Pulled pork has become an American classic that’s enjoyed all over the world. It is traditionally a barbeque dish – the meat being cooked slowly over the fire until it falls off the bone and can be easily shredded.
However, not everyone has access to outdoor cooking facilities, so people have devised ways to slow cook it in the oven or slow cooker too.
The best cut of pork for slow cooking is the shoulder because it has optimal amounts of fat for keeping the meat moist as it roasts.
Whatever cut you use, make sure it is skinless to allow for maximum flavor penetration of the smokiness, sweet marinade, or dry rub.
Top chefs swear by a mixture of one-third salt, one-third sugar, and one-third paprika to rub on the outside of the meat before cooking very slowly for a long time.
You may have prepared a pork shoulder and are disappointed that it isn’t shredding easily. Read on as we troubleshoot and suggest some fixes for you.
Pulled Pork Not Shredding
1. Cook It Longer – Perhaps You Bought a Tough Meat Cut
When you are buying meat for pulled pork, keep in mind that not every pork cut is suitable for making pulled pork. While the shoulder is the best, any fatty pork roast will work. Bone out or in, the choice is yours.
Tougher cuts like the neck will not shred easily. Perhaps you bought a different cut of pork and now need a fix because it won’t shred.
Try cooking it for longer with a little more liquid to dissolve any tough fibers. This should solve the problem.
2. Cook It Some More at a Low Temperature
Pork shoulder needs to be cooked low and slow if you want it to be tender enough for shredding. Two hours per kilogram at 140-160 degrees Celcius will give you the best results.
Cooking the pork at too high a temperature too fast will result in tough meat that will be difficult to shred. To fix the problem, add some more cooking liquid, turn the heat down and continue to cook it with a lid on or covered with foil.
This will allow the tough fibers time to soften and dissolve in the cooking liquor, making the meat easier to shred. Always remember to thaw the meat properly before cooking.
Trying to cook it from frozen will result in it being undercooked and tough in the center. Don’t remove the fat until after it’s cooked; it adds succulence.
3. Rather Overcook it Than Undercook It
Probably the most common cause of pork not shredding easily is undercooking. The meat should be falling off the bone, if there is one, or should be able to be effortlessly broken apart with two forks.
If you suspect that yours hasn’t cooked for long enough, fix it by returning it to the fire or oven and continuing cooking. Do not increase the heat, rather increase the time.
The internal meat temperature should reach 195 degrees Fahrenheit (91 degrees Celcius) for it to shred properly.
If you have the time, marinating the cut overnight before cooking will yield superior tenderness and flavor.
There are many marinade recipes online, ranging from Asian-flavored ones made with soy sauce and pineapple to traditional salt, pepper, paprika, and sugar rubs. Take your pick!
To fix pulled pork that you haven’t marinaded beforehand, you can always mix up a marinade halfway through the cooking cycle and add it to the meat.
This will add flavor and succulence, and provide more liquid for the tough collagen fibers to dissolve into. Then, simply cook it low and slow for another hour or two. Problem solved!
5. Try Our Recipe
The fifth way to fix your pork that is not shredding is to cook it our way! We hope our troubleshooting guide has helped you to identify the reason for your pork shoulder not shredding well.
Please try out our no-fail recipe below for pork you can pull apart with no effort at all.
Delicious Pulled Pork
- 1 can ginger beer or ginger ale
- 60 ml Dijon mustard
- 60 ml runny honey
- 30 ml Worcestershire sauce
- 2 cloves crushed garlic
- 15 ml paprika
- 5 ml salt
- 5 ml black pepper
- 1 ½ kg pork shoulder roast, thawed
- Using a medium-sized bowl, mix the ginger beer, mustard, honey, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, paprika, salt, and pepper.
- Stir to dissolve the honey.
- Put the pork into the slow cooker bowl and pour the marinade over it.
- Cover the bowl with foil and put it in the fridge to marinate overnight.
- Turn the pork before you go to bed.
- In the morning, remove the pork from the fridge and cook it on Low in the slow cooker bowl for 8-10 hours.
- Turn it once during the cooking time at the 8-hour mark. If the marinade evaporates, add a little water.
- Check for tenderness after 8 hours. If it does not shred easily with a fork, cook it for a further hour or two.
- When done, use 2 forks to pull and shred the meat. Throw away any large pieces of fat and remove the bone if there is one.
- Put the meat into a serving dish and pour any remaining marinade over it.
- Serve in fresh rolls with barbeque sauce and coleslaw.