Slow Cooker (Crock-Pot) Pulled Pork

Slow Cooker (Crock-Pot) Pulled Pork
Pulled pork, smoked gouda and a toasted brioche bun - now that's happiness.

I would love to claim that I was a barbecue pit master. That I had the time, energy and equipment to do real deal, slow smoked ribs, brisket and pulled pork. I do have my eye on a smoker and perhaps in the future I'll be able to make that claim. But right now, when I want barbecue, I am stuck with using my stove, oven, grill or crock-pot. Homemade BBQ sauce is where I use the stove, I often braise ribs or chicken then finish them with a nice char on the grill, and when I want meltingly tender shreds of pulled pork, I head straight to the crock pot.

This pulled pork is extremely easy to make and a great way to feed a crowd. Once the pork is done, it can simply rest, staying warm in the slow cooker while you get on with life. I use pulled pork pretty exclusively for sandwiches, and my favorite is on a brioche bun with smokey cheese (smoked gouda is my favorite, although smoked cheddar is nice too.)

I scale this recipe up and down constantly, eyeballing ingredients to match the amount of meat I'm making. The amounts I'm giving are very rough estimates - use this as a guide, but please improvise without caution. You can't really mess this up.

Pork Shoulder (Boston Butt Roast) - you can make this with the bone in, or with a boneless roast. I haven't made this with less than 2 lbs of meat, but I have made up to 7 lbs in my slow cooker. For the rest of the ingredients I'll give approximations based on 2 lbs of meat.
2 slices of bacon
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 cup of beef broth
1/2 cup of barley malt syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground thyme
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
salt/pepper to taste
1 tblsp dijon mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 big squirt (1/4 cup?) catsup
couple of drops of liquid smoke

First, and most importantly, brown your meat in bacon drippings. Since you aren't going to be smoking your pork, you want to get that smoky flavor anywhere you can. Bacon is the first way, liquid smoke is the second. I start by placing 2 slices of bacon (applewood smoked, my favorite) in the bottom of a dutch oven over medium low heat. You want to render out as much bacon fat as possible. You can either eat the bacon or add it to the slow cooker. Next, turn the heat to medium high, season the pork shoulder with salt and pepper and brown it on all sides.

Once the pork is browned, place it in the slow cooker and add the onions to the pan with the bacon and pork drippings. Get your onions browning over medium heat then add the beef broth, malt syrup, brown sugar, thyme, garlic, mustard, Worcestershire, catsup and liquid smoke. Stir that together over heat to combine, then pout the entire mixture into the crock-pot with the pork. You want enough liquid to cover the bottom of your slow cooker, but your pork shouldn't be submerged. If you need more liquid, beer or water are both nice additions.

Turn on the slow cooker and let it work on either high for 4-5 hours, or low for 7-8 hours. I sometimes start mine on high, then move to low as it gets closer. The pork is done when it is fork tender.

From here, you want to pull out the pork and, using 2 forks, shred it on a large plate. You've got a couple of choices now. If you've already got a bbq sauce you love, you can empty the crock pot of it's liquid and spent onions, toss back in the shredded pork and mix it with bbq sauce. If you want to make your own sauce (my favorite method) strain the cooking liquid of solids, then separate/skim off a lot of the fat and place the super concentrated, flavorful liquid into a small saucepan as a base for your own bbq sauce. I find a little vinegar and hot sauce all it really needs, but you can add more catsup or sugar, whatever you like to make the sauce perfect for you. 

Once your pulled pork is ready, all that's left is to toast your buns and assemble your sandwiches. As far as bun choices - I like a soft bun, too much crustiness and your pulled pork gets squeezed into oblivion. But since pulled pork can be juicy, especially if topped with cole slaw or extra sauce, I go for something a little more substantial that a generic hamburger bun. Kaiser rolls and french hamburger buns are nice, but my favorite is a toasted brioche bun.

Hello gorgeous.

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