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Tender, juicy, savory and sweet — this cider-braised pork shoulder roast is comfort food at its finest! The pulled pork recipe is perfect for a chilly fall evening after a day at the orchard — just let it simmer slowly in the oven or in a Crock Pot. Pair the meat with mashed potatoes or biscuits, or pile it high on sandwich buns. Everyone will love this cozy and easy dinner!

Front side shot of a bowl of shredded pork with silver serving spoon

Cider Braised Pulled Pork

Braised meat refers to any tough cut of meat that is slowly and gently cooked in liquid until it becomes flavorful, juicy, and fall-off-the-bone tender. For this braised pork shoulder recipe, you’ll slow cook a pork roast in a Dutch oven (or in a Crock Pot) with a flavorful blend of onions, garlic, herbs, and apple cider for the best pork shoulder roast that you’ve ever tasted!

The Best Cut of Pork for Braising

The best cut of pork for braising is called a “pork butt,” “pork shoulder,” or “Boston butt.” Boston butt comes from high on the hog, above the shoulder blade. It has a lot of juicy, marbled fat, which lends itself well to juicy, slow-cooked meat.

Can I use a boneless pork butt for braising?

Yes! Using a bone-in pork butt adds even more flavor to your meat; however, you can certainly use a boneless pork shoulder roast instead. In general, a boneless pork butt will require slightly less time in the oven than a bone-in piece of meat, so keep an eye on it and adjust accordingly.

Close overhead image of a bowl of braised pork shoulder garnished with fresh herbs

Ingredients

This is a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a succulent and delicious pork shoulder roast. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Bone-in pork shoulder roast: also called a “pork butt” or “Boston butt,” this inexpensive cut has a lot of marbled fat, which keeps the meat juicy and tender during the long cooking process. A boneless pork shoulder roast will also work well.
  • Oil: to sear the pork.
  • Onions, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, and rosemary: aromatics that flavor the meat as it slowly roasts.
  • Apple cider: the braising liquid. This gives the pork a very subtle sweet, apple taste. It’s not a strong flavor at all. Apple juice doesn’t have as strong of a flavor, but it will work as a substitute in a pinch.
  • Chicken broth: additional braising liquid.
  • Kosher salt and pepper: to enhance the flavors in the dish. Don’t be shy — this is a large piece of meat, so season liberally.
Browning pork shoulder in a Dutch oven

How to Make Braised Pork Shoulder Roast

Braised pork shoulder roast is very similar to making a pot roast. Braising, which comes from the French word braiser, is a combination-cooking method that uses both wet and dry heats: typically, the meat is first seared at a high temperature, and then it’s finished in a covered pot with liquid at a lower temperature. The process is incredibly easy, but it does require patience, as slow-cooking is the name of the game. At least most of your effort will be completely hands-off!

  1. Sear. Brown the pork on all sides in a large Dutch oven on the stovetop. Remove the meat to a platter and set aside.
  2. Add Onions and Garlic. Next, add the onions and garlic to the drippings in the pot. Sauté the onions until they are nice and tender — about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Pour in Liquid and Seasoning. Stir in salt, a bay leaf, the thyme sprigs, the rosemary sprig, the apple cider and the chicken broth.
  4. Return Pork to Pot. Nestle the pork into the cider and other ingredients, fat-side up.
  5. Braise. Cover the Dutch oven and cook the pork for about 3 – 3 ½ hours, or until it’s fall-apart tender. If using a meat probe thermometer, you’re looking for an internal temperature of about 205°F.
  6. Serve. Use two forks to shred the meat, and then spoon the delicious sauces and cooking liquids over the pork. It’s convenient to put the roast on a rimmed baking sheet to shred the meat. This prevents the juices from running off of a cutting board all over your kitchen. Serve and enjoy!
Sauteeing onions in a dutch oven
Pouring apple cider into a dutch oven for braised pork
Process shot of making pulled pork in a dutch oven
Braised pork shoulder in a Dutch oven before shredding

What temperature should you braise pork?

Braising requires a longer cooking time at a low temperature. This allows the tough meat fibers to break down and become tender. A typical oven temperature for braised pork shoulder is in the range of 275°F – 325°F . I suggest 325°F for this recipe, but if you have more time and you’d like to let the pork roast for even longer, you can set the oven at 275°F and cook the pork for at least 5 hours.

