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Pulled Pork: Slow cook and then grill or vice versa?

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Was wondering if anybody ever try slow cooking the pork shoulder first, and then grilling it or smoking it just to get that seared outer layer? How did it turn out? Or did you guys grill and then slow cook it?

The main issue I had was when I tried this with ribs, they fell apart on the grill. Should I refrigerate them first and then grill it after?


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  1. My girlfriend just made some for the 4th of July. Put it in the crock pot over night (in root beer). Next morning, drained the root beer out and poured her favorite barbecue sauce over it and mixed it up.

    Was really good and I don't usually do pork.

    4 Replies
    1. re: GotBaddog

      Yes, but the question was AFTER it was slow cooked did you (she) grill it to sear the roast? Sound and looks like it was only slow cooked.

      Personally I cannot envision, pork cooked to "pulling" could be solid enough to grill. I do not think the chilling step would work to the dish's benefit.

      Perhaps a final roast in a hot oven would provide the sear you would like. But bark is bark and it takes that hard work of long slow BBQ.

      1. re: Quine

        Yes, it was only slow cooked. There is no way it would have stayed together on the grill. I can't see grilling something then slow cooking it. Might just be me, but it pretty much has to be one or the other.

        1. re: Quine

          I don't understand the quest for "seared" outside. Pulled pork, made traditionally, is smoked for hours. The outside crust is due to smoke and dry rub, not searing. When people use a crockpot, they are trading true smoke flavor for liquid smoke or smoky flavor bbq sauce, but the reason it is successful as an alternative is that the moistness is retained. Searing means putting a crispy, dried outer coating on this, and here in BBQ country (Texas) no one is searing their pork shoulder at any time during the pulled pork cooking process.

          If there any any "cuers out there who do actually sear their pork shoulder, I would love to hear how and why.

        2. re: GotBaddog

          I do the same thing. I do put sliced onions in the bottom of the crock pot, then put in the pork and add a can of root beer. Love it on sliders with home made cole slaw.

        3. You can slow cook then grill to get a bit of char and another layer of flavor.

          1. What you're proposing reminds me of carnitas - a Mexican pork dish where the meat is slow cooked (braised), shredded and cooked in a friying pan to brown the edges. Very delicious!

            The grill may not be optimal. I see bits falling between the grate. A grill pan would probably be a better alternative.

            For your pulled pork, I'm assuming you're going to smoke the pork first (the slow cooking part). Afterwards, you'll shred and crisp in a frying pan or a grill pan (a pan that you'll be using on the grill... not the pan that's designed to leave grill marks while cooking on the stovetop.).

            1 Reply
            1. re: dave_c

              that's what i was thinking…sounds like carnitas that brian is seeking -- because pulled pork is just smoked, then pulled…ain't no grilling involved…nor slow cooking. but if slow cooker is used, then you surely wouldn't do that "first" and then attempt to grill.

            2. Put a cast iron griddle on that grill, then it won't fall through.

              4 Replies
              1. re: AlexCV

                Slow cook in the oven, pull, put in aluminum pan, and put on the grill. Add some wood chips, and let it smoke for 15-20 minutes.

                I slowcook my pork in the oven (225) for 18 hours or so, use a brown sugar/cumin/chili powder rub, and it develops a very tasty bark. I know it is sacrilege to do it in the oven, but I am lazy.

                And no one complains, as they clear the platter.

                1. re: sparrowgrass

                  The oven works great! I love the idea of finishing the pork with smoke.
                  Your rub sounds a lot like mine.

                  1. re: sparrowgrass

                    Sorry, should have clarified. I meant using a crockpot to slow cook it. The oven technique sounds good... maybe i'll do that. It's just that I've never had pork shoulder so moist as when I left it in a crockpot for 8 hours or so.

                    I was thinking leave it for 4-6 hours, and then about an hour on the grill with wood chips at low temp?


                    This is the closest thing i've found related to this topic...but she doesn't say how to solve the falling apart issue...unless its by fridging it...in which i'm afraid will cause it to loose moisture?

