Cheap BBQ Pulled Pork Recipe Can Feed a Crowd
One of the best ways to save money on food is cooking at home using recipes that utilize an inexpensive cut of meat. The problem is that many people think cheap cuts of meat equals tough, or otherwise poor quality meat. This is not always the case. In fact, some of the cheapest cuts of meat produce the best tasting dishes you’ve probably ever had. Cheap foods can still be healthy, good and save you money. No, this is not traditional barbecue, which requires low and slow cooking with real smoke. While I do have a smoker and make traditionally smoked pulled pork, this is a great winter substitute, or simply a way for those of you without smokers to achieve a great pulled pork dish from the comfort of your kitchen.
That’s why today we’re looking at the pork butt, Boston butt, pork shoulder, or whatever you want to call it. It’s a cut of meat that hardly anyone buys because it’s something you can’t just whip together in 15 minutes and requires low and slow cooking. If you’re a busy parent you may be thinking this recipe isn’t for you, but you’re wrong! The magic of this dish is that it only requires a crock pot and about five minutes of prep work and it cooks itself. Even better, you can usually end up with over 5 pounds of BBQ pulled pork to feed your family for days or entertain a crowd for a little more than $10. How frugal is that? It’s especially great for a super bowl party and if you pair it up with your own home brewed beer your guests will be sure to have a great time.
For the working person this is an ideal crock pot recipe because you can literally dump everything into the pot before you leave for work in the morning, turn it on, and come home to the most tender and delicious pork shoulder you’ve ever had. Since you should ideally cook this for 8-12 hours it’s perfect for those long days at the office or just cooking overnight on a Saturday so you have a no-fuss meal ready for Sunday with leftovers to last most of the coming week. It’s up to you, but it’s impossible to mess up so don’t worry about trying to time out the recipe exactly. I once started cooking this and had something come up and the pork ended up going for nearly 24 hours. It wasn’t even a problem and tasted as good as always.
Ingredients and Cost
Above you’ll see everything you need to make this recipe.
- 5-7 pound whole pork shoulder (Pork Butt, Boston Butt, etc.) $0.99-$1.39/lb (Around $7 total)
- 1 medium to large onion $0.99
- A few cloves of garlic $0.25
- BBQ Rub Seasoning $2-$3
- Liquid Smoke $1.49
- BBQ Sauce $3.00
- Salt and pepper
I want to talk about a few of these ingredients before we get started. First, the pork itself. What it’s actually called will vary by location. In some places it’s just a pork shoulder, in others it’s a butt, and sometimes even specifically referred to as a Bostom Butt. Regardless of what it’s called, it’s a hunk of meat from the top part of the front shoulder of a hog and in the whole form as we have here, usually includes part of the shoulder blade bone inside. This is what we’re looking for with pulled pork and it should be incredibly cheap.
Here’s mine. As you can see, we call it a Boston Butt up here. You’ll also notice I picked it up for just a dollar a pound. This was actually marked down slightly because it was one day before the sell by date. Regular price was $1.39/lb. Since this cut isn’t very popular it’s not uncommon to see these sit on the shelves for a few days and then get marked down to try and get rid of them. If you keep your eye out and plan your meals ahead of time you can almost always snag one for really cheap a day or so before the sell by date.
I also wanted to touch on the two other ingredients that may be a little confusing to you. First is the liquid smoke. If you recall from my award-winning chili recipe, I use liquid smoke as part of a marinade. This is the same stuff and we use it in this recipe because we’re trying to replicate some of that authentic smoked barbecue flavor. Before the hate mail begins flooding in I do want to make a note that even though we’re making BBQ pulled pork, this is not authentic barbecue. In order to achieve that you need to smoke the meat for a number of hours low and slow. If you have a smoker and can do this yourself, then by all means do so. But for the folks who don’t have a smoker or want to make something as close as possible from the comfort of their kitchen this is the next best thing.
Finally, we have the BBQ rub seasoning. I happen to keep Stub’s brand on hand in our house, but if you already have a favorite BBQ rub that you use that’s fine too. If you don’t have a pre-made rub you can easily make your own with a few household spices you already have. In a small bowl mix in some salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika, garlic and onion powder. This is a real common mixture and it is a great rub to use on a lot of different things.
