Although pulled pork is traditionally smoked, it is common for a cook to prepare it in a Crock-Pot® slow cooker when a smoker is not available or when a more convenient cooking method is desired. Crock-Pot® pulled pork is moist, tender and easily shredded, but it does not naturally have the distinctive flavor of smoked meat. Seasonings and sauces typically are used to create the tangy flavor that is associated with barbecued pulled pork. After Crock-Pot® pulled pork has been prepared, it can be served by itself or in a sandwich.
A shoulder cut typically is used for pulled pork because it is tender and meaty. Some Crock-Pot® pulled pork recipes call for a loin. The slow cooking process tenderizes the meat, so most cuts will produce acceptable pulled pork. Cut is a bigger concern when pulled pork is smoked, because the process of smoking makes the meat drier.
Some recipes recommend marinating the pork before transferring it to the Crock-Pot®. This is not required, but it does make the finished product more flavorful. Cooks can rub spices or barbecue sauce on the pork. The meat is then wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for as long as 48 hours.
A cook who does not marinate the pork might place it directly in the Crock-Pot® after coating it with a spice rub and before pouring sauce over it. Spice rubs can be pre-mixed or homemade. Typical seasonings that are used in pulled pork recipes include chili powder, salt, pepper and garlic or onion powders. Some cooks add brown sugar to dry rubs to give the meat a sweet, tangy flavor. Sauces might include bottled or homemade barbecue sauce, liquid smoke or a combination of the two.
Although vegetables are not traditionally combined with pulled pork, some recipes are modified to include such ingredients as chopped onions or chopped peppers. When these are used, they are placed directly into the slow cooker with the meat after being washed and chopped. Seasonings such as minced garlic cloves or dried sage also can be added to the Crock-Pot®.
The pork is allowed to cook in the Crock-Pot® for about six hours on high or eight hours on low, although these times might vary depending on the size of the cut of pork. A cook can tell that Crock-Pot® pulled pork is done by scraping the meat with a fork. If it shreds easily, it has cooked long enough.
After the pork is ready, it should be removed from the Crock-Pot®. The cook should discard any excess fat or skin before shredding the meat using two forks or a knife and fork. More sauce might be added before serving if the meat is too dry or bland. Pulled pork can be served by itself, in tacos or burritos, between pieces of bread or in buns.