I am so excited to introduce you guys to Alex’s 11 Hour Pulled Pork! It is much less intimidating than it may sound thanks to the slow cooker. Actually, this may be one of our easiest recipes as long as you’re planning well. This recipe came to life during quarantine when we had time to play with the spice mix and cooking time. We desperately needed alternatives to the endless chicken breast in our fridge (we were on a weight loss challenge!), so we’d occasionally order enormous pork loins in our weekly Wegmans delivery. Alex would faithfully divide them into three pieces, each between 1.5-3 pounds, freeze two and cook the third. We found the perfect balance after lots of refinement and practice.
This pulled pork can be used in dozens of ways, making it the perfect recipe for batch cooking. The spice mix works like magic, adapting to make perfectly balanced tacos, stuffed peppers, or barbecue. (Don’t worry, we’ll be bringing you recipes for allllll of the ways we use this pork!)
Since we cook between 2 and 3 pounds of pulled pork at a time, we always have lots of leftovers. After spicing, searing, slow cooking and shredding the pork we store the leftovers in a Pyrex. The leftovers will last for up to a week. Easily, one night of pork tacos turns into a huge variety of delicious meals!
The more I cook, the more I strongly believe in a solid mise–en–place. I am definitely more calm moving through a recipe when I have all the ingredients already measured and prepared. So get your spice rub mixed, your onions sliced and garlic chopped, and evenly cut your pork into three portions.
We love our balance in this rub, but you should feel comfortable adding in or substituting your favorite spices. If you want to ramp up the heat you could add cayenne or red pepper flakes. (We keep this one more savory than spicy so that we can pile on the pickled jalapenos or salsa later.) I spice pork skewers with Panch Foran (an Indian five spice mix) from a local purveyor, Fork on a Road. That or garam masala could work here too, for a totally different take!
Massage the rub evenly on the pork and allow it to sit for thirty minutes or up to overnight.
Six to twelve hours before mealtime, start heating a cast iron or heavy bottomed pan. Drizzle in olive oil, and when your pan is hot, sear the pork on all sides. This caramelizes the outside of the pork and ramps up the spices by letting them toast in the oil.
Meanwhile, add your onions and garlic to the bottom of your instant pot or slow cooker. Lay the pork in next and then place your rosemary sprigs on top. Pour either one cup of chicken stock or a 50/50 mix of stock and balsamic vinegar in, and lock your instant pot. Depending on timing you can slow cook the pork for 6-8 hours on high or 11-12 hours on low.
At the end of your cook cycle remove and dispose of the rosemary and shred the pork. Ladle 1/2 cup of the liquid into a microwaveable bowl. Whisk in the cornstarch, microwave for one minute and mix well before pouring back over the pork and mixing well. This step might seem fussy, but the cornstarch slurry thickens the juices and allows all of that deep flavor to fully sink into the pork. If you were to just drain the liquid, the pork would dry out and lose that wonderful layered spice flavor we worked so hard on.
For tacos or burrito bowls, we recommend taking one extra step before digging in. Separate as much of the pulled pork as you plan eating, spread it out on a lined baking sheet and broil it until the edges start to crisp up, carnitas style. (You could also do this in a toaster oven if you don’t want to heat up your whole oven!)
Ingredients Deep Dive
The best thing about this spice rub is that it does some serious work with a set of basic spices that we think you’ll all already have. (And if you don’t then you NEED to reevaluate the state of your spice cabinet.) The brown sugar caramelizes during the initial sear and lends a sweetness to the pork but isn’t overpowering. We use ground thyme, so make sure to double the measurement if you’re using dried thyme leaves. We use this rub often enough that we tend to actually triple or quadruple the measurements and set aside the extra so we have it premixed and ready to go.
Pork Loin (Center Cut Pork Loin Roast)
For this pulled pork, Alex and I use center cut pork loin roast. It’s a slightly leaner cut of pork and benefits from the low and slow cooking in the instant pot. You could absolutely use a pork shoulder, which has more fat on it and is great for slow cooking. A tenderloin could work, but you would want to reduce the cooking time to avoid drying out the meat. To see more about the cuts of pork and how to use them, check out this great illustrated guide.
Our favorite use for this pork is absolutely for taco night. We crisp the pork under the broiler to get the carnitas style effect, and then pile on our favorite toppings. We usually whip up some guacamole, and almost always have a batch of roasted poblano salsa in the fridge.
This pork makes the best stuffed peppers. We’ll share our favorite version as its own recipe soon, but any mix of pulled pork, rice and veggies would be delicious.
One of the first recipes I learned was for very simple pulled barbecue pork in the crockpot. I’d make it in our dorm at Boston College for football games, and it was always a hit. This is the grown up version of what I used to make, and I still love it with some barbecue sauce. A portion on top of some Annie’s Mac n Cheese, anyone?Print
Alex’s 11 Hour Spiced Pulled Pork
This spiced, slow cooked pork is the perfect base for tacos, burrito bowls, stuffed peppers or barbecue. You can easily feed a crowd or have leftovers to craft delicious, nutritious meals all week.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 8-12 hours
- Total Time: 8.5-12.5 hours
- Yield: ~16 4oz servings
- 1/4 cup brown sugar (55 grams)
- 1 Tablespoon granulated garlic
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons ground thyme
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2–3 lb center cut pork loin or shoulder, cut into 2 to 3 equal pieces
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 1 medium yellow onion, sliced into rings
- 3 – 4 cloves garlic, rough chopped
- 1 cup of chicken stock (1/2 cup red wine, 1T balsamic vinegar, remaining stock to reach 1 cup)
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
- Make the spice rub by mixing all of the rub ingredients together in a small bowl using a fork or whisk.
- Coat pork generously with the spice rub, covering all sides. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes and as long as overnight covered in the fridge. When you’re ready to start the cooking process (between 8-12 hours before mealtime), heat a cast iron on medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil.
- Sear pork on all sides.
- Meanwhile, layer onion and garlic onto bottom of slow cooker. After searing, place the pork pieces on top of the onions and garlic and then the rosemary sprigs on top. Add chicken stock or stock/wine/vinegar mix. Cook for 6-8 hours on high or 11-12 hours on low.
- Meditate, take a walk, complete a full work day, etc.
- When the cook time has passed, discard the rosemary and shred the pork. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid in a microwavable bowl, whisk in cornstarch and microwave for 1 minute. Stir well, pour over the pork and toss thoroughly.
- Optional (but highly recommended): Before serving, lay pork onto a baking sheet covered in foil or a silpat and broil until crisp.
- Serving Size: 4oz cooked
- Calories: 215 kcal
- Sodium: 467mg
- Fat: 12.4g
- Carbohydrates: 6.4g
- Fiber: .4g
- Protein: 17g
Keywords: pork, pulled pork, barbecue, tacos, slow cooker, crockpot, instantpot