So far our cost for this recipe is a little under $15, and that’s if we have to buy everything listed. If you already stock onions, garlic, BBQ sauce and spices in your pantry you’re e really only looking at the cost of the meat itself. I can’t think of a cheaper meal.
Preparing the Pork
Do you hate spending a bunch of time in the kitchen chopping and cutting food just to get it ready for cooking, which then requires you to stand around tending to it for another half hour? Me too, which is why you’re going to love this recipe. First, take the onion and few cloves of garlic and give them a rough chop. Just quarter the onions if you want. Nothing fancy at all.
Now, just dump the onions and garlic into your crock pot. Go ahead and give them a good few pinches of kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper. That’s it, we’re done with the vegetables already.
Now you just need to season the pork. Give it a nice good coating of the store-bought BBQ rub or your own spice mix. Don’t be shy as it’s nearly impossible to over season it at this point. If you really want some flavor you can season it and then wrap it in plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge overnight so that some of the flavors begin to really get absorbed into the meat. That is totally optional, but also totally delicious.
Drop the pork into the crock pot with the rest of the ingredients and it’s time to add some of the liquid smoke. This stuff is concentrated so a little bit goes a long way. For this recipe I usually use 1-2 tablespoons. We will be discarding the cooking liquid when we’re done anyway.
To top things off you’re going to want to fill it about two-thirds of the way with water. Be careful and don’t over fill it because it will get boiling and bubbling and you don’t want to make a mess on your counter to clean.
This picture isn’t very exciting, but this is your pork’s home for the next eight hours or so. How long you cook this is really up to you. If you crank it out on high you can finish it in about 3-4 hours. Personally, I usually put it on low and then let it go overnight for at least 8 hours. On a few occasions I got busy and it’s cooked for 12+ hours and it’s still fine. We’re adding enough liquid that there’s no real danger of it all boiling off and burning your meat so don’t get too concerned about the exact cooking time. Also, for reference I believe this is a 6 or 6.5 quart crock pot and it holds a 7 pound pork shoulder with just a little room to spare. Obviously, keep the size of your crock pot in mind when deciding how big of a piece of meat to get.
After letting it cook for a number of hours this is what you’re left with. A big brown juicy hunk of awesome. The only thing left to do now is separate the meat from the bone and most of the fat so that we can drain all of the liquid. So, go ahead and grab the single shoulder blade bone and just pull it out. The meat is so tender at this point it will slide right out.
Once you remove the bone you can just take a slotted spoon or some tongs and fish out all of the chunks of meat from the crock pot and set it all aside in a large bowl. This is also your chance to separate all of the fat and everything sticking to some of the meat so in the end you’re actually left with a relatively lean pile of meat.
After you’ve pulled all the meat from the crock pot you can go ahead and dump all of the liquid, fat, onions, and everything that remains. I’m sure you could find a use for this stock if you wanted, but in my experience it tends to be really fatty since you render almost all of the fat out of the meat so it isn’t the most useful. Once you’ve dumped the liquid and fat you can throw the meat back into the crock pot.
Now we get to actually make it look like pulled pork. The meat is so tender at this point that there’s not much pulling involved. All you have to do is take two forks and use them to shred the meat. As you can see above I’d hold one in each hand in the position they are and then drag them toward the outside of the pot. Repeat this for a few minutes and you’ll have a perfectly shredded pile of pork.
All that’s left now is to add the BBQ sauce. I prefer Sweet Baby Ray’s, but any sauce that you love is perfect. Depending on how big your pork shoulder is you may need anywhere from a half a bottle to a whole 40 oz bottle of sauce. In my case, the 7 pounder required nearly a full 40 oz bottle of sauce. Start by adding a small amount and then mix it in to see how it looks before adding more. You can always add more sauce, but once it’s mixed in you can’t remove it. So play it safe and start slow.