                    1. re: bshee

                      She seems to be recommending the process for beef brisket which is ultimately going to be sliced. Once you've finished cooking your pork shoulder in the crock pot you can either just shred it with your sauce, or chop it with a bit of sauce then form into patties and grill on the flattop Carolina style. In either case serve it on a roll with slaw -- I like to use a Carolina ketchup based slaw for that:


                2. True pulled pork is the combination of three factors - tender and juicy pork, smoke flavor, and the contrast of tender meat against "bark". This is why there is only 1 true way to achieve pulled pork - cooked slow and low on a grill with added wood chunks or on a smoker. Anything else, and what you really have is roasted pork shoulder, not a true pulled pork.

                  I've been cooking pork shoulders for years, using all sorts of methods. At times, in the dead of winter (I live in Minnesota), when I get a hanking for pork shoulder, I'll do one in the crock pot. It's not the same. But you can come close. Real close.

                  Here's the method I developed to approximate a smoked shoulder without spending hours at the smoker. :
                  1) Take the shoulder (well, half the shoulder really), rub about 1/4 cup of a good rub into it. There's tons of good pork rubs, look at Steve Raichlen's website or books for good recipes. Wrap it in a few layers of plastic wrap, fridge it overnight or 12-24 hours.
                  2) In a good solid pan, sear and brown all sides of the shoulder, total about 10 minutes
                  3) Pop it into the crock pot. Add a vinegar based sauce - I used about a cup of cider vinegar, a couple tablespoons of left-over rub, a couple squirts of ketchup, a couple squirts of hot sauce, and a couple drops of liquid smoke. Adding a vinegar sauce to the meat cuts the fat a little. It adds pucker to the finished product. A true North Carolina pulled pork isn't served with BBQ sauce, it's served with a squirt of vinegar based sauce (with or without ketchup, depends on which part of the state you're in).
                  4) After the shoulder hits an internal temperature of about 195 (this should take about 8 hours, give or take a couple), carefully (emphasis on carefully) lift the shoulder out and pop it onto a foil wrapped tray, and stick it in the broiler for 5-10 minutes. If it won't fit in the broiler, then roast the heck out of it for 5-10 minutes. The more brown the better, but be careful to not let it turn to black.
                  5) Drop it back into the crock, and shred, mixing in the vinegar sauce and spreading the bark amongst the tender meat.

                  The 3 step method - sear, cook in the crockpot, and broil-to-brown - gets about as close as you can to re-creating pulled pork from the smoker. The method (with adjustments to the sauce) works really well with pork belly too, or just about any other large cuts of meat that taste so good when roasted, but are flat when crocked. The initial sear and final broil mimic what happens on the smoker, where the dry heat creates a crust which can't take place under the moist heat environment of a slow cooker. This gives you the bark - not as much as smoking, but it's something. Adding a few drops of liquid smoke gives you that smokey flavor you get from smoking or grilling with wood chunks. And you're still letting the slow cooker do it's thing so you're not chained to a smoker for 8 hours.

                  This is a little more work than simply dumping the meat into a crock pot and coming back a few hours later, but IMO it's well worth the extra few minutes.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: foreverhungry

                    Sounds outrageously good to me. This goes into the file.

                    1. re: foreverhungry

                      Wow--thanks for posting this. I've been cooking pork shoulders on the smoker all summer, but when it gets really cold, I don't want to run outside constantly to check on the temperatures.

                      1. re: foreverhungry


                      2. Brian, I think foreverhungry has nailed it and saved me a lot of time writing about the three essential factors in good pulled pork. The suggestions above are all great as well but I think I can add a few tips. Cook's Illustrated just analyzed this not too long ago and determined that any real smoke flavor needs to go into the meat when it's raw, so that needs to happen at the beginning. Probably any BBQ fan could have told them the same thing. And the meat can only really take on any smoke flavor for about four hours -- after that any time on the smoker or grill is not too different from roasting.

                        So to the extent you care about smoke flavor -- and I know you really specified more about searing than smoke -- you should consider doing a few hours of smoking on your grill first and then finishing in your crockpot or in a foil covered pan in the oven. This will give you the juicy moist meat you like as well as the nice smoky bark of true pulled pork. The crusty bark will soften in the later stages of cooking but will still be firm to the bite and you can crisp it up using the broiler or frying pan methods that others have suggested.

