Instant Pot Pulled Pork

Ah, the pig. It is a great animal for all sorts of meals. Think about whole pigs cooked in a pit, Kahlua pig, ham steaks for breakfast, ham hocks for baked beans, and – of course – bacon! You can have pork products for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Some parts are succulent like bacon or fat back. Others are really lean like loin. When done well, a meal featuring pork is a meal to write home about.

Pork seems to be very popular in the summer. However, you can have pork any time of year. You don’t have to wait for an end-of-summer barbecue to have a delicious pulled pork slider!

Jump to the Equipment List. Jump to the Ingredient List. Jump to the Recipe Instructions.

Pork shoulder is a tough cut of meat. Also known as pork butt, Boston shoulder, butt, or Boston butt (because it was transported in barrels known as “butts” back in the day), it has lots of fat that running through the fibers of meat. This cut benefits from low and slow cooking because the fat renders out through those fibers, adding flavor and making the end result tender.

The shoulder is my favorite cut of pork for my Cuban-Inspired Slow Cooker Mojo Pork. My husband has used the lower part of the shoulder, known as the picnic, for his own pork recipes in the cast iron dutch oven. When cooked for a long period of time at low temps, the shoulder becomes tender, succulent, and delicious.

So, expect to spend hours if you want to do anything with the shoulder. While the shoulder benefits from long cook times, the Instant Pot cuts down on that time and still produces that delicious, succulent, tender result you get from low and slow cooking. You read that right. Instant Pot to the rescue!

You will be making delicious pulled pork whenever the mood strikes. Read on for the recipe.

Equipment List:

  • 6-quart Instant Pot* (*See Note below)
  • Chef’s knife
  • Cutting board
  • Measuring cup
  • Measuring spoons

*Note: I used a 3-pound pork shoulder in this recipe. You may be able to go up to about 6 pounds in the 6-quart. Keep in mind that you will have to cut the meat so that it fits evenly in the inner liner of the pressure cooker. If you have a larger roast – Let me know, I’ll be right over – then consider sizing up to an 8-quart (plus an additional 1/2 cup of water) or freeze half the roast for another day.

Ingredient List:

  • 3-pound pork shoulder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garlic powder (optional)
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 4 tablespoons of cooking oil, divided
  • Two bottles barbecue sauce of choice (I used what I had on hand)
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • Cole slaw mix with pre-made dressing (or you can make your own)
Ingredients for my Instant Pot Pulled Pork recipe!
Cast of characters for tonight’s meal.

Recipe Instructions:

  • Slice up the onion and set aside.
  • Slice the pork shoulder into two or three even cuts. You want to be able to fit each piece independently into the bottom of the pot for searing.
  • Season the pork shoulder pieces with salt, pepper, and garlic (if using)
  • On your Instant Pot, select “Sauté” mode and adjust to high heat.
  • When the display reads “HOT” pour in two tablespoons of your cooking oil. Swirl it around to evenly coat the bottom of the inner pot. It’s natural for the oil to collect along the edges of the pot due to its design.
  • After about a minute, sear each side of the pork pieces for about two minutes per side. This may have to be done in batches, which is OK.*
Pork shoulder cooking in an Instant Pot
I was able to sear only one piece at a time. More than that, and the meat would have been sweating instead of searing.

*Note: Crowding the pieces causes them to sweat instead of sear. You want that maillard reaction to deepen the flavor profile of the meat and resulting sauce. Trust me on this. “Dump and go” cooking has its place in busy lives, but if you can spend the time searing your meat and incorporating those burned bits into your dish, the result will be that much better.

Seasoned and seared pork shoulder
This is the color you’re looking for when searing the pork.
  • Remove the shoulder pieces and reserve on a plate. Cover with foil in the meantime.
  • Add a little bit of the water to the pot. Begin deglazing the bottom by scraping with a wooden spoon.
Browned bits in the Instant Pot
That deliciousness will add depth of flavor to your dish.
  • When the pot is mostly cleaned, add the onions and sauté. The onions will release moisture and help deglaze any remaining bits.
  • Sauté until the onions turn translucent.
  • Pour in the rest of the water and nestle the pork pieces in one even layer on top of the onions.
  • Pour one container of barbecue sauce on top of the pork. Do not mix.*

*Note: Thick sauces have a tendency to cause a burn notice with the Instant Pot. Thick sauces on the bottom of the pot will scorch and not allow the pot to come to pressure. Not to mention that the burned flavor is something the dish can’t recover from no matter what you do.

Repeat after me: thick sauces on top, do not stir.
  • Turn off the “Sauté” mode by pressing “Keep Warm/Cancel.”
  • Place the lid on and lock it into place. Turn the steam valve to sealing.
  • Press manual or pressure cook (I use the meat button) and set the timer to 45 minutes under high pressure.
  • Meanwhile, make your cole slaw and marinate in the fridge until you’re ready to eat.
  • When the cook cycle is complete, let the pot rest for 15 minutes. Then, release any remaining pressure by turning the valve to venting.
  • Toast your buns, if using.
  • Remove the pork roast from the pot. It may fall apart here, and that’s fine.
  • Shred the pork with two forks.
  • Press the “Keep Warm/Cancel” button and then “Sauté.” Stir the sauce with your wooden spoon until it’s reduced to your liking.
  • Return the shredded pork to the sauce or keep it on the side and spoon a little sauce over to keep it moist.
  • Serve with a side of the remaining barbecue sauce. I like my pulled pork with a heaping spoonful of slaw in a lightly toasted bun.

How do you like your pulled pork? What’s your favorite barbecue sauce? Let me know what sides you enjoy with your sandwiches! If you liked this recipe, please let me know by liking this post.

Thank you for sharing some of your screen time with me! If you liked this recipe, please hit the like button so I know to make more content like this. Tell me what you want me to try making next in the comments below. Also, check out my Facebook and Instagram (tag me at @cookwithsamib) for more photos and my Pinterest for what inspires me. Finally, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog for updates when I hang new posts!

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Buen provecho! – Sami B.

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