Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: May 3, 2022

Pulled pork is surely one of the most delicious, adaptable, and cost-effective crowd-pleasing meals out there. It isn't tricky, but the shredding may seem intimidating.

So let's see what the experienced chefs suggest to help you shred the pork so that you too can make the perfect pulled pork to enjoy with the special people in your world.

Quick Summary

  • You need to use a suitable cut of meat, such as a pork shoulder, to shred pork.
  • To shred the meat, you will need to let it cook for a long time at a low heat.
  • Then, use two forks and pull apart in opposite directions to get long shards of tender meat.

Shredding the pork is the final step to making pulled pork.

There are, however, a few essential steps to get to that point. Let's take a look at these.

The First Step To Shredding Pork

We will get into the shredding technique soon, but everything starts with making sure you have the right piece of pork.

The wrong cut will mean that you won't be able to shred the meat

Pork Shoulder

meat on a chopping board

The perfect cut to use for pulled pork is pork shoulder. It has loads of marbling and connective tissue.

This means that the pork will soften as it slowly cooks, ultimately creating a piece of meat that almost falls apart.

Pork shoulder blade roast, pork shoulder roast, or boneless pork shoulder are all great for making pulled pork.

Added to that, pork shoulder is easy to find and one of the most inexpensive cuts of meat [1].

Pork Loin

Pork shoulder is a fattier cut, making it juicy and perfect for shredding. You can consider a pork loin for a lower fat version but be sure to follow an appropriate recipe [2].

Boston Butt

The quick answer – a  Boston butt is another name for a pork shoulder – so it's perfect for making pulled pork [3].

How To Cook The Pork

stovetop and an oven being used

Most recipes for pulled pork will call for long, slow, low heat cooking. The breaking down of the connective tissue takes time. You can cook your meat any way you choose, as long as it's low and slow.

On The Smoker

You'll need to smoke the meat for at least 4 or 5 hours [4].

In A Slow Cooker

The slow cooker is perfect for when you don't have time to watch your smoker for hours at a time.

First, you might need to trim some of the fat and cut the meat to fit into the slow cooker.

Next, add a sauce or broth and then set your slow cooker to cook for 5 or 6 hours on a high setting. Alternatively, cook for 10 to 11 hours on a low setting [5].

In The Oven

A Dutch oven with a tightly fitting lid is perfect for cooking your pork in the oven.

For tender, juicy results, keep the temperature at 350°F or less for 4 to 6 hours [6].

On the Stovetop

A Dutch oven is also perfect for making pulled pork on a stovetop. The meat needs to simmer for 1 to 2 hours until tender [2].

How to Shred Pulled Pork

using fork to pull pork

Okay, so you've cooked your pork shoulder or pork loin.

Now it's time to shred it so that it is ready for all the sandwiches, tacos, and all the other pulled pork dishes of your dreams.

  • Cut the meat into large pieces on a cutting board.
  • To get long, thin shreds of meat, insert two forks into a piece of meat and pull in opposite directions.
  • Repeat with each piece of meat.
  • Place in shallow containers.
  • Cover and refrigerate for up to three days or freeze for up to three months.

Use The Right Tools

shredding pork with shredding claws

You can use a pair of sturdy forks to pull your meat apart. If you encounter too much resistance, it is likely because the meat is undercooked or overcooked.

A set of shredding claws is also ideal for pulling the meat apart quickly.

Although time-consuming,  you can also use your fingers if the meat is cool enough to handle.

An electric hand mixer is excellent for quickly shredding large quantities of pork, but it can also result in your meat being too mushy if you overdo it [7].

It really doesn't get simpler than that. But what if your pork is not pulling apart as it should?

Why Your Pulled Pork Might Not Be Shredding

cook thinking

There are a few reasons why you might find shredding your pulled pork to be a challenge.

Did You Use The Wrong Cut?

Leaner cuts of meat are not ideal for making pulled pork, so if you choose to use something other than a pork shoulder, such as a pork loin, make sure you're following a recipe for that particular cut of meat.

Did You Trim Off Too Much Fat?

You might be concerned by the amount of fat you see on the meat, but try not to trim too much fat off before cooking.

The fat is key to getting tender, juicy results, and most of the fat will render out while it is cooking .

Did You Overcook The Pork?

You can easily overcook your meat if you cook it too fast over high heat. Instead of being tender enough to fall apart, it might become dry and tough.

Remember the keywords: "low" and "slow".

To try and save it, chop the pork into small pieces after it's time to rest.

Remember to save as much of the cooking liquid as possible to rehydrate the meat.

Is The Pork Undercooked?

Aside from the health issues associated with undercooked pork, if the meat has not been cooked for long enough, the collagen will not have had a chance to convert into gelatin, and the fat will not have rendered. This means your meat will still be tough.

To fix, get the meat cooking again until it is appropriately cooked and then let it rest for 45 minutes before attempting to shred it again.

Did You Cook The Pork Too Fast?

Even if it is not dry and tough, sometimes, if the meat is cooked too quickly at the wrong heat, it won't fall apart because the connective tissue has not had time to dissolve.

If you cooked the pork too quickly, try to save it by finishing it in a crockpot or the oven with a small amount of cooking liquid or chicken stock added to the pot.

Then, cook it on low until the meat is tender.

Conclusion

Pulled pork is usually very easy to shred if you have used the correct cut of meat and cooked it correctly.

There's nothing quite like a perfectly cooked pulled pork, so set your steel grill, stover, or oven on low and take your time.


References:

[1,2,3]     https://www.finedininglovers.com/article/science-pulled-pork

[4,5,6,7]     https://www.bhg.com/recipes/how-to/cooking-basics/how-to-make-pulled-pork/

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