                        I think the refrigerator thing is a non-starter. And I think the reason you see a lot of restaurants grilling ribs after smoking them is that they sort of undercook the ribs so they stay together on the grill so people can have that charred thing that many people seem to like and associate with BBQ because everyone burns their grilled food at home.

                        My pulled pork always now does four hours in the smoker and anywhere from four to eight hours in the oven in its own juices, no extra moisture added or needed. Comes out really smoky and everyone says it's the best they've had.

                        When you put the pork into the crockpot or oven, now's the time time to make your sauce: a couple of cups of vinegar (cider, white or a mix, your choice) a tablespoon or two of white or brown sugar and a tablespoon of red pepper flakes in a mason jar. Shake to combine and let sit while the pork cooks. Sprinkle a little or a lot over the pork after you shred. Just sayin'.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: acgold7

                          Great responses! I am definitely going to have to try these out! I will let you know how it goes!


                          1. re: acgold7

                            i like your style, acgold! good advice.

                            1. re: acgold7

                              foreverhungry sure does know pulled pork. We have never cooked it inside in either crockpot, stockpot, or oven.
                              The 'bark' wouldn't happen in any of those instances. It's gotta be done at low heat with smoke a flowing, 225 F for however long it takes to get the internal temperature of 185 - 190.
                              Then rested wrapped tightly in foil or oven stuffer bag, wrapped in towels in a cooler to keep it hot and redistribute juices, for at least 2 hours, we like about 3 or 4 hours. Then it will pull apart with forks and charm all who eat it!!

                              1. re: Nanzi

                                You can get bark in the oven, but not smokiness. You can also get a crispy outer layer (more or less a bark) cooking in the traditional carnitas manner - simmering in lard for hours and then raising the temperature at the end.

                                No bark in the crockpot though.

                                And the smoker is still my favorite method.

                            2. I do a pulled pork that is completely cooked in the oven. Becuase of the dry rub used, it still gets the bark on the outside. It isn't as good as pulled pork from a smoker but way better than one cooked in a crock pot. Here is the recipe: http://homesicktexan.blogspot.com/201...

                              1. I just made pulled pork and it was fabulous. I slow cooked the ork (raw) with some thinly sliced onion, a packet of beef slow cooker seasoning by McCormick and a bit of water. I cooked for 8 hrs on low heat. Then I removed it from the juices, drained the stuff out of the crockpot, shredded the pork (by pulling it apart with 2 forks), threw it back in the crockput with a small bottle (or to your liking) of Baby Ray Honey BBQ sauce and cooked another 45 minutes to an hour. It was delicious. Very moist and everyone asked for the recipe

                                1. For convenience sake I rub a shoulder the night before, put in frigde, remove and let sit for 20 mins then I sear it on the grill just long enough be careful not to dry it out, then slow cook in slow cooker for 6 - 8 hours depending on size. I have had nothing but praise for this. Its not traditional but it works, satisfies and is easy for a busy ass Mom!

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: heyyounotme


                                    For convenience sake I rub a shoulder the night before, put in frigde, remove and let sit for 20 mins then I sear it on the grill just long enough be careful not to dry it out, then slow cook in slow cooker for 6 - 8 hours depending on size. I have had nothing but praise for this. Its not traditional but it works, satisfies and is easy for a busy ass Mom!

                                    Please define "slow cooker".

                                    Crock pot?
                                    Countertop electric roaster?
                                    Something else?

                                    You show a pic of "crispy bark."

                                    That cannot be obtained in an enclosed slow cooker.
                                    Only dry heat cooking or smoking can make that pic work.
                                    Unless you toss it all under a broiler to get the saggy bits crispy in the very end.

                                    So whatsup with that?

                                    Grill first and braise second does not match your pic.

                                    1. re: jjjrfoodie

                                      I dunno -- heyyou does not seem to mention the words crispy or bark at all in her post unless there has been some editing going on we can't see, and with this new format who knows what's been going on? But for all we know she sears the thing for four hours, and that pic is consistent with that. There's nothing about the pic that looks crispy to me -- in fact, the shininess of the pork makes it look rather wet on the surface. The pork is certainly dark, but we can't tell whether it is crispy or not, and my guess is, it isn't (which does not happen to be a deal-breaker for me, as I think I allude to above).

