A pork tenderloin is considerably leaner and milder than pork shoulder, the cut typically called for in pulled pork recipes, but this doesn't mean you have to rule it out as a suitable alternative. Braise the tenderloin slowly with a little liquid and liberal seasonings, and it will yield the juicy, fall-apart texture you're looking for. The cooking method is almost foolproof and the results are remarkably versatile.
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Pulled pork can usually be cooked by barbecuing, smoking, slow roasting or braising it, but a pork tenderloin does not have enough fat to remain moist when using the first three of these cooking methods. Instead, gently braise the tenderloin with some stock, wine or water, covered and at a low heat, until the meat falls apart. A few tablespoons of liquid per tenderloin should be sufficient. You can do this in a slow cooker or Dutch oven. Keep the pot covered and check it periodically to see if the meat is falling apart. If the liquid disappears at any time, add some more. The pork is ready when it falls easily into shreds when you poke it with a knife or fork. In a slow cooker, this should take about 4 to 5 hours on high or 6 to 8 hours on low.
Shredding the Pork
Use two forks to break the tenderloin into shreds. Hold one fork in each hand and simply pull the meat in different directions until it is all shredded. If the pork does not shred easily, return the meat and juices to the pot and cook it longer.
Amp Up the Flavors
This slow-cooking method traps all the pork's natural juices and intensifies its flavors, so with only salt, pepper and some herbs, your pulled pork should be quite tasty. If you intend to drench the pulled pork with barbecue sauce, these minimal seasonings should be sufficