Pulled Pork with Tangy Barbecue Sauce

Tested & Perfected Recipes
Pulled Pork with Tangy Barbecue Sauce

Slow-roasted until the meat is succulent and fork-tender, this pulled pork barbecue is an easy crowd pleaser.

Rubbed with barbecue spices and slow-roasted until the meat is fork-tender, this pulled pork is a family favorite. It’s simple to prepare and takes just minutes to get in the oven; the hardest part of the recipe is trying not to eat all of the pork as you’re pulling it apart. The sauce is a hybrid of a sweet BBQ sauce and Carolina-style vinegar-based sauce; it gets its dark color and smoky flavor from the pan juices.

What You’ll Need For The Pulled Pork

ingredients for the pulled pork

Pork butt (which is also sometimes called Boston butt) is misleadingly named; it does not come from the rear end of the pig. Rather, it comes from the thicker, well-marbled upper shoulder. It is not to be confused with a picnic roast, which comes from the lower end of the shoulder and is a bit leaner.

What You’ll Need For The Tangy Barbecue Sauce

barbecue sauce ingredients

How To Make Pulled Pork with Tangy Barbecue Sauce

To begin, preheat the oven to 300°F and set an oven rack in the lower-middle position.
Pat the pork dry with paper towels.

In a small bowl, combine the salt, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, dry mustard, brown sugar, and pepper in a small bowl.

pulled pork spice rub ingredients in bowl

Mix until evenly combined.

mixed spice rub

Place the pork in a roasting pan. Rub the spice blend all over the pork, turning to coat evenly (don’t leave any of the spice blend in the bottom of the pan; keep turning the meat until it all adheres). Roast for 6 to 6-1/2 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the pork registers 195°F.
pork shoulder ready to roast

While the pork roasts, make the barbecue sauce. Combine the ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard, garlic, and cayenne pepper in a saucepan over medium heat.

sauce ingredients in saucepan

Simmer gently, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about ten minutes.

simmering barbecue sauce

Remove from the heat and let sit until the pork is done.
thickened barbecue sauce

When the pork is done, take it out of the oven and set it on a cutting board or platter; tent with aluminum foil and let rest for about 10 minutes.

roasted pork shoulder

Pour off and discard the fat from the roasting pan (remember the handles are hot). Add 3/4 cup water to the roasting pan and set it over a single burner on medium heat; scrape with a wooden spoon to release all the brown bits. Cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until the liquid is reduced by about half. (The liquid will be very dark; that’s okay.)

deglazing the roasting pan

Pour into the saucepan with the barbecue sauce and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
finished barbecue sauce with deglazing liquid mixed in

While the pork is still warm, use two forks to pull the meat away from the bone into large shreds. Remove and discard any large pieces of fat or sinew.

shredding pork shoulder

Put the shredded pork in a large bowl or dish and pour about two-thirds of the barbecue sauce over it. Toss so that the pork is evenly coated with the sauce. Taste and add more sauce, little by little, if desired.

adding the barbecue sauce to the pulled pork

To serve, spoon the pulled pork onto the bottom half of each bun. Pass the remaining barbecue sauce on the side.

My starting point for this recipe was Tyler Florence’s Pulled Pork Barbecue recipe on Food Network. I used my own spice rub and barbecue sauce, but the cooking method is identical to the original recipe.

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Pulled Pork with Tangy Barbecue Sauce

Slow-roasted until the meat is succulent and fork-tender, this pulled pork barbecue is an easy crowd pleaser.

Servings: 12
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 6 Hours 15 Minutes
Total Time: 6 Hours 35 Minutes

Ingredients

For the Pork

  • One 5- to 6-pound bone-in pork butt (sometimes called Boston butt; see note)
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Tangy Barbecue Sauce

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup water, for deglazing the roasting pan