                                      So I'm buying it. It isn't all that different from the method I describe above. And I think we can all assume that slow cooker means crockpot.

                                      I have no problem with someone reviving an old thread rather than starting a new one when they have something to add to a discussion.

                                    2. re: heyyounotme

                                      Easiest way I have found to come up with satisfactory pulled pork is a liter of some kind of soda (has sugar, has acid) + pork and a slow cooker (crock pot).

                                      Depending on the size, I let it sit for 10-12 hrs.

                                      After I shred it

                                      spread it out over a pan, pour adobo over it and some oil
                                      broil it.

                                      Tender and crispy at the ends! And almost no prep!

                                      1. re: bshee

                                        Sounds like that's closer to Carnitas, no? Delicious but not really too much like smoked pulled pork. Not knocking it at all, though.

                                    3. -----------------

                                      Easiest way I have found to come up with satisfactory pulled pork is a liter of some kind of soda (has sugar, has acid) + pork and a slow cooker (crock pot).

                                      Depending on the size, I let it sit for 10-12 hrs.

                                      After I shred it

                                      spread it out over a pan, pour adobo over it and some oil
                                      broil it.

                                      Tender and crispy at the ends! And almost no prep!


                                      Sorry shee.

                                      Pic posted is NOT what you do per above post .
                                      Epic fail.

                                      Wanna smoke or dry roast ? This is what ya get.
                                      I'm so done with pork misinformation.

                                      Thanks for playing.
                                      What you show is NOT what you do.
                                      I wanna see pics

                                      I'll show you my pics. :-)

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: jjjrfoodie

                                        I am not sure what you are accusing me of. I simply gave directions on how to make a quick pulled pork. Unless you are saying what I'm doing is not pulled pork? I also have not posted any pictures. Not sure what I am showing. I don't believe I claimed it would develop any kind of bark, or even compare to a lovely low and slow smoked pork butt, just that it was a quick way to make somewhat crispy tender pulled pork.

                                        1. re: bshee

                                          Sorry bshee.

                                          heyyounotme "dragging up the 3 year old" post was my reply.

                                          I doubt heyyounotme will ever own up to "chumming" the CH waters with the pic and method.
                                          I knew better.

                                          My apologies.

                                          1. re: jjjrfoodie

                                            Not an issue.

                                            On the original topic, I have found that if you don't add any liquid to a slow cooker, you still do wind up with some charring. heyyounotme, is that how you do it? Not add liquid into the slow cooker to keep the environment dry?

                                          2. re: bshee

                                            Some (or many) may disagree with this sentiment, but I believe that "pulled pork" is pork that's cooked slowly, in a dry environment (e.g. not a slow cooker), with smoke, at a low temperature. Pulled pork has three elements - low temperature and long cook time until the pork reaches a high temperature (190 - 200 F), smoke, and bark. Pork (or beef or chicken) cooked in a slow cooker and then shredded is just that, shredded meat. Similarly, I wouldn't call chicken roasted in an oven and then served with BBQ sauce barbeque chicken.

                                            Again, I'm sure many will disagree. Dishes with specific names have specific methods and ingredients. Calling pork cooked in a crock pot pulled pork starts to dilute what true pulled pork is, until the term loses its meaning.

                                            1. re: foreverhungry

                                              Irony: right below your comment on my screen is an article titled "It's Slow Cooker Sunday! Make this Spicy Pulled Pork".

                                              Not to say you're wrong, in my mind pulled pork has more to do with the tenderness (can be pulled apart by a fork) than the cooking method. Semantics. The original goal of this post was to find a way to as closely replicate smoked, low and slow pulled pork with a slow cooker or oven.

                                              Conclusion was that the only thing that isn't readily cloned is the bark. And yes, what I posted was closer to carnitas. It was just an easy, low effort recipe that still tastes good.

                                              Maybe if you put a thick layer of dry rub with mustard, you can put it in the slow cooker with minimal liquid and still get a crisp outside?