Most pulled pork recipes I see require more tools and more time than I ever have to hand. Maybe the recipe calls for a fancy smoker, maybe a slow cooker and maybe ten hours of your day. I usually have none of these things. I just want to turn my pork shoulder into shredded pork ASAP.
As such, I came up with this ultra simple way to process a full pork shoulder quickly and neatly and with no fuss. You’ll still need about three to three and half hours from prep to eating, but it’s way faster and way simpler than most approaches.
First I cut the pork butt up onto 1-2 inch cubes. This takes about five minutes. I then apply a spice rub. You can find these in most grocery stores, via a million online recipes, or just wing it yourself. I usually choose the latter and like to experiment with what seems interesting in my spice cabinet.
In the pictures here, I wanted a sweet and spicy flavor so used:
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon cayenne powder
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon guajillo chilli powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
After liberally coating the cook pork I also added half a pint of apple juice to allow everything to blend together and also marinate a while. I only had a few hours this particular day, but upto 24hours in advance would be great, as per this cochinita pibil.
When I’m ready to cook I add the pork to a glass or ceramic roasting tray and seal tightly twice with tin foil. I’d avoid metal containers if you’ve used any acidic ingredient in the initial pork rub (eg vinegar, lemon juice, apple juice). Lastly, I pre-heat the oven to 360F. As I say, no special tools here, just a regular oven.
In these pictures, I also added another half a pint of apple juice (essentially using one small pint bottle in the whole cooking) to the pork before roasting to keep things juicy.
I’ll keep the pork at 360F for the first 45 minutes and then lower to 325F for the rest of the cooking. In total the pork will need three hours to nicely break down all the fat and connective tissue. This seems to work perfectly for about 3-4 pounds of pork.
I will often check the pork at each hour just to make sure things are in order. The fat will usually render down plenty to keep things very moist if you’ve sealed with foil tightly. I might add a little water if things seem to dry and in risk of burning.
At the three hour mark, the pork is usually good to go. You’ll find it swimming in a lake of rendered fat. Sometimes if I want a crisp finish to the pork – I will pour the fat and juices off, crank the oven temp up to 400-450F, and cook uncovered for another 15-45 minutes. It really depends what mood I’m in. If I’m ravenously hungry, I might just eat the whole tray at this point…
Your own cooking time might vary slightly based off how much pork you’re using, the rub and marination time, plus how you want the final finish. Three hours is usually enough roasting time to get to the fork shredding stage. You’ll know it when you see it, the slightly pressure with a fork will break down the pork into shreds.
This overall approach is fairly flexible and very fast. As I say you don’t need to leave a slow cooker or smoker unattended for the best portion of the day and you can reasonable make this most days of the week as such.
In the above process I cooked a three pound pork shoulder but even if you had six pounds, you could simply fill up two roasting dishes and the cooking time wouldn’t change.
One last though on this method; as well as speeding up the cooking process, the pre-cutting of the pork also increases the surface area of the meat allowing for better spice/marination too. Remember, if you’ve marinated in something high acidic the meat will cook a tad faster too.
Anyway, I hope this helps someone out there, scared to dive into the world of pulled pork through overly complex or time heavy recipes. Of course none of this is ever going to match a 12 hour slow smoked Boston Butt over applewood on a Traeger but that’s not really the point here. This is quick, simple and efficient – and always delicious.
Hi I’m Stuart, amateur home cook and professional food writer. You can find my writing at places like The Salt Lake Tribune and Gastronomic SLC, which I founded more than a decade ago. As well as writing extensively about restaurants, I’m endlessly curious about that product on the shelf. Is it any good I wonder? If you’re like me, wonder no more.