Instant Pot Pulled Pork. When I don't have all day to smoke a pork shoulder, I turn to this recipe. Pork cooked to shreddable tenderness, ready in about an hour.
Need some quick, tender, shredded pork? Here is my pressure cooker pulled pork recipe. Recipe may be overstating it - this is barely a recipe. There are 5 ingredients. One is Pork Shoulder, two is water, three is (optional) liquid smoke, and the BBQ rub and BBQ sauce can be store-bought if you are really in a hurry.
For the barbecue purists: Yes, I know this is another fake barbecue recipe. (Faux bbq. Fauxbq?) If you're looking for the real deal, check my pork shoulder smoked all day in a Weber Kettle. (Yes, I'm trying to head off the "Heresy!" comments that I am sure are coming when I post this.)
On the other hand, if you are willing to take shortcuts with your "BBQ" (and don't mind BBQ purists clutching their pearls and feeling a little faint), this pulled pork recipe is a quick and easy way to good pork. Is it as good as real-deal, all-day pork, cooked in a smoker with real wood? No, but pressure cooker pulled pork is 90% of the way there, with much less effort. (For more Faux BBQ, check out my Instant Pot Spare Ribs with BBQ Rub and Sauce, Pressure Cooker Beef Brisket, and Pressure Cooker Baby Back Ribs.)
- Boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch by 2-inch pieces of pork
- Barbecue rub (see below)
- Liquid Smoke (optional)
- Barbecue sauce (see below)
- Hamburger buns, dill pickles, and coleslaw as optional accompaniments.
See the recipe card for quantities.
Pork Butt or Boston Butt or Pork Shoulder?
They're all the same cuts of meat. I've heard the name "pork butt" comes because it is the part of the shoulder that "butts" up against the body of the pig. (And the theory is that this name came from Boston.) At least, that's what I've heard - sources differ on the internet. (I know, different opinions on the internet? I'm shocked.) No matter where the names came from, pork butt, Boston butt, and pork shoulder all refer to the same cut of meat, and all will work in this recipe. (And, whatever you do, don't use pork loin in this recipe. Lean pork loin dries out if you cook it this long in a pressure cooker.)
What is liquid smoke?
Liquid Smoke is made by burning wood in a low-oxygen environment and distilling the water vapor that is produced. That's right; liquid smoke is actually condensed wood smoke. It's a side effect of making charcoal, and "wood vinegar," as everyone else calls it, has been around for centuries. (Pliny the Elder mentions it back in Ancient Rome. See, Latin class was worth something!)
It's optional in this recipe, but I like the extra depth of flavor when I add just a little of it to the water before cooking.
How to Make Instant Pot Pulled Pork
- Mix up the BBQ rub and BBQ sauce (or use store-bought rub and sauce)
- Cut the pork shoulder into 2-inch by 2-inch pieces, and sprinkle them with the BBQ rub.
- Pour a cup of water into the Instant Pot (or another pressure cooker), add the liquid smoke, and then loosely stack the strips of pork shoulder in the pot.
- Lock the lid and pressure cook for 45 minutes, then let the pressure release naturally.
- Move the pork to a platter and shred it with a pair of forks. Mix a little of the barbecue sauce into the pulled pork.
- Serve as a pile of pulled pork on a plate or as sandwiches in buns, with (optional) pickles and coleslaw. Pass the extra barbecue sauce for people to add at the table.
How long to cook pulled pork in an Instant Pot
I pressure cook this pork for 45 minutes at high pressure to get the tenderness I'm looking for. Pork shoulder holds up remarkably well to pressure; I've done cooking times as long as an hour, and there wasn't much difference in the result. (That's why I kept it to 45 minutes - why cook for longer if you don't have to?) I've never gone past an hour under pressure, but I have left it in "keep warm" mode for an hour after it spent 45 minutes pressure cooking, and it came out fine. Pork shoulder is very forgiving, and hard to overcook. You can do it, but you have to work at it.
You can double this recipe in a 6-quart pressure cooker. You don't need to double the water or liquid smoke, just the pork, rub, and barbecue sauce. You can halve the recipe, too, if you need to fit it in a 3-quart pressure cooker, but again, keep the water and liquid smoke amounts. Just cut back on the pork, rub, and barbecue sauce. (You need 1 cup of water to come up to pressure.)
No matter which way you scale the recipe, up or down, the cooking time remains the same. 2-inch by 2-inch pieces of pork shoulder cook in the same amount of time, regardless of how many there are in the pot.
💡Tips and Tricks
- Finesse the barbecue sauce - stir ½ cup of the pot liquid into the BBQ sauce. It will take some of the porky goodness from the liquid and add it back to the recipe.
- The liquid smoke is optional…but as I found out, it's worth using it. Look near the barbecue sauce at your local grocery store.
- If you have a cup of chicken broth lying around (especially homemade chicken broth), it will add extra depth to the recipe.
- I substitute soy sauce for the traditional Worcestershire sauce in my barbecue sauce.
- Cut the pork roast into strips before pressure cooking: Large roasts don't pressure cook well. It takes a long time for the heat to penetrate into the center of the roast. That's fine when you're cooking low and slow all day in a smoker, but not so good in a pressure cooker. To help the pressure do its work, I cut my pork shoulder into 2-inch by 2-inch strips before cooking. Why 2-inch by 2-inch strips? Because the pork roasts I get from the grocery store are usually 4 inches thick. I cut them in half, then cut each half into 2-inch wide pieces. That gives me pieces with even thickness, so they cook consistently. Since the goal is to shred the roast, why not break it down a little first?
