This is the ONLY Carolina Pulled Pork recipe you will ever need! Massaged with a flavorful rub, quickly seared on the stovetop for flavor and braised in the slow cooker for ease and convenience. Finished with a sweet, tangy Carolina BBQ sauce, this crockpot pork is outrageously tender and ultimately delicious! It’s perfect for easy weeknight dinners, potlucks, picnics and summer entertaining!
Updated: This post was originally published in June 2014. I took new photos and updated the post below to include more information about Carolina Pulled Pork. Plus, I’ve included a recipe video to show you how easy slow cooker BBQ pulled pork is to make!
Hi friends! I am, legit, all kinds of excited for today’s recipe. Just picture jazz hands happening over here right now. Today’s dish is one of my all time favorites. I know, I know. I say that every other day (and twice on Sundays). But, hear me out.
If you are looking for some epic Carolina BBQ goodness, you have come to the right place. Sweet, savory and subtly spicy with a tangy kick, this pulled pork is rockin’ ALL the delicious BBQ vibes! Plus, it’s outrageously easy to make!
Slow Cooker Easy Carolina Pulled Pork Recipe
Ludicrously tender, succulent and moist pulled pork smothered and covered in a silky smooth, sweet and tangy Carolina-style BBQ sauce.
This pulled pork legitimately checks ALL the boxes:
It’s flavorful thanks to the sweet and spicy dry rub plus the quick browning on the stovetop.
It’s terrifically tender AND ridiculously easy to prepare thanks to braising in the trusty slow cooker.
And, it’s dripping in the most magnificent BBQ sauce that is OH-SO simple to prepare. I’m talking 5 ingredients and 15 minutes type of easy to prepare!
Basically, this Carolina BBQ Pulled Pork recipe is how you achieve ALL your summer BBQ goals!
It’s lick your fingers clean, bodacious BBQ at it’s finest, friends! AND it’s all yours for the taking WITHOUT even breaking a sweat!
What is Carolina style pulled pork?
Carolina style pulled pork is a southern American BBQ classic! Pork (either the whole hog, the pork shoulder or Boston butt) is barbecued or slow-smoked over a pit until fall-apart tender and then tossed with a tangy vinegar or mustard based barbecue sauce, depending on the region. Carolina style pulled pork has a smoky, tangy flavor and the meat is so succulent it melts in your mouth!
This crockpot pulled pork recipe gives you all the flavor of classic Carolina pork with a fraction of the time and energy!
Carolina BBQ sauce for pork?
Carolina barbeque sauce is a southern-style sauce that is tangy and slightly sweet with a very subtle spiciness. Thick, rich and full of flavor, Carolina BBQ sauce pair perfectly with sweet and smoky pulled pork.
While both Eastern North Carolina vinegar sauce and South Carolina mustard sauce both compliment pulled pork, I prefer a combination of the two for the ultimate tangy, zingy flavor!
Which cut of meat for pulled pork?
Pulled pork is very easy and forgiving to make, but you want to make sure you start with the correct cut of meat!
Most barbecue restaurants make pulled pork using a whole pork shoulder. However, that cut can be hard to find in the grocery store and weighs between 12 and 16 pounds. For the home cook, I highly recommend using a smaller cut of pork, such as the Boston Butt (also known as Boston roast) or the picnic roast.
My personal favorite cut for pulled pork is the The Boston butt, which comes from the upper part of the front shoulder of the pig. The Boston butt has less bone than the picnic roast, however both are available without the bone. As well, the Boston butt has plenty of marbled fat and a consistently rectangular shape that makes it easy to handle.
When to apply rub
Applying a rub to your pork is essential for flavorful pulled pork! Remember that since the rub adds tons of flavor, you want to apply the seasonings liberally before cooking.
To apply a rub to pork, make sure you first pat the raw pork butt (or shoulder) completely dry and then sprinkle the rub evenly all over the surface of the meat, massaging the rub in. For the best flavor, wrap the seasoned pork in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator overnight. Make sure you remove the pork from the refrigerator at least 3o minutes before cooking so it can come to room temperature.
