We feed a lot of people every New Year’s Eve.
Over the years, our party hosts have expanded their digs from a condo to a rambling farmhouse, and the party start time has worked its way from dinnertime into the late afternoon.
So I’ve tasked myself with finding ever more creative ways to keep the masses happy without bankrupting us.
Apart from vegetable-loaded dishes like this year’s sleeper hit, sweet and salty roasted Brussels sprouts, I’ve turned to big batch comfort food.
Casseroles, flotillas of pasta, and big but cheap-ish cuts of meat like whole chickens and hams are how we fill the parade of guests passing through as the hours stretch to midnight.
For this year’s honey-themed party, I knew slow cooker pulled pork with honey barbecue sauce would most definitely be on the menu.
Not only does honey lend itself so well to the spicy sweetness of homemade barbecue sauce, but we’d get mountains of juicy shredded meat from one of my most favorite cuts: the economical but flavorful pork shoulder.
The small wrench in my plan was that I had no way to do true slow-cooked barbecue on December 31.
Given that we’ve rung in many a New Year in the middle of a blizzard (this is Boston, after all), there was no way I’d thumb my nose at fate by attempting any outdoor cooking for the party.
There was even less of a chance that I’d be able to devote time to a dish that required constant charcoal monitoring and meat basting. So I faked it.
Doing slow cooker pulled pork lets you simmer the pork shoulder overnight, which makes it a godsend for party hosts.
It gives you time to get the nasty stuff out of the way—like shredding multiple pounds of meat—without overheating your home with a hot oven in summer heat.
Slow cooker pulled pork reheats incredibly well: marbled with fat, it cooks low and slow in its own juices and retains flavor so you don’t need to worry about it drying out.
Keeping it doused in sticky-spicy barbecue sauce doesn’t hurt either.
Even with the two pork shoulders I cooked and shredded, a mountain of marinated grilled skirt steak, a quadruple batch of cornbread, pounds of roasted shrimp, platters of salads—and of course, the Brussels sprouts—our guests cleared us out of food one hour before midnight.
What we learned? You can pass off a block of Cabot cheddar to pretty much anyone at 11:30 pm and they’ll think it’s the most incredible gourmet offering in the world.
Which, yes, it sort of is. But it’s nowhere near as belly-filling as this slow cooker pulled pork.
With homemade honey barbecue sauce or your own favorite sauce, it is a party pleaser in every sense of the word.
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
- 1 4- to 5-pound bone-in or picnic pork shoulder
- 2 medium red or yellow onions, peeled and cut into chunks
- 3 medium to large carrots, rinsed and cut in half
- 4 large garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 12-ounce bottle brown ale or other dark and non-hoppy beer
- 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
- 2 cups honey barbecue sauce
Honey Barbecue Sauce
- 3/4 cup (252 grams) honey
- 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
- 1/2 cup (168 grams) Heinz ketchup
- 1/4 cup (53 grams) packed dark brown sugar
- 2 12-ounce bottles brown ale or other dark and non-hoppy beer
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard powder
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Make the pulled pork:
- Stir the salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, coriander, and celery seed together in a small bowl, then rub the spice blend liberally onto the pork shoulder.
- Optional: place the pork on a rimmed baking sheet and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Let the pork rest in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.
- Place the onions, carrots, and garlic in the bottom of a slow cooker.
- Set the rubbed pork shoulder on top of the aromatics, fat-side up.
- Whisk the beer and tomato paste together and pour around the pork shoulder.
- Cover and cook on low for 10 hours.
Make the honey barbecue sauce:
- Whisk the honey, tomato paste, ketchup, and brown sugar together in a small (3 quart) Dutch oven or 2-quart saucepan.
- Place over medium heat and whisk in the beer, vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, ground mustard, and paprika.
- Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently as needed to reduce the foam caused by the beer.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low.
- Cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened.
Assemble and serve:
- Remove the pork from the slow cooker and discard the vegetables.
- When the pork is cool enough to handle, shred with your fingers into bite-size strips, removing any remaining large chunks of fat. Or use your stand mixer to shred the pork!
- Toss the shredded pork with 2 cups honey barbecue sauce to coat. Serve with additional sauce on the side.
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