Nobody turns down Apple Butter Pulled Pork ~ whether you do it in the Instant Pot, oven, or crock pot, this easy braised pork shoulder is a favorite for family dinners, game days, or whenever there are hungry mouths to feed.
The Instant Pot was made for recipes that call for large cuts of meat like pork shoulder
They need to be cooked for a long period of time to tenderize and make them extra juicy. You can make this apple butter pulled pork in a low oven, but it will take you all day. Why not pop it in the Instant Pot and set the timer for one hour? It’s a super good deal if you ask me, and let’s just say I got no complaints around the dinner table last night:)
Sidenote: I’m on a ‘big meat’ binge, haha! I’ve made Sauerbraten and a whole beef tenderloin in the past few weeks, and I’ve been testing pork tenderloin recipes lately. Don’t know what’s responsible for my sudden carnivorous streak, but I’m not stopping any time soon…rack of lamb anyone?
How to buy pork shoulder
Pork shoulder and pork butt are both cuts from the upper shoulder of the pig. Both are referred to as ‘shoulder’ cuts and both are good for making pulled pork.
Pork shoulder is available bone in or boneless, and either will work for this recipe. Be sure to adjust for the weight of the bones in your servings calculations.
Allow 1/2 pound of meat per person, but remember:
A bone in pork shoulder will lose up to half its weight once cooked and shredded, so a 6 pound piece will yield about 3 pounds of meat. Allowing 1/2 pound of meat per serving, that would feed 6. A boneless cut of meat will lose less. If unsure, ask your butcher.
This cut of meat can be large, and if it doesn’t fit flat into your Instant Pot you can cut it in half, or in pieces.
The most important step in making pulled pork
No matter how you cook it, the most important step in making pulled pork is browning the meat. When meat hits high heat and browns, essential flavor compounds are created. Give the meat at least 5, preferably more, minutes on each side to really develop color and flavor.
The process that happens when meat browns is called the Maillard Reaction, one of the most important chemical reactions in the world of cooking (and eating!) It happens when proteins and sugars brown in the presence of heat. This reaction enhances the color, aroma, and taste of food, in the best way.
The beauty of the Instant Pot is that you can brown right in the pot, and make no mistake, the sauté function is plenty hot for a great sear.
How to make pulled pork in the Instant Pot
- Season your meat all over.
- Brown it off well on all sides using the hottest setting of your sauté button.
- Remove the meat from the pot and sauté the onions and garlic.
- Deglaze the pot with hard cider, then add broth and seasonings.
- Nestle the meat back in and pressure cook on high for 60 minutes.
- Let the pressure reduce naturally for 15 minutes, then release the valve and let the pressure reduce completely.
- Carefully remove the meat to a platter. Remove bones and excess fat, and shred with two forks.
- Your meat is ready for a homemade sauce, or your favorite bottled bbq sauce.
- If serving right away, use the keep warm setting on the Instant Pot.
The word succulent must have been invented to describe pulled pork 🙂
Pork shoulder is a tough fatty cut of pork to begin with, but when you cook it low and slow it breaks down into the most tender meat imaginable. And there’s nothing more satisfying than taking two forks and pulling that juicy meat apart. Shredded pork is so versatile, you can eat it as is, or pile it on buns, biscuits, rice, noodles, tacos…
Don’t forget the apple butter barbecue sauce!
Succulent as the meat may be, it doesn’t come close to realizing its full potential without an amazing sauce. In addition to the aromatic broth that the meat cooked in, you only need 2 more ingredients for this one: apple butter and your favorite bottled barbecue sauce. Simple, huh?
Use store bought or homemade apple butter, both will work. Any bbq sauce will work, as well.
More Pork dishes to try
- Cranberry Glazed Pork Roast
- Instant Pot Pork Chops in Creamy Mushroom Sauce
- Japanese Pork Dumplings with Ginger
- Pulled Pork with Pineapple Barbecue Sauce
Apple Butter Pulled Pork ~ Instant Pot or Not!
- 6qt or larger Instant Pot Pressure Cooker or a large braising pot
- 1 pork shoulder, mine was 6 pounds, bone in. See note below about choosing a pork shoulder.
- salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1 cup hard cider
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 3 bay leaves
apple butter barbecue sauce
- 1 cup apple butter
- 1/4 cup bottled barbecue sauce
- Season your meat generously on both sides with salt and pepper. If your meat is too big to fit in one layer in your Instant Pot, then cut it into pieces so it will fit. You can trim off excess fat if necessary to get it to fit.
- Press the SAUTE button on the instant pot to its high setting (MORE) Add the butter to the pot and wait until the pot is hot. Brown the meat for 5-8 minutes on each side. Don't try to move the meat until it is nice and browned. Remove the meat to a plate.
- Lower the SAUTE button to normal and add the onions and garlic to the pot. Sauté for a couple of minutes, gently scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
- Add the hard cider and allow it to bubble for a minute more. Press CANCEL to turn the Instant Pot off.
- Add the meat back into the pot, along with the stock and bay leaves. Lock on the cover and set the vent to SEAL. Press PRESSURE COOK and set the timer to 60 minutes. When the machine signals that it is done, let it sit without touching for 15 minutes. Then turn the vent to VENTING and wait for the pressure to come down completely.
- Carefully remove the meat from the pot (it will be extremely tender) and put on a plate to rest.
- Meanwhile strain the juices from the pot and discard the solids. Let sit to allow the fat to rise to the surface. Skim off as much of the fat as you can. (It's ok to leave a little bit.) After straining and defatting you should be left with about 2 cups, more or less.
- When the meat has rested about 10 minutes, remove the bones and excess fat. Then shred the meat with two forks. Put back in the Instant Pot.
apple butter sauce
- Put the strained stock in a sauce pan and bring up to a boil. Boil for about 10 minute to reduce it down a bit, then add the apple butter and barbecue sauce. Stir to combine, and the bring up to a simmer. Continue to cook until it is a thick as you'd like. Keep in mind it doesn't have to get super thick, and you want enough to really drench your shredded meat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add enough sauce to thoroughly coat the meat in the Instant Pot, reserving any leftover to serve on the side. Press the SAUTE button to bring the meat up to a simmer, then press the KEEP WARM button to keep everything hot until you're ready to eat.
- Serve the shredded pork on soft buns, topped with homemade coleslaw.