Slow cooker Dr. Pepper pork shoulder recipe

A couple years ago, I noticed a bottle of Dr. Pepper in the refrigerator, one that had been sitting there for months. I don’t drink a lot of sugary beverages, and when I do get a hankering, I usually have a Coke or a Jarritos. I think the Dr. Pepper was left there by a house guest, possibly a cousin who had stayed with us for several days. I didn’t want to waste it, but I didn’t really want to drink it either. So I turned to the internet to find recipes that call for Dr. Pepper.

After not much searching, I found a recipe for spicy Dr. Pepper shredded pork that sounded pretty darn good. All I had to do was run out and buy about $20 worth of additional ingredients to avoid wasting 85 cents worth of Dr. Pepper. Sounds reasonable, right? Anyway, I tried it, and it turned out great. I’ve made it a number of times since then, modifying the recipe along the way and adapting it to my slow cooker. I’ve had family ask for the recipe a couple times, so I thought I’d share it here.

Without further ado, here’s the list of ingredients:

  • 3.5 to 5 pounds pork shoulder, bone-in or boneless
  • 6 to 8 ounces Dr. Pepper
  • one 7-ounce can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • approximately 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons brown sugar, optional

The reason I limit the pork shoulder to 5 pounds is due to the size of my slow cooker, an average size Crock Pot. If you have a bigger or smaller cooker, you can adjust the recipe as needed.

For what it’s worth, I prefer buying the “throwback” Dr. Pepper made with real sugar. If you plan to drink what you don’t use, I recommend chilling the bottle overnight in the fridge before preparing. Room temperature Dr. Pepper isn’t undrinkable, but it isn’t nearly as refreshing.

I didn’t use any brown sugar the first couple times I made this, and Kathryn found the pork a bit too spicy. I used one tablespoon the next two times, and I’ve used two tablespoons since then. Two tablespoons of brown sugar seems to be just right, but it’s a matter of taste.

So, to get started, mix the salt and pepper in a small bowl and set it aside. Then, in a glass measuring cup, whisk together the desired amounts of Dr. Pepper and brown sugar, setting it aside too.

Next, rinse the pork shoulder with cold water, pat it dry with paper towels, and set it on a cutting board. Rub the salt-and-pepper mixture onto the pork, and then place the meat fat-side-up into the slow cooker. Pour the Dr. Pepper mixture around the edges of the crockery, not directly into the meat itself.

Finally, open the can of chipotle peppers and pour them directly onto the meat. I like to use a little of the leftover Dr. Pepper to get the last bit of adobo sauce out of the can. Cover the slow cooker and set to high. Note: If you have one of those fancy-pants slow cookers with a temperature setting instead of the high-low-warm knob we simpletons use, you’re on your own here.

At this point, you have about five hours to enjoy the leftover Dr. Pepper that didn’t make it into the recipe. I recommend supplementing with one or more cold beers.

After about five hours, or the equivalent number of beers, the meat should be almost falling apart. Remove the cover and use two forks to break apart the meat and peppers as much as desired. If the meat wasn’t boneless, you can remove the bone at this time. Replace the cover and continue to cook for at least another hour. You didn’t drink all the beer, right?

Now that the juicy, spicy pork shoulder is falling apart in the slow cooker, the next step is to separate the meat from most of the liquid without making a complete mess of your kitchen. How you do this is up to you. I like to use a small mesh strainer that looks like an oversized slotted spoon — I’m not sure where we got it. Once the meat and juices are separated, you can enjoy some of the pork immediately, but I prefer to put both in the fridge at least overnight.

Once chilled, the juice will separate with the fat on top. The fat can be easily scraped off and collected into yet another container. It may seem like waste, but if you like fried eggs in the morning, the spicy pork fat is nice for lubricating the pan. Trust me on this.

The gelatinous bottom part of the juice can also be retained. If, for the sake of illustration, you had a spouse who couldn’t ever reseal a container after opening, allowing all your delicious, savory pork to dry out in the refrigerator, you could add back a little of the retained juice when you reheat.

Now that you have all this wonderful spicy shredded pork, what do you do with it? Shredded pork tacos? Shredded pork burritos? Shredded pork quesadillas? We’ve tried all these, and they’re great.

The easiest thing, though, is to make a pulled pork sandwich. Pick up some bakery-fresh bolillo rolls, or something inferior if you live somewhere you can’t get them. Slice a roll open and fill it with reheated pork and some thinly sliced red onion. Remember that juice you saved? You can reheat a bit of it and top your sandwich with a spicy au jus. Kathryn and I enjoy topping our sandwiches with a drizzle of ranch dressing to take the edge off the spiciness of the pork.

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