And there you have it. After adding all of my sauce and mixing it in for a few minutes I’ve reached the consistency I wanted, which was perfect for putting on a bun to make a sandwich. At this point the pork probably needs to be heated up a bit, but here’s a little tip. Because you’ve now added sauce to the mix that is high in sugar you have to be careful with the heat. Even on low, if you let it sit for maybe a half hour you could find it starting to burn on the sides. Low is fine if you’re able to keep stirring it every 10 minutes, but don’t let it sit unattended at this temperature. If your crock pot has a “keep warm” type setting, this will work perfectly. Otherwise, as long as it’s warm enough to serve, your pork is done! I bet you already know that, because if you’re like me you’ve been picking at it for hours.
And here is my final product. This is how I eat it, nice and simple. A pack of hamburger buns, a quick toast on a hot pan, and a big pile of pork. It doesn’t get much better than that. When serving them to others I always like to keep some cole slaw and dill pickles on-hand to go with it, which are very traditional sides. But how you eat it is up to you. My wife is happy with just scooping some into a bowl and eating plain, it goes good on a big fat piece of Texas style garlic toast, and even makes some great BBQ burritos.
With so many options and the fact that it freezes nicely it’s great to make a big batch of it and then eat it fresh for a day or two and then freeze the rest so you have a quick meal on-hand for those busy nights when you don’t feel like cooking. For us, this is just one of those things that’s perfect for entertaining. When we have a poker party or a group of people over to watch a game it’s easy to just let it sit out in the crock pot staying warm and put a pile of buns next to it so people can make sandwiches as they come and go. And for $10-$15, can you really go wrong? I hope you enjoy this BBQ pulled pork recipe as much as I do.
If you enjoyed this recipe, be sure to check out some of my others:
- Award-Winning Chili Recipe
- Homemade Salsa Recipe
- Fresh Refrigerator Pickles
- Homemade Applesauce Recipe
- Grilled Potatoes and Sour Cream Sauce Recipe
Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle
My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.
I made this last night and finished it this morning. Instead of liquid smoke I used a little bit (1/4 c) of Famous Dave's Smokey Chipotle and a 40oz bottle of Open Pit Thick and Tangy when adding the sauce. Very tasty. Thanks for a great recipe.
@CindyOrozcoKeenan cook at 225 or 250 until the meat hits 200 degree's internally. Hard to say on time due to the size of the cut u use. Generally around 8-10 in the oven or smoker. Then let it rest for 20-30 min and pull it apart. The other thing, true pulled pork is not mixed with BBQ, it's add on top like ketchup to a burger
Hi! I posted a review a couple of years ago, but because I have made it many times since then, I wanted to submit an updated review. I still make this recipe exactly as listed, and I still love it. I have a large family, and I love to have people over to feed them! This is my "go-to recipe" for a crowd! It IS better when you let it cook on low for over 8 hrs. So be prepared, and plan accordingly. I would never recommend to anyone to use any recipe for the first time on a dinner party where you are trying to make an impression. I mean, wouldn't you want to know how your dish tastes before serving it to guests? Wouldn't you want to make something you've made before, so you know what to expect during the cooking process? I mean, just because you know how to drive and how to get where you're going, doesn't mean you know what the traffic will be like, right? Just saying.. Anyway.. Back to this lovely recipe. The last time I made it, the grocery store where I used to get my shoulder cut from, had closed. :o( So Regrettably, I went to Wal-Mart and got one. The outer skin was still intact, and it was hell trying to remove that without butchering the meat. It did not turn out well AT ALL. It was for a luncheon at work, too. So I was disappointed. But because I've made this recipe many times with QUALITY meat, and I KNEW it was a great recipe, I can pretty much isolate the meat as being the reason for the less-than mediocre turn out. I know now that even if it means driving 45 min to a place I've bought some quality meat from, that is what I will do. I mean, this recipe.. Is definitely worth it! So for EXCELLENT results I recommend that you: buy a good quality shoulder (I like to get mine at Meijers), Rub with a good rub & let it sit for 24hrs if you can, cook low & slow, at LEAST 8 hours..this is not something you can rush, people! Also, reserve a little bit of the stock when you remove the meat. I've found that the meat really sucks up the BBQ sauce. So after shredding the meat & before adding the BBQ, I do add a little bit (no more than 1/2 cup for a 6lb roast) of the stock. Do this and you will have the best pulled pork to come out of a crockpot! Thanks again, Jeremy for this awesome recipe, and my family & friends thank you, too!
the most important thing when cooking a pork butt is the temp must be around 200 degrees to get the meat to fall apart. The is the key to doing it on the BBQ.
