in this application. Read more about Liquid Smoke here.

To serve Kitchen|Pit pulled pork barbecue at a party we use mini hamburger buns or hot dog buns cut in half. Make your favorite slaw and your favorite sauce and don’t forget the dill pickle chips, a great compliment to barbecue.

Here’s our favorite barbecue sauce recipe. Nashville Crossroads Barbecue Sauce. Here’s one of our fantastic slaws, too.

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