Front shot of a bowl of cider braised pulled pork

Why sear the pork first?

Searing the pork before adding it to the liquid and other ingredients helps to brown the surface and enhance the flavor. A hot pan can creates a golden, caramelized crust through a process called the Maillard reaction, and will also lock in the meat’s juices. Whether you’re braising the pork in a Dutch oven or in a Crock Pot, don’t skip this important step!

Should braising liquid cover the meat?

No, the liquid should not cover the meat in the pot. You want just enough cider and broth to surround (but not submerge) the pork. We’re braising — not boiling.

Do you make braised pork shoulder roast with the lid on or off?

Keep the Dutch oven (or slow cooker) covered while the pork braises in the oven. This creates a moist environment, trapping the juices inside the pot.

Why is my braised meat dry?

This recipe shouldn’t turn out dry at all, because the braised pork shoulder just gets juicier and more tender as it cooks. If you find that your braised meat is dry, it’s likely that you’re using the wrong cut of meat (such as a lean tenderloin). It’s pretty hard to over-cook or braise the pork shoulder roast for too long. Just let the oven (or slow cooker) do its job while you sit back and enjoy the delicious aromas wafting from the kitchen!

How to Serve Braised Pork Shoulder Roast

This cider braised pulled pork is a versatile and easy meal. I love to simmer a pot in the oven on a crisp Sunday afternoon after a weekend at the apple orchard! Nothing says cozy, Virginia fall comfort food more than this simple, hearty dish. It’s also great for tailgating, for entertaining, or for feeding a crowd. Pile it onto sandwich (or slider) buns, make braised pork shoulder tacos, stuff it in baked potatoes, add your favorite veggie, or pair it with any of these sides:

Crock Pot Pulled Pork vs. Dutch Oven Braised Pork Shoulder Roast

If you’re going to be out of the house for most of the day, you can braise your pork shoulder in the slow cooker instead of in the oven. To do so, sear the pork according to the recipe instructions. Sauté the onions and garlic in the pot according to the recipe instructions, too. Transfer the onions to the Crock Pot, stir in the remaining ingredients, and add the pork. Cover and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours or on HIGH for 4-5 hours.

The cast iron Dutch oven is always my preference over the Crock Pot, if you have a choice between the two. The Dutch oven is convenient (and requires fewer dishes) because you can sear the meat on the stovetop and move the entire pot to the oven for braising later. The tight-fitting lid traps moisture in the pot, and the cast iron distributes the indirect heat from the oven more evenly than the heating element in a slow cooker does. Finally, it’s easier to control the oven temperature and time when using a Dutch oven than it is to control the temperature of your Crock Pot.

Make Ahead

To make this dish in advance, refrigerate the braised pork (before shredding) in its cooking liquid with the onions overnight. The next day, when the dish is chilled, skim the fat from the top. Reheat the pork in a 325°F oven, and shred just before using.

If you want to reheat your cooked pork in a Crock Pot, place the cooked pork (and all of the reserved juices) in the slow cooker on the “WARM” setting for 2-4 hours.

Storage

Leftovers will stay fresh in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. To keep the pork longer, you can wrap the cooked meat in foil, and then freeze in an airtight container or Ziploc freezer bag for up to 3 months.

Recipe Variations

  • Use a boneless pork shoulder roast instead of a bone-in roast. You may need to reduce the cooking time slightly for the boneless roast.
  • For a sweeter, more bold cider flavor, replace the chicken broth with extra apple cider. You can also add sliced apples to the pot.
  • Add extra herbs and seasonings to the pot. For instance, try a couple sprigs of fresh oregano or fresh parsley, or season the meat with a bbq rub or our favorite house seasoning. Cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes will give the dish some heat, too!

