Pulled pork is one of life’s most delicious pleasures, but you need the right techniques and tools to shred meat correctly. Whether you’ve cooked it in the slow cooker or on your barbecue smoker, here’s how to shred pulled pork perfectly every time.
Pulled pork is a staple of American barbecue, and it’s surprisingly easy to make at home. But once you’ve got your meat ready for serving, how do you get those delicious shreds that are so satisfying?
It takes a little patience and attention, but in the end, when everyone can see all that juicy meat just waiting to be eaten, it’ll be worth every minute spent!
Today we’re going to show you the best ways to shred pulled pork so you can make the best of your smoked or slow-cooked Boston Butt and pork shoulder. Let’s get into it.
What is pulled pork?
Pulled pork is one of the most traditional dishes in barbecue and it’s a hugely popular dish outside of its original American homeland.
The meat for pulled pork usually comes from an inexpensive cut, such as shoulder or butt, which has been smoked at low temperature over many hours to ensure that it becomes tender. For our smoked pulled pork, we use a 5lb cut of pork butt.
Once cooked these are then shredded before being served with BBQ sauce on top either wrapped up in bread rolls or placed straight onto buns or wraps.
What is meat shredding?
Meat shredding is a way of cutting tougher cuts of meat, like pulled pork and beef brisket. The process can either be done by hand with two forks or special meat claws, or with the help of an electric knife.
Meat shredding is effective because it separates the muscle fibers, making them easier to chew and digest. This makes it easy to turn a freshly smoked pork butt or shoulder into an easy sandwich or taco filling, instead of simple strips of meat. The long fibers also release more flavor, especially if you then cook them in a marinade or BBQ sauce.
The most basic way to serve pulled pork is with two forks, also called the double fork method. It creates attractive thin strips of meat, and is particularly good if you’re serving smaller portions.
Start by placing the pork on a cutting board or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Slice off one end of the pork butt, from top to bottom.
Place forks about an inch apart on top of the meat, then press down firmly until you hear it crackle and break up into smaller pieces. Insert the forks into the meat and pull apart in opposite directions. Repeat this process until all of the meat has been shredded
This method takes some finesse which may not suit everyone but it does give good results when done correctly. If torn too quickly the meat will get stringy, but if torn slowly and with patience then you’ll have perfectly shredded pork.
Meat shredding claws
Meat claws are an easy way to shred pork if you don’t want the hassle of having to remove bones. Claws can make quick work of those pesky little bones too so it can be a big time saver.
Simply place one claw inside a piece of meat and use the other hand in tandem with it on the outside (to help prevent any bits from slipping out). Once you get started, just twist slowly and pull apart at the same time – this will cut through tough connective tissues easily. You can also do this by clamping both pieces together between each other and pulling down for similar results.
This method can take some getting used to so it’s definitely one for those with steady hands! Also, bones may make their way into your final product which isn’t ideal for everyone.
Use an electric stand mixer
If you’ve got an electric stand mixer and want to keep your hands clean, you can easily use it to shred meat. You just need to add a little butter so that the meat doesn’t stick to the bowl and use cold water instead of hot when rinsing off excess fat after cooking.
The blades on electric mixers are able to cut through any tough bits with ease. They’re also strong at breaking down proteins so they don’t get too stringy if you reheat pulled pork later.
You will need to remove the bone first, and use a stainless-steel bowl for the best results. Simply set it to the lowest setting for a few minutes and you’ll be done.
Use a potato masher
An underrated method is to use a potato masher. While it’s tempting to think this might create a meaty mush, it’s an effective way of breaking down the pork into the strands we need.
This method is particularly good if you’ve encountered any strong and stubborn bits of pork, and good if you don’t mind having larger strands of meat. Like for tacos or chili.
The goal here is to break down any pieces of connective tissue that might remain after cooking, but without pulverizing them into mushy bits.
These chunks are also more apt than other methods to create undesirable amounts of juice when shredded; they’re too big and juicy! You’ll need to be conscious about draining them well before assembling anything that will go near bread or potatoes.
Pro tip: Put the masher in the freezer for an hour before shredding. This will help give the masher more heft against any stubborn pieces of meat.
Got any burning questions about where to start shredding pork? Our frequently asked questions are here to help.
At what temperature should I pull pork?
The pork should be pulled when it reaches an internal temperature of 203°F (95°C). This will give you a soft, tender texture and reduced risk of foodborne illness. The cooking time might vary depending on how low the heat is set.