How to Make Pulled Pork in the Oven

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Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

I know. This is dangerous territory for a Yankee Mouse to tread. Let me say right now: I make no claims to being a barbecue expert. But, I knew I wanted to make pulled pork. I also knew that our grill wasn’t set up, and we don’t have a smoker yet (yet!). I figured, “OK, it’s a pork shoulder. I’ll braise it.” And that’s where it all started.

In the end, this was a very happy experiment that turned into one downright heavenly piece of pig.

This pulled pork started with something I saw on the Food Network. Cola and condensed milk, eh? Interesting. And the results certainly looked delicious.


I thought about it for a few days before I broke down and bought the pork shoulder. Then I consulted a handful of my favorite cookbooks and cruised around the interwebs searching for info on pulled pork.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

I took what I learned and, true to form, made the rest up and hoped for the best. (Hey, sooner or later, everyone plays mad scientist in the kitchen.)

As it turns out, it was more than a decent gamble. The meat was moist, tender, and just a little bit sweet. (I know, with all that sugar, you’d think it would be cloying and sticky, but it wasn’t.)

I infused a couple cups of the braising liquid with some vinegar, tomato paste, and chili flakes for a thin, piquant sauce. The combination was utterly delicious.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

All about pulled pork

There are a million ways to make pulled pork out there. (Please chime in!)

Let’s start with the meat.

The most common cut used is pork shoulder, sometimes called Boston butt or picnic shoulder. Check out my Garlic & Herb Roasted Pork Shoulder for more info on the cut. For this dish, the pork shoulder is cooked until it’s so tender that you can literally pull it apart with your hands.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Pork shoulder is great because it’s usually really cheap. And there’s a reason for that. Or several, rather.

It’s tough as hell. It has a lot of connective tissue. It’s fatty. It’s huge to the point of being a little unwieldy.

But cook it long enough, and you can coax it into a meltingly tender, mouthwatering hunk of hog.

On to the sauce.

Pulled pork varies from region to region in the U.S. In Tennessee, it’s enveloped in a tomato-based barbecue sauce. Go east, and folks in North Carolina drench theirs in a tangier, vinegar-based sauce.

I did the latter, again, kind of on a whim. I’ve included my rough recipe. But by all means, this would be equally delicious tossed with your favorite barbecue sauce.

A note on ingredients for pulled pork

This recipe calls for 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk—which is milk that’s been cooked down, then enriched with 40 to 45 percent sugar. It’s thick and syrupy, and is a common ingredient in candy and baking.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Don’t confuse it with evaporated milk, which is canned milk with 60 percent of the water removed. Evaporated milk doesn’t have additional sugar.

For the cola, I used a bottle of regular Coke. Don’t swap in any kind of diet cola. The fake sugar will be utterly disgusting when it reduces.

Don’t do this every day (a.k.a. official disclaimer)

I’ll beat you to the punch: I can’t imagine this is good for you.

Nothing with “2 liters of Coke” as an ingredient could possibly be classified as healthy. But since I doubt you’ll be eating this every day, I’m not that worried.

Oven-Braised Pulled Pork

1 bone-in pork shoulder, about 7 lbs.
1 large onion, peeled and diced
kosher salt for browning the pork
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk (*not* evaporated milk)
2 liters cola (I used a bottle of Coke)
1 tsp. Aleppo chili flakes (or other chili flakes)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. garlic powder

Tomato Vinegar Sauce
2-3 cups sauce from the pork
~1 cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. Aleppo chili flakes
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbls. tomato paste

Serves about 8

Sear the pork shoulder

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Grab your pork shoulder. Leave the skin on. Leave the bone in. Sprinkle it on all sides with a little kosher salt.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Drizzle a little olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. I used my trusty Big Red Pot (a.k.a. a 9-quart enameled cast-iron dutch oven). Set it on the stove over high heat for a minute. When the oil is hot enough to shimmer, add the pork shoulder.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Sear it like this for a few minutes over high heat, until it develops a nice brown crust on the bottom.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Then flip it over and sear the other side.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

When both sides are nicely browned, remove the pork from the pan for a minute. I use my grandmother’s poker (technical term, I know) to do this. It’s one of the best, meanest-looking kitchen implements I have, and it’s the ideal thing for lifting a heavy roast.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Assemble the braise

Add the chopped onion to the pot. Give it a stir and cook for a few minutes on medium-high heat to lightly brown it.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Then pour in the cola. The whole bottle. It feels totally ridiculous and wrong, I know, but just go on and dump the whole bottle in. I had a full-blown giggle fit by the time I was done. (And also, I was thinking that ginger ale would be a really good substitute.)

