The Pressure Cooker Pulled Pork Challenge

or… can you cook a 7-lb pork shoulder after work and still eat before bedtime?

The answer is yes, as long as you don’t turn in before 10 PM.

There seem to be recipes for pulled pork on practically every cooking blog, including a lot of ones made in the pressure cooker, so I wasn’t sure if I even should do this post. But since this was more of a challenge to myself to cook a seven-pound pork shoulder on a weeknight, I decided to go ahead with it.

While perusing the meat counter at the Smart & Final (The Smaller, Faster Warehouse Store according to their advertising) on Sunday, I bought an almost seven pound pork shoulder. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Sometimes while shopping I get caught up in the excitement and the next thing you know I’m trying to squeeze a one gallon jug of Tabasco sauce into the refrigerator.
I had it earmarked for pulled pork. I almost made pulled pork a couple of weeks ago, but it morphed into carnitas by time I was ready to start cooking it.

Since this past sunday was 100 degrees, it turned out to be a cheese plate night. Not wanting to keep the meat too long (I tend to be a bit overcautious about such things), I planned on making it during the week. It didn’t help much that I left work a half-hour later than usual, meaning that I got home at 7:30 PM. Seeing as how I get to work and back by bicycle, I have to figure a shower in there after work as well.

So around 7:45, I started rubbing my butt (The pork, the pork! Get your minds out of the gutter! A pork butt comes from the shoulder. How confusing.) I threw together a quick rub (this meal was all about the quick) that was something like this:

2 Tbs. Brown Sugar
1 tsp. Hot Paprika
1 tsp. Chili Powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
Dash Cayenne
Salt and Pepper to taste

I unwrapped the pork. This was definitely the most massive amount of meat I have ever put into the pressure cooker. In fact, it was the largest piece of meat I have ever brought into my apartment!

It had a substantial fat cap on it, so I trimmed some of it off, being sure to leave enough to impart its flavor to the finished dish.

I hastily applied the rub while heating a small amount of olive oil in the pressure cooker and browned it in two batches. After removing the pork to a plate, I dumped in a chopped onion and some garlic (I used around seven cloves, but use whatever you’re comfortable with. I think I usually use about double of what most people use) to soften them up a little.

As with many things I make, I added the beer. At first I was going to use a Pilsner that I had sitting around for awhile because it was kind of weird. I was convinced it was mislabeled and was actually a hefeweizen, and it was also quite foamy. Well, I opened it up and sure enough, the thing started foaming like Cujo. The only other beer I had was Dogfish Head 60-minute IPA. I was a little apprehensive about using an IPA since I have never tried it before for cooking and was worried it might impart too much of a bitter flavor to the meat. I also added some white wine vinegar (about a half-cup), and then some actual white wine (also a half-cup). I put in a couple tablespoons brown sugar,  a couple tablespoons worcestershire sauce, a couple bay leaves and some liquid smoke.

I let it come to a boil for a couple minutes to cook off some of the alcohol, then added the browned meat back in. After I added the meat, it looked like a little more liquid wouldn’t hurt, so I put in a cup of water.

Having never cooked a pork shoulder before, I headed to the handy time chart at According to the chart, pork shoulder should cook for 45-50 minutes. I decided to add an extra ten minutes since the piece of meat seemed rather large to me, but I think 50 minutes would have been fine.

I locked on the top of the pressure cooker, brought it up to high pressure, lowered the flame on the burner and set the timer for one hour. By the time I did this it was 8:30 PM.
While the pork was cooking I threw together my BBQ sauce and some slaw for a side dish.
I recently heard about vinegar based sauce from the Eastern part of North Carolina, so I thought it sounded interesting enough to try. I used this one from as my starting point. I usually make a tomato-based sweet and spicy sauce, but thought I would try a vinegar-based sauce for a change. I varied the recipe somewhat to use what I had on hand, but hopefully it didn’t alter the flavor too much from what would be considered authentic.

1 cup rice vinegar (I used this because it is what I had and I didn’t want to go to the store to get apple cider vinegar, which is traditional)
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 tsp Frank’s hot sauce
2 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and Pepper

Since I wouldn’t be able to let it sit for any length of time to let the flavors meld, I used my trusty Bamix immersion blender to whisk it together.

When the timer went off, I took the pressure cooker off the heat to let it neutralize naturally (at least that was the plan, but once it got down to the low pressure line, I fought the urge to speed things up a bit for five minutes or so, but soon my rumbling stomach won out over my patience and I opened the quick release valve.

I put it in a large bowl and pulled it apart with two forks, and I must say it pulled apart beautifully! After pulling it, I added the BBQ sauce (if you are unfamiliar with Carolina sauce, it is quite thin, almost like a marinade rather than a sauce, so don’t think that something has gone awry if it is not like the sauces that you are usually used to. I had to fight the temptation to add some ketchup and molasses to thicken it up).
Tonight, I just served it on a plate with some vinegar cabbage slaw (it was quite an acidic meal, but not overly sour).

Since there were plenty of leftovers, I will probably make sandwiches tomorrow. The sauce was quite tasty, but it will probably not replace my usual go-to tomato and molasses based sauce anytime soon.

Sure, it was 9:40 by the time dinner was ready, but most of the recipes for cooking pulled port using other methods require the the meat to be roasted or smoked for 6 hours or longer, so around two hours from start to finish including prep work is pretty quick, I think.
Give it a try and let me know what you think!