When it comes to making sure that everything turns out right for your pulled pork dinner, there are a lot of things that you need to consider. Of course, you need to make sure that your pork is in good condition and that you have the equipment needed to cook it just the way you want to.
But at the same time, you need to think about how you are going to prepare the pork in a quick and efficient manner. It can generally go without saying that this will depend on the type of meal you are making.
One of the most beloved pork dishes out there is pulled pork, and while quite a lot of other dishes use shredded pork as a main ingredient, there are none that are quite as iconic as this one.
However, when you are looking at the hunk of meat that you are working with, you might not know the best way to go about shredding it up nicely. There are a few ways that you can go about handling this situation.
How Do You Shred Pork?
Shredding pork, at its most basic level, is no different than shredding other types of meats. The consistency is generally going to be the same as shredding chicken, so there’s nothing really special that you will need in terms of equipment.
You will also need to prepare the pork so that you can easily shred it, without having to use considerable amounts of force.
Once you have prepared the meat, you will have four different methods to choose from. You could opt to use the most common method of simply pulling the pork apart with two dinner forks (hence the name “pulled pork”), or you could opt to let a mixer do all the heavy work for you.
Some people use something called a “bear claw,” which looks slightly akin to a hairpin. Finally, you can use a potato masher if you are really feeling at a loss for how to shred your pork.
The Best Way to Prepare the Pork
With all of this being said, you won’t really be able to get anywhere shredding up a frozen chunk of pork.
Instead, you are going to want to slow-cook the pork until it is completely tender. You are going to want to do this until it is tender enough that you can easily tear a piece out of it with a dinner fork, without any give or force needing to be put into the fork.
Keep in mind that slow cooking, by its nature, is going to take a fair bit of time, so shredded pork should be prepared well in the early morning, or it should be prepared for the day after you begin cooking it.
Once you have prepared your recipe, which should consist of the bulk of the meat, some broth so the meat doesn’t dry out, and whatever additions and seasonings you need to make the meat good, you can begin slow cooking.
While times are going to vary from slow-cooker to slow-cooker, the lowest heat setting will typically take between 8 to 10 hours, while the highest setting will take about 4 to 5 hours.
After the allotted time as passed, you can simply take the pork out of the slow-cooker, place it onto your cutting surface, and wait for it to cool down a bit. You should periodically check to make sure everything is alright with the dish while you are waiting.
Before you completely take it out of the cooker, you should also make sure that you check to ensure that it is the right tenderness.
From here, you will be ready to use one of the four methods of shredding pork, although the tried-and-true method of using dinner forks is going to be the most efficient and cost-effective for most people.
1. Shredding Pork with a Dinner Fork (or Two)
This method is as simple as it sounds. Essentially, while the pork is still in your slow-cooker, you are going to want to take two decently sized dinner forks.
Once you have the forks in your hands, you can simply put them into the pork, back to back, and start pulling the pork apart. Before you know it, if the tenderness is right, you will be able to shred pork relatively efficiently.
Do keep in mind that this method tends to take more time than other methods, and after you have been slow-cooking the pork for almost 10 hours, you might find yourself not wanting to stand over the pot for another 15 to 30 minutes shredding apart layer and layer of pork.
Depending on how much pork you have and the size of your forks, you might even have to flip the meat around to make sure that it is entirely shredded.
The best part about this method of shredding pork is that just about everyone can do it. As long as you have two dinner forks in your kitchen, and that you are able to stand for no more than 30 minutes, you will easily be able to use this method.
You won’t have to worry about buying anything, and you won’t have to worry about taking up a lot of space in your kitchen, since this can all be done in the comfort of your slow-cooker.
On the other hand, this method does have its own issues. For one, it is one of the slower methods out there. It is not all that efficient when it comes to thicker, larger pieces of pork either. If you are making a massive dish of shredded pork, you might find yourself shredding it for a long, long time with this method.
While it might be a classic method, the times have changed and there are a few other, more efficient methods out there.
2. Shredding the Pork with a Bear’s Claw
You can think of this method as an upgraded version of using a dinner fork or two to shred the pork. The setup is essentially the same.
Once the long hours of waiting have passed, you are going to want to take the lid off the slow cooker, pull the bear claws out from your drawer, put them on your hands, and simply begin tearing apart at the meat in the same fashion you would with the forks.
The only real difference is that you are using these bear claw-like devices, rather than dinner forks.