For Serving

  • 12 hamburger buns (lightly toasted and buttered, if desired)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F and set an oven rack in the lower-middle position.
  2. Pat the pork dry with paper towels.
  3. Mix the salt, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, dry mustard, brown sugar, and pepper in a small bowl. Place the pork in a roasting pan. Rub the spice blend all over the pork, turning to coat evenly (don't leave any of the spice blend in the bottom of the pan; keep turning the meat until it all adheres).
  4. Roast, uncovered, for 6 to 6-1/2 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the pork registers 195°F.
  5. While the pork roasts, make the barbecue sauce. Combine the ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard, garlic, and cayenne pepper in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer gently, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about ten minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit until the pork is done.
  6. When the pork is done, take it out of the oven and set it on a cutting board or platter; tent with aluminum foil and let rest for about 10 minutes.
  7. Pour off and discard the fat from the roasting pan (remember the handles are hot). Add 3/4 cup water to the roasting pan and set it over a single burner on medium heat; scrape with a wooden spoon to release all the brown bits. Cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until the liquid is reduced by about half. (The liquid will be very dark; that's okay.) Pour into the saucepan with the barbecue sauce and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  8. While the pork is still warm, use two forks to pull the meat away from the bone into large shreds. Remove and discard any large pieces of fat or sinew. Put the shredded pork in a large bowl or dish and pour about two-thirds of the barbecue sauce over it. Toss so that the pork is evenly coated with the sauce. Taste and add more sauce, little by little, if desired.
  9. To serve, spoon the pulled pork onto the bottom half of each bun. Pass the remaining barbecue sauce on the side.
  10. Note: Pork butt (which is also sometimes called Boston butt) is misleadingly named; it does not come from the rear end of the pig. Rather, it comes from the thicker, well-marbled upper shoulder. It is not to be confused with a picnic roast, which comes from the lower end of the shoulder and is a bit leaner. If you can only find a boneless butt, that's okay.
  11. Make-Ahead Instructions: The pork can be made entirely ahead of time and stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. To reheat just a few servings of pulled pork, toss the pork in a microwave-safe bowl. Add a bit more sauce if the pork seems dry, and cover the dish with a plate or lid. Microwave the pork for one to two minutes, or until hot. To reheat a larger quantity, place the pork in a baking dish and add a bit more sauce if the pork seems dry. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place in a 250°F-oven for about 30 minutes, or until hot.
  12. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: Place the pulled pork in a zip-top freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (12 servings)
  • Serving size: 1 sandwich
  • Calories: 485
  • Fat: 20 g
  • Saturated fat: 7 g
  • Carbohydrates: 45 g
  • Sugar: 23 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 30 g
  • Sodium: 691 mg
  • Cholesterol: 89 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Reviews & Comments

  • Are you using a smoked or unsmoked pork shoulder for this pulled pork recipe?

    • — Maria on April 9, 2021
    • Reply
    • Unsmoked – hope you enjoy if you make it!

      • — Jenn on April 9, 2021
      • Reply
  • So excited to try this. I am making this only for a few people so my pork is 3.25 lbs do you recommend cutting the spices in half?

    Thanks!

    • — Colleen on March 10, 2021
    • Reply
    • Yes, I think you can get away with that. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on March 10, 2021
      • Reply
  • Has anyone tried this in a crock pot or instant pot ? How long did you cook it for if so?

    • — RN on March 4, 2021
    • Reply
  • Made this the other night and it was fabulous! To be honest, some of us didn’t even use the bbq sauce because the rub had flavored up the pork so perfectly. Put the pulled pork on fancy brioche hamburger buns and dinner was served. Excellent. Will be my new go-to pulled pork recipe!

    • — Mary M. on February 15, 2021
    • Reply
  • Can this be done in a slow cooker?

    • — Linda on February 4, 2021
    • Reply
  • This recipe has quickly become a family favorite!! It is so delicious and sublime! The spice rub is so easy and flavorful. The slow roasting of the pork keeps it very moist and easy to pull apart. My friends and family say this is restaurant quality. Delicious!!!

    • — Barb Brady on January 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is a great recipe for a crowd!! The only adjustment I made was to add 1/4 cup of bourbon to the sauce. Try it…you’ll like it too!!

    • — Glenna Maskal on January 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • I researched and read through various online versions and decided on this one. I followed it exactly. It was not hard to follow.My family raved for days. My son said it was the BEST he’d every had! I served it on bread rolls and coleslaw. Delicious!

    • — Teresa Proano on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is the recipe that my family asks for all the time! It’s absolutely delicious. Once I tried to save time by using a store bought BBQ sauce – big mistake! The one in the recipe does not take much time and is totally worth it! Thanks again for all of the wonderful recipes!

