Brined Pulled Pork for the Slow Cooker

slow cooked pork shoulder on a cutting board on a green checked napkin on a wooden table

Cooked low and slow after a long brining, there’s nothing quite like tender, succulent pulled pork. Nearly culture every worldwide has figured out that the key to making pork moist and delicious lies in using an salty, acidic liquid to marinate the meat prior to cooking. This recipe takes advantage of that ancient wisdom.

How to Traditionally Brine Pork

In different parts of Asia, pork is often cut into small pieces and marinated in rice vinegar before cooking in pork fat. In Argentina and Venezuela, pork is traditionally marinated in red wine vinegar. In India, pork is soaked in yogurt before seasoning and cooking. In Mexico and Central America, it is typical to marinate pork in orange or lime juice. And here in the United States, we have a long tradition of cider vinegar-marinated pork barbecue.

Vinegar, citrus, or yogurt provides the acid that breaks down the meat so that it remains tender and succulent, even after long cooking. And similar to brining and drying your nuts and seeds, or soaking your grains in whey, marinating pork may also have the added benefit of improving its digestibility and nutrition.

Whether cooking chops, ribs, loins or roasts, marinating in an acidic brine can make any pork dish more tender and delicious. Your marinade could be as simple as a 12–24 hour soak in vinegar and water (2:1), plus some sea salt, or it could be a more elaborate marinade with seasonings and spices to make dinner extra special. (If you have a thick piece of meat or a roast, be sure to score or puncture it so the marinade can penetrate deep within.)

How to Buy Good Pork

If you are trying to live a healthier, more eco-friendly lifestyle, where you buy your pork and how it was raised are extremely important factors to consider. While all industrial-scale meat production is inhumane and environmentally devastating, commercial pig farms are arguably among the worst of all the concentrated livestock operations, from both an animal welfare and an environmental perspective. The hog manure lagoons alone destroy all quality of life for miles around them.

But not all pork is created equal. Fortunately, it is becoming easier and easier to find pork from pigs raised humanely and sustainably on pasture and forest—where pigs naturally live and have been raised by our ancestors for thousands of years.

At the grocery store, look for labels that include “organic,” “pasture-raised,” “humanely raised,” or “Animal Welfare certified.”

Online, you can find pasture-raised, heritage breed pork from small family farms all over the United States. These farms will ship your meat order on dry ice to you, so choose one close to you, like U.S. Wellness Meats in Missouri, Well-Rooted Farm in Oregon, or White Oak Pastures in Georgia.

For the best price, find a local farmer will sell pork to you directly. EatWild.com can help you find a local, small farmer sustainably producing pasture-raised meat in your community.

slow cooked pork shoulder on a cutting board on a green checked napkin on a wooden table
4.86 from 7 votes

Slow Cooker Brined Pulled Pork

Traditionally brined and marinated, this slow cooker pulled pork comes out tender, moist and delicious every time. Perfect for tacos, sandwiches and more!
CourseDinner
CuisineGAPS, Gluten Free, Paleo
Makes6 servings
Calories139
Prep Time 1 day
Cook Time 6 hours
Total Time 1 day 6 hours
This recipe may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Equipment


Ingredients
 
 

Brine

Dry Rub


Instructions
 

  • Score your shoulder roast with a skewer or sharp knife to allow the marinade to penetrate deeper.
  • Place the scored pork shoulder into the ceramic bowl of your slow cooker. In a 2-to-1 ratio of vinegar and water, pour enough vinegar and water into the slow cooker to assure the pork is completely covered. Add the sea salt.
  • Put the ceramic bowl in the refrigerator and allow the pork to marinate 12–24 hours.
  • After marinating, pour out enough of the liquid from the ceramic bowl to expose about an inch or two of the pork roast.
  • Add the onion wedges to the remaining liquid.
  • Mix together all the ingredients of the dry rub and cover the exposed surface of the pork roast with it. Let any extra fall off into the liquid in the bowl.
  • Place the bowl into the base of the slow cooker and cook on High until the pork is tender and falls apart easily, 6 to 8 hours.
  • Carefully remove the pork to a large container and, using a pair of forks, shred the meat. Remove any bones or other inedible bits. Add cooking liquid from the bowl for extra moisture or to make a sauce.
  • Enjoy alone or with your favorite BBQ sauce. Great for tacos and sandwiches, too!


Nutrition

Calories: 139kcalCarbohydrates: 24gProtein: 2gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 1mgPotassium: 276mgFiber: 2gSugar: 19gVitamin A: 760IUVitamin C: 2.2mgCalcium: 60mgIron: 2.8mg

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29 thoughts on “Brined Pulled Pork for the Slow Cooker”

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  1. Thank you for at least mentioning how our pig meat gets to us. Most people skip that step because we all want to assume meat just naturally slides off the animal and on to our plates and no harm comes to the animal during that process.

  2. 1/4 C of salt seems like a lot of salt. I’m curious why so much is needed. What’s it’s function? Does it taste salty when done?

