Slow-cooker pulled pork is a guaranteed crowd pleaser at any tailgate party. But who has the time to factor in the endless hours for a low-and-slow recipe when there are a million other to-do items on a party prep list?
If this is the first time you’ve caught wind of the Instant Pot trend, welcome to the future. Electric pressure cookers like the Instant Pot are changing the game by delivering the same ultra-tender, super flavorful dishes typically made in a crockpot—but in a fraction of the time. They do it by boiling the liquid placed in the inner pot and turning it to steam, which creates pressure between the covered inner pot and the cooker base when it has nowhere to escape. The pressure and temperature inside the pot regulate automatically, thereby cooking food faster.
Melissa Clark, author of the pressure cooker cookbook Dinner in an Instant, suggests heating up the inner pot and searing the pork on all sides before adding the liquid. Broth, stock or plain water all work well. “Pork has so much flavor already that as long as you add salt and garlic, too, [the cooked meat will] be flavorful,” she says.
Cutting down the cooking time on labor-intensive dishes like pulled pork opens the door for other party prep activities—particularly if you cut the meat into smaller chunks. Because the meat will be shredded, there’s no need to be too precise in how you cut it.
“Cooking pork shoulder the traditional way, in an oven, meant braising for hours and hours,” Clark explains. “The beauty of using the pressure cooker is instead of taking nine hours, it’ll take 90 minutes. If you’re in a hurry and want to save time, cut it into 1.5- or 2-inch chunks—and it’s done in 45 minutes.”
Dousing pulled pork in classic barbecue sauce is always a winning combination, but there are plenty of other ways to savor the meat—and ditch the bun. “I love it on tacos or in tortillas,” Clark says. “I also serve it over sticky rice, making a rice bowl with it.”
She also likes to make enough pulled pork to stretch across multiple meals. “It’s one of those foods that gets better when it sits,” Clark explains. “When you reheat it under the broiler or in a frying pan with some fat, you get those crispy pieces as well as tender chunks.”
Pork Under Pressure; You … Not So Much
Looking for a creative way to cook Farm Promise® pork in your Instant Pot? This recipe from Melissa Clark’s cookbook, Dinner in an Instant, will have your family salivating.
Clark’s recipe calls for boneless pork shoulder cut into larger pieces, but any flavorful cut, like a loin, will marinate and simmer beautifully. Cutting the meat into smaller chunks will speed up the cooking process.
Expect to spend about a half hour actively preparing ingredients, then sit back and relax while the slow cooker does the heavy lifting.
Pressure Cooker Garlicky Cuban Pork
TIME: 2.5 hours, plus 1 hour marinating
YIELD: 8 to 10 servings
Can be gluten-free, if using corn tortillas
This cumin-scented, garlic-laced pork is marinated with grapefruit, lime, and fresh oregano for a flavor that’s earthy and garlicky, yet bright from the citrus. The meat itself is as tender as can be, falling to shreds with the touch of a fork. Serve it over garlic rice for a soft bed with maximum pungency. Or tuck it into tortillas along with some salsa and avocado to create tacos.
8 garlic cloves
Juice of 1 grapefruit (about ⅔ cup)
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1½ tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 4- to 5-pound boneless pork shoulder, cut into 4 pieces
1 bay leaf
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for serving
Lime wedges, for serving
Hot sauce, for serving
Tortillas, for serving (optional)
Fresh tomato salsa, for serving (optional)
1. In a blender or mini food processor, combine the garlic, grapefruit juice, lime zest and juice, 2 tablespoons of the oil, brown sugar, oregano, cumin, and salt; process until blended. Transfer to a large bowl and add the pork and bay leaf; toss to combine. Marinate, covered, at room temperature for 1 hour (or refrigerate for up to 6 hours).
2. Using the sauté function set on high if available, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the pressure cooker (or use a large skillet). Remove the pork from the marinade, reserving the marinade, and shake the meat to remove any excess liquid. Cook until it is browned on all sides, about 12 minutes (you will need to do this in batches, transferring the browned pork pieces to a plate as you go).
3. When all the pork is browned, return the pieces to the pot along with any juices from the plate. (If you used a skillet, add 1 tablespoon water and use a wooden spoon to scrape the skillet well to include all the browned bits stuck to the bottom.) Add the reserved marinade to the pot. Cover and cook on high pressure for 80 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally.
4. Remove the pork from the cooking liquid (jus). Taste the jus, and if it seems bland or too thin, boil it down either in the pressure cooker on the sauté setting or in a separate pot on the stove until it thickens slightly and intensifies in flavor, 7 to 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and add a bit of salt if necessary. If you’d like to degrease the jus, use a fat separator to do so, or just let the jus settle and spoon the fat off the top.
5. Shred the meat, using your hands or two forks. Toss the meat with the jus to taste (be generous—1½ to 2 cups should do it), and serve with cilantro, lime wedges, and hot sauce.
Recipe reprinted from Dinner in an Instant. Copyright © 2017 by Melissa Clark. Photographs copyright © 2017 by Christopher Testani. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.