Because of the massive size difference between the prongs of the fork and the prongs of the bear claws, you can expect that this method is going to be considerably faster at shredding the pork up.
Keep in mind that if you go for the inexpensive side of things, you might get a material that doesn’t hold up well to the toughness of a not-quite-done dish, so bear that in mind. With that being said, this can be a fun and unique way to shred pork, if you are willing to invest in something specifically meant for that.
When it comes to the best part about this method, you can expect that the efficiency of the bear claws stands out. With stronger, larger prongs, you can expect that the speed at which you can tear apart pork is going to be somewhere between the traditional dinner fork and using an electric mixer to get the job done.
This is best for people who prefer cooking larger portions of meat at a time, where dinner forks just don’t cut things quick enough.
On the other hand, there’s the fact that you will be buying something with the sole purpose of shredding pork. Some people might have a small kitchen, and while these devices are small, nobody wants to clutter up drawers with various trinkets.
There’s also the matter of spending the time shopping for something when you have equipment in your kitchen that you can get the job done with. Essentially, you have to decide if shredding pork more quickly is worth a separate part of your money.
3. Shredding the Pork with a Potato Masher
This method might sound confusing, or even dubious at first, but it can certainly be a last resort option for when you need to shred pork up and you don’t have any clean dinner forks at the ready.
After all, once the pork is done, you will probably want to serve it while it’s hot and fresh. If you ever find yourself in this situation, you can definitely make do with some particular models of potato mashers.
Once you have slow-cooked the pork until it is tender enough to be torn apart by a dinner fork, or in this case, a potato masher, you will follow the same steps as earlier. All you need to do is turn off the pot, let it cool a bit, and take the lid off before you can start tearing away at the meat.
As long as the masher is sturdy, it will hold up well to tearing at the pork. In some cases, the size of the potato masher might even make it more efficient than some dinner forks.
The best part about this method of shredding pork is going to be how versatile it is. You don’t have to have any clean dinner forks to use a potato masher.
If you have prepared a meal and everyone is waiting for you, only for you to realize that you are completely out of clean forks or knives, it can be incredibly embarrassing to ask people to wait. With a potato masher by your side, you don’t have to keep anyone waiting while you shred the pork to the best of your ability.
Of course, there are a few issues with using something so unconventional as a potato masher to make sure that your meal is properly shredded. For one, the shredding won’t be as clean-cut, making the meal a little less appealing on the eyes.
While some people might not care about that, what they will care about is the fact that a potato masher is going to be somewhat slower than some forks will, depending on how flimsy the material is.
4. Shredding the Pork with an Electric Mixer
This is, by far, the most efficient method of shredding pork that you are going to come across. In a matter of minutes, usually less than that, you can easily have a bowl of shredded pork.
It’s just a matter of getting a good mixer and finding the right mixing attachment to do this with. You will want to make sure you are wary of the power setting and what blade you are using, as you probably don’t want to damage your mixer while you are using it.
This method is going to be slightly different than the other methods, as you will want to put the pork into the mixing bowl so that it can be mixed up. Once you do this, you will want to make sure that you have the proper blade attached, preferably a flat beater paddle.
From here, you will lock everything in place, turn the speed to medium in most cases, and wait for the meat to shred. Depending on how much pork was in the slow-cooker, it should take between 30 and 45 seconds.
As you can imagine, the best part about this method of shredding is just how fast it can get things done. After you have waited patiently for your meat to cook in the slow-cooker, you can simply put it in a mixing bowl, and within a minute you will have freshly shredded pork that you can use for any recipe you wish.
The only real issue with this method is that not everyone is going to have a stand mixer at the ready to use, and that stand mixers are considerably more expensive than a pair of dinner forks.
What makes the investment in a stand mixer a little more prominent is the fact that it can be used for countless other things in the kitchen, unlike the bear claws.
Which Method Is Best?
Ultimately, the best method in terms of efficiency and speed is going to be the mixer. No matter how tender your pork is, you aren’t going to out-shred an electric mixer.
If you are looking for a shredding method that will get you what you need as soon as you need it, then it very well might be worth getting the blade you need to get the job done.
If you are not in the mood to get a stand mixer for your shredded pork needs, then you should stick with the tried and true method of using two dinner forks to simply pull apart your pork so that you have a lovely dish of shredded pork waiting to be served.
Before you know it, you will become an expert at shredding pork.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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