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World’s Best Carolina Pulled Pork Recipe [+VIDEO]

Make the perfect Carolina pulled pork with this easy and delicious recipe. Impress your friends and family with this mouth-watering dish, complete with a step-by-step video tutorial.

Want to make the best pulled pork from your own kitchen? The key to making this Carolina pulled pork recipe is the brine. You’re actually going to start this recipe two days ahead of time with the brine, and it takes time to make tender, juicy pulled pork in the oven. So plan your schedule accordingly, and get ready for the best pulled pork of your life!

Make a batch of our very best macaroni salad and toss together a fresh fruit salad, and it’s party time!!

Watch How This Pulled Pork Recipe is Made…

Creating the Best Pulled Pork Recipe

When I think of BBQ, I can’t help but think of slow and low style, the Carolina way. In order to cook the best pulled pork, it’s essential that you plan ahead and spend some time prepping and cooking that delicious meat at those lower temperatures. This helps bring out all those flavors that melt in your mouth and allows that pork to literally fall apart. I know, we are all lazy and don’t want to, but trust me, this Carolina pulled pork recipe is so easy your dog could do it.

This recipe may seem like a process, but here’s the deal: you really just plop the pork in the fridge to marinate, and then transfer it to the oven. Although it takes a long time, you’re just going about your everyday life so it’s really not extra work on your part. 

These idea for this pulled pork recipe come from watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Shout out to Guy, who gets to eat for a living! We occasionally watch his show on Netflix at night, and first of all, it makes us so hungry, but we also feel like we can totally guess when he doesn’t really enjoy something. We wish we could find out what he really thinks are the best and the worst of the places he has tried.

Anyway, I got a little off topic. Here are the secrets to the world’s best Carolina pulled pork.

close up photo of homemade pulled pork

Carolina Pulled Pork Ingredients

There are three main components to this pulled pork recipe: the brine, pulled pork rub, and the homemade BBQ sauce. Here is what you will need for each component:

  • 5-8 Pound Pork Shoulder (or Butt)

Pulled Pork Brine

  • Water
  • Apple Cider
    • Note that you’ll be using apple cider, NOT cider vinegar, in the pork shoulder brine. But many of our readers have missed that and added pure vinegar and so we had no choice but to try it since so many of you loved the results. Sure enough, it was great! So we prefer the juice but hey, vinegar is fun too! Apple cider adds a little more flavor without ever tasting like apple, and all you have to do is dump it in.
  • Kosher Salt
  • Dark Brown Sugar
  • Dry Rub (see below)
  • Bay Leaves
  • Red Pepper Flakes

Pulled Pork Dry Rub

  • Onion Powder
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Garlic Powder
  • Chili Powder
  • Kosher Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Dry Mustard
  • Cumin
  • Brown Sugar

Homemade BBQ Sauce

Of course, you’re welcome to use a store-bought sauce, but if you’re looking for the best pulled pork recipe ever, well, you need to use homemade barbecue sauce. 

  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • White Vinegar
  • Brown Sugar
  • Chili Powder
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt

The measurements for all the ingredients can be found in the recipe card at the end of the post.

What’s the Best Pork for Pulled Pork?  

To make the best pulled pork, you’ve got to start with the best cut of meat. Most barbecue restaurants use whole bone-in pork shoulders, but they’re rarely available in grocery stores. If you find a whole shoulder, use it. Otherwise, we recommend a Boston butt, which is half of the shoulder, the other half being the picnic shoulder.

How to Make Pulled Pork in the Oven

This pulled pork recipe looks lengthy, but each step of this recipe is incredibly easy. Here’s a quick overview of how to make pulled pork in the oven: 

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the dry rub in a small bowl.
  2. Stir together the pork shoulder brine and let the pork soak in it for 12 to 24 hours. 
  3. Remove the pork from the brine and place it in a large baking dish, then pat it dry with paper towels. 
  4. Rub the pulled pork seasoning all over the meat, saving just a little of the dry rub for later. 
  5. With the fat facing up, bake the pork at a low temperature until it registers 200ºF at the thickest part. 
  6. Turn off the oven and let the pork rest for a couple hours. 
  7. Take the pork out of the oven and remove the fat from the top. Then, shred the meat with two forks. 
  8. Drain half the juices from the pork, then add the remaining dry rub and toss in the homemade bbq sauce.  
  9. Serve with buns or hoagies to make pork sandwiches or just serve the meat plain with some coleslaw and all your favorite sides.
a whole pork shoulder covered in a dry rub and sitting in a roasting pan full of juices

How Long to Cook Pulled Pork

If you’re southern, you know this isn’t just a secret but practically a law in the south — LOW AND SLOW. I always laugh when people tell me they can’t make bbq, “I let it cook for over an hour and it was dry and hard as a rock!” 

BBQ is very relaxed, just like southerners. It wants to hang out all day, and while you may think you’re overcooking it, you’re not! Our pork cooks for at least 12 hours, sometimes more if it’s a bigger butt (I feel like there should be a joke in there). Do not rush it.

Can I Make Pulled Pork on a Smoker? 

If you’d rather make smoked pulled pork instead of oven pulled pork, we recommend following our Smoked Pulled Pork Recipe. It gives step-by-step instructions on smoking pulled pork on a Traeger. 

Can I Make This Pulled Pork Recipe in the Slow Cooker?

Yes this can be done in the slow cooker, but we’ve found that it doesn’t do it justice. It is also hard to fit the size of pork butt you need into a crock pot. If you decide to try it, it will cook for the same amount of time on low. Follow the brining instructions as written, and no need to add any liquid to the slow cooker. There’s enough juice in the pork to keep cooking properly.

