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Dutch Oven Pulled Pork BBQ

Slow-cooking a Boston butt roast in a cast iron Dutch oven is the key to making the best possible pulled pork without a smoker. Follow this technique to make the best-pulled pork you’ll ever make indoors!

Dutch oven pulled pork.

If you need to cook your Boston butt indoors, this is the way to go! It’s as good as it gets without a smoker.

This easy recipe makes a delicious indoor-cooked pulled pork. This is not one of those slow cooker mushy wet pork recipes. Here, you’ll cook perfectly seasoned pulled pork in a Dutch oven without BBQ sauce.

I love making incredibly versatile pulled pork to use in different recipes. It freezes and reheats beautifully. Dress it with your favorite BBQ sauce, fry it up like carnitas, or add it to tacos, burritos, or nachos. 

Ingredients

Choose the Correct Cut of Meat

Pulled pork should be made with a pork shoulder. Unless you’re making whole-hog chopped barbeque.

The best cut of pork to use for making smoked pulled pork is a bone in Boston butt roast. By the way, it’s the upper part of the shoulder and not the rear end. 🙂 

A Boston butt roast is large and fatty. Slow-cooking it in a cast iron Dutch oven renders the fat. It makes incredibly moist, tender, and flavorful pulled pork BBQ. Never use a loin for making pulled pork. It will be dry and chewy. There are much better things to do with pork loin!

A bone-in Boston butt, a bowl of spices, and liquid smoke.

You’ll need a bone-in Boston butt pork roast. Always use bone-in for making smoked pulled pork. Cutting the bone out completely changes the roast. It’s no longer thick and solid. It will have too much surface area for an even cook. Plus, the bone adds flavor and helps keep it moist.

Next, you’ll make a flavorful rub to season the meat. Blend brown sugar, black pepper, kosher salt, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder.

Now, I advocate against the addition of brown sugar when smoking pulled pork. But in the case of Dutch oven pulled pork, it’s a worthy addition. It caramelizes and adds a depth of flavor since we don’t have smoke or fire to add flavor. And it helps create the highly prized bark. 

Liquid smoke is the way to add a smoky flavor to this oven-cooked pulled pork. A little goes a long way!  Don’t be afraid to add this. It’s essentially the essence of smoke. It adds the distilled smoke flavor that takes this pork to the next level.

Instructions

Prepare the meat

Some people like to trim them. I do not. Fat=Flavor. Instead, I score the fat to help it render while the meat cooks.

If you’re insistent on trimming, at least do it properly. DO NOT remove the entire fat cap. It keeps the meat moist and succulent after a long, slow cook.

Leave at least ¼ thick layer of fat on the Boston butt. 

A bone-in Boston butt roast that has been patted dry.

Pat the roast dry with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Then, place it on a sheet pan with the fat side up.

Use a sharp knife to score the fat cap. Slice a grid shape into the fat. This will help it render down into succulent, juicy goodness.

Mix the spices together in a small bowl. Then, rub them on the pork in an even layer. Make sure to get in all the nooks and crannies to season it well. You will use all of the spices.

Now, you can leave the roast on the sheet pan and refrigerate it for 8-24 hours. Or, go ahead and cook it.

When you’re ready to cook it, place it fat side up in a cast iron Dutch oven. Then, drizzle it with liquid smoke.

Cooking

Place the lid on the Dutch oven and bake it at 300℉ for 4 hours.

Then, remove the lid and check the temperature. It should be over 175℉ at this point.

Use a ladle to scoop up the liquid and baste the roast.

Then, return it to the oven uncovered. Cook for about 1 hour to get it to pulling temperature and allow a crust to form.

You’re aiming for 199-205℉ for optimal pulling. That top layer of fat should be tender and crispy now. You will shred it into the meat.

Now would be a good time to try a bite. 🙂

The bone should pull right out. It it doesn’t remove easily, return it to the oven.

Otherwise, allow it to cool enough to handle. Then, remove the roast from the Dutch oven and place it on a sheet pan for pulling.

How to pull the pork 

I prefer to use clean hands to pull the pork. You can use two forks to shred it apart if you don’t want to get your hands dirty. Or try barbeque claws. I do not recommend the hand mixer method. It mixes the pork up too much and makes it mushy.

A pan of Dutch oven pulled pork.

Make sure to pick through the shredded pork and remove any tough bits of gristle or large pieces of fat.

Return the shredded pork to the juices in the pot and stir to mix.

Serve immediately.