Just had to review this again! My goodness this is an awesome recipe! I made it, once again, for a church function. This time I used an even larger pork butt and it turned out amazingly good! I was sort of in a tight time frame and I cooked it on high from 5:30 a.m. until around 1:30 p.m. Perfect results!
I tried this yesterday with a 3-pound pork butt, and it was great! I cooked it on low for 6 hours, but I probably could have switched to warm mode sooner. It still turned out so moist. I skipped the liquid smoke and used the homemade rub mix. It came out better than our local BBQ joints. Thanks!
I just put my large almost 9lb pork butt iun the oven since it wouldnt fit into my crock pot. Something I forgot to look at before i started the process. Oops. I have my oven set to 300 and did everything else the same. I sure hope it turns out the same. I am excited to try this. If anyone else has tried it in the oven please let me know what results you had and if you have any tips so it comes out just as moist and tender as the original,
Wanted to thank you for this wonderful recipe!! Had an 8# pork roast in the freezer and after finding this recipe...just had to try it! Followed your directions exactly (well, have to admit that I couldn't find Stubbs BBQ rub, so had to use another brand), started the crockpot at 7 this morning and by 5pm it was ready to shred..the 8#'s filled a 9x12 baking dish. I did drizzle some of the 'juice' over the shredded pork. Will use this for sandwiches for this Holiday weekend. Plan to serve it with BBQ sauce on the side for those who want!! Even without the BBQ sauce, it is delicious!! I definitely will be using this recipe in the future!
Im having a party with about 20 people, will this be enough to feed that many people? Im having other foods, so im not planning on this being the main meal, but i want to make sure there is enough for everyone to have at least one serving of it.
I have used this recipe a dozen times by now (sometimes I cook in beer instead of water) and it's a HUGE hit every time, Last time I made it I visited the site to refresh my memory on the instructions and noticed the ONE comment that was a complaint. After reading that this was the first time I had trouble. I followed the directions exactly as always but this time the pork just wasn't tender enough to pull. What could have caused the meat to be so tough? The only thing I could think of is that maybe I just got a bad cut of meat? I have never had an issue. All was not lost though, we cut the pork the best we could and threw it in our magic bullet. It was still edible and delicious. I just wanted to share the idea that maybe the one person who had an issue may have just had a not so great cut of meat. I am sure it happens. Still my favorite party dish!
If we are cooking a 3 lb pork butt in a 3 qt slow cooker how would we adjust the cooking times? First time pulled pork maker here :)
I searched and searched for a recipe that sounded good. I found this one and decided to give it a try. I made it exactly as written. I have to say...it is amazing! I wouldn't change a thing! Thank you for posting this! (Can't wait to take it to the church potluck today)
I am trying this recipe for the first time as I type. I made some minor changes though. Instead of a rub, I used "Stubb's Pork Marinade." I marinaded the pork roast all day & half the night. I started the cooking of the pork roast at 3 am, basting it once with the marinade at the beginning and just now just before 5 hours of cooking on high. I plan to let it cook another hour on high before preparing to pull & shred. I did not intentionally mean to cook my roast on the high setting, but at three in the morning all words look the same, lol! The house is smelling good & I am eagerly awaiting to see how my version of this recipe is going to turn out. I really hope that cooking it on high for 6 hours is going to make the meat more tender & juicier with the marinade. Once it is ready and I have shredded the pork; I plan to use "Stubb's Original Bar-B-Cue Sauce," for the final preparation of this recipe.
This is the 4th time I used this recipe and it's perfect every time! I am making one right now for Super Bowl. I have a question though... I might have bought a slightly bigger pork shoulder than usual., the water and beer isn't covering the meat, so will the top become a little dry? If so, what can I do so this doesn't happen?
