This easy to make crispy oven pulled pork recipe is super tender with crispy pieces and is full of flavor. The perfect kind of food when you are feeding a crowd and it’s too cold outside to use the grill or smoker! Got leftovers? Find leftover pulled pork recipes here.
There is something so easy and comforting about pulled pork. Once you have that fall-off-the-bone tender meat roasted, you can make anything with them. From pulled pork sandwiches to pulled pork nachos to pulled pork ramen, anything goes with this versatile meat.
Our favorite way to enjoy this meal is to make smoked pulled pork outdoors. I periodically make slow cooker pulled pork sandwiches using the crockpot. But my newest favorite way to enjoy pulled pork is to make them in the kitchen, roasted in the oven until crispy. So fabulous and easy.
If you did buy a pork shoulder, for example, with a bone, don’t discard it. You can make a nice pork bone broth with it. I share how to make a delicious instant pot bone broth here.
Best cut of pork for oven pulled pork
If you are making pulled pork, you have several choices in meat cuts. The most common choice is the pork shoulder. Another popular cut of meat for pulled pork is a Boston butt. Strange name, but it is from the high part of the pig’s shoulder, above the shoulder blade, and not the actual butt of the pig.
The picnic shoulder, or picnic ham, is a shoulder cut with the shank attached. This cut is cheaper than the other cuts because it requires less work butchering it, and it contains more bone.
You can use any of these cuts of meat to make oven pulled pork, but you do need to cut it into large pieces, about 4-inches long. You can oven roast a bone-in pork, but it will take longer to cook. But cutting the meat into large chunks, you cut the roasting time considerably.
Dry rub for oven pulled pork
As I mentioned above, we first have to cut the pork into 4-inch chunks. Then we season the pork chunks with a nice array of spices to make a tasty dry rub. You can change up the spices to customize it however you like it, it’s not rocket science. It’s pulled pork!
Some of my favorite spices to use for a pulled pork dry rub mix include:
- onion powder
- garlic powder
- chile powder
- smoked paprika
- cayenne pepper
- ground coriander
- mesquite powder (for extra smokiness)
- black pepper
Once the pork chunks are seasoned all over with the dry rub mix, it’s time to brown the chunks. By browning the meat before you roast it, you create a nice sear on the outside which helps keep the meat moist on the inside. And of course, more crispy bits!
Don’t crowd the pan while you brown the pork, otherwise you could steam it instead or browning it. Cook in batches and then place the browned pork onto a roasting pan for the next step!
How long do I roast my oven pulled pork?
Once the pork is seared and on the roasting pan, I add some chopped garlic and bay leaves for more flavor. I then cook the pork chunks in the oven at 325ºF for about 3 to 3 1/2 hours, or until the edges start to brown and crisp.
I used about 4-pound pork roast for this recipe and it fit nicely in my large roasting pan without overcrowding it. After about 3 hours, your pork should be fork tender and ready for shredding! At this point, the meat has an internal temperature of about 195ºF.
You can used two forks, gloved hands or even some of these meat claws that are perfect for shredding meat. I like having bigger chunks of meat shreds and nothing hair thin. I want to taste the meat and the crunchy ends.
Once the meat is shredded, I return it to the roasting pan (minus the bay leaves) along with any juice that has accumulated. Give it a nice toss and then cook it in the oven for another 30 minutes until it finishes crisping up up and the juice is mostly evaporated.
I’m telling you, it’s all about those crispy bits. I think I love it because it reminds me of a slow cooking pork roast smoking on the grill for 8-hours. Not quite the same experience, but pretty darn close. Especially if you have mesquite powder to give your pork some added smokey flavor.
How to make the best pulled pork sandwich
Let’s talk about what makes the ultimate pulled pork sandwich. Total comfort food. Total football watching food. I’m talking total tailgating food. And of course you need all the side dishes that go with it.
- potato salad
- potato chips
- french fries
- onion rings
- tater tots
- dill pickles
- corn on the cob
- green bean salad
- fruit salad
- pasta sald
- mac and cheese
- corn bread
One of my favorite ways to enjoy a pulled pork sandwich is Memphis-style, topped with some tangy coleslaw and served with a big fat dill pickle. The beauty of this meal is that you can customize it anyway you want.
Here are some toppings for you to consider when you are building your own ultimate pulled pork sandwich:
- Dill pickles
- Jalapeño slices
- Red onion slices
- Onion rings
- Grilled bell peppers
- Avocado slices
- Mango slices
- Pineapple slices
- Pickled onions
- Pickled okra
- Cheddar cheese
- Radish sprouts
- Green onions
- 4 lb boneless pork shoulder
- 1 TBS kosher salt
- 1 tsp chile powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup water
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- Trim of excess fat from pork shoulder and cut into 4 to 5-inch chunks.
- Season pork chunks with salt, pepper and spices.
- Preheat the oven to 325ºF.
- Heat a large non-stick skillet to medium-high heat and add oil
- In batches, cook pork chunks in a single layer until very well-browned, turning them as little as possible so they get nice and dark before flipping them around.
- Once all the pork is browned, place them in a single layer in a large roasting pan.
- Pour water in your skillet and scrape the bottom of your skillet to remove all the crispy bits of pork.
- Pour the liquid with the pork bits into the large roasting pan containing your pork shoulder chunks.
- Add bay leaves and chopped garlic.
- Braise in the oven uncovered for 3 to 3 ½ hours, turning the pork a few times during cooking, until much of the liquid is evaporated and the pork is falling apart.
- Remove the pan from the oven and lift the pork pieces out of the liquid and set them on a platter.
- Using a fork, carefully shred the pork into bite-sized pieces, discarding any obvious big chunks of fat.
- Pour the pork juice from the pan into a fat separator to further remove grease.
- Return juices to the pan with the shredded pork.
- Return the pan to the oven and cook, turning occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the pork is crispy and caramelized, about 30 more minutes.
- Cooking time will depend on how much liquid the pork gave off, and how crispy you want them.
Serve with tortillas, guacamole and salsa for carnitas. Or serve on kaiser rolls with barbecue sauce, colelaw and potato salad.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 556 Total Fat: 42g Saturated Fat: 15g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 23g Cholesterol: 163mg Sodium: 759mg Carbohydrates: 1g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 0g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 42g