The type of Carolina Pulled Pork you’re eating depends largely on where in the Carolinas you’re eating. Depending on the area, it might be served with a vinegar-based sauce or a mustard one, but no matter where you have it, it’s going to be a savory, melt-in-your-mouth experience. Our Carolina Pulled Pork favors a vinegar-style sauce and uses some ketchup and a slow cooker (so purists, look away) but it delivers a tender, fall-apart pulled pork with maximum flavor and a set-it-and-forget-it preparation.
Our pork starts with a dry rub, just to ensure that the meat really reaches the maximum amount of flavor possible. That does mean you need to start thinking about making this a day or two ahead so the meat has time to sit, but it’s really not any trouble. And besides, the flavor rewards are great. (That being said, you can skip the rub entirely if you’d like!)
When it’s time to cook, you sear the meat to really lock in that rub flavor and get the exterior nice and brown, and then it goes into the slow cooker. You pour a mixture of apple cider vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, crushed red pepper, and garlic powder over the pork, set it to low, and go about your day.
When you come back, the pork will be fall-apart tender (and full of flavor). The liquid it cooked in can act as your sauce; you can just pour it over the meat after you’ve shredded it with two forks. It’s tangy and just a little sweet, and while it’s delightful on a bun with some ‘slaw, it’s pretty hard not to just eat it all as is.
Slow Cooker Carolina Pulled Pork
15 minutes active, up to 34 hours inactive to prepare serves 4-6
- For the dry rub:
- 2 tablespoons cumin
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- For the meat:
- 4 lb bone-in pork butt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- In a small bowl, mix together all of the dry rub ingredients. Remove 2 tablespoons of the mixture and set aside for later.
- Pat meat dry and sprinkle rub all over the pork, rubbing it in thoroughly. Wrap in plastic wrap or place in a ziplock bag and place in the refrigerator to chill one hour and up to overnight (optional).
- If chilled, remove the pork from fridge 30 minutes before cooking. Heat oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook until browned on all sides, 8-10 minutes total.
- Transfer pork to slow cooker with fat facing up.
- In a small bowl, whisk together apple cider vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper. Pour over pork, cover, and cook on low 8-10 hours.
- Remove pork from slow cooker and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet or bowl. Tent with foil and allow to rest 30 minutes. Using two forks, shred the pork. Toss with reserved dry rub.
- Strain remaining liquid in slow cooker with a fine-mesh strainer and add enough to moisten the pork. Toss to coat and enjoy!
Recipe adapted from No Spoon Necessary.