Smoked Chipotle Pulled Pork (Instant Pot)

Smoked Chipotle Pulled Pork

Learn how to cook a spiced pork shoulder in your electric pressure cooker until it falls apart.

As the nights start to draw in and the August winds are blowing Autumn closer and closer towards us we are starting to crave warmer, more comforting dishes.

Pork Pibil is one of my most favourite dishes to order at Wahaca. The warm spicy notes of the pork paired with the piquant pickled pink onions and the soft tortilla is the most perfect street food to warm up a cool autumnal evening or to wash down with a refreshing mojito on a summers evening. No matter the season, this is a great dish to feed a crowd with very minimal effort.


What is pulled pork?

Pulled pork is when you cook a tough cut of pork for hours until the meat falls apart when you pull it apart with two forks. A new trend is to take a hand mixer or a stand mixer that is fitted with the paddle attachment and pull the meat apart in seconds. But beware that this method does create a bit of a mess if your bowl isn’t big enough! Popular ways to make pulled pork is either in an electric pressure cooker (like an Instant Pot), a slow cooker, the oven or outside on the bbq.


Best cuts for pulled pork in your pressure cooker

There are several cuts that are great for making pulled pork, each is very different depending on what you need or how many people you need to feed.

Pork shoulder

This is probably the toughest part of the animal as it works pretty hard. Saying that, the pork shoulder is also the most flavourful cut and it is perfect for slow cooking as it needs time to break down the muscle fibres. It contains just enough fat to ensure that the meat doesn’t dry out, but not so much that it makes it greasy. Here in Britain a pork shoulder comes in roughly 1kg-1.8kg sizes which can generously feed between 4 and 8 people.

Pork tenderloin

Also known as the pork fillet, this cut is great if you only want pulled pork for two to three people (roughly sold as 350g pieces). It cooks fairly quickly and doesn’t contain any fat so it is great for your waistline!

Pork loin

Very different to the pork tenderloin, the pork loin is great for roasting as it contains the pork skin that can make amazing crackling (obviously not in your pressure cooker!). When I do use this cut, I trim off the skin (leave the fat on the meat) and roast this in the oven until it becomes crackling whilst the rest of the meat is lazily blipping away in the pressure cooker. It is sold in supermarkets around the UK in sizes ranging from 1kg to 1.5kg which can generously feed 4-6 people with lovely leftovers for lunch.


How to serve pulled pork

There is just so much more to pulled pork than just making sandwiches!

Sandwiches

You can really vary up pulled pork sandwiches by using different salad ingredients to change up the flavours. Why not try some of these delicious combinations with the pulled pork as base:

  • Fresh tomato and basil
  • Avocado
  • Mozzarella
  • Feta cheese
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Coleslaw
  • Gherkins and fresh onion
  • Caramelised onions and slices of brie cheese
  • Cranberry jelly and brie cheese
  • Applesauce
  • Shredded carrots with cumin seeds
  • Baby spinach leaves and feta cheese
  • Try different types of bread like sourdough, rye, flatbreads, taco shells or brioche

Wraps

Why have a sandwich if you can have a pulled pork wrap? You can use all the above toppings in a wrap or you can even pile them all into a giant pulled pork wrap!

Another great option to serve pulled pork is to make a burrito out of it: a flour tortilla as base followed by flavoured rice, refried beans, juicy pulled pork, pink pickled onions (recipe below) and a tablespoon of sweet corn kernels. Rolled up and wrapped in foil to catch those lovely juices.

Other alternatives to serve up pulled pork

Pulled pork doesn’t have to be wrapped inside some type of bread. Here are some great ways to serve up pulled pork or even using up left over pulled pork:

  • Pulled pork is a brilliant alternative to beef in a Spaghetti Bolognese. Simply cook your spaghetti and make sure that your pulled pork is very juicy for a very filling meal.
  • If you can make a spaghetti bolognese, then surely you can use pulled pork as the meat in a great lasagna.
  • As the protein in a great Bibimbap or even Cobb Salad (perfect when you follow a Keto diet!)
  • Pulled pork is also a fabulous topping for Nachos. Top the Nachos with the pulled pork, scatter over the cheese and then put in the oven until the cheese is melted and gooey. Serve with guacamole and sour cream.
  • Top your Mac and Cheese with pulled pork. Like the nachos, top the mac and cheese with the pork and then scatter over the cheese before putting in the oven until the cheese is melted.

Can pulled pork be frozen?

Yes, of course! I freeze pulled pork all the time. First portion the pork out into how ever many servings you normally need – I freeze mine in 1 portion servings for those nights that everybody would like something different to eat. It also makes your life easy to freeze it in the container you are going to reheat it in – I like to reheat my pulled pork in the oven so I tend to freeze them in little foil containers. Also pour over some of your reserved liquid to ensure the pork doesn’t dry out in the oven. To reheat, preheat the oven to 200℃ for 5-10 minutes then reheat the defrosted pulled pork for about 10 minutes until piping hot. You can also reheat pulled pork from frozen by putting it covered with foil in the oven at 180℃ for 25-30 minutes until it is piping hot.

Make sure to label your pulled pork with the date as you shouldn’t really be storing it for longer than a month or so.


What cooking liquid can I use to make pulled pork in the pressure cooker

Avoid tomato based sauces in your pressure cooker as this will most definitely end up in a burn notice. The liquid you are using must be thin and relatively clear as this is what your pressure cooker will use to create the steam which builds up the pressure.