Tips for the Best Pork Shoulder Roast Recipe

  • Searing the pork before adding it to the liquid and other ingredients helps to brown the surface and enhance the flavor. A hot pan creates a golden, caramelized crust through a process called the Maillard reaction, and will also lock in the meat’s juices.
  • The cast iron Dutch oven is always my preference over the Crock Pot, if you have a choice between the two. With the Dutch oven, you can sear the meat on the stovetop and move the entire pot to the oven for braising later. The tight-fitting lid traps moisture in the pot, and the cast iron distributes the indirect heat from the oven more evenly than the heating element in a slow cooker does. Finally, it’s easier to control the oven temperature and time when using a Dutch oven than it is to control the temperature of your Crock Pot.
  • If you’re using the Crock Pot, you may need to adjust the cooking time, depending on how hot your slow cooker runs (and how big your pork is). The pork will be fall-apart tender when it reaches an internal temperature of 205°F.
  • If your pulled pork is tough, it’s probably because you haven’t cooked it long enough. The collagen in the meat is what keeps it tough, so you need to allow plenty of time for those fibers to break down. Just extend the cooking time and make sure that there’s enough liquid to keep the pork moist as it simmers.
  • Cooking for a Smaller Family? This meat freezes really well! I like to package leftovers in individual containers, label them, and stash them in the freezer for later meals. The pulled pork is delicious served on sandwich rolls, but it also works well on salads, tacos, stuffed in baked potatoes, in quesadillas, or on pizza! Get creative and enjoy the leftovers in a variety of ways.
Close up front shot of cider braised pork shoulder shredded in a blue ceramic bowl

More Pork Shoulder Roast Recipes to Try

Front side shot of a bowl of shredded pork with silver serving spoon

Cider Braised Pork Shoulder

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 40 minutes
Cook: 3 hours 30 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 4 hours 10 minutes
Servings 8 people
Calories 444 kcal
Tender, juicy, savory and sweet — this Cider Braised Pork Shoulder is comfort food at its finest! The pulled pork recipe is perfect for a chilly fall evening after a day at the orchard — just let it simmer slowly in the oven or in a Crock Pot.

Ingredients
  

  • 1 bone-in pork butt (or “Boston butt” or “pork shoulder”) (about 6-7 lbs.)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 ½ cups apple cider
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Instructions

  • Pat pork dry with paper towels; season liberally with salt and pepper on all sides.
  • Heat the vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Brown the pork on all sides, taking care not to get the oil too hot. Remove the meat to a platter.
  • Add onions and garlic to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender (about 10-15 minutes). Stir in 1 ½ teaspoons salt, bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, apple cider and chicken broth. Nestle the pork shoulder in the pot (fat-side up). Cover the pot.
  • Roast the pork shoulder in a 325°F oven for about 3-3 ½ hours, basting with cooking liquid every hour or so (if possible). The pork is done when the meat is falling off the bone (an internal temperature of about 205°F). Remove bay leaf and herb stems.
  • Transfer the pork to a large cutting board. When it's cool enough to handle, shred the meat with two forks (discarding fatty pieces), and spoon plenty of that delicious cider cooking liquid and onions over top.

Notes

Make Ahead: Refrigerate the braised pork in its cooking liquid with onions overnight; skim fat from top the next day. Reheat pork in a 325 degree F oven, and shred just before using.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/8 of the pork buttCalories: 444kcalCarbohydrates: 9gProtein: 54gFat: 20gSaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 170mgSodium: 295mgPotassium: 1089mgFiber: 1gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 18IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 56mgIron: 4mg
Keyword: braised pork shoulder, crock pot pulled pork
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I just found my Christmas roast. Thanks!

    One question: For making this in a Crock Pot should the apple cider and chicken broth be cut by half? It seems to me that the full amounts would be too much for cooking in a Crock Pot.

    1. Hi, Deb! Yes, you can certainly cut the liquid in half to account for the slow cooker. Otherwise, you can always just strain off (or not use) any excess liquid that’s in the pot at the end of the cooking time. Either way will work. Enjoy!

    1. Hi, Lynn! Yes – you want the sweetness and the rich apple flavor that you get from apple cider. Don’t use apple cider vinegar — that will ruin the dish. Apple juice is probably okay, but it’s not nearly as flavorful as the cider. Hope that helps, and enjoy!

    1. Hi, Shelby! No, it doesn’t really matter, but the better the quality the better the taste. 🙂

      I always use local, fresh, unpasteurized apple cider because it’s readily available at farm stands and orchards here in Virginia throughout the fall and winter. If you don’t have access to local, unpasteurized cider, look for a cloudy cider with no added sugars or spices. You can typically find these in the refrigerated section at your grocery store. I do not recommend using apple juice (which is typically sweetened and lacking deep flavor), hard cider, or sparkling cider. Hope that helps!