Or, cover the pot and place it in a 170℉ oven to keep it warm until you’re ready to serve.

Storage

Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 4 days or freeze them.

Freezing

I recommended portioning leftover pulled pork into dinner-sized portions for your family. Then, freezing it. 

You can also portion some of the pork into 1-cup portions to add to recipes. A 1-cup portion of pulled pork is a tasty addition to nachos, fried rice, or a pizza topping.

Then, place the pork in freezer-safe containers, freezer bags, or vacuum bags.

Label, date, and seal before freezing the pork.

Reheating

Reheat in a skillet (preferred method): Heat a cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat. Then, add the pulled pork and use a spatula to break it up as it cooks. The fat will start to melt and crisp up the pork. Continue stirring until the pork is hot and crispy.

Microwave: Reheat small portions of pulled pork in the microwave. Place on a microwave-safe plate and heat in 30-second intervals until hot.

Reheat in an aluminum pan: See make-ahead instructions. 

Make Ahead

You can make this pulled pork the day before an event if you plan to serve it to feed a crowd. Follow the instructions all the way through. Then, allow the pork to cool to room temperature. 

Place the entire batch of pulled pork in a disposable aluminum foil pan and cover it with foil. Refrigerate it until ready to reheat and serve.

Preheat the oven to 200℉. Then, place the covered pan of pulled pork in the oven. Heat covered for 1 hour, then serve. 

If you need to hold it warm for longer, lower the temperature to 170 and keep it warm for up to 3 hours.

Serving Tips

Pulled pork is the king of leftovers. Cooking with a simple rub equals almost limitless possibilities. There are so many flavor options for the leftovers!

Make a traditional BBQ sandwich or BBQ plate with the fixins. Try it with South Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce or Eastern NC Barbeque Sauce. Add a side of simple coleslaw and some baked beans. Yum!

Carnitas: One of my favorite ways to serve leftover pulled pork is to treat it like carnitas. You can crisp it up in a skillet. Then, use it to make pulled pork nachos, tacos, burritos, quesadillas, burrito bowls, and more!

  • Make a BBQ salad
  • Pork Fried Rice
  • BBQ Pork Pizza or Kahlua Pig Pizza
  • Baked Potato Topping
Dutch oven pulled pork.

Full Recipe

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Dutch Oven BBQ Pulled Pork

Dutch oven pulled pork.

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Time and patience will lead to the most succulent pork you’ll ever cook indoors.

  • Author: Mandi
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 hours
  • Total Time: 5 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: about 12 servings 1x
  • Category: BBQ
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: American

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 bone-in Boston butt pork roast
  • Optional: 2-3 teaspoons liquid smoke

For the rub:

  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder

Instructions

Optional: Rub the roast the day before. It acts as a dry brine. Didn’t plan ahead? Don’t worry. Apply the rub before cooking, and it will turn out great!

Preheat oven to 300℉

Prep the roast

  1. Pat the pork butt dry with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel.
  2. Use a sharp paring knife to score the top layer of fat. Slice a grid through the fat to help it render.
  3. Rub the entire roast. Make sure to get into any nooks and crannies.

If applying the rub the day before cooking, stop here. Place the roast on a sheet pan and refrigerate for 8-24 hours.

When ready to cook

  1. Place the roast into the Dutch oven, fat side up. Cover it and cook for about 4 hours.
  2. Remove the lid and cook for about 1 hour to develop a crust/bark. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature. Aim for between 199-205℉. If you don’t have a thermometer, you need to buy one! In the meantime, insert a fork and twist to see if the meat readily pulls apart. If not, it needs to cook longer. 
  3. Remove from the oven and let cool enough to handle. 
  4. Pull the bone out. It should pull right out with little to no resistance. If the bone does not pull out, return it to the oven.

Pull the pork

  1. Remove the roast from the Dutch oven and place it on a large cutting board.
  2. Remove the roast and place it on a large sheet pan. Allow it to rest until cool enough to handle. Shred the meat and Discard any bits of gristle or large pieces of fat.
  3. Then, stir the pulled pork back into the juices in the Dutch oven. If you want drier meat, you can discard the liquid.
  4. Cover the Dutch oven and place in a warm oven at 170℉ until ready to serve.

Notes

Tips for pulling pork: I always use clean hands. You can use two forks to shred it apart to keep your hands clean. Or try barbeque claws. I do not recommend the hand mixer method. It mixes the pork up too much and makes it mushy. Pick through it and discard any pieces of tough fat or gristle.

Did you make this recipe?

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