    • — Erin on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is a fantastic recipe. I have made it at least 3 times since I discovered this recipe last winter. It’s easy and mostly hands off, the BBQ sauce is fantastic, and it comes out perfect every time. It’s a great recipe for a crowd, and leftovers reheat well in microwave. One thing I sometimes forget is to cook it in my stainless steel pan so that I can then cook the drippings on top of the stove afterwards. When I forgot and roasted it in a pyrex, I added hot water and released the brown bits without putting it on the stove top and it seemed to work fine, as there wasn’t a lot stuck on anyway. I serve it with homemade Hawaiian buns and Cole Slaw. I have tried other recipes in the past but this has ended my search! Thanks, Jenn

    • — Marie on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This pulled pork was delicious! It took a long time to make but it was very worth it. We love it with dinner rolls. Sauce is a little too tangy, but the flavor is amazing. The edge got a little too dry and tough after in the oven for a long time, but the rest of the meat was fork tender.

    • — Serena on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I accidentally bought the picnic cut, do you think it will turn out ok? Should I make adjustments?

    • — Laura on January 9, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Laura, A picnic cut will work without any adjustments but it won’t be quite as tender (it’s a slightly leaner cut). Please LMK how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on January 11, 2021
      • Reply
  • I cooked this exactly as written. The sauce mellowed out overnight as I made the pork and the sauce the day before serving. It was fantastic, and we ate it on mini tortillas with onions and pickles as street tacos. Another home run Jen – thank you!

    • — Heather on December 24, 2020
    • Reply
  • I cut my pork butt in quarters and each is not 3 3/4 pounds only. How do I adjust this recipe?

    • — Barb. on December 15, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Barb, If you’re saying that your pieces are about 3-3/4 pounds, I’d guesstimate they would need 4+ hours in the oven but to be sure, use a thermometer and insert it the thickest part of the pork. When it registers 195°F, you’re good to go. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on December 16, 2020
      • Reply
  • Hi! I did this recipe with a second cut brisket and it was fantastic! Thank you very much!

    • — Chaya Kurz on December 8, 2020
    • Reply
  • I have been making recipes from your website religiously throughout the last several months and thank goodness for you!! I have 6 in my family (Boys 20,18,13 and a girl 15) so every meal in my house counts as do leftovers if there are any. It all began with your baked ziti recipe (still may be the #1 recipe for us) which I stumbled upon accidentally somehow, and then I knew I needed to make more of your recipes. All of your recipes are Family Favorites!! This Pulled Pork Recipe was no different- AMAZING and prompted me to write my first review. I have a recipe I make in my crockpot; it’s only because I work from home now that I would even entertain anything different; but in the oven…why not, I am home now. I will never go back to my crockpot and the kids won’t let me. Served on grilled burger buns but also grilled some Sweet Hawaiian Slider rolls and had coleslaw on the side to add on top (Served alongside a tossed salad with your Zesty Italian dressing) Tomorrow… your Thai Chicken Curry :).

    • — Susi on December 8, 2020
    • Reply
    • So glad you happened upon the blog many months ago and that you’ve enjoyed everything you’ve made — thanks for taking the time to let me know! 🙂

      • — Jenn on December 9, 2020
      • Reply
  • Made this last night using 2x 2.5 lb pork sirloin tip roasts from Costco. It only took about 4.5 hours of cooking time. The meat is leaner than pork butt so it didn’t fall apart, but I was able to shred it and it wasn’t dry. Super delicious!

    • — Holly on December 7, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, I’ve made this recipe quite a few times now, we LOVE it!! But I’ve gotta question that I keep forgetting to ask, well 2 questions actually.
    First question: Should the fat cap be topside UP or down?
    I’ve seen a few other recipes for pork butt, and they recommended FAT/CAP side UP.
    I’ve usually had it down because you didn’t suggest that…

    Question 2: Again, looking at a few other recipes, IKR, I should STICK to YOUR Recipes, RIGHT!!? (I always DO I Swear!) 🙂
    Back to the question…So a few others suggest that after your pork is done, let it rest for 15-1 hour long, THEN put it BACK in a 500 degree preheated oven for about 15 minutes so the fat around the meat gets dark and really CRISPY!! I thought that that sounds kinda yummy, but what are YOUR thoughts on that?!
    I’m preparing this again in the morning, but…No Rush!

    Thanks Much,
    Gigi B.

    • — Gigi B on November 13, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi GiGi, so glad you like this! In regard to your first question, I usually put the fat cap facing up but it really doesn’t matter that much. And for question number two, when I make this it’s already really dark and crispy when I take it out of the oven so I don’t think that extra step is necessary but you can certainly give it a try. (Just be careful not to burn it!)

