Easy-to-make, juicy Dutch oven pulled pork served with a finger-licking gravy. Minimal effort for a succulent pork roast that you can serve in so many ways.
I admit it takes a while to cook this Dutch oven pulled pork, but the work involved is reduced to a minimum. Mix some ingredients, rub the pork with the mixture and let the oven do the rest. I’ve tried many pulled pork recipes over the years, but this one is my favorite.
Why is pulled pork so popular?
- Delicious: Incredibly juicy and tender meat pieces and a divine sauce.
- Easy to make: About 15-20 hands-on time, the oven will take over the rest; you will just have to wait while the pork cooks.
- Economical: Pork butt or shoulder is not a particularly expensive cut of meat.
- It lasts: Cook once, eat at least three times. Or feed a crowd! I often make a big batch of pulled pork for parties.
- Versatile: There are so many ways you can serve Dutch oven pulled pork; it really cannot get boring.
Why use a Dutch oven?
A Dutch oven is my favorite kind of pot; I really have 5 of them in different sizes, shapes, and colors (Amazon affiliate link). Something for almost any type of meal I cook, from simple soups or stews to beef or pork roasts, any kind of chicken dish I can think of, and even whole turkeys.
This pot is heavy and thick enough to conduct and retain heat and deep enough to handle large amounts of ingredients and liquid. It can be used on the stove, the oven, and outside.
It is perfect for making pulled pork or braising large pieces of meat because it manages to retain and distribute the heat evenly. You can maintain that low cooking temperature for a very long time, making the meat so meltingly tender and delicious.
What is the best cut for pulled pork?
- The shoulder, but the shoulder is a more generic name. What you are looking for is called the pork butt or Boston butt. It is called butt even though it is cut from the front part side of the animal and not the lower side like the name – butt – might imply. The rear-end piece is actually called the ham.
- This cut has the right amount of fat, which prevents it from becoming dry and helps create a melty, juicy roast.
- If you cannot get it, then picnic shoulder, located directly below the butt, is fine as well, but it usually tends to be slightly firmer.
- You will need a shoulder weighing between 1.8 and 2.7 kg/ 4-6 lbs for this recipe.
- I often have a boneless pork shoulder, but one with bone-in is fine as well. It should weigh about 2.2-3.2 kg/ 5 to 7 lbs in this case.
- This amount of meat feeds a crowd, so it’s like one-time cooking and three days of eating for us. Or freezing at least 1/3 of the leftover shredded meat.
Ingredients for the marinade:
- Dijon mustard or any other kind you like, preferably medium, not too hot.
- Tomato paste (the thick paste, not tomato sauce)
- Paprika: sweet and smoked
- Garlic powder
- Red chili flakes or cayenne pepper. Always used to taste.
- Fine sea salt and ground black pepper
Other ingredients: Olive oil or vegetable oil, onions, apple, a few bay leaves, beef, or chicken stock, salt, and black pepper.
- Trim some of the fat: Meat from grocery stores usually has most of the fat trimmed. If there is still too much of it on the pork, remove some with a sharp knife. However, don’t remove it all, just the significant bits; some fat is necessary for flavor and juiciness.
- Salt the meat: The first step is optional, but I take it whenever possible. Rubbing the flesh with salt and letting it sit in the fridge overnight will help season the meat more deeply. Rub the pork shoulder with salt, wrap it in plastic foil, place it in a large bowl or dish, and refrigerate it overnight.
- Make the marinade: Mix mustard, tomato paste, both paprika sorts, garlic powder, red chili flakes, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
- Marinade: Remove it from the fridge about 1-2 hours before cooking, rub it with the marinade, and sit on the counter.
- Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius/ 320 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Prepare the rest of the ingredients: peel and slice the onion into half rings, and chop the apple (there is no need to peel it, but you can do it if you like).
- Sauté: Heat the oil in the Dutch oven and sauté the onion with a pinch of salt on medium-low heat for about 8 minutes until soft. Stir occasionally and add a splash of water if necessary. The onions should become slightly golden but now brown. Add the apple and continue cooking for about 5 minutes.
- Bring to a boil: Place the meat on top of the onions, add bay leaves and pour the stock around it (not on top, so that you don’t wash away the marinade). Bring to a boil, place the lid on top, and transfer to the preheated oven.
- Cook for 2 ½ – 3 ½ hours, or until the Dutch oven roast pork easily pulls with a fork. The cooking time depends on the size of the meat piece and your oven; some are hotter than others.
- Shred: Remove the cooked meat from the pot and shred it with two forks.
- Keep warm while you make the sauce.
- Remove the fat from the sauce (optional but recommendable).
- Strain the cooking sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a larger bowl. Reserve the vegetables but discard the bay leaves. Refrigerate the sauce for about 10 minutes to allow the fat to separate from the rest. Remove the fat from the surface of the bowl with a flatter spoon.