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Next, pour in the condensed milk.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Stir it around to combine the milk with the cola. (Admittedly, this isn’t the best looking stuff at this point. Never fear. The pork will be wonderful.)

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Toss in the chili flakes and garlic powder. Stir to combine.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

And finally, put the beast back in the pot, skin side up.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid. Slide it carefully into your preheated oven. Bake for 3 1/2 to 4 hours at 350 degrees.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Let the braised pork cool

When you pull the pot out of the oven after about 4 hours, your pork will look about like this (still not very appealing, I know):

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Give it a test to be sure that it’s done. Grab a fork, and pull at the edge of the meat. It should separate easily. (If it feels like you couldn’t shred it with your bare hands, cover it back up and bake it for another 15 minutes, then test again.)

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

When the pork is done, carefully transfer it from the pot a large platter or bowl.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Set it aside on the counter until its cool enough to handle.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Make the sauce for the pulled pork

Now, what you do from here depends on what kind of sauce you want on your pulled pork. If you’re using your favorite barbecue sauce, skip to the pork shredding, below.

If you want to try my sauce based on the braising liquid, here’s how to do that. Once you make the basic sauce, you can tweak it to suit your particular taste. (Toss in more vinegar, garlic, chili flakes, etc.)

Strain the sauce carefully. (It’ll still be really hot.)

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Discard those solids.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

You’ll wind up with a ton of juice.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Put 2-3 cups of the juice in a medium pot. Add the rice wine vinegar, garlic powder, chili flake, kosher salt, and tomato paste. Whisk to combine well.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if you like.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Mine looked about like this.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Shred the cooked pork

When your pork is cool enough to handle, it’s time to pull it apart. Remove the skin and the fat that’s left beneath it. (Resign yourself now: You’re going to get your hands sticky.)

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Your pork will look about like this.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

With two forks, start to pull the meat off the bone.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Remove and discard any large chunks of fat or gristle you find.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

When you’re done, you’ll wind up with a pile of meat like this:

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

And a pile of garbage like this. Toss all this stuff. It’s more than given up all its flavor.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Pull the large chunks apart further with your hands, so that you have a bowl of shredded pork.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Mmmmm…Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

(At this point, your kitchen should smell amazing. If you have a dog, he’ll probably be giving you the crazy eye.)

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Put the shredded pork in a bowl. Ladle your sauce over the meat. Toss it with tongs to distribute the sauce. It’s even better the next day.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

I served my pulled pork in hot dog buns, with a little chipped cilantro.

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Enjoy!Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

Pulled Pork at The Hungry Mouse

 

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie serves as an Associate Creative Director at PARTNERS+simons, a boutique ad agency in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.

43 COMMENTS

    • Thanks so much, honey pie. Yeah, you could use this pork in sandwiches, toss it with pasta or rice. Top salad with it. (Um, pulled pork salad sounds wrong but totally delicious!)

      +Jessie

  1. Holy crap, that looks awesome. I must say, I’ve never seen a pork shoulder done like that before, but I really want to try it.

    Heh, I was nervous when I made my first pulled pork shoulder. I’m more than a little Yankee myself and writing about bbq in the oven from Boston can get some people upset. But you have to persevere, right? 😀

  2. I really think you have a great site, and I’m going out tomorrow to buy the dutch oven to make this recipe a possibility. With this entree and the chili garlic beef ribs, you’ve shown me that with minimal effort, quick prep time, and a short ingredient list primarily consisting of pantry staples everyone always has, you can put your oven to work to create exquisite dishes. I always knew the power of the \low and slow\ method to tender meat, but didn’t know how to practically apply it. It’s great because you can tackle the prep work, pop it into the oven and take care of other stuff like jobs around the house or finally watching those DVD’s still wrapped in plastic. Great job here, keep up the good work and I’ll be on the lookout for new posts!

    • Thanks so much!

      You’re right on about using the oven to do most of your work in the kitchen. Everybody’s so busy these days, it’s nice to be able to do a few things at once and still have good, homemade food.

      Hey, about buying a dutch oven. To be sure you get the biggest bang for your buck, get one that’s lined with enamel on the inside. Sometimes, dutch ovens are plain cast iron on the inside, which can react with certain foods. Not sure where you live, but I’ve seen some fairly inexpensive enameled cast iron pots at Target recently.

