Garlic Pulled Pork

Search through a few cookbooks or food blogs for a pulled pork recipe and you’ll find that everyone has a slightly different approach. Some cooks add broth and tomatoes, some sear the meat at the beginning, some cook the pork in a crock pot and others go all-out with a charcoal grill. Each cook will claim their recipe is the best, but we’ll let you in on a secret: no matter how you cook pulled pork, it’s going to be delicious.

We like the approach Pat “Allbeef Patty” Levine submitted for the Primal Blueprint Cookbook Challenge because it’s straightforward and fool-proof and still has tons of flavor. As Pat told us, “the beauty is that it’s very affordable and it’s more of a “method” than a recipe” – which means you can alter the seasonings to your own taste. The method Pat speaks of is slow-cooking at a low temperature. Low and Slow is the best way to cook less-expensive, tough cuts of meat. One of these cuts is pork shoulder, which is sold most often as either a Boston Butt (upper shoulder) or Picnic (lower shoulder). Either will work for this recipe.

A pork shoulder is very forgiving. Contrary to most cuts of meat, this one will only come out tough if you undercook it. Think of it this way: the meat is so tough to begin with that you really can’t make it worse, you can only improve on it. You’ll be helped along by a thick layer of fat that covers the pork shoulder, tenderizing and flavoring the meat as it cooks. All you need to do is add some seasonings, put the meat in a dish, cover it with foil and walk away for three hours. If the meat doesn’t shred easily with a slight nudge from a fork, then cook it another hour. After four hours in the oven, the meat will have transformed into a succulent, richly flavored, melt-in-your-mouth roast.

As the pork is cooking it will release it’s own juices, creating a sauce in the pan. This sauce can be drizzled over the shredded meat at the end, adding even more flavor. Another reason we like Pat’s method of using an oven instead of a crock pot is that you can take the foil off for the last 45 minutes and the meat will get crispy and caramelized on the outside. Trust us, you won’t be able to resist picking these crispy bits off the top when the pork comes out of the oven.

This is the type of dish that gives you a lot of bang for the buck: tons of lip-smacking flavor and enough meat for several meals (or a very large family.)


  • 1 pork shoulder cut (butt or picnic), weighing 3-4 pounds
  • 1-2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons of granulated garlic or garlic powder
  • optional: 6 fresh garlic cloves, peeled
  • The juice of one lime (or sour orange, if you can get one)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 bay leaf


Mix together salt, cumin, black pepper and granulated garlic.

Juice the lime over the seasonings and rub the mixture all over the pork.

If you love garlic as much as Pat does, you might want to use fresh garlic, too. Use a knife to slice six thin cuts in the pork and push each clove securely inside each cut. You don’t want the fresh garlic to fall out and touch the cooking vessel or it will burn and affect the flavor of the meat.

The meat should sit out of refrigeration a half hour before you put it in the oven. This ensures that it will cook evenly throughout. If you want to let the meat marinate in the rub longer than this, put it in the fridge for an hour or even overnight.

When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the roast in a pan with one sliced onion and a bay leaf. Cover and roast for three to four hours, or until the middle of the roast reads about 190 degrees and falls apart easily when pulled with a fork.

Let the roast rest for twenty minutes or so, then uncover. You’ll notice a lot of liquid at the bottom. Use it as a sauce for the meat, which you will now viciously attack with two forks. It’ll fall apart pretty readily, and you’ll get the idea of the shredding method after a couple of pulls. Enjoy!

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    1. Sour Orange is one of the main ingredients in “Mole” which is a sauce that’s part traditional Cuban pulled pork. Most Mole that you can buy has a bunch of crap in it, so lime juice adds some nice acidity without the crap.

    2. Sour orange is used by many Cuban dishes. Mojo (for meats) is supposed to have sour orange, but most commercial variety will have some kind of combination of vinegar, grapefruit juice, lime or lemon juice. If you don’t have access to sour oranges lime is the best alternative (not lemon).

      Don’t eat it like a normal orange, it is really sour. It’s the size of an orange but the skin is not smooth, the rougher the better. The thickness of the skin is also very different, sour oranges have a much thicker skin. It normally looks like it has some “bad spots” but it’s normal.