What temperature and how long to cook pulled barbecue pork?
The secret to pulled pork is using a flavorful rub and cooking it low and slow.
The recipe for Easy Carolina BBQ Pulled Pork uses the slow cooker or crock pot. This method of cooking allows you to go about your business for the day (run your errands, take a nap, lay out at the pool, whatever!) while ensuring the pork butt, or pork shoulder, is cooked at a consistently low temperature for a lengthy amount of time (ie: slow).
For incredibly tender pork, cook at on the low setting for 8-10 hours, or until pork is fork tender and an instant read thermometer registers a temperature of 195 degrees.
How long is pulled pork good in the fridge?
Cooked pulled pork should be stored in an airtight container or zip-closure bags. Properly stored, pulled pork will last for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. To further extend the shelf life, you can freeze it.
Can you freeze barbecue pork?
You can absolutely freeze pulled pork! In fact, I always purchase a larger pork butt than I need just so I can have leftovers to freeze!
Freezing pulled pork is SO easy! To freeze pulled pork, cook and shred the pork according to recipe instructions. Make sure you strain and keep the cooling liquid from the crockpot. Allow both the shredded pork and the cooking liquid to cool completely. Once cooled, toss the pulled pork with enough of the cooking liquid to moisten the pork. Transfer the pork to a heavy-duty freezer bag and place the pork in the freezer. Properly stored, shredded pork will keep in the freezer for up to three months.
How do you reheat pork?
To reheat frozen pulled pork, transfer the pulled pork to the fridge and allow to defrost overnight.
When ready to reheat pork, preheat an oven to 250 degrees F. Transfer the pork a sheet pan or roasting pan and toss with a little BBQ sauce. Cover the pan with foil and reheat in the oven for 25-35 minutes, or until the pork is heated throughout and reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
How much pulled pork per person when feeding a crowd?
Are you hosting a party and want to feed a crowd? Pulled pork is the perfect addition to all your outdoor parties and summer barbecues! While there are a number of factors to consider when feeding a crowd, such as – the gender and age of your guests, how filling are your appetizers, and the number of sides at your party – below is a simple, basic rule to follow when estimating how much pulled pork per person.
1 pound of cooked pulled pork is enough to feed 3 people, however pork butt will lose around 40-50% of its weight once cooked and shredded (see tip below). For example a raw 4-pound pork butt will yield about 2.4 pounds of cooked pulled pork and serve approximately 7 people.
Pro-tip: If using a boneless Boston butt, you can estimate losing 40%, while a bone-in butt will lose about 50%
Can it be made in advance?
Pulled pork can be made in advance which makes it perfect for feeding a crowd and stress-free entertaining!
Can BBQ pork be served cold?
Pulled pork is a lot like pizza or fried chicken in the respect that it can be eaten cold. However if you are serving a crowd or entertaining, I highly suggest reheating it!
Tips for the best Carolina pork:
- Wrapping the rubbed pork butt in plastic wrap and allowing it to rest in the refrigerator overnight is NOT required, but it is recommended for the most flavorful pulled pork. As well, step 2, browning the pork before adding it to the slow cooker is NOT required, but it is recommended as it adds a great deal of flavor!
- If you don’t like a lot of tang in your BBQ sauce, reduce the apple cider vinegar in the BBQ sauce to 2/3 of a cup.
- For the most flavor and to ensure moist, juicy Easy Carolina BBQ Pulled Pork, I highly recommend straining the cooking liquid and using it AS WELL AS the BBQ sauce in the final step of the recipe. (Meaning – toss the pork with dry rub, toss again with a couple tablespoons of the strained cooking liquid, and then toss one last time with the BBQ sauce!)
What to serve with pulled pork?
Need a delicious side to pair with this tender, tangy pulled pork? Below is a list of sides that will take your barbecue to the next level!