I love this recipe! If it doesn't turn out delicious in the posted time* then maybe it's time to step out of the kitchen and order BBQ ;)
Great recipe. Cooked the pork for 7.5 hours with excellent results. This recipe is just a base for me to start with. I plan on adding different ingredients make it even better. I will share in future posts. Thanks again.
omg tasted wonderful! i put some other random stuff like honey ect and i did marinate overnight but sooo good! ALSO USED SWEET baby rays vidalia onion bbq sauce
I just took the pork out of the crock pot with mixed results. The bottom is very tender but the top, which was not covered with water, is actually dry and tough. This is after cooking it on low for 10 hours! Maybe I should have turned it over half way through. I'm also not too crazy about the Stubb's rub. I've shredded and mixed the tender part with sweet ray's sauce it's heating up. I gave the tough part to the dog.
Here I am again this year, making dinner for a Super Bowl crowd. It was a smashing success last year and everyone wanted "my" recipe. I gave them the website, and everyone was happy with their success. People should be aware of how much time the "pulling" of the pork takes. Like Avalonfaith, I also tried to do the 4 hour cooking one time and I was using the oven and panicking a bit before my guests arrive. I would suggest the longer slow cook method and allow plenty of time for fixing the final product. It is a great recipe....and oh, so economical.
This recipe is top notch. After reviewing the ingredients and reviews, my wife decided to give it a try. This was her first attempt at making pulled pork and was created for a dinner party. She used a 5 lb "Boston Butt" cut of pork and marinated it overnight in dry seasonings. Then she woke up (6 am) and placed the roast and ingredients into the crock pot. The meat was able to cook all day (12 hrs) while we were working. When I came home, the entire house had the aroma of bbq pork and onions! After the bones, fat, and broth were removed from the pork, we pulled the pork and added the bbq sauce. We continued by letting this cook for an additional 1/2 hour.
At that time our guests arrived and devoured our entire roast. The 5 lbs cut of meat was able to feed 6 adults and 2 small children (with one serving left over).
Cooking meat in a crock pot is a slow process and should not be rushed. I would recommend this recipe to any chef who can plan ahead, has patience, and enjoys greater than restaurant quality food. I must say that my wonderful wife did a great job finding high quality product and taking the time to research a sound recipe. A job well done for my chef wife and the recipe creator. Five Stars.......
This will teach me not to try a recipe for the first time when I'm having guests for dinner! I would have NEVER used this recipe if I had foreseen the disaster ahead! I bought a pork shoulder roast between 5-7 pounds (6.3 in my case), just like the recipe called for. It clearly stated, "If you crank it out on high you can finish it in about 3-4 hours." NOT TRUE!! I checked at 4 hours and it wasn't NEARLY done. Checked an hour later, STILL NOT DONE. Check another hour later, STILL NOT DONE!! I had the rest of my dinner ready at 4 hours and it was now looking disgusting and the pork was clearly not going to be done anytime soon, so I ended up having to send one of my guests to the store to purchase two pre-cooked and prepared chickens because my guests were expecting to eat at 5:00 and it was now 7:30. My crockpot is not the problem. It is only 7-8 months old and I have had EXCELLENT results with everything else I've prepared in it. It is now 10:55 at night. I put the crockpot on low at 8:00 when we sat down to eat dinner, and it is JUST NOW starting to look the way it was supposed to look after 3-4 hours. What a joke. It will be a long while before I'm laughing about this one with my guests. This killed the nice dinner I had planned.
You said when you cooked it for 12+ hours it still turned out fine but was it dry at all or about the same? I'm thinking about cooking mine from about 12:30 tonight until about 3:30pm... How do you think it will turn out?
Fantastic recipe. I will do it for the 3rd time this weekend and have sent the link to several interested friends. Do you recommend Long Term Care insurance? If so which provider?
Great job with the pictures and steps ! I feel like this is really going to benefit me when making my first Crock Pot pork concoction.
I am from GA but currently living in Thailand and I wanted to make something American to share with my friends for my birthday. This recipe was perfect. It was so easy, cheap with local ingredients(i only had to get import sauce), and it tasted like home. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you for the recipe! I used all the same ingredients except my rub was McCormick's BBQ rub. It was DELICIOUS! Great and easy directions!