How to Prep Carolina Pulled Pork in Advance

Reader Kate says:

“I’m heading up to my cabin and need a dinner for a large crowd a few hours after we arrive, wondering if I can cook the pork and then finish it off in the grill when we arrive? Or if it’s better to do all steps and then reheat it on arrival? Looks delish.”

Great question! We do this ALLLLLLL the time. Go ahead and make this pulled pork recipe, and then you have two choices. Pull it out of the oven and put it straight into the car and it will rest on the way to the cabin and be ready to eat two hours later. 

Or make it, rest it, cool it and place in freezer bags, or to be honest, we use this Foodsaver and just suck the air out and freeze pork for use over the next three months. It’s super easy, and tastes perfectly fresh when we reheat. We just place it in the fridge to defrost and then reheat in a large pan with foil in a low oven or stove top with a little oil in the pan and a lid to keep the steam in so it’s juicy. 

Carolina pulled pork in metal baking dish

Tips to Making the Best Pulled Pork

The key thing to remember when making this pulled pork recipe is to let the meat rest after it’s finished cooking. I told you, it’s lazy. Letting it rest redistributes the juices, and because it’s big and cooked for a long time you’re going to want to let it rest longer — like an hour or even two — before shredding.

Perhaps the biggest secret of all, and one that I cannot claim as my own as this is where Triple D (Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives) comes in, is to sprinkle a little more of the rub onto the meat before serving. We noticed many bbq joints weren’t just slathering on the sauce, but actually sprinkling that dry rub all over the shredded meat and tossing to let it sink it. You won’t believe what a difference it makes! 

You can also use another type of bbq sauce in this pulled pork recipe! Carrian likes a thick, sweet sauce or a Carolina vinegar bbq, and I love this Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce on my homemade pulled pork.

What to Serve with Carolina Pulled Pork

We recommend firing up the grill and making grilled corn to go with this Carolina pulled pork. It is so dang good every time! And just for pure comfort, add a side of Southern mac and cheese. A few other pulled pork sides we love are: 

Storing and Reheating

Leftover pulled pork should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to 3-4 days. This meat also stores great in the freezer. Let it cool completely and then place in ziploc bags (or better yet, use a Food Saver!). It will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Use leftovers in pulled pork pizza or pulled pork nachos! If you want to just reheat it, turn on your oven and set the temperature to 250°F. Then, cover your meat with foil and put it into the oven when it’s ready. After you put it into your oven, let it heat for 30 minutes or until reaching an internal temperature of 165 °F.

Get ready for the juiciest and most flavorful pulled pork you’ll ever try! This recipe for Carolina pulled pork is a crowd-pleaser!


Servings: 10

Prep Time: 1 day

Cook Time: 14 hours

Total Time: 1 day 14 hours


Want to make the best pulled pork from your own kitchen? This recipe for the world’s best Carolina pulled pork all starts with a brine.

For the BBQ Sauce (Optional)

Prevent your screen from going dark

Prepare the Dry Rub:

  • Mix all of the ingredients together in a ziploc bag. Set aside.

    1 Tablespoon Onion Powder, 1 Tablespoon Smoked Paprika, 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder, 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder, 1 ½ Tablespoon Kosher Salt, 1 Tablespoon Pepper, 2 teaspoons Cayenne Powder, 2 teaspoons Dry Mustard, 1 Tablespoon Cumin, 1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar

For the Brine:

  • In a large stock pot, add the water, apple cider, salt, sugar, 3 tablespoons dry rub, pepper flakes and bay leaves.

    4 Cups Water, 4 Cups Apple Cider, 1/2 Cup Kosher Salt, 1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, 3 Tablespoons Dry Rub, 2 Bay Leaves, 1 Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

  • Rinse off the pork and add to the pot making sure it is completely covered in the brine and add the lid.

    5-8 pound Pork Butt

  • Place in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours.

For the Sauce:

  • In a glass jar, add the ingredients and place the lid on then shake to combine. Set aside.

    1/2 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar, 1/2 Cup White Vinegar, 1/4 Cup Brown Sugar, 1/2 teaspoon Chili Powder, 2 Pinches Red Pepper Flakes, Salt

To Cook:

  • Heat the oven to 225 degrees F.

  • Remove the pork from the brine and place in a roasting dish or 9×13″ baking pan as long as the sides don’t touch the pan.

  • Pat very dry with paper towels.

  • Remove 2 tablespoons of the dry rub to another ziploc and set aside for after it is cooked.

  • Rub the remaining seasoning all over the pork and in any cracks or flaps.

  • With the fat facing up, place the pork in the oven with a meat thermometer.

  • Bake for 12-14 hours or until 200 degrees F registers on the thickest part of the pork with a meat thermometer. *Remember to watch your oven, ours turns off automatically at 12 hours so I have to turn it back on.

  • At this point you can turn off the oven and leave the pork in there to rest for two hours or if you have more baking to do place foil over the meat and allow to rest on the stove.

  • Once the meat has rested, remove the fat from the top and using two forks, shred the meat and remove the bone.

  • Drain half of the juices out and add the remaining dry rub to taste, toss to coat and drizzle a little vinegar sauce over everything.

  • Serve immediately as is or on buns.

You can freeze pulled pork. Let it cool completely and freeze in freezer bags to use later.

Serving: 1.5cupCalories: 473kcalCarbohydrates: 42gProtein: 43gFat: 14gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 136mgSodium: 6888mgPotassium: 1000mgFiber: 1gSugar: 36gVitamin A: 832IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 101mgIron: 4mg

Author: Sweet Basil

Course: All of the Best Pork Recipes on the Internet, Every Man’s Favorite Easy Day Recipes

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