Instant Pot Pulled Pork

Instant Pot Pulled Pork

The Culture of “Q”

There are a lot of places in this country that claim their barbecue is the best there is. Texas and Kansas City come to mind. Alabama even has it’s own style of barbecue. For me though the only barbecue worth considering id Carolina “Q”. But even this is not without it’s biases. South Carolina has it’s own version that is based on a mustard sauce. However, the real battle is in North Carolina, and my Instant Pot Pulled Pork will feature both sauces.

Both sauces in North Carolina are vinegar based. The western or Lexington style barbecue sauce adds butter, sugar and Ketchup. The eastern sauce is strictly vinegar based, and is usually a little spicier.

The folks in North Carolina take their barbecue very seriously. Check out my post about my visit to Durham, The Bull City Eats. There is even a campaign for “real” Barbecue True Cue in the Carolinas. They proclaim that the barbecue must be made in Carolina, and only cooked over wood or charcoal.

Since I’m not up for digging a hole in my backyard, and going through at least a two day process, we are going to make this “Q” in my newly minted Instant Pot. This take less than two hours, as opposed to two days. It has other advantages as well. I think the texture is better, and not as dry. Here we go.


Instant Pot Pulled Pork on Tray

Type of Pork for Instant Pot Pulled Pork

You have several choices when it comes to the cut of pork for your barbecue. Most of it is fairly cheap, and some of it is tailor made for pulled pork.

  • Tenderloin – This would be great, but it is expensive, and not necessary.
  • Loin – While this is lower in calories, and therefore more lean, it will be dryer.
  • Shoulder – Or Picnic Roast, is better for just that, roasting, but works perfectly well for pulled pork.
  • Butt – or Boston Butt, has more fat marbling, and a more uniform shape. This is the preferred choice.

In some grocery stores you can get a 12% brine roast, and this would be outstanding, but I have never seen this in my local stores. Also, it is rare to see both shoulder and butt together in the same store. Get the Boston Butt if you can, but shoulder works well too.


The Sauce for Instant Pot Pulled Pork

Since we are talking about Carolina “Q” here, and I don’t want to offend any of my Carolina friends, I’m offering both types of sauce. I’m also including one of my own. One is sweeter (Western), and the other more spicy (Eastern). For both sauces, I think it’s important to heat them. This will allow all of the flavors to mesh together. You really don’t need to cook the sauce, just heat it to the boiling point, and stop. Layer your sauce with multiple ingredients to increase it’s complexity. One way to do this is by using my Rosemary/Garlic Vinegar found here: Rosemary Infused Vinegar. You need to make your sauce(s) a day ahead, and refrigerate them. This gives the sauce(s) time to come together. I’m not a fan of cooking the pork in the sauce. I want to be able to taste the pork, and not just the sauce. Add the sauce when you are ready to serve, or let your guests do it. Just don’t use too much; the sauce should compliment the pork.


Instant Pot Pulled Pork Sandwich with Slaw

Making Your Barbecue

First you need to remove the bone if there is one, and remove the fat cap from the pork. Next, we are going to marinade our pork with a spice rub. This should be done at least 30 minutes in advance, and preferably the day before. This rub can consist of whatever you like, but I believe this combination works pretty well:

  • Garlic Powder
  • Brown Sugar
  • Onion Powder
  • Paprika
  • Ground Mustard
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Dash of Cayenne Pepper

When you are ready to cook, take the meat out of the fridge, and let it come to room temperature. Cut the pork into four equal pieces. This decreases the cooking time, and makes the meat more tender. Set the Instant Pot to saute, and sear your pork pieces until browned. Deglaze the pot with some chicken stock, and leave the stock in the pot. Try to spread out the meat for the final cooking process.

You can tenderize your pork by adding a little vinegar. Some say you can use Coke or Dr. Pepper. I’m not convinced that this works, and it just seems a little dubious to me. I decided to add some Worcestershire, and just a hint of Liquid Smoke. This will emulate the bold and savory aspects of slow roasted pork.


Serving the “Q”

I think your swine will be in great company. There are a multitude of ways to serve this, and side dishes to accompany it.

Some serving suggestions:

  • Sandwiches of course, maybe with some creamy cole slaw.
  • On Burgers
  • In Omelettes
  • With Beans
  • On Pizza
  • In Carnitas
  • With Cabbage
  • On Tacos
  • With Baked Potatoes
  • On Nachos

The possibilities stagger the mind. The best part of this is that you can make it year round, and you don’t even have to dig a hole in your yard. Happy “Q”ing!


Instant Pot Pulled Pork on Sheet

Instant Pot Pulled Pork

Pulled pork that doesn't take two days to make.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 10 mins
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American


  • 4 Pounds Pork Butt or Shoulder
  • 6 Tablespoons Light Brown Sugar
  • 4 Teaspoons Salt
  • 2 Teaspoons Ground Mustard
  • 2 Teaspoons Black Pepper, Freshly Ground
  • 2 Teaspoons Onion Powder
  • 2 Teaspoons Paprika
  • 1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Cup Chicken Stock
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 Teaspoon Liquid Smoke
  • 1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar


  • Trim any excess fat from the pork, and remove any bone. Rinse the meat off, and pat it dry. Cut the roast into four equal pieces.
  • Add the dry ingredients to a medium bowl, and whisk together until combined. Add the pork pieces, and coat liberally, patting the rub into the meat. Place the pork into an airtight container (zip lock bags work great), and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but preferably overnight.
  • Remove the pork from the fridge, and let it come to room temperature. Set your Instant Pot to saute. Once heated, add the olive oil. When it is hot, add the pork pieces, and saute on all sides, two to three minutes. This should be done in two batches. Remove the pork from the pot to a plate.
  • Turn off the saute setting. Pour 1/2 of the chicken stock into the pot, and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits. Add the vinegar, liquid smoke, Worcestershire, and the rest of the chicken stock.
  • Return the pork to the pot, and space the pieces out as best you can. Place the lid on the pot, and secure it. Set the vent valve on the pot to sealing. Adjust the pot to high pressure for 60 minutes. It will take the pot 10 minutes or so to come to pressure.
  • When the timer goes off, allow the the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes. Then carefully release the rest of the pressure with the quick release. Carefully remove the lid.
  • Transfer the pork to a lined sheet pan, and using two forks, shred the pork. Add the pork back to the pot to absorb the juices. Serve with your favorite sauce, or try the ones listed here.
Keyword Barbecue, Instant Pot, Pulled Pork
Instant Pot Pulled Pork on Sheet

Eastern Carolina Vinegar Barbecue Sauce

A tangy vinegar based sauce for your pulled pork.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course Other
Cuisine American


  • 2 Cups Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Black Pepper, Freshly Ground
  • 2 Tablespoons Light Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Hot Sauce or to Taste
  • 1 Teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce


  • Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Whisk together as the mixture heats up to combine the ingredients.
  • Once the ingredients begin to simmer remove from the heat. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
  • Allow to cool, and pour the sauce into an airtight container or squeeze bottle with a lid. Refrigerate for up to two weeks.


Western Carolina Sauce - Add two tablespoons butter, two tablespoons ketchup, one tablespoon light brown sugar and one tablespoon yellow mustard.
Rosemary Vinegar - Replace the apple cider vinegar with the rosemary infused vinegar.
Keyword Barbecue Sauce, Instant Pot, Pulled Pork

Instant Pot Pulled Pork Sandwich


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