How to Shred Pork? Tips, Techniques, and Best Cuts

The easiest method for shredding cooked pork is using forks or meat claws. Yes, it’s a manual process. But ain’t nothing like seeing the meat pull apart in front of you. It’s completely unlike using an electric shredder, a mixer or what have you. 

As a chef and BBQ buff, I’ve got street cred when it comes to cooking and shredding pork. I’ve worked with all sorts of cuts, from juicy pork shoulders to pork tenderloin. I’ve tried several techniques, from slow-roasting and braising to getting wild with a slow cooker like the instant pot. 

In this guide, I will be showing you all my tried-and-trusted methods for making pulled pork. We’ll also see the tools and utensils that make shredding pulled pork a breeze. 

How to Shred Pork Butt/Shoulder?

Shredding pork meat enhances any dish, be it tacos, sandwiches, stir-fries, or salads. The key to shredding pulled pork lies in cooking the meat until it reaches a tender texture. Next, I’ll show you some of the most common ways to make pulled pork. 

The Two-Fork Technique

This basic procedure involves splitting tender pork meat pieces with two forks, one on each hand. This is the classic technique used for pulling meat. So it’s probably why it was called pulled pork originally. 

Since this doesn’t need any particularly technical tool, it’s the most preferred by many people. To pull pork with this method, take two forks, place the meat on a sturdy dinner plate, dig the forks in, and start pulling the meat into shredded pork. 

Shredding Pork with Two Forks

Bear Claw Method

The bear claw method is similar to the fork method and a bit to the potato masher method. It involves tearing the meat apart with a tool like the No products found.

These bear claws are meat-shredding claws that look like forks. Except that these are more pointed and direct, specifically made for pulled pork. These special meat claws are named so because they are similar to the claws of bears. 

There’s an adjustable grip you can hold while you’re using it. Like the two-fork method, I advise using a pair of these meat claws simultaneously. 

They are perfect for the task because they are easy-to-use, long, thick, strong, and widely spaced. 

Person Shredding Cooked Pork with Bear Claw Method

Potato Masher Method

The idea behind this is relatively straightforward. 

Get a potato masher. I like the KitchenAid Gourmet Masher because it’s pretty sturdy and ergonomic for this task. To make pulled pork with this method, place the head of the wire masher on your cooked pork butt or pork shoulder and apply pressure. 

The pork, if tender enough, will divide into several shreds along the steel wire line. 

The only problem with this method is that while some are well-shredded, some pieces are often larger.

To correct this, you will need to repeat the mashing while focusing on bigger chunks.  You may also use a pair of dinner forks to divide the large or unshredded pieces into smaller parts. 

Smashed Potato with Pulled Pork

The Stand Mixer Technique

The stand mixer method is the easiest way to make pulled pork, but there are pitfalls to it. If you’re not careful, the meat could become mushy. You can avoid these problems by using handheld mixing devices rather than a standing mixer. These mixers are efficient but are more complex to handle. 

Otherwise, the agitated movement can cause your pork to be broken down into tiny pieces. But it’s a quick way to shred pulled pork if you know how to do it. 

What you need to do is put the cooked meat in the mixing bowls. Then fix a flat beater paddle on the mixer. Turn the mixer to medium and beat the pulled pork meat with the beater. The time to prepare the meat depends on how big the meat is. Just keep an eye out for it, and don’t overmix. 

Modern Stand Mixer on the Wooden Table

Tips for Making Pulled Pork That Shreds Easily

If you want to make pulled pork for sandwiches whose grains shred away perfectly, you must start with tender, juicy meat. Here are all the tips to achieve this. 

Give the Pork Time but Don’t Get It Fried

It can take eight hours from the first contact with the preheated grill to the butter-tender meat. It can easily be more. Actually, the time you need to make pulled pork depends on the thickness and the temperature. 

So if you get the urge to fire up the grill in the evening, skip the pulled pork (unless you want it as a hearty breakfast for the next day). In addition, I suggest you marinate the meat overnight before smoking. Then while cooking, low and slow is the name of this game. 

So, it takes close to 24 hours from the first step to enjoying the barbecue. But be careful; pulled pork that shreds easily is not overcooked or dry. 

You want to stop at an internal temperature of around 200 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. This is when the muscle fibers and connective tissue must have broken down enough, and the juices are still flowing. 

Pro Tip: To help the pulled pork get tender and juicy, you need to use a lot of barbecue sauce. The common practice is to baste the meat with it after the first hour of smoking and every 45 minutes after the first.

Slow Cooked Shredded Pulled Pork

Get the Cooking Method Right 

For smoked dishes, you need a smoker or grill. That’s logical, right? But it must also meet other requirements. 

The best cooking temperature is around 225 to 250 degrees (indirect heat). So the question is not often about whether your grill will get that hot but if it can stay that cold when in use. 

In principle, gas grills, smokers, and charcoal grills are suitable for making shreddable pork. But each has its own properties.

Wood Smokers 

For die-hard BBQ fans, only a wood pellet smoker can be used to prepare pulled pork. This gives the meat, particularly intense smoke aromas. 

A low-and-slow smoker like the Ironwood from Traeger is perfect for low and slow-smoked pulled pork because it works with indirect heat. 

