I tried pulled-pork recipes from Rachael Ray, Robert Irvine, and Ree Drummond to see which was best.
Drummond's recipe was delicious even without barbecue sauce, but Ray's dish was unmemorable.
Irvine's recipe was the best pulled pork I've ever tasted, and I'd definitely make it again.
I've never been a big fan of pulled pork — the recipes I've tried before were way too sweet for me.
But I decided to test recipes from celebrity chefs Rachael Ray, Ree Drummond, and Robert Irvine to see if any of them could change my mind.
Here's how the recipes stacked up.
Ray's recipe for pulled pork only had four steps.
Ray's pulled-pork recipe only had four steps, which was already a hit for me. I prefer quick recipes, especially if the strong flavors are still there.
First I combined the seasonings together for Ray's dry rub.
The recipe called for a quick dry rub for the boneless pork shoulder.
I generously poured a mix of smoked paprika, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, and oregano on top of the meat and rubbed it in.
The smell was powerful and made me eager to try the end result.
The earthy mix of warm and smoky scents coming from the dry rub made me excited to try the pork before I even made the barbecue sauce.
I let the pork get some color before putting it in my oven.
I heated a Dutch oven — a heavy, lidded pot — on my stovetop with canola oil until it began to smoke and ripple lightly. Then I placed the seasoned pork in the pot to get some color before it went in my oven.
Once it was ready, I covered the dish and placed it in my oven for three hours at 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
While the meat cooked, I made Ray's barbecue sauce.
I placed chopped onion, a jalapeño, garlic, salt, and pepper into a heated pot to soften. Then I added white vinegar to reduce it.
Ray's barbecue-sauce recipe suggested using either 1 1/2 cups of ketchup or tomato sauce. I chose tomato sauce, which I think helped make the product more savory than sweet. I finished off the sauce with Worcestershire, light-brown sugar, and Frank's RedHot.
I let the mixture simmer until the meat finished cooking.
The pork was tender and came apart so beautifully.
My main concern was that the meat wouldn't be tender enough after just three hours in the oven, but it turned out so soft.
I quickly grabbed two forks to shred the meat, removing the chunks of fat as I went. It was such an easy process.
Although the pork tasted great before adding any sauce, I couldn't really taste all of the dry rub's ingredients.
I liked the pork, but I couldn't really taste the dry rub. I wish the recipe included stronger spices beyond smoked paprika that might stand out more.
I began mixing the completed barbecue sauce with the pulled pork.
The jalapeño and hot sauce added a kick to the pork, but it wasn't overwhelming.
I like the spicier, more savory approach, but unfortunately, the dish's overall flavor was a bit weak.
Drummond's recipe was also easy, but it required an overnight marinade.
I was excited to try Drummond's pulled-pork recipe because, like Ray's, the ingredients and steps seemed very straightforward.
I created the dry rub before handling the meat.
Before I put the meat in the oven, I followed Drummond's instructions to make a mixture of brown sugar, chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
I put the dry rub all over the meat and placed it in a bowl to refrigerate overnight.
The next morning, I prepared the meat for my oven.
In the morning, I added eight onion halves into a pan and placed the seasoned pork on top.
I covered the dish with foil, and it went into the oven for seven hours at 300 F.
After taking the meat out, I put the onions and marinade aside for my sauce.
After the meat finished cooking, I set aside the onions and leftover juices from the pan for the barbecue sauce.
The barbecue sauce was pretty easy to make.
I added the leftover onions and marinade to a pot and began making the barbecue sauce.
While my pork settled, I placed the leftover marinade and onions, water, and a Texas-based barbecue sauce in a pot at high heat.
I shredded and tasted the pork while it was still in the pan.
The meat turned out super flavorful and moist. I could taste the simple dry rub, thanks to the overnight prep time.
After shredding the pork, I mixed in the barbecue sauce.
I liked the pork on its own, but the spicy sauce added a nice layer of heat.
Surprisingly, I actually preferred the pork without any sauce. I enjoyed the fact that Drummond makes the pork's seasoning the star of the dish.
This recipe is simple and I think it would serve plenty without breaking the bank — most of the ingredients are common pantry items or easily substitutable.
Irvine's recipe also featured an easy approach to a tasty dish.
Irvine's pulled-pork recipe had only two main steps.
But I read the ingredient list too quickly and mistook "cloves'' for garlic cloves at the grocery store. After Googling alternatives, I opted for pumpkin spice since it's just as warm and nutty.
I added the pumpkin-spice blend to the meat first, then rubbed the rest of the spices in.
I poured pumpkin spice all over the meat and then added the smoky dry rub.
The rest of the rub included sugar, brown sugar, dark chili powder, smoked paprika, garlic and onion powder, pepper, salt, mustard, and cayenne pepper.
I couldn't get over how amazing the rub smelled.
I caught so many different notes of flavor, which is exactly what I want from a dry rub. It was warm, spicy, and sugary, reminding me of a cinnamon candle.
It truly captured the essence of barbecue and made me eager to try the finished product.
I placed the coated pork shoulder in my slow cooker.
I placed the pork in my slow cooker, added onions on top, and cooked it for nine hours.
After the pork was done, I removed the fat, shredded the meat, and cooked it again with barbecue sauce.
I shredded the meat on my stovetop and placed it back into the slow cooker with generic barbecue sauce for another hour and a half.
The recipe suggested using 16 ounces of sauce, but I used less because I wanted the spices to stand out more.
This was the best pulled pork I've ever had.
There was a perfect mixture of savory and sweetness in Irvine's pulled pork. The dry rub came through perfectly, smelling and tasting great.
I think putting pulled pork in a slow cooker is the way to go — it locks in the flavor and makes the dish extremely moist and tender.
This recipe tasted better than any pulled-pork dish I've ever had at a restaurant. The simple approach also means almost anyone can make it proudly.
Irvine's recipe was easily my favorite, but I'd make Drummond's again with some improvements.
Although I don't see myself making Ray's dish again, I think Drummond's has potential if stronger ingredients are added to make the flavors pop.
I know I'll definitely have Irvine's recipe on rotation in my home, as it was the clear winner of this battle. It was absolutely delicious.
Want to try more recipes from these celebrity chefs? Check out some delicious dishes from their cookbooks:
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