Some great liquids include:

  • Dr Pepper – one of my favourites!
  • Coke – this is a great liquid to tenderise your pork. To enhance the flavour, you can marinade your cut of pork in the coke for a couple of hours before cooking. Dry thoroughly with kitchen towel, put your dry rub or paste on. Pour the coke into your inner pot of your pressure cooker and then cook your pork.
  • Appletiser – another pork winner! This sparkling apple juice from South Africa really brings out the sweetness of the pork. If you can’t get hold of Appletiser, then apple juice will work just as well.
  • Stock – in particular vegetable stock is great with pork as it doesn’t confuse the pork flavour with that of chicken or beef.
  • Water – when using a particularly flavourful paste (like the chipotle paste in this recipe) just use water as your cooking liquid.

Make your own Chipotle Chilli paste

I love the Chipotle Chilli paste from my local supermarket – it is packed with flavour without being overly spicy. If you cannot find a good chipotle chilli paste, why not make your own? In a blender combine the following ingredients:

  • 1 small red onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of sun-dried tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chilli flakes
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon soft brown sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

Blend until smooth. If it is too thick add a splash of water (1 teaspoon at a time) until you’ve reached the desired consistency.


Pink Pickled Onions

Pink pickled onions are best made an hour or two in advance.

  • 1 red onion, finely sliced in rings
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar

Combine the lemon, vinegar, salt and sugar and stir until the salt and sugar is dissolved. Pour this into a plastic container that can be sealed with a lid. Scatter over the finely sliced onion rings. Seal the container and give the onions a shake to cover it completely. Leave this in the fridge for at least an hour, giving it a shake every so often to ensure that the brine completely coats the onions.


How to make Pulled Pork in your pressure cooker

The full recipe is below on the recipe card, but you will need the following:

  • Chilli paste
  • Pork shoulder
  • Onions
  • Smoked paprika
  • Tomato paste
  • Dried oregano
  • Thin liquid of your choice

Step 1

Prepare your paste if you are making this from scratch and chop the onions.

Step 2

Unroll the pork by snipping off the butchers’ string that holds the whole joint together. Take the paste and rub this all over the pork. Ensure you massage this into all nooks and crannies to ensure that the meat is flavoured throughout. Don’t trim off the fat as this imparts flavour. You can always remove it after it has been cooked. Season with salt and pepper all over. Roll back up, but don’t tie with any strings.

Step 3

Place the chopped onions in the bottom of the inner pot of your pressure cooker. Pour the liquid on top and place the trivet on top of the onions. Place the pork joint on top of the trivet and set the timer to cook on high pressure.

To cook your pork perfectly you will need 20 minutes for each 450 grams plus another twenty minutes. A simple mathematical equation would be to take the weight of the pork and convert the kilograms into grams by multiplying by 1000 (so a 1.3kg joint will be 1300 grams), then divide this amount by 450 and multiply the answer by 20 (don’t round). Add another 20 and you will have the amount of minutes that your joint will cook in the pressure cooker until it falls apart.

To give you an example: 1300g ÷ 450 = 2.88888888 x 20 = 57.77777777 minutes. Add 20 minutes to this gives me 77.8 minutes in the pressure cooker. I rounded this to 80 minutes which is 1hour and 20 minutes.

Step 4

Once the time is up, let the pot naturally release the pressure (this took 35 minutes for me) and carefully lift the joint onto a board. Drain the liquid into a jug. Trim off any fat from the joint and put to one side. You can either throw this away or use it to supplement your pet’s food.

Step 5

Use two forks to gently pull the meat apart and scoop back into the inner pot of the Instant Pot. Once everything is pulled and scooped back into the pot, add the tomato paste, smoked paprika and oregano along with salt and pepper if needed. Add some of the reserved liquid back into the pork to suit your taste. If you are going to freeze the pork, pour a little of the liquid over the top of each portion to ensure it doesn’t dry out when you reheat it later.

Step 6

Serve with pink pickled onions on a soft tortilla wrap along with some shredded lettuce and other toppings of your choice.

Smoked Chipotle Pulled Pork

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 90 grams chipotle chilli paste
  • 1.3kg pork shoulder
  • 2 large red onions
  • 400ml water or stock
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano

Directions

  1. Peel and roughly chop the onions. Place in the inner pot of your electric pressure cooker.
  2. Pour over the liquid and place a trivet on top of the onions.
  3. Take the pork out of its packaging and snip off any strings. Unroll if it has been rolled up.
  4. Rub the chipotle paste all over the meat and season with salt. Place the pork onto the trivet inside the pressure cooker.
  5. Replace the lid, set the vent to ‘seal’ and set the timer for 1hour and 20 minutes on high pressure.
  6. Once the time is up, let the pot naturally release the pressure (it should take between 20 and 35 minutes). Only open the lid when the pin has dropped.
  7. Take the pork out and pour the liquid into a jug.
  8. Shred the meat using two forks or a hand mixer and place back into the inner pot. Pour some of the liquid back over until the desired moisture level.
  9. Add the tomato paste, paprika and oregano and adjust the seasoning if needed.
  10. Stir to combine well and place on keep warm (max 1 hour) until you are ready to eat.
  11. Serve with flatbreads, avocado, pink onion pickles and salad.


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