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Perfect Spiced Pulled Pork Recipe

PLAN AHEAD: Please note that, if you're going to brine the pork (which I highly recommend), you'll need to do so the morning before (24 hours ahead).

Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Mexican
Keyword Mexican dinner recipes, recipes with pork
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 hours
Brining Time 1 day
Total Time 1 day 10 hours 20 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 380 kcal
Author Valentina K. Wein


  • 1 (approximately 4-pound) Boston Butt (Pork Shoulder)

For the brine:

  • 1/4 cup black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons whole allspice berries
  • 5 small cinnamon sticks
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 gallon water
  • 1/2 pound (about 3/4 cup) Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 cups ice

For the spice rub:

  • 5 teaspoons each ground cumin, dried oregano, smoked paprika, and brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon each: ground cinnamon, ground cloves and salt
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper


For the brine

  1. Combine all of the spices (first 6 ingredients) in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized stock pot, bring the water to a boil with the salt and sugar.  Stir once it's boiling to be sure all of the salt and sugar has dissolved.
  3. Turn the heat to low and add the bowl of spices. Let this steep over the low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice.
  4. Then turn off the heat and let the brine come to room temperature. (With a large quantity of liquid, cooling could take a while.)

For the pork

  1. Once the brine is room temperature, place the pork in a large container, making sure it will be big enough that it won't overflow once you add the brine.
  2. Add the ice to the brine and carefully pour it over the meat -- I would do this step in the sink, if the container fits. Cover the container with the lid (if there is one), or plastic wrap. Either way, make sure the meat is completely submerged in the brine, and that it's sealed tightly. Place the container in the refrigerator and brine for about 24 hours.

For the rub

  1. At some point while the meat is in the brine, mix all of the spice rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Be sure they are well blended and set aside.
  2. When you're ready to remove the meat from the brine, preheat the oven to 225° F, and adjust a rack to the lower third.

  3. Remove the meat and place it in a roasting pan -- one that's big enough so there are at least a few inches of room all around it. Pat the meat dry with a paper towel.
  4. Now add the spice rub to the entire surface of the meat, and use your hands to "rub" it in to be sure it adheres -- all of the sides should be well coated. The fat side should be facing up in the pan!
  5. Place the pan in the 225° F oven and slow roast the meat for about 2 1/2 hours per pound. When it's done the internal temperature should be about 190° F.

  6. Once you remove it from the oven, loosely cover with foil, and let it rest for about an hour. (Do not wash the pan yet!)
  7. Place the pork on a large, clean work surface. Gently lift and remove any large pieces of crusted fat on the top. Now you "pull" the meat apart with your hands. It should fall apart very easily.
  8. Add the pulled pork back to the pan and gently toss it with the pork juices and bits of the spice rub that are on the bottom of the pan.