Gas Grills

With a gas grill like the Char-Broil Classic, it is easier to maintain the temperature. But you need to find a way to get the smoke aroma on the pulled pork. 

In any case, you can choose smoking chips or wood chunks like the Mr. Bar-B-Q Hardwood Chips or the Weber Hickory Wood Chunks.

You need to soak them in liquid for 30 minutes. Then add the wood chips or chunks to a smoker box and let them smoke as slowly as possible.

Charcoal Grills 

Charcoal grilling with Kamado-style grills like the Char-Griller is also perfect for making pulled pork. They make it easier to create that classic smoky BBQ flavor. But you need to use the indirect grilling option. 

Charcoal briquettes, in combination with wood, result in an intense taste. It’s more of a challenge to keep the temperature constant for about one-third or half a day!

Slow Cooker

Now, this is for lazy bum chefs!

With a slow cooker like the Instant Pot, you don’t have to cook your pulled pork for half a day. A slow cooker, also called a pressure cooker, can cook your pork to pulled pork texture in almost half the time it takes with grilling or smoking.

But you need to start by trimming some of the fats off. Then cut the pork into some pieces to make them fit in the Instant Pot. Now add some sauce or broth into the slow cooker and slow-cook for five to six hours.

If you don’t have an Instant Pot, you can cook the pork butt or shoulder on medium-high heat in a Dutch oven on the stovetop. Similar to the Instant Pot method, the Dutch oven method needs around four to six hours

Pulled Pork on the Smoker

You Need Two Meat Thermometers 

With pulled pork from the grill, it is best to work with two thermometers. 

The first, known as a meat probe, serves to monitor the cooking chamber temperature. This is usually built-in in a lot of modern smokers. But if your grill doesn’t have one, get something like the ThermoPro wireless meat probe. The cooking temp should be as constant as possible and not exceed 250 degrees. 

Then you need to use a meat thermometer classically to check the core temperature of the meat. The Alpha Grillers thermometer is my trusty thermometer for BBQ jobs, but whatever you have should do. 

Make sure you know how to handle it and that it’s calibrated. Remember, 200 to 205 degrees F!

However, your piece may already be so tender at a few degrees less that it’s starting to fall apart. Then you no longer have to get it two degrees hotter by hook or crook. 

On the other hand, if the meat still seems firm to you even at 205, let it get a few degrees hotter. 

Use a Drip Tray

Yes, you should never do without a drip tray if you want to make pulled pork that’s easy to shred. It has two functions: 

  • First, it keeps your grill clean and prevents fat from getting into the embers and catching fire. 
  • It also increases the humidity in the cooking chamber, which keeps the meat juicier and improves heat transfer.

Pro Tip: To ensure the fat in the drip tray doesn’t burn, put some water in it.

What Cut of Pork is Best for Shredding? 

The ultimate cut for shredding is the pork butt, AKA Boston butt. This is a cut that comes from the pork shoulder prime cut. Cuts like pork shoulder blade roast, or pork shoulder roast are all from the shoulder of the pig and are perfect for pulled pork.

What makes pork butt or pork shoulder cuts so suitable for pulling or shredding is it’s somewhat high in fat. But the fat and connective tissue slowly dissolve during cooking and ensure a unique buttery experience on the palate.

Also, people argue over whether to keep bones in or go for boneless pork shoulder or pork butt instead. I prefer bone-in pork. They may take longer to cook, but the marrow makes them more flavorful and succulent. In any case, it’s always your call. Of course, before shredding, you’d need to remove the bones. 

Do You Shred Pork Hot or Cold?

Always shred pork when it’s hot. This is when it’s not dry, and the juice is still within the meat fibers, making it tender and soft. Cold pork won’t pull apart since the fats would have solidified. 

Person Shredding Smoked Pork

Why is My Pork Not Shredding Easily?

This is a common experience for pulled pork masters. But you need to ask yourself the following questions when you come across the problem:

Did You Cook the Pork Too Fast?

Fast cooking won’t give you the result you need. If you’re not patient, I’m sorry to say pork shredding isn’t for you. Try something else. 

But in this case, you can save the pork meat by cooking it in a crock pot using small quantities of liquids or poultry broth. Cook the steak in a slow cooker for about 40 minutes to soften. 

Did You Use the Wrong Cut?

Leaner meats like pork tenderloin or pork loin chops are unsuitable for pulled pork. Even if they shred, the shredded pork won’t give you that melt-in-your-mouth experience. 

So if you use another cut other than a pork shoulder, maybe it’s better just to serve it unshredded and probably serve it with mashed potatoes or rice.

You Probably Undercooked/Overcooked It

If it’s not done enough, your pork won’t pull. You need to cook it until the thermometer reads 200 to 205 degrees or when it starts pulling when you poke it with a fork. 

Likewise, you’ll run into problems if the pork cooks too much and gets dry or fried. Pork shreds better when juicy and succulent, not when the fats have gone dry.  


Now you’ve seen how to shred pork and some of the common pitfalls you need to avoid. When done just right, shredded pulled pork is easier to mix with your sauces and toppings, like in tacos or sandwiches. 

Remember, pork butt or pork shoulder cuts work best for pulled pork. Make sure you don’t undercook or overcook it, and it’s best to strike the iron when it’s hot. Cold pork doesn’t shred so well.