      • — Jenn on November 13, 2020
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I am planning to make your pulled pork tomorrow and have a couple questions. I have a 16 lb boneless pork shoulder and wanted to know how to adjust for time. Also, will this work in a roaster oven? I have two roaster ovens I can split the meat between if possible.
    Thank you for your help and for sharing your wonderful recipes!

    • — Nichole on October 6, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Nichole, if you split the meat into two pieces, I think it’s doable. Cook time will likely be longer; my guesstimate is 8 to 10 hours but you’ll have to keep a close eye on them. And I’m not familiar with roaster ovens so I can’t weigh in on that part. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on October 7, 2020
      • Reply
      • Ohh myyy fingerlickin goodness!! WOW.
        I have to start with I personally hate pork. AND barbecue sauce.. ha. But I cook for about 35 men and thought this sounded right up their alley. I had the 16 pounder and decided to go for it. I cut it right down the center making 2 8lb cuts. I cooked each separately in its own roaster oven. At exactly 6 hours I took them out. They were falling apart everywhere. I tasted a piece just to see where the flavor was at and I believe you have converted me to a pork lover. Wow times a million. It was PERFECT as is. The sauce took it to a whole other level. Again.. converted. The tangy salty goodness was overwhelming in the greatest way. The guys were coming back for seconds before half the guys made it for firsts. I really cannot express how amazing dinner turned out. I stepped outside while they’re eating right now just to write this review and thank you.
        Also, if anyone wants to use a roaster oven, mine have the removable inserts. I don’t think it would work as well with the permanent pan inserts. I simply took it out and placed it on the stove to start the scraping of the bits. Super easy. The only changes to the spices I made were a little heavy on the cumin and the garlic because I favor them. And I added a bit of Chipotle chili powder.
        Thanks again Jenn! 5 stars EASILY.

        • — Nichole on October 9, 2020
        • Reply
        • So glad it turned out well, Nichole — thanks for the follow-up! 🙂

          • — Jenn on October 9, 2020
          • Reply
  • Jen, you are my go to for almost everything now. I am about to try this butt recipe this weekend but I have a few questions. I bought almost a 10 lb butt and trimmed the fat cap prior to freezing few weeks ago. Unfortunately I do not have a roasting pan or dutch oven to fit that size butt. Any suggestions of what else to use? If I use the cheap aluminum pans I am unsure how to prep the sauce after discarding the fat if cannot cook on oven. Wasn’t sure if could use microwave or not. any help would be appreciated! Again thanks for your detail and precision in all your recipes. I need all the help I can get!!!

    • — staci on September 23, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Staci, You could cut the meat into two pieces and roast them in two oven-safe stainless pans. You could also use the aluminum pan(s( and skip the deglazing step (where you scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan to add to the BBQ sauce, but it does add a lot of flavor. (I wouldn’t suggest the microwave.) Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on September 26, 2020
      • Reply
  • Delicious and easy! As usual, the recipes on this site are reliably excellent and easy to follow! We lightly seasoned the pork with Adobo then added the other ingredients listed for the rub (only because we found this recipe after seasoning with Adobo) followed the rest of the recipe as written, and it was just so good! The pork was perfectly cooked, moist and easy to pull apart. The barbecue sauce was some of the best we have tasted, the right balance of sweetness and acidity. We served the pork on onion rolls with sides of baked beans and coleslaw. We had leftovers to freeze for another meal. I highly recommend it.

    • — Deb on September 6, 2020
    • Reply
  • Amazing! Meat candy!

    • — Molly V on August 7, 2020
    • Reply
  • Fabulous recipe! I made it over the weekend along with your corn salad recipe. We all loved it and are looking forward to some delicious lunches with the leftovers 🙂

    • — Donna on July 20, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    I have one more question, I just looked at my Boston Butt and it is boneless and weighs about 3-4 lbs. What changes do I need to make about how long I cook it?

    • — Deborah on July 8, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Deborah, I’d guesstimate it would need 4+ hours in the oven but to be sure, use a thermometer and insert it the thickest part of the pork. When it registers 195°F, you’re good to go. Please LMK how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on July 8, 2020
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    Could I use a slow cooker for this instead of the oven?

