How to make delicious Carolina Pulled Pork in a slow cooker
Barbecue is part of the culture of North Carolina. Over the years, pulled pork has become a delicacy our state is known for world-wide. It’s even spawned many a good-natured debate over which is better – Eastern North Carolina Style, which uses a vinegar-based sauce; or Western North Carolina style, which features a tomato-based sauce.
I’m going to show you how you can accommodate either or both styles. This easy recipe makes pulled pork that is juicy, flavorful and oh-so-tender.
And it’s so simple to do using a slow cooker (Crock Pot). You can set it in the morning and forget it for several hours as it cooks. Plus, you won’t have to heat up the kitchen on a summer day.
Whether you’re making it for your family or a crowd, pulled pork is sure to please. It’s that delicious!
Pulled pork is high in protein, gluten-free and low-carb. A 3 oz. serving of pulled pork (not including sauce or bun) is about 200 calories, 15 g of protein, and 0 carbohydrates.
It can be high in fat, however. To make pulled pork healthier and reduce the amount of fat and calories, after cooking I discard the extra fat and the liquid, which is fatty.
Pulled pork can be enjoyed on its own, or as a sandwich. It pairs wonderfully with coleslaw (see my easy recipe here).
Here’s how to make Carolina Pulled Pork in the slow cooker.
Carolina Pulled Pork
- 6-8 lb. boneless pork butt
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- Seasoning blend: 3 teaspoons Kosher salt; 1 teaspoon each of black pepper, cumin, onion power, garlic powder and dried oregano.
- In a bowl, combine the ingredients for the seasoning blend.
- Remove any string from the pork.
- Rub the seasoning blend all over the pork.
- Combine water and cider vinegar; add to the slow cooker.
- Place pork fat side up in the slow cooker.
- Cover with lid and cook on low for 6-8 hours, until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees. Avoid over-cooking. I cooked my 6 lb. pork for 6 1/2 hours.
- When pork is done cooking, remove it and place in a dish. Let cool for about 20 minutes.
- Remove the fat layer on top and discard.
- Using two forks, shred the meat.
- Some people save all or part of the juice from the slow cooker and mix it in to the shredded meat. I find the pork is juicy enough on its own. I prefer to discard all of the extra juice to reduce the amount of fat in this meal. If you wish to use the juice, one method to reduce the fat is to pour the juice into a container and chill it. The fat will rise to the top and solidify, and then you can strain it off before adding to the meat.
- Serve with your favorite barbecue sauce. For Western North Carolina style, use a tomato-based barbecue sauce (pictured). For Eastern North Carolina style, use a vinegar-based sauce. Try our sauce recipe below.
Vinegar-based barbecue sauce
Combine in a pot on the stove:
- 1 1/2 cups vinegar
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon allspice
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Add all ingredients to a sauce pan and stir. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until liquid reduces by half. Let sit before serving. If possible, make it ahead of time and chill.
Thank you to my husband Keith, a chef, for his vinegar-based barbecue sauce recipe.