      (I’m Cuban)

  1. This looks amazing! I am going to run to the store right now and pick up a pork shoulder. Delicious!!

  2. This looks too damn good. And, this makes the time waiting for the Primal Recipe book that much more savoring!

    I am buying pork this week and making this for my family!

    P.S. The stuffed peppers were Awesome! I made them for my sisters and they loved them… oh, and they traditionally frown over ground beef – not this time 🙂

  3. I was just talking about roasting some pork! I was a live long vegetarian, so I don’t know much about these things… Will pulled pork keep in the fridge after you shred it like that or should I just keep it whole until needed?

      1. What a great idea!

        I make pulled pork all the time in my slow cooker and yes, my only complaint would be that there’s not enough of the crispy bits, because they’re only on the outside… I will reheat my pulled pork like this from now on 🙂

    1. Pulled pork keeps well in the fridge for several days, reheats easily, and actually freezes quite well. I barbecue pork shoulders 2-3 times every summer and we freeze the leftovers… a whiff of that summery hickory smoke smell in the dead of winter is a powerful antidepressant. 🙂 (And hey, what’s more primal than meat cooked over fire?)

  4. Sour oranges are also known as Seville oranges. I once bought one out of curiosity (I’m a bit of a citrus freak and feel compelled to try any new variety that I see) and quickly discovered that they’re pretty much inedible straight. As sour, if not more sour, than a lemon. I could see how it would lend a great flavor to this dish, though!

  5. i can’t wait to make this!! any tips on what kind of pan i should use? i’m new to cooking and may have to buy a new one

    1. My favorite is an enameled cast iron dutch oven. Le Creuset is great, but just make sure that whatever you get is enameled on the inside too, so that it’s what’s called “non-reactive.” That just means that you can cook with acidic stuff. That’s a no-go with plain cast iron or non-anodized aluminum.

      Check discount stores for Le Creuset. I know they’re a lot of money, but there’s so much you can do with them, and you’ll probably be leaving it to your grandgroks.

    2. Le Creuset is really nice stuff but tends to be a bit on the pricey side. I got my brother a Mario Batali 6-quart Dutch oven at about 1/3 the price of a functionally identical Le Creuset. It’s now well-used and still going strong, not to mention it’s the same one they use on Iron Chef.

      1. I got my Le Creuset at Marshal’s or TJ Maxx (I forget which) for $80. I look at the cookware section every time I’m in one of those type stores, and have yet to see it again.

        1. thanks so much guys! i’m going to be shopping for some new cookware soon so i can make some of this. i’m also going to buy a slow cooker. i’ve held off on buying one because i’m not a fan of mushy veggies but i will use it to cook meat!

        2. I use a pressure cooker. In fact, I just re-cooked a pork roast that I had cooked on the BBQ a few weeks ago and froze in 1# chunks. I sliced the meat and then added carrots, onions and mushrooms so that it came out like a stew. It was done in 5 minutes.

      2. Lodge, the long-time American maker of cast iron cookware, now make enameled cast iron products at a much better price than LC. No, I don’t work for Lodge.

        AP, where did you buy the Mario Batali item?

        1. I looked at many different brands before finally buying the Le Crueset. Lodge and every other brand I looked at sources their enamel coated cast iron pieces from China (although the traditional Lodge cast pans are cast in USA). A big reason that I am trying to use cast iron is for the long-term health benefits compared to other materials and unfortunately I have no faith in the purity of the cast iron from China. We buy a lot of cast iron automotive parts in China and in general the source material is polluted with all sorts of recycled scrap (old Russian military tankers, etc…), which is fine for brakes but I would not want near my food. I am not by any means saying that the dutch ovens from China are bad…just that I am willing to pay the premium (and it is significant)for highly regulated European cast-iron so as not to take the chance.

        2. I was actually the one who got the Batali pot – I bought it on when it temporarily dropped to $65 some time ago.

  6. Mmmm….pulled pork….my favorite. Brings back memories of the pork-pulling sessions we used to have in the summer time after smoking pork butt for 24 hours. I bet a nice mustard sauce would go nicely with it, too!