- Coleslaw (pictured below)
- Baked Beans
- Mac n’ cheese
- Potato Salad
- Macaroni Salad
- Pasta Salad
- Mashed Potatoes
- Hush Puppies
- Cucumber Salad
- Corn on the cob
- Corn Pudding or Corn Casserole
- Green Beans
- Salad (Cobb Salad, Garden Salad, Tomato Salad)
- Collard greens
Now that we have covered all the basics, let’s get in the kitchen and make the easiest, BEST Carolina BBQ Pulled Pork you have ever imagined!!
Until next week, friends, cheers – to palatial pulled pork!
Looking for more pork recipes?
If you love this pulled pork, try one of these delicious pork recipes next:
The best Slow Cooker Easy Carolina Pulled Pork Recipe plus step-by-step video👇
Easy Carolina Pulled Pork Recipe
- Small mixing bowl
- Dutch Oven or Skillet (OPTIONAL)
- Slow Cooker or Crock Pot
- 1 Prepared Recipe of BBQ Dry Rub (Click for Recipe) (See Notes)
- 1 Pork Butt (3 to 3 1/2 pounds if boneless, 3 1/2 to 4 pounds if bone-in)*
- 1 TBS Vegetable Oil
- 1 (12 Oz.) Bottle Beer - or you can substitute unsalted chicken or beef stock if desired (I used a lager)
- 1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 TBS Liquid Smoke
- 1 Prepared Recipe of Carolina BBQ Sauce (Click for Recipe)
- For the Dry Rub: Combine all the dry rub ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Remove 2 tablespoons of the rub and set aside. Pat Pork Butt dry and sprinkle ½ of the dry rub on top of the pork. Massage the seasoning thoroughly into pork. Flip the pork butt over and repeat with remaining dry rub. OPTIONAL for most flavor: Wrap the pork butt tightly in plastic wrap and place on a roasting pan, baking dish, or half sheet pan. Place in the refrigerator and allow to rest for an hour, or preferably overnight. (If refrigerated, allow the pork to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before browning to remove the chill)
- Brown the Pork Butt: Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook, turning occasionally, until well browned on all sides, about 5-10 minutes total. (The pork will brown fast because of the sugar in the dry rub. Watch it carefully and do not let it burn.) . Remove the pork and transfer it to the slow cooker, fat cap facing UP.
- Slow Cook: Add the beer, vinegar and liquid smoke to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW, flipping the pork over once or twice during cooking, for 8-10 hours or until the pork is fork tender and an internal temperature of 195 degrees.
- When pork is done cooking, remove it from the slow cooker and transfer it to a clean work surface. Loosely tent with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 30 minutes, or until cool enough to handle. Using two forks, shred (“pull”) the pork. Toss the pork with half or all of the reserved dry rub.
- If using BBQ Sauce: Add half of the BBQ sauce (or sauce to taste) to the pork and toss to coat. Serve with the remaining BBQ sauce on the side. Enjoy!
- Or, If NOT using BBQ Sauce: Strain the cooking liquid through a fine-mesh strainer. Skim off as much fat as possible from the surface and discard. Add enough cooking liquid to the pork so that it is moistened. Toss to coat. Enjoy!
- BBQ Rub: Use dark brown sugar in the rub.
- Pork: Cut the pork in half or in thirds to make it easier to manage before browning in the skillet if necessary.
- Chilling and Browning Pork: Wrapping the rubbed pork butt in plastic wrap and allowing it to rest in the refrigerator overnight is NOT required, but it is recommended for the most flavorful pulled pork. As well, step 2, browning the pork before adding it to the slow cooker is NOT required, but it is recommended as it adds a great deal of flavor!
- BBQ Sauce: If you don't like a lot of tang in your BBQ sauce, reduce the apple cider vinegar in the BBQ sauce to 2/3 of a cup.
- Cooking Liquid: For the most flavor and to ensure moist, juicy pulled pork, I highly recommend straining the cooking liquid and using it AS WELL AS the BBQ sauce in the final step of the recipe. I.E. Toss the pork with dry rub, toss again with a couple tablespoons of the strained cooking liquid, and then toss one last time with the BBQ sauce.
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