Sous Vide Pulled Pork Shoulder for Simple Family Meals

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About: I'm Nancy, FancyNancyAnn. I like being in the kitchen - especially with cool gadgets. Baking is my favorite, but it has to find a new home fast, because of a huge chocolate sweet tooth. Next to me is Riley ...

I like it when things are simple, fun, creative, and delicious! Cooking proteins using sous vide is extremely simple and a great way to get your food at the perfect temperature that is juicy and tender. Sous vide is French for "under vacuum", cooking sous vide uses heated water to gently cook food so it stays juicy and flavorful.

When this pork shoulder is finished, it will fall off the bone and pull apart very easily. Once the pulled pork has cooled down, divide it into portions, vacuum seal, and freeze for later use.

In this instructable, I'm going to share my recipe for Sous Vide Pulled Pork. This will make many meals, so I will also share some of my pulled pork menu ideas.

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Step 1: Tools and Ingredients

Tools Used

Ingredients Used

Brine:

  • 1 C Apple Cider
  • 1 C Apple Juice

Dry Rub:

  • 1/4 C (50g) paprika
  • 1/4 C (50g) brown sugar
  • 3 Tbs (35g) kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs (12g) whole yellow mustard seed
  • 1 tsp (4g) freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs (20g) granulated garlic powder
  • 1 Tbs dried oregano
  • 1 Tbs whole coriander seed
  • 1 tsp (4g) red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp (2g) Prague Powder #1 or pink curing salt (optional: see note)

Finishing Sauce:

  • 1 C Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Tbs Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tsp coarse black pepper
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes

Step 2: Inject Brine

1 Pork Shoulder (pork butt), whole, bone-in

  • weight varies (ours weighed 6 lbs.)
  • do not remove the original vacuum sealed wrap

Brine Recipe:

  • 1 cup Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 cup Apple Juice

With the plastic wrap still on the pork shoulder inject brine sides, bottom, center; all throughout the meat until the brine is coming out the injection sites!

Remove the original vacuum sealed wrapping and proceed to the dry rub.

Step 3: Dry Rub and Vacuum Seal

Dry Spice Rub:

  • 1/4 C (50g) paprika
  • 1/4 C (50g) brown sugar
  • 3 Tbs (35g) kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs (12g) whole yellow mustard seed
  • 1 tsp (4g) freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs (20g) granulated garlic powder
  • 1 Tbs dried oregano
  • 1 Tbs whole coriander seed
  • 1 tsp (4g) red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp (2g) Prague Powder #1 or pink curing salt (optional: see note)

Note: Prague Powder #1 or pink curing salt can be added to give the meat a red "smoke ring". It doesn't contribute any flavor, for aesthetic only

With a high speed blender, such as a Vitamix, add all ingredients and blend to a fine powder. If you do not have a Vitamix or other high speed blender, use a spice grinder and work in batches until all is blended to a fine powder.

Divide the mixture in half. Reserve half of Spice Mixture for later use. Rub half of the mixture evenly all over pork shoulder, pressing it in until it adheres.

Vacuum Seal:

Place pork shoulder in a sous vide safe vacuum sealer bag and seal bag

Pro Tip: If you are finishing your Pork Shoulder in an Oven add a small amount liquid smoke

  • Oven - Add 1/2 tsp Liquid Smoke to enhance the BBQ Smoke flavor
  • Smoker - no need to add liquid smoke, it will be achieved through the wood chips you use (we used hickory)

Step 4: Cook Sous Vide

Set your sous vide cooking system on a heat safe surface. Set sous vide precision cooker to 165 F for traditional pulled pork texture. When the water is at temperature, add the sealed bag and cover with sous vide water balls to prevent water evaporation. Allow to cook 18-24 hours. After this stage, pork can be refrigerated up to 1 week before continuing

Step 5: Remove, Drain, Blot Dry and Add Spice Rub

Remove pork from sous vide water.

Hold bag over sink and cut a small corner of bag to drain.

Carefully remove pork from bag, blot dry with paper towels

Rub remaining 1/2 spice rub mixture into surface of pork

Step 6: Finish on Smoker or in Oven

To finish on Smoker:

  • Preheat Smoker to 275 F using indirect heat and hickory (or other favorite wood) for smoke
  • Place pork shoulder directly on smoker grate. Cover and allow pork to smoke, adjusting vents to maintain temperature at 275 F.
  • Let meat smoke about 3 hours until a deep, dark bark has formed

Pro Tip: (from hubby) he inserts temperature probe inside pork shoulder while on smoker and lets internal temperature of pork to reach 180 F

To finish in Oven:

  • Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat too 300 F
  • Place pork in a rimmed baking sheet and place on wire rack in oven.
  • Roast until a deep, dark bark has formed, about 3 hours

Step 7: Remove and Place in Ice Chest

Transfer pork to a disposable aluminum foil roasting pan.