  7. I love this stuff. I usually brown the roast in a large dutchoven-size pot on the stove, add about a cup of liquid (water, apple juice, beer, etc.), cover, and cook on medium low for a few hours. Check often and add more liquid when necessary. When tender, cut up into big chunks and shread. Season with whatever (I like thyme and lots of black pepper) and any brand of LIQUID SMOKE. Remove cover and simmer off any excess liquid. Make lots. Freeze some for later. Great for sack lunches. Draws a crowd when you heat it up in the microwave. Great with coleslaw. Add BBQ sauce on individual servings if you like.

  8. Oooh, excellent. I have a pork shoulder in the freezer and was going to throw it in the slow cooker next week — but I’ll try this instead. 🙂

  9. I have not cooked this recipe, but I have cooked several others from this here Pat fellow (we go way back). He has great recipes that are easy to follow for a delicious outcome.

  10. Mark,
    I have to be honest.. I’m a paleolithic fan, & have a strong belief in our principles here.. HOWEVER, I am negatively affected by what I watch here.. What would we say to this guy if we were defending eating all this animal meat? He has very valid points.. Watch this video..

    1. Mark, I watched the vid and it reminded me of the Dr. McDougal diet advice. He uses soundbites McDougal uses. It is easy to get caught up in their line of reasoning. To them, saturated fat is saturated fat. they make no distinction between it’s composition regarding o3 to o6 ratios. I’ve tried their way (CW) and this way, and I’ll stick to what works. Primal.

  11. What do we want? Pork!
    When do we want it? Tomorrows night’s dinner!

    Meat! Meat! Meat!

    (We can hardly wait, but it needs to thaw out first…)

  12. I am definitely going to try this one. The idea of using “kosher” salt on pork made me grin though for some reason.

  13. My wife and I made this yesterday, it was delicious!! This is a new favorite recipe of mine, thanks so much for sharing.

  14. Yum – house smells of this just now. My mouth is watering and I am really looking forward to the meal. 😀

    Thanks so much for sharing the receipt. 🙂

  15. we started doing pork shoulders with various rubs, braises and the like but now do them with just salt and pepper, cooked low and slow in a dutch oven. Usually we get up to 6-7+ hours at around 200 degrees. we pour off and keep the juice which flows out during the cook process, using both the fat and the intense gelatin which forms as the juice cools. it’s great for flavoring vegetables and the like or as a drink, diluted with hot water. and as a soup base.

    David Chang of momofuku noodle bar et al in NYC also reserves this gelatin for use in just about everything. his noodles are not primal but damn good!

  16. I just cooked this tonight — absolutely fantastic!!! I followed the recipe exactly, except there were pacing menfolk in the kitchen crazed by the yummy smell, so at the end I cranked up the oven heat to about 400 to hurry the browning stage. Still delicious. AND fabulous leftovers to look forward to. Thanks!

  17. Thanks for sharing it was delicious! 🙂 I made it yesterday. Simple, yet full of taste and yum. Still got some leftovers which I will enjoy this evening. 🙂 Thanks!

  18. Great sounding recipe. Can’t wait to try a new rub. My only commment/suggestion is to actually let the internal temperature of the pork get up to 205-210, instead of 190. The pork will be even more tender and juicy.

  19. we made this over the weekend and found it very bland. We mixed the leftover meat with taco seasoning, green chilis, onions, and tomatoes.

  20. This looks delicious and pork shoulder is definitely one of my favorite things to cook for bulk meat. However, I like to involve smoke in the process. Cook in the charcoal smoker with hickory chunks keeping the smoke chugging and the heat at around 225. Once the meat hits 185, the meat is perfect. I think the smoke adds a great crispy, flavorful bark to the meat. And I figure its pretty primal to use wood to cook a big hunk of meat…haha.

    To the person above me, if you smoke the meat I guarantee it will not be bland but so full of flavor without the need to excess seasoning, even though a little spice rub is nice.

    1. I have a Big Green Egg, and love smoking on it. I think this would be a good thing to throw on the Rib Rack too. I agree with you about the 225 temp… but how long does it normally take to get to 185 internal temp? Thanks for your help!

  21. Anyone finding pasture raised pork at their market? I get pigs in Ohio from one farmer, but not many pork producers raise on pasture. I know for a fact that any pork raised in the US is injected at birth a bunch of antibiotics because in order to keep litters together healthy, they need to keep infection off of them. We always see “grass fed” in our beef; “free range” in our chickens; but I’ve never see someone sell “antibiotic free, pastured” hogs.