This is by far the best pulled pork recipe I ever had!!! OMG it was delish!! Thanks for the pictures too. They were very helpful as this was my first time making pulled pork. WOW it was so good!! Thanks!!
As a rookie crock-pot user, this step by step recipe was easy to follow and made a delicious pulled pork. Thank you!
I would LOVE to know how many servings this recipe makes? I've read and read but don't see it? Anyone?
Seriously the best crock pot recipe I have ever tried. We had it for dinner - had 3 guests over - still had leftovers the next day. Couldn't wait to eat the leftovers - we ate dinner early just so we could get back to it. And brought some for lunch today at work. Best!!! Thank you!
This is great. I'm a single mom who works full time and I'm in school part time. My son loves pulled pork. Thank you. Now THIS is financial planning.
My mother-in-law had a recipe for pulled pork that we always thought was the greatest. That was until we tried this recipe. This is by far the best pulled pork we have ever eaten. Everyone we have served this recipe to has literally tore their clothes off because it is so amazing! Thanks for posting this for others to enjoy!!
i found this recipe and decided that i had to try it!!... although the price of pork has gone up considerably i still managed to keep it pretty cheap... 7lbs of meat was 15.82... and i followed the recipe and tried to do it the quick way but im here to tell you that there is NOT a quick way!!... even on high it still took me 6 and half hours... after waiting for so long i finally got to taste it and it was AMAZING!!... thanks for the recipe!!...
I make a lot of pulled pork and I'd have to say this is the best depiction of the process from beginning to end that I've seen. I would only offer the suggestion that instead of water, one might want to try apple juice, root beer, or ginger ale. However, keep in mind Jeremy's comments about the sugar content and how that can having a bearing on what temperature the crock pot is set at. I generally use apple juice, and cook it low and long.
I search the web for alot of recipes. This has to be the best one I have ever found! Step by step with photos! I am going to try it and thank you again for the details and bit of humor. I have never used liquid smoke, its a little intimidating, so keep your fingers crossed! lol!
How should I freeze the pulled pork? I have to entertain for 30 ppl on a cmping trip and want to make this ahead of time-freeze and then put in a crockpot the day of the event ... would I be better off not adding the bbq sauce until reheating?
Thanks for this recipe documentary, the photos totally helped me, I was stumped on whether to cut the raw meat initially. Thanks - great job here Jeremy!
I've made this before, served on regular hamburger buns feeding 4 adults and two small children. There was so much left over, I served the rest at a family gathering the next day. There was a lot more food for everyone to choose from (other than the pulled pork) so maybe that's why it stretched so well. Everyone LOVED it, and so did I BC not only did it taste GREAT, it was SUPER easy! I'll be making it again next weekend for my children's birthday celebration and I'm hoping that it stretches as much this time! I used Famous Dave's rib rub & Famous Dave's Rich & Sassy Sauce bc They are my favorite!! Just a tip to other readers.. If you're making this for a party, try using small buns (like King's Sweet Hawaiian Rolls) ..it will go alot farther! Thanks for sharing this awesome recipe!
If you save the liquid, but drain the fat, you could add a couple of cans of tomato paste, brown sugar, maybe some molasses and some spices and it then you have your own bbq sauce.
Want to use your recipe for a party I am having, but not for sure what dip I should make to go a long with it? Buffalo Chicken Dip or Hamburger sausage dip??? Have a lot of people coming too. How many people can a 7pd roast feed???
Does anyone know how much pork I will need to feed about 30 people (hungry men)? I'm thinking of doubling the recipe -- will that be enough?
Being from Cajun Country I have tried many pulled pork recipes. I was very excited to come across this one. Many have so many ingredients its overwhelming. I am a mom, I work and go to school so my crock pot is a lifesaver. I threw this together about an hour ago and will let it cook all night then prepare the rest in the morning. My girls will have an easy yet fantastic lunch!! By the way, I love the chunky onions- So simple! Thanks for sharing..
Great recipe. Can't get any simpler. I like to serve this on onion Kaiser rolls. Of course, don't forget the pickles and slaw! Thanks for sharing. :-)