Pulled Pork Tenderloin
Pulled pork is an easy supper, especially if you do it in the slow cooker. Pork tenderloin is not the traditional choice for this dish. Most pulled pork recipes use pork butt or shoulder, but we’re a small family and usually have tenderloin in the freezer, so that’s what we use. I combined and tweaked two recipes to make a pulled pork my family loves: “Easy Pulled Pork” from the Cook’s Illustrated The Complete Slow Cooker and this recipe for easy BBQ pork tenderloin. (Substitute a pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs if you prefer chicken to pork.)
Note that this is not a “set it before you go to work” slow cooker recipe. This recipe makes a very small amount of pulled pork and it cooks very quickly in my small slow cooker. I use the slow cooker for the convenience of setting and forgetting, rather than dealing with braising on the stove. To make more, use a bigger slow cooker and adjust the cooking time.
Pulled Pork Tenderloin
- Slow Cooker
- 1 pound pork tenderloin
- 1 1/2 tsp brown sugar, packed
- 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 3/4 tsp chili powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/2 small onion, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup BBQ sauce See Notes, below.
- 1-2 dashes hot sauce Optional
- Combine brown sugar, smoked paprika, chili powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl to make a dry rub.
- Coat pork tenderloin in dry rub, using your hands to ensure it is distributed evenly.
- Place pork tenderloin in slow cooker; cut in two if it won't fit and nestle the pieces beside each other.
- Add onions and garlic to BBQ sauce. If using hot sauce, add it to the BBQ sauce mixture. Stir to combine everything.
- Pour BBQ sauce over pork in the slow cooker. Stir gently to ensure the sauce is distributed evenly around and under the pork. (The image below shows the pork before cooking.)
- Cook for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours on low, until temperature has reached about 160F. See Notes, below.
- Remove the tenderloin from slow cooker, shred, then return to slow cooker and toss with sauce. To ensure it is nice and hot, you can put the lid on and let it cook on high heat for about 10 minutes. Serve with biscuits, crusty bread, or over rice.
- Use whichever BBQ sauce you prefer. We use Stubb's Original, but any store-bought or homemade sauce will do.
- Cooking time is approximate. If you use a larger tenderloin, it will take longer. As pulled pork goes, this recipe yields very little. You can double it, but adjust the cooking time accordingly. The best way to ensure the meat is done is to use a meat thermometer.
- There is some disagreement about the correct internal cooking temperature for pork tenderloin. The USDA recommends 145F, while Health Canada recommends 160F. If you were serving pork medallions, you could go with the lower temperature and tent the meat for a while to prevent drying, as per the USDA. For this recipe, I go with 160F since the meat will be tossed in a sauce and won't taste dry.
About Slow Cooking
- Growing up in the 70s, I seem to remember slow cookers being used for 7-8 hours–or more–for roasts and such. In our house, we are far more likely to cook a small serving of meat, using the slow cooker not because we can set it before work, but because it frees us from tending to something on the stove. So bear that in mind when looking at this recipe. It is meant for a standard meal for 2-3 people with small-ish appetites.
- One of the keys to successful slow cooking is using the right size of cooker. (We went through three sizes before finding the right one.) Your slow cooker should never be more than ¾ full, nor less than half-full. The fullness affects heat circulation and the evenness of cooking.
- Never open the lid! It is tempting, but all slow cooker experts tell you not to do this unless indicated in your recipe. Slow cookers lose heat pretty quickly, so every time you open it, the cooker has to heat back up again.
- Frozen meat is also a big no-no with slow cookers. Because they cook at low temperatures, your food will have a harder time reaching a safe internal temperature. (Source: The Complete Slow Cooker, a book I highly recommend for tips, techniques, and great recipes.)
Serving Pulled Pork
- As noted above, I suggested serving this pulled pork with bread, biscuits, or rice. We usually make a batch of cheese biscuits using this Canadian Living recipe.
- You can also serve pulled pork in sandwich form, topped with your favourite slaw.