    Shoulder meat is almost all marbeling and connective tissue which is why BBQ enthusiasts love it. Slow and Low. But this also means lots of things we don’t want in us.

    Great, simple recipe BTW!

    1. Daniel, try Slankers grassfed meats for actual no-grain pork. They have the only no grain pork I no of. US Wellness Meats has good pork also. Their pork is from a Missouri coop of farmers you can read about online and is a cut above most. Both are free of all modern garbage, and ship.
      Also, try for local producers in your area.

      1. Oh nice! Like I said, I have a hook up in Ohio here. I was speaking to the rest of the country as I see grain fed pork even at Joel Salatin’s farm.

        1. You are right, even most pastured pork gets some grain. Chicken too. We have to do the best we can!

      2. I can second Not So Fast’s recommendation of Slanker’s for the pork. In fact, I just made this very recipe with a picnic roast from them and it’s by far the best pulled pork I’ve ever had.

  22. Someone once told me that this cut of meat was the most forgiving. I’m thankful that statement is true. I roally screwed up cooking it last night. Got it all ready, pushed it into the oven, set my timer and 4 hours later came back. Took one look at realized I hadn’t covered the piece of meat. For anyone who doesn’t cook, you can’t really roast these tough pieces of meat without some moisture. Let’s just say after 4 hours it still was no where near fork tender. Dinner ended up being left overs as a result. BUT…I threw in about a cup of Chicken broth, some mushrooms, 1/2 cup of Whisky, covered it up this time and let it cook another three hours. Since it was late I threw it outside to cool off for the night and went to bed(was in the low 30’s here, no worries) and re-heated some of it for breakfast along with a big bowl of Spinach. YUMMMMM! Best pulled pork I’ve ever had.

    1. Holly, kosher salt is more accurately called koshering salt – thus named because it is used to draw moisture out of meat after slaughter. The grind size of the salt is larger than table salt and therefore it doesn’t dissolve as readily. It also doesn’t contain iodine.

      1. Prib pretty much got that. I find that iodine dries the meat out a bit too much. If you decide to use a different salt, use less because of the difference in grain size.

  23. We made this last week,and it is absolutely fabulous! Pork was just falling apart, and full of flavor. Loved the marinade. There were plenty of leftovers, and I heated those in a cast iron skillet for more crispy bits.
    Thank you so much – we have a new favorite!

  24. Delicious! Cumin + Lime is fabulous. I undercooked the roast and didn’t have it fully covered 🙁 but it was excellent. I also used sea salt not knowing that kosher salt had special properties. I actually ate the entire roast and drank the juice (absolutely disgusted my roommate…she thinks I will die of a heart attack in 10 years!).

  25. Made this yesterday for friends that came over for dinner. WOW!!!!!!! Other than bacon, I have not eaten pork in 10+ years…this was AMAZING! I followed the recipe to a T, including all the cloves of garlic inserted deep down inside to make it that much more delicious! THANK YOU for this recipe…it will definitely be a “multiple-times-a-month” meal!!!

  26. I made this recipe a few weeks ago…it was great except I found it to be a bit salty (yeah I used the upper limit of salt…2 TBS since my pork cut was larger than the recipe called for) so next time I make it I will definitely cut the salt back by at least half. Other than that this was awesome!

    1. It really depends on the size of the grains of salt. Some Kosher salts are very coarse, so two TBSPs of a coarse salt is probably more like one of a fine salt.

      1. I used the kosher large granule sized salt….I will make it again and see what happens with half the amt of salt.

  27. So I made this..
    It turned out OK but I think my meat was way to fatty.

    I think I could have used more time as well.

  28. I made this last night and while the rub was delicious and the meat was sooo good, it was not easily shreddable. We used a pork rump roast rather than shoulder. Is this the problem or was something else going on?

  29. I made this today and my husband is presently slurping it up like there’s no tomorrow! We used lemon, no lime, and a steak rub I got on clearance (with garlic, pepper and salt) instead of the suggested spices. Crazy easy and delicious! Thank you!

  30. i have been lurking here on the site a bit stealing recipes but I have never posted. I feel compelled to post about this because while the meat was delicious- it certaibly did not shred. i followed the recipe exactly… don’t know what went wrong.