Place in an ice chest, close the lid, and let rest about 2 hours

Step 8: Add Finishing Sauce, Portion, Vacuum Seal and Freeze

Remove pan with pork from the ice chest

Discard the bone

Shred and pour finishing sauce over shredded pork

Pro Tip: Use heat safe neoprene BBQ gloves to handle pork shoulder while lifting and shredding

Finishing Sauce:

  • 1 C Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Tbs Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tsp coarse black pepper
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes

Add all ingredients in small saucepan, stir to combine. On low heat, warm the mixture until brown sugar is dissolved. Pour this mixture over warm, freshly pulled pork. Mix it together with gloved hands

Pro Tip: This adds very little heat to the pork (despite the red pepper) and mellows out the flavor. The vinegar also helps break down the pork even more for some REAL juicy pork.

Step 9: Pulled Pork Recipe Ideas

Here are some quick menu ideas to get your pulled pork creative juices flowing!

  1. Pulled Pork Baked Stuff Potatoes - bake potato, top with warm pulled pork, top with favorite toppings
  2. Pulled Pork Stuffed Sweet Potatoes - same as above
  3. Pulled Pork Pizza - 1 pizza dough. Mix some BBQ sauce with pulled pork. Line a baking tray with parchment. Place rolled out dough on top. Spread thin layer BBQ sauce on top. Place layer of shredded cheese on top. Then layer of pulled pork BBQ sauce mixture. Top with more shredded cheese. Sprinkle with cooked bacon and diced red onion. Bake for 15 minutes in preheated 450 F oven
  4. Pulled Pork BBQ Spaghetti - combine BBQ sauce, tomato sauce sour cream shredded cheese and 3 chopped green onions and pulled pork with spaghetti noodles cooked al dente. Spray 9" x 13" casserole dish, pour mixture in prepared dish, sprinkle more cheese on top, cover with aluminum foil, bake 350 F for 20-30 minutes.
  5. Pulled Pork Enchilada Skillet Dinner - mix pulled pork and corn tortillas (cut into bite sized pieces) into sprayed large skillet. Add 1 can each of rotel tomatoes, red enchilada sauce and 8 oz tomato sauce. Cover and cook for 5-10-minutes until hot and bubbly. Sprinkle on cheese, stir to combine and cook 1 more minute. serve with favorite toppings
  6. Pulled Pork Shepherd's Pie - add mixed vegi's, corn, BBQ sauce, topped with mashed potatoes. Bake at 375 F for 20 minutes, remove and sprinkle shredded cheese on top. Return to oven for 10 minutes

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    4 Discussions

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    Shawn F

    2 days ago

    I’m also curious about the advantage of doing sous vide vs just smoking it low and slow. Presumably the meat is moister than it would be after a long some session. I am an avid smoker, but brand spanking new to sous vide, so I am genuinely curious. Just did my first beef roast today, 24 hour sous vide followed by pan searing all six sides. It was VERY tender and moist, and the drippings made the best gravy!

    I am also very curious what the advantage of the week long refrigeration between the sous vide and smoking is.

    1 reply
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    FancyNancyAnnShawn F

    Reply 2 days ago

    Hi Shawn F. I just posted a response for the advantages of combining both Sous Vide and Smoking to bschuster. I'm having so much fun cooking Sous Vide and trying new things, both sweet and savory.
    The purpose for the refrigeration period was for convenience only; sous vide during the week and smoke on the weekend. Have fun!

    1
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    bschuster

    3 days ago

    What advantage or difference is there in the meat compared to just smoking it low and slow for 8-12hrs. Is the extra time it takes to sous vide the pork shoulder make it that much better than just brining and dry rub and cooking it on the smoker?

    1 reply
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    None
    FancyNancyAnnbschuster

    Reply 2 days ago

    The main advantages to combining the two methods, Sous Vide and Smoking, are 1) Increased level of tender and juicy meat and 2) Hands off cooking time on the Smoker. Using Sous Vide gently cooks your protein to a precise temperature, end to end, in its own juices. In this Instructable, the pork shoulder took a nice, long, vacuum sealed bath in 165 F water. My husband and I have had several "throw downs" where I have done my meat and finished it in the oven (for the bark), and he, total Smoker for the correct amount of time. Sous Vide scored higher on tender and juicy but couldn't come close to the awesome smoke flavor from Smoking. We have found that combining the two methods, especially with tougher cuts of meat, results in the absolute best flavor, texture, juicy, OMG tasting, tender meat ever!!!