    • — Deborah on July 8, 2020
    • Reply
    • Unfortunately, this one won’t work in a slow cooker — sorry!

      • — Jenn on July 8, 2020
      • Reply
  • If I reduce the cider vinegar, do I substitute another liquid?

    • — Anna Lopez on June 19, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Anna, You could use water in place of some of the cider vinegar but I wouldn’t omit too much or the sauce will be too sweet. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on June 23, 2020
      • Reply
      • I loved it! Thank you.

        • — Anna Lopez on June 24, 2020
        • Reply
        • 👍

          • — Jenn on June 25, 2020
          • Reply
  • I’m making this soon. What do you recommend I serve along with this? Cole slaw?

    • — Anna on June 18, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Anna, I think coleslaw would be the perfect accompaniment to this. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 18, 2020
      • Reply
  • Tried this recipe with a pork shoulder that was about 8 pounds. Cooked it 7 hours and used all the sauce. At first when I tasted the reduced brown bits from the roasting pan, I thought it was just too salty, but added it little by little to the bbq sauce and it was perfect. Normally I only like the real vinegary Carolina style bbq, but I am so glad I tried it. It is a total winner. The best of this type bbq I have ever eaten. Hands down. Ever. It made a huge pot, and tonight we are having pork nachos. With a new grand baby on the way, my daughter in law has already requested this in her freezer when the new baby arrives. Another winner from Jenn. Boy, she makes us look good.

    • — Laura Migliore on May 20, 2020
    • Reply
    • So glad you enjoyed (and congrats on the soon to be new addition to your family)! ❤️

      • — Jenn on May 20, 2020
      • Reply
  • Hi, Jenn, Well, it’s interesting as to what one can or can’t find in the grocery stores now a days. Even in Iowa where one would think we could find all sorts of meat, there is a significant decrease in overall availability and in the available cuts. So, that being said, what I found today was a pork shoulder butt. I hauled that 10# baby home from the store, unwrapped it and realized that it actually still had the skin on it. Then, looking at the recipe I realized I had the wrong cut (not that the right cut was available), but went ahead using this recipe with this old boy anyway. We are about to have it for supper. My goodness – that rub on there gave it a great flavor and I don’t know if this thing could get any more tender. So, if all someone can find is the shoulder butt, go for it! Tastes great! Thanks for another great recipe.
    Meanwhile, I now have a 15+# brisket in the oven. We’ll see how that does with your onion brisket recipe (which I’ve used before, but not with the whole brisket). I am starting to feel like I should take a butchering class. 😂
    Thanks for the great recipes. What I like is that 99% of the time they work out great (and I could be the problem the other 1%, I suppose).
    Blessings…

    • — Sue S on May 16, 2020
    • Reply
  • Love all your recipes that I’ve attempted. Can I use this method with a pork shoulder picnic?

    • — Joe Xenakis on May 9, 2020
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes! A picnic shoulder will work but the pork won’t be quite as tender (it’s a slightly leaner cut). Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on May 10, 2020
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn. When I made this, I put my roast right in the pan per directions. I made sure I did not have excess rub in the bottom of the pan. After about 10 minutes, it started really smoking in the oven. What can I do to prevent this? Thanks!

    • — Michelle on May 7, 2020
    • Reply
    • That’s really odd as this cooks at a pretty low temperature. Might there have been something on the bottom of your oven that was burning?

      • — Jenn on May 8, 2020
      • Reply
  • What type of paprika do you use?

    • — Claudia on May 7, 2020
    • Reply
  • I’ve done pulled pork quite a few ways and this recipe was not only one of the most delicious ways, but the easiest! I love that there is nothing that needs to be done in advance – no overnight spice rub or marinade.

    What came out of the oven was absolutely PERFECT. There was a nice crust to the pork and the spices were perfectly balanced. Unfortunately, when I added the BBQ sauce, the crust lost it’s crispiness. What a bummer – this was the best part of the meat! When I make it again, I will let the meat rest for 30-60 min, pull it apart a bit, and then serve with the BBQ sauce drizzled on top as opposed to mixed in. I used the amount of sauce suggested and found the finished product to be a little too saucy for me, but perhaps this is a matter of personal taste. Drizzling a bit of sauce on the top of the meat and then serving more BBQ sauce on the side fixes this issue and keeps the crust crisp. DELICIOUS.

    • — Cole on May 6, 2020
    • Reply

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