  31. Ginger with the garlic or even swapping out the garlic is great as well with this recipe. If it didn’t turn out right, it was probably took it out too soon. With the size that I roast at and my oven, I usually cook it nine hours.

  32. I made something similar to this the other day except I took a pork loin, poked a bunch of holes in it with a knife and stuffed it with about 150-20 cloves of garlic. Rolled it in a bit of salt, pepper, sage, paprika and placed it in a crock pot with a bit of chicken broth. Let it cook on low for 12 hrs and the garlic was so soft you could mash it like butter. Delish!

  33. Made this last night with the 6 cloves of fresh garlic and the garlic powder and it was fantastic!! I will definately make this again. I can’t believe someone thought it was bland, it was far from bland.

  34. I cooked this for 5 hours @ 250. The outside was nicely browned, but the inside was quite soft and gelatinous–was it supposed to be like that?? If it was undercooked–it would be all tough, right?

    I left the pot o’ juices on the counter overnight–and there’s an inch of congealed fat in there now. Should I save that (like I do the bacon grease) and use it to cook with?

  35. Just finished making this and it’s amazing! I forgot the lime juice, but it’s still wonderful. So glad I made 8lbs instead of 4lbs. This will be great to pull out of the freezer on a busy day, reheat & throw on a salad with some avocado and tomatoes. My kids loved it too, so I’m calling it a big win!

  36. I am making this one day next week for dinner (it will last several days as there are only 2 of us). I had only written down ‘shoulder’ or ‘butt’ on my grocery list so when I saw ‘pork shoulder, boston roast’ at the meat counter, I asked the meat guy if that would be good for pulled pork. He said, “I think it would be too fatty”. I was like, “really?” and put it in my basket. Primal thinking 🙂

  37. OMFG, SO GOOD!!

    I took the liquid that was left in the pan and added some arrowroot to thicken it, then tossed the pulled pork back in. AMAZING!!!

  38. Actually in the middle of cooking this right now. having problems though. it’s been in the oven for 4 hours now and it’s not cooked through yet. I pulled it out at about 3.5 hours thinking it would be done, cut the netting off and it would not shred at all. I stuck the thermometer in it and it only reached 150. Not sure how much longer it will ned to cook or if it will reach the point where I can shred it or not.

    1. I had the same problem. I ended up sticking it in the crock pot overnight on low. It was falling apart by morning. It was delicious, just took longer to cook than expected.

  39. We cooked ours for about 4.5 hours and the temp was only up to 165. Going to try throwing it in the crockpot on low overnight and see how it turns out…

  40. After reading the recipe and all the comments, I have so many questions: bone-in or boneless? With liquid in the pan or without? In a shallow casserole dish (as pictured) or in Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid? I just checked my boneless shoulder at 3 hours and there was no liquid in the dish yet and the onions were drying out. 🙁

  41. This recipe is so good I’m making it again..slow roasting aromas filling my place all day long 🙂

    Make sure you get a roast with fat on it; this will give you the juice you are hearing about. Start early in the day so you have plenty of time to roast for 4 or 5 hours.

  42. Making this is way better than the frozen pizza my peers at college are eating. Hahaha! Thanks Mark.

  43. I just want to say that I have been waiting six hours for this damn pork to finish and it is still not done. My oven is fine. Your times are wrong. I am having a caveman fit. All I want to do is bash dinosaurs with my club. This pork better be delicious when its done.

  44. Thank you for writing this. I have been previously seeking this data. Great facts I’ll check back to learn more

  45. I recently found this recipe and made it last night. I overlooked the part about COVERING the meat so it went uncovered for hours in the oven! I think maybe that’s why there weren’t any juices at the bottom of the pan…just overdone onions. I also cooked it for 4+ hours and had to keep upping the temp to get the thermometer to get close to 190. I had to slice the meat; it did not come off easily with forks. The inside was incredibly tasty, but the outside was WAY too salty. Will definitely try this again, but will cover it and use much less salt.

  46. I live in Phoenix and I have a tree full of sour oranges so it is great to have a tasty use for them! I made this a couple of weeks ago and it was a hit. I didn’t stuff the pork with fresh garlic so I am making it again today stuffed with fresh garlic!