      Cheers!
      +Jessie

    • This is very similar to a carnitas recipe that I do on the stovetop. Head of garlic instead of onion, cinnamon stick , black peppercorns, bay leaf, cola & condensed milk. After it’s tender you take smaller chunks & brown it in the skillet in some of the fat. Absolutely delicious!

  3. JessieMouse,

    A great article! I make pulled pork in the oven to keep it from drying out, and I use an entirely different method. I make a zesty rub with all sorts of chile powders: cayenne, chipotle, ancho, guajillo and more. I put in dark brown sugar, salt and pepper, then add light olive oil to make a paste. Then it’s “get messy” time! I wash and dry the roast, then using my hands I coat the roast completely with the flavor paste. I put it on a rack inside a huge roaster and, with the lid off, I cook in the oven for 30-45 minutes at very high heat (about 500), then turn the heat down to about 250-275.

    After a couple hours I put the lid on the roaster and let the pork steam-braise overnight. My family gets a little crazy and can’t sleep well, and the dogs (and the cats) sleep in the kitchen. In the morning I let the roast cool out, then shred; pretty much the way you did yours. I save the pan drippings to make gravy with; it’s spicy, but surprisingly not so much.

    My family likes the pork served this way: Make a nice cole slaw. Get some big hamburger buns. Make a gravy from some of the pan oil, using either milk or chicken broth as the liquid. (I like a mix, actually.) On a plate, place both halves of a bun, put pork on both halves, then cover with gravy. Open-face pork sandwiches! (They’re not just for breakfast anymore.) Cole slaw and sour dill pickles on the side. It’s not really BBQ this way, but who cares, it tastes SO good…

    The Chile Doctor

    • Ahoy!

      Thanks so much! (And thanks for stopping by!)

      Love your technique. I’ll definitely give this a shot. Thanks for posting up detailed instructions. Do you leave the oven on 250 all night?

      Yum!
      +Jessie

  4. Just made it for the first time after having it at my friends house (where everyone went crazy for it). Did not have a dutch oven so decided to make it in the slow cooker. Reduced the coke but not the milk……Mine was about almost 4 pounds and I cooked it for 6 hours on hi. It’s shredded and looks exactly like your picture. Can’t wait for dinner, let’s see how my son likes it!! Making it with your recipe for fries.

  5. I’ve been looking for a “Pulled Pork in the oven” recipe for quiet a while.(I only have a gas oven with min. 170ªC temp.) When I saw Your’s,I thought-This is absolutely crazy,but might just do the trick!!
    When I started, my family thought I’d gone nuts-coca cola and condensed milk????
    1.5 kg of pork shoulder-trimmed-some fat but no skin.
    Now what about “the smoky aspect”?
    So I cut up 250 gr of bacon in 1.5 cm strips and rosted it a bit,into the pan it went.
    For the rest,I used Your recipe.
    170ºC for 3.5 Hours, turning it every 30 min.
    When ready I served it with the bacon strips on top.they had gone sort of sweet-“very nice”
    I’ll have to make another go at it,because nothing survived to see how it tastes the next day
    It seems Your recipe wasn’t all that “nutty” after all!!!
    Thank you very much.
    jan brasil

  6. I have always wanted to make pulled pork and I thought, I am gonna loo up how and found your recipe. It is in the oven now. My dog started staring at me the minute I started searing the pork. I must admit I do not even drink soda pop and here I felt so odd buying a huge 2 liter bottle. But I am looking forward to tasting it. Sounds like it will be a hit.

  7. Hi I was just wondering howmany this usually feeds and how long it lasts. I have a family of 4 but only have a 5qt dutch oven so seeing if I need to invest in getting a bigger one because I’m sure this will be a huge hit!

  8. WOW!! As an Aussie i have only ever seen this stuff on tv!
    My mouth has watered for years watching the BBQ cooking
    Pulled pork has been number one on my list of must try’s, i
    followed your recipe tonight, and OMGOSH!!! BEST PORK EVER!
    This recipe will go down as a family favorite here :))

  9. Okay I just put the Pig in the Oven let see what happens! !! Smells good and I know Coke a Cola does wonders for meat… now for sides!

  10. The recipe went down very well with my crowd though I did find it a little sweet for my taste. love the dog dexter (barking sous-chef!!). I can’t resist asking – did you choose him to go with your floor tiles or did the floor tiles come later – anyway it’s a lovely photo.