These sandwiches are a taste of summer barbecue any time of the year. I serve them with buns, pickles, coleslaw, and extra barbecue sauce. Good side dishes are my Instant Pot Potato Salad, and my Instant Pot Cajun Pinto Beans. And, of course, a tasty beverage, whether that's lemonade, sweet tea, or a beer.Print
Instant Pot Pulled Pork
- Total Time: 1 hour 55 minutes
- Yield: 12 servings 1x
Instant Pot Pulled Pork. When I don't have all day to smoke a pork shoulder, I turn to this recipe.
- 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch by 2-inch thick strips
- 2 tablespoons barbecue rub (see below)
- 1 cup water
- ½ teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
- ½ cup barbecue sauce (see below)
Barbecue Rub (2 tablespoons of my Homemade Barbecue Rub), or your favorite store-bought rub
- 1½ teaspoons fine sea salt (or 2 teaspoons kosher salt)
- ¾ tablespoon paprika
- ¾ tablespoon brown sugar
- ½ tablespoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
Barbecue sauce (2 cups of my Easy BBQ Sauce), or your favorite store-bought sauce
- 1 ½ cups ketchup
- 4 tablespoons brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (or cheap yellow mustard)
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- Hamburger buns
- Dill pickle chips (optional)
- Coleslaw (optional)
- More BBQ sauce if needed
- Make the BBQ rub: (See Homemade BBQ Rub for more details) In a small bowl, stir the barbecue rub ingredients: Fine sea salt, paprika, brown sugar, chili powder, ground black pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Stir and mix until thoroughly combined, breaking up any clumps of brown sugar with your fingers. Set aside for later. (Or, use a tablespoon of store-bought BBQ rub)
- Make the BBQ sauce: (See Easy BBQ Sauce for more details) In a medium bowl, whisk the barbecue sauce ingredients: ketchup, brown sugar, cider vinegar, dijon mustard, and soy sauce. Whisk until smooth. Refrigerate for later. (Or, use a cup of store-bought BBQ sauce.)
- Cut and season the pork shoulder: Cut the pork shoulder into 2-inch high by 2-inch wide strips. (Length doesn't matter, as long as they fit in your pressure cooker pot.) Sprinkle the pork shoulder strips with the BBQ rub.
- Pork and liquid into the pot: Pour the cup of water into the Instant Pot (or use the minimum liquid amount for your pressure cooker), and then add the liquid smoke. Stack the pork strips in the pot in a loose pile.
- Pressure cook the pork for 45 minutes with a Natural Pressure Release: Lock the lid and pressure cook on high pressure for 45 minutes in an Instant Pot or other electric PC ("Manual" or "Pressure Cook" mode in an Instant Pot), or for 40 minutes in a stovetop PC. Let the pressure release naturally, about 15 more minutes. (You can quick release any remaining pressure after 15 minutes if you're in a hurry.)
- Shred and serve the pulled pork: Transfer the pork to a large platter with a rim. Shred the pork with a pair of forks, then drizzle with ½ cup of the barbecue sauce and toss to coat all the pork with sauce. Serve, either as plates of pulled pork or on hamburger buns as pulled pork sandwiches. Pass the extra barbecue sauce (and other accompaniments) at the table for people to add to their pork. Enjoy!
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Pressure Cooking Time: 45 minutes
- Cook Time: 60 minutes
- Category: Sunday Dinner
- Method: Pressure Cooker
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: Instant Pot Pulled Pork, Pressure Cooker Pulled Pork
Pulled pork can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days, then reheated for serving. I freeze leftover pulled pork by packing it flat in gallon zip-top bags and freezing it; the flat bags thaw quickly in the microwave, making them easy to reheat.
🤝 Related Posts
Pressure Cooker Pork Steaks, St. Louis BBQ Style
Rotisserie Pork Shoulder with South Carolina Mustard Barbecue Sauce
Pressure Cooker Korean BBQ Pork Lettuce Wraps
Instant Pot Beef Brisket
My other Instant Pot and Pressure Cooker Recipes
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Hi. Have you ever made this with a whole bone in butt without cutting it up? I’ve got an 8 lb bone in that fits into my stove top pressure cooker but I’m not sure how long I should cook it for.
Mike Vrobel says
No, I have not. It will take a very long time for a whole 8 pound butt. How long? I can’t even guess, I never cook roasts that large in a pressure cooker.
Thanks. I think I’ll go ahead and cut it into chunks and remove the bone then. Would you still use a cup of water if also using a half a can of Coke?
Mike Vrobel says
As long as you have a cup of liquid, it can be coke or water.
Larry Grogan says
Mike Vrobel says
Aaron Friedman says
I usually make one from the NY Times where you cut a roast into 3 pieces, season them, brown them, and then cook them with a can of Coke (or Dr. Pepper). Then I season it with half sweet BBQ sauce, and half vinegar BBQ sauce at the end. I might try this one though. It seems a little easier.
Mike Vrobel says
Yes, give it a try. (Coke or Dr Pepper for the liquid won’t hurt, but I would mix a ladle of it in with the bbq sauce to get the flavor into the sauce. )
I have been making your pulled pork for awhile. My go to technique. I replace water or broth with apple juice/cider and a little apple cider vinegar. Brings a nice sweetness to the pork.
Mike Vrobel says
Abby Jarden says
I love pulled pork - I can't wait to try this!!!
Mike Vrobel says
Try it, you'll love it!