- Wipe the Dutch oven with kitchen paper and pour the sauce and the cooked veggies back in.
- Puree the vegetables with an immersion blender until the sauce is smooth. There will probably be no need for extra seasoning but check.
- Reheat the sauce for a couple of minutes if necessary.
- Don’t be tempted to use pork loin or pork tenderloin for making this recipe. Both cuts are too lean to make pulled pork.
- Trim the excess fat, but not all of it. Remove the significant bits of fat, but make sure to leave some on; some fat adds a lot of flavors and keeps the meat juicy.
- Salting the meat before roasting adds a lot of flavors; I always try to plan to make pulled pork to include the necessary time for salting.
- Don’t mix the shredded pork with all the sauce at once. Add sauce little by little until you think it’s right for you.
Salt and rub the pork. Saute the onions and apple as instructed. Transfer to the slow cooker. Place the meat on top, and pour 1 cup of stock around it.
Cook on LOW for 8-10 hours until you can pull the meat easily with a fork.
Shred the meat, remove the fat and puree the sauce as instructed. Mix.
You might not need all the sauce at once. Mix some with the meat and add as much as you like.
Do it while the pork is still hot; it’s easier.
The most convenient method is using 2 forks.
Cut the pork into smaller pieces and shred the pieces with the forks.
I often do. And what a happy moment when I defrost a little bag, and we can have some delicious pork wraps or pasta again without any extra work.
I even freeze the sauce separately if we have too much of it. When defrosted, I mix it with some meat and make pasta. Or I defrost it without any meat and serve it with meatballs and mashed potatoes.
To freeze the pork, place it in freezer bags or an airtight container and freeze it for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge or microwave. If the portions are small, it will not take long.
How to serve pulled pork?
Serve the Dutch oven-roast pork with mashed potatoes, sauce, and vegetables – a wonderful Sunday or festive day lunch or dinner.
Making a large batch of pulled pork at the weekend, for instance, provides you with several meals throughout the week.
- How about a pork ragu served with pasta? You can reheat the meat in some of the leftover sauce and mix it with tagliatelle, pappardelle, or any other kind of pasta you like. Or you can serve the ragu over rice.
- My kids love wraps filled with shredded meat, lettuce leaves, onion and tomato slices, a little sour cream or thick yogurt, and some sauce. Either ketchup or something mild for my daughter or some spicier sauce for my son (sriracha, sweet chili sauce, etc.).
- You can also make tacos or burritos. Or – a classic – make pulled pork burgers, pork sandwiches, or sliders. A side of coleslaw is always a great idea.
More easy Dutch oven recipes
Dutch Oven Pulled Pork
- 4–6 lbs pork shoulder 1.8-2.7 kg
- 1 to 1 ½ tablespoon fine sea salt Note 1
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 medium onions a total of about 5.3-7 oz/ 150-200 g
- 1 medium apple
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 ¾ cup chicken or beef stock 13.5 fl.oz/ 400 ml
- Salt pork: Rub the pork shoulder with salt, wrap it in plastic foil and refrigerate overnight. Remove from the fridge and rub with the marinating paste about 1-2 hours before cooking.
- Rub meat: Mix mustard, tomato paste, both paprika sorts, garlic powder, red chili flakes, salt, and pepper. Rub the meat all over with this mixture and let it on the counter until the 1-2 hours are up.
- Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius/ 320 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Prepare ingredients: Peel and slice the onion into half rings. Chop the apple.
- Saute: Heat the oil in a Dutch oven. Saute the onion with a pinch of salt on medium-low heat for about 8 minutes until soft. Stir occasionally and add a splash of water if necessary. Add the apple and continue cooking for about 5 minutes.
- Place the meat on top, add bay leaves and pour the stock around the meat (not on top, so that you don't wash away the marinade). Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to the oven.
- Cook for 2 ½ – 3 ½ hours, or until the meat easily pulls with a fork. The cooking time depends on the size of the meat piece and your oven, some are hotter than others.
- Shred pork: Remove the meat from the pot. Shred with two forks. Keep warm while you make the sauce.
- Removing the fat from the sauce is optional but recommendable. Strain the cooking sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a larger bowl. Reserve the vegetables, but discard the bay leaves. Refrigerate the sauce for about 10 minutes to allow the fat to separate from the rest. Remove the fat from the surface of the bowl with a flatter spoon.
- Make sauce: Wipe the Dutch oven with kitchen paper and pour the sauce and the cooked veggies back in. Puree the vegetables with an immersion blender until the sauce is smooth. There will probably be no need for extra seasoning but check.
- Reheat the sauce. Add sauce to the shredded meat little by little until you have enough, you might not need it all, it depends on your taste.