How Long Should You Cook Pulled Pork In Slow Cooker? (Low/High)

The slow cooker is perfect for pulled pork, as you can set it, leave it, and end up with delicious tender meat. But with timings, how long should you cook pulled pork in a slow cooker, and should you use high or low?

Pulled pork joints weighing 4-6 lbs will take 4-6 hours in a slow cooker on the high setting and 6-8 hours on low. Cutting the joint into smaller portions speeds up the cooking time, but pulled pork is best cooked on a low setting for tender meat.

It takes many hours to tenderize tough meat which is ideal for the slow cooker. Occasionally, you may need to shorten the time, so we’ll look into tips for that.

You might be tempted to cook your meat on high if you’re in a rush. In general, the high setting will cook your meal in almost half the time of the low setting. However, that long, slow process is essential for the best texture.

How Long Per Size Of Pork (On High Or Low)

Pork shoulder is one of the most common cuts for pulled pork, containing the bone joint, collagen, and fat. Your best option is to cook it for a long time on the low setting on your slow cooker.

This relatively economical cut of meat usually weighs between 12 and 16 pounds, which is a little large for most slow cookers. It’s often cut into the upper and lower parts – the Boston Butt and Picnic Roast, weighing around 6-8 pounds.

Both of these are suitable for making pulled pork, but the more common option is the Boston Butt, which has less bone and more marbled fat than the Picnic Roast.

These joints can also be further divided into smaller pieces for your slow cooker, which will help it fit better and shorten the cooking time.

Here are the different cooking times depending on whether you cook your pork cuts at high or low:

SizeTime on LowTime on High
4-5 lbs6-8 hours4-6 hours
6-8 lbs8-10 hours6-8 hours

Larger cuts will require more time, and smaller ones less. If you are converting an oven recipe for the slow cooker, keep in mind that low and high settings both reach about 200°F-210°F, it’s just low takes longer to heat up.

Since I’ve said you can cook pulled pork faster on the high setting, you may be tempted to do that. However, I only recommend it if you’re pressed for time. 

This 4.5lb pork butt took about 8 hours on low to get tender

Differences in Cooking Pulled Pork On High Vs. Low

Slow cooking the pork on low will make the texture of the protein fibers “melt in the mouth” more than slow cooking on high.

When making pulled pork, the desired result is soft, juicy pork that shreds easily and tastes great. To get this, we cook a tough cut at a low temperature for a long time.

This long cooking process at a temperature of around 210°F allows the process to break down the tough connective tissue. If the temperature is too high, you can tighten and dry out the meat, leaving you with tougher pork.

At high heat, your pulled pork will cook faster in your slow cooker, but it won’t give the meat all the time it needs for the tough tissue to soften the way it would with a longer cook time.

When making pulled pork, using a slow cooker to braise your shoulder is ideal, as the ability to set it on low and leave it for hours will result in fall-apart tender meat with very little effort.

If you’re in a rush, try cutting the joint into smaller chunks rather than cooking on high to speed up the cooking process. You can also start the slow cooker on the high setting to get it to a simmering point sooner and then turn it to low, which often peaks a little lower in temp.

If you cut the pieces smaller, it’s easier for them to dry out, so adjust cooking times as necessary.

Can You Cook Pulled Pork Too Long In Slow Cooker?

Tough cuts of pork that have a lot of connective tissue and fats are usually difficult to overcook in the slow cooker. The proteins and fats break down slowly as the meat simmers, and the meat becomes juicy and soft.

However, if you cook a pork shoulder for more than 10-12 hours on low, you risk the meat drying out as the juices are released from the pork. In this case, you’ll end up with tough, dry, and stringy pork.

The time it takes for pork to overcook will depend on the size of your cut and which setting you put it on. Low settings will give you more time, while meat will toughen sooner when cooked on the high setting.

In general, pork shoulder cuts are forgiving of a little extra cooking time, so don’t get too hung up on exact times.

How Long Can You Leave Pulled Pork In The Slow Cooker?

Although pulled pork is one of those recipes where the tough meat gradually gets more tender with cooking time, there does come the point where the meat will start to dry out again.

If you’re cooking on a low setting, you should be able to leave your pork for up to twelve hours, but maybe even longer. After that, you risk the meat overcooking and releasing all the juices. You will end up with dry pork.

If your pulled pork is finished cooking, leave it on the warm setting if necessary. This will keep the food at a low temperature but is unsuitable for cooking. You should not leave it on warm for longer than several hours, or you run the risk of bacteria.

Not all slow cookers have a warm setting; some only have high or low for cooking.

How To Improve The Texture Of Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

One of the crucial steps for getting the most delicious pulled pork, whether you cooked it on high or low, comes after the cooking is done.

You may have seen instructions to ‘rest’ your meat after it comes out of an oven or slow cooker and thought it unnecessary. Leaving your pork to rest is actually vital for producing the softest meal. 

When you remove your pork from your slow cooker, wrap it in butcher or grease paper, and pop it into a tray. This step allows the protein to relax and reabsorb moisture and takes about thirty minutes.

Wrapping the pork shoulder in grease paper rather than foil is preferable, as this allows the surface to breathe.


An average pork joint for pulled pork will take 4-6 hours in a slow cooker on the high setting and 6-8 hours on the low setting to cook properly, depending on the size of the cut.

Although cooking on a high setting can decrease the time, it is best to cook pulled pork for 6-10 hours on a low setting. This time allows the collagen and connective tissue to break down and will give you juicy meat that is flavorful and shreds easily.

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Cat Hellisen

Cat is a writer with a wealth of experience in food, cooking and fitness. They have written several books and love long walks on the beach with their dog. About Cat.

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