  11. I’m really a terrible cook, but I gave this pulled pork recipe a go. It turned out amazing!!! The pork was delicious and my friends all loved it and wanted the recipe. I topped it all off with your s’more slice for dessert which was also amazing and the recipe super easy to follow even for the greenest of cooks like me. It wasn’t too difficult to track down the American ingendients in the UK either which I like to think added to its goodness. Thank you so much for posting both of these fab recipes!

  12. I never made pulled pork before so I looked how to make it. This page came up first.I thought how weird cola? I only had chilli powder not flakes and the vinegar was seasoned so I used less. I really thought by the way it looked it was going to be horrible. Well let me tell you everything came out perfect. It was amazing how delious this dish was. I even bought bbq sauce from the store but this sauce beats any bottled sauce hands down. Funny our dog looked like he was gonna go in a coma with the smell …. he did enjoy a few bites….

  13. Greetings from Australia.
    I had never made pulled pork either and couldn’t believe you used 2 litres of coke! But it was absolutely delicious! I served with a green salad and green apple slices to cut through the sweetness. I can’t wait for lunch tomorrow with the leftovers on a bun with some Sriracha Sauce. My dog also wouldn’t leave my side in the kitchen whilst cooking,
    Thank you so much for posting.
    Alexis

  14. This has been my go to pulled pork recipe for a couple of years. Made it a few times and it’s always awesome! Making it tomorrow for Easter and so excited 🙂

    Always get a bunch of pork out of this one and with a sheet of jus roll and a can of mushroom soup it makes a great pie filling!

    Cheers

    Harley

  15. Hi, I tried your recipe for pulled pork tonight and it was wonderful!! Thanks so much for posting this really comprehensive technique! It was so easy so easy to follow!! Also love the pic of your doggy!!

    I substituted the cola for ginger ale, and used normal salt instead of kosher (I couldn’t find kosher anywhere) however I kept everything else exactly the same. It tasted so scrummy!!!!!

    Thanks again, will try a few more of your Hungry Mouse recipes!!Xx

  16. I did this today for my fiancées birthday meal (it was a surprise). He has only ever had pulled-pork at a couple restaurants and never cooked by me! I followed your recipe exactly (ignoring a recipe by a top-chef) and so glad I did! It was a total win – hands-down. Everyone indulged and were in heaven! Thank you! 🙂

  17. Thank you for this recipe, it’s so mega easy and effective, an impressive dish to take to a party! Doing for the second time tonight!

  18. HI THERE, FROM MANCHESTER ENGLAND.
    THANK YOU FOR A GREAT SITE,
    ALTHOUGH I DIDNT FOLLOW ALL YOUR INGREDIENTS I DID USE THE CONDENSED MILK AND COLA. SMOOTHERED MY JOINT IN OIL/DIJON MUSTARD SEASONED SALT, AFTER SCORING AND FILLING IN WITH WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE AND TABASCO, LET SIT TODRY IN FRIDGERATOR FOR 24HOURS, THEN FOLLOWED YOUR METHOD.CHANGED TIMINGS,COOKED OVER NIGHT 10HOURS+ ON 110C, EASIER FOR ME TO COOK THIS WAY AS I WORK 12HOUR DAYS. ADDED HOMEMADE TOMATO SAUCE, EXTRA GARLIC AND TWO HABENERO’S TO MAKE SAUCE, COATED MEAT.JUST WAITING TO ENJOY. THE SMELL IN MY KITCHEN PUT ME STRAIGHT BACK IN INDIANA.

  19. Wow the loneliness is waiting for it to cook in oven and so far great..it has About 2:15 hrs to go…and it’s smelling good. Squirrels on my porch can smell it and neighbors too… No one is getting any but i think I’ll set it all up and eat it tomorrow….so Fuhgeddaboudit. ..thanks for recipe…a reason to use enamel cast iron pot…

  20. Oh my goodness 24 hrs later…so good…thank you…is there a recipe for beef like this one…i froze half of the yield…First time and i could only think about the next time i make it…mine was almost 8 lbs…i bet the yield was over 5 lbs..try to buy 5 pounds of pulled pork cooked in a deli…..Fuhgeddaboudit

  21. Folks make sure you get the right cut of meat. The third time i bought a pork shoulder but it was actually a boned in shoulder that shoulda been labeled as pork roast meant to bake. I used this recipe and of course it was not pulled pork..,it came out looking like roast pork…if you’re not sure ask a butcher if this cut is for pulled pork..just ssyin…store gave me a refund

  22. This looks like it’s good recipe, but there seems to be more than way to make pulled pork. With all the liquid isn’t this boiled pork? May try this recipe and different versions such as just slow oven roast or bbq..

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