  3. Avatar photo
    April @ The 21st Century Housewife

    I really enjoyed reading this post – I can’t bear the thought of factory farms, and won’t eat meat unless it is pasture raised or organic (unless I am served it when I am a guest in someone’s home). I think it is really important that everyone be informed so they can be aware that it really matters how an animal is raised for ethical, nutritional and environmental reasons.

    I often cook pork shoulder in the slow cooker, and am always looking for new ways of doing it so your recipe is perfect for me. I like the mustard and spices you have used, and I look forward to giving it a try.

  4. Great information. Thanks so much for including it. I love posts that are more than just a recipe. I think that makes me a bit nerdy though 🙂

  5. Avatar photo
    Cathy@My1929Charmer

    My hubs is happy you shared this recipe, since he enjoys pork so much. also i’ve also told him it wasn’t healthy so he was quite happy to hear it is. He and I
    are so glad you shared your creative inspiration with Sunday’s Best – your creativity helped make the party a success!

    1. As long as you are eating organic or pasture-raised pork, it is indeed very healthy, and your husband can enjoy it guilt-free! Thanks for hosting Sunday’s Best! See you next week!

  6. Avatar photo
    Alea @ Premeditated Leftovers

    I enjoyed reading the history of pork. Great crock pot recipe – I am pinning it to slow cooker board.

  7. Avatar photo
    Cathy@My1929Charmer

    Thanks so much for all this great information on pork. Loved learning about the history, nutrients etc about pork. You don’t have to worry about my hubs, pork is his meat, now more so knowing all this about it. I will give you recipe a try, sound so very good. Are those your little, or should I say healthy pigs? My fingers are crossed you’ll share your creative inspiration tonight with Sunday’s Best – sharing is a good thing!

  8. This is a great post and a wonderful Pork Shoulder Recipe, it looks delicious! Hope you are having a great week and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  9. Avatar photo
    Debbie @ Easy Natural Food

    Really interesting article, I’m going to post it on my FB page! But one question – I have the same crockpot, and I use hardly any liquid otherwise everything comes out too watery. It sounds like even after you pour off the liquid there’d still be a several cups of liquid in there. How much liquid is left when it finishes cooking?

    1. There is a lot of liquid throughout the whole process. You are basically cooking the roast in the marinade, almost as if you were simmering vegetables in water. Once the roast is done, you carefully remove the meat from the liquid entirely, and discard the liquid. (It is mostly vinegar and it doesn’t taste particularly good, unless you like a sour sauce on your roast). The meat will be a bit damp from the liquid (just as broccoli would be from simmering water), but it won’t be watery. Pull the meat apart with a fork, and any remaining liquid will shed right off!

    2. 5 stars
      The liquid is actually excellent both as a base from which to make a BBQ sauce or to use as pork stock in recipes that would go well with vinegar. I put the crock with the liquid in the refrigerator then, when the fat solidified on the top, I removed it with a spoon and stored it in small freezer containers so I could use it later as fat. I used part of that fat, along with a little butter and a little olive oil, as well as a little bit of the liquid, to make baked potatoes that were beyond delicious! I also used the layer of fat on the top of the shoulder, where all the seasoning and spices had gone, and which had remained above the liquid, at breakfast. I fried that yummy layer of fat in a skillet and broke a couple of eggs into it. When the eggs were done, I added a few dashes of hot green chile sauce and devoured that yumminess! I am now soaking some beans (lots of beans!) so tomorrow I can cook them in the remaining liquid (with the bone still in there). This is an incredibly delicious and useful recipe, Thanks for posting it!

  10. We get our pork from a neighbouring dairy farm. I often cook pork in the slow cooker , but pulled meat is not something we often eat in Australia!

    1. The nice thing is that once the meat is done, you can use it in any way you wish! In America, we eat it pulled in sandwiches or with a sauce, but it could just as easily be served in other ways, or added as protein to another dish. Enjoy!

  11. Avatar photo
    Carrie- young living oil lady

    Thank you for sharing with us at Healthy 2Day Wednesdays! Hope to see you again next week. 🙂

  12. Avatar photo
    Julia @ juliecache.com

    What a coincidence that I’m making this tomorrow. Thank you for joining the Frugal Tuesday Tip. I didn’t quite see the frugality angle played up here, so I thought I would add that cooking at home is a very economical way to feed your household when compared to eating out.

    1. Thanks for your comment! In addition to saving money and electricity by using a slow cooker at home, buying a whole or half hog from a local farm is an OUTSTANDING way to save a lot of money on meat.

  13. Great info. we butchered our first pig this spring. what an experience. even though we have been doing our own chickens for some time this was something else. I dont care for pork but my Husband and 2 yr old LOVE the stuff. I will have to tell him about the acid soak.

  14. Avatar photo
    Happy Mrs Bass @ LAMS

    Wow… so much information! 🙂 I occasionally eat pork roast when my hubbs helps our friends butcher their farm pigs. Happy healthy pigs are certainly the only way to go if you eat pork! Thanks for sharing at Living Green!!!

  15. Avatar photo
    Mary Hudak-Colllins

    This was very informative! There was so much that I didn’t even realize when considering pork purchase. Thank you for sharing this info and recipe in our linky. I will certainly keep all of this in mind in the future when making pork purchases?

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