How To Add BBQ Sauce To Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Have you ever made pulled pork in your slow cooker and found that you had lots of juice left in the pot? If you have, you’ve probably wondered if you need to drain it off or shred your pork with the juices. Should you keep the liquid or add BBQ sauce once it’s shredded?

BBQ sauce is best added at the end of the cooking process after the pork has been drained and shredded. Slow cookers retain a lot of liquid, and it’s best to remove the cooked pork from the cooking juices before shredding.

The cooking liquid can be skimmed of fat and reduced to create a meaty sauce, or you can use your favorite BBQ sauce or even make your own. I’ve included some great BBQ sauces to use below.

I’ve tried making pulled pork differently: draining the juice, shredding it in the juices, and adding BBQ sauce. I’ll show you the best way to keep your pulled pork from getting too wet but retaining the delicious taste. Here’s how to get the perfect consistency and flavor in slow cooker pulled pork.

Do You Add BBQ Sauce To Pulled Pork After Cooking?

Most prefer not to add BBQ sauce during cooking but rather to use a dry rub on the pork and cook it with a little liquid such as fruit juice, coca cola, or apple cider vinegar. Remember that the slow cooker prevents evaporation, so you will have more juice than if you used a smoker.

If you like BBQ sauce on your pulled pork, it’s best to add it after shredding your meat, as you will most likely drain off the excess juice in the slow cooker and lose a lot of that delicious BBQ sauce taste.

Some cooks never add BBQ sauce to their pulled pork and only use it as an extra condiment when making pulled pork sandwiches, this gives you more pork-like flavor to the meat.

My method of slow cooking pulled pork is to drain my fully-cooked pork shoulder but retain the liquid. I gently tear the meat apart with two forks, add my chosen BBQ sauce thinned with a little juice, and toss it through the meat.

I want to retain the tender chunks of pork, so I never stir the BBQ sauce vigorously. The best sauce should be a little thin to liberally coat each piece of meat. I find a thicker, more viscous BBQ sauce makes the meat mushy because of how much I need to stir to properly cover it.

Do You Drain Pulled Pork Before Adding BBQ Sauce?

Not everyone follows the same procedure, but with slow-cooker pulled pork, I find there is usually too much liquid left over to shred the pork in the juice. If I do that, the result is too sloppy and mushy for my taste.

I always lift the pork cut out of the cooking juice and shred it separately. However, that juice is packed with delicious meaty flavor, the herbs and spices you used, and the rendered fat. In my opinion, it’s a crime to throw that tasty goodness away.

Can You Add The Juices Back To Pulled Pork?

Once you’ve lifted your pork from the liquid, you can still use those cooking juices to add flavor to your shredded meat. I like to take the juice, return it to a pot or pan, and reduce the sauce until about half.

You may prefer to skim off the excess fat before reducing the liquid. I like to pour my liquid through a strainer to remove any solid pieces. Once the liquid is in the cup, I wait for it to settle and separate. I can usually do this while the pork rests—thirty minutes of resting time is essential for good pulled pork.

While fat is full of flavor, you don’t want a sauce to be too fatty, so removing the excess is usually best. You can do this with either a fat separator, measuring cup, or spoon.

After your cooking liquid settles, it will separate. If you have time, you can make this happen easily by popping the measuring jug in the fridge, and the fat will harden on the top, making it easy to remove.

I then reheat the defatted juice and let it simmer to reduce. If I want to use this liquid rather than store-bought BBQ sauce, I usually add some extra ingredients that complement the original flavorings I used. For example, if I used ketchup in the liquid, I’ll add more to intensify.

When the sauce has reached its desired consistency, I add it back to the pork, but only after shredding the meat.

Some people prefer to serve the sauce on the side and let everyone add their preferred amount of BBQ sauce or reduced cooking sauce to the pulled pork.

Should You Make Your Own Sauce Or Buy it?

Whether you toss BBQ sauce into your pulled pork or prefer to serve it separately, the big question is whether you should make your own BBQ sauce or just use a store-bought one.

I don’t believe it’s wrong to use store-bought—it can save you time, and with the huge variety of BBQ sauces available, there’s certain to be one that hits the exact note to make the perfect accompaniment to your pulled pork. I’ve listed some of the best BBQ sauces below.

On the other hand, BBQ sauce is pretty easy to make at home, and if you use the juice that your pork is cooked in, you’ll keep the flavor profile the same. It’s also economical, as the ingredients for most BBQ sauces are fairly simple.

Most homemade BBQ sauces use a combination of the following ingredients:

  • Ketchup
  • Brown sugar
  • Vinegar (apple cider vinegar is very popular)
  • Water (you can use the liquid from the slow cooker)
  • Seasonings such as paprika, cumin, black pepper, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, etc.
  • Hot sauce—for those who prefer a spicy kick, a few dashes of Pineapple Habanero Sauce or your favorite hot sauce will add a bit of fire.

You’ll want to balance the traditional sweet and acidic flavors – see how to make your own BBQ sauce. The acidic comes from the tomato ketchup base and the added vinegar, while the sweet undertones come from sugar, honey, and molasses. 

Pork dishes do best with sweet and tangy sauces.

Best BBQ Sauces For Pulled Pork

If you don’t feel like making your own, there are excellent store-bought BBQ sauces that pair well with pulled pork. These are some of my favorites:


Save that liquid if you’re making pulled pork in your slow cooker!

To add BBQ sauce to your slow cooker pulled pork, you want your meat drained before shredding. Then you can easily cook the remaining sauce back down after straining and defatting it and create your own BBQ sauce.

This BBQ sauce is best added to the shredded pork to give it additional flavor and prevent the meat from drying. When reheating pulled pork, cook it in some reserved juice to boost the taste and keep the meat soft and delicious.

Related Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Posts

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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