Slow cookers make pulled pork easy.

How to Slow Cook BBQ Pulled Pork With Brown Sugar Rub

by Zora Hughes

It may not be traditional, but making pulled pork with a slow cooker makes a complicated cooking process a lot easier. Pork shoulder, the cut typically used for pulled pork, turns into melt-in-your-mouth goodness in the low, moist heat of the slow cooker. You don't have to worry about a complicated smoker grill setup, constantly adjusting temperature or monitoring a water pan. Once you've seasoned the pork with your favorite brown sugar rub, throw it in the pot with a few additional ingredients and relax. You can play with the kids and run errands for the next several hours, while the slow cooker does all the work.

Trim the fat surrounding the flesh of the pork shoulder by pulling it away from the meat and using a sharp kitchen knife to slice through the connective tissue as you pull.

Cover the pork shoulder with a brown sugar rub all over. For a basic brown sugar rub, simply add a few savory spices of your choice to brown sugar to balance out the sweetness. Options include garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper.

Brown the pork shoulder in a Dutch oven on the stove and place in your slow cooker. Add additional ingredients as you see fit, such as sliced onions, crushed garlic, cloves, bay leaves or stewed tomatoes.

Add a braising liquid of your choice. Many pulled pork recipes called for braising the pork in beer or wine, but you can also use apple cider, any type of meat stock, barbecue sauce and even root beer or a cola soda. This is an optional step for more flavor and not a requirement, as the meat will give off its own juices to keep itself moist.

Cover the slow cooker and cook the pork shoulder on a low or high setting. A 4- to 6-pound pork shoulder takes roughly five to seven hours to cook on a high setting and 10 to 12 hours on a low setting. The pork is ready when you can easily pull the meat apart with a fork and it has reached an internal temperature of at least 190 F.

Remove the pork shoulder from the slow cooker carefully with tongs and a slotted spoon, and transfer it to a plate. Let it rest until the outside is cool enough to handle.

Pull the pork shoulder apart with gloved hands or with forks until it is in shreds. Flavor the pulled pork however you prefer, using pan drippings, your favorite barbecue sauce, vinegar or a mustard sauce. Serve on burger buns.

Items you will need

  • Seasonings, to taste
  • Dutch oven
  • Slow cooker
  • Onion powder, optional
  • Garlic powder, optional
  • Braising liquid, optional
  • Tongs
  • Slotted spoon


  • Cut the pork shoulder into smaller chunks if necessary to fit in the slow cooker.
  • Store leftover pulled pork in an airtight container in the refrigerator for three to four days, or in a freezer-safe container in the freezer for up to three months.
  • Save the pork drippings left in the slow cooker to moisten leftover pulled pork. Skim any fat from the drippings before storing in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
  • Reheat leftover barbecue in a saucepan on the stove on low heat with the leftover drippings, or covered in a covered baking dish in the oven at 350 F, until the pork is fully reheated.


  • Avoid bacteria that causes food-borne illnesses by putting the leftover cook pork in the refrigerator within two hours after serving it.


About the Author

Based in Los Angeles, Zora Hughes has been writing travel, parenting, cooking and relationship articles since 2010. Her work includes writing city profiles for Groupon. She also writes screenplays and won the S. Randolph Playwriting Award in 2004. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in television writing/producing and a Master of Arts Management in entertainment media management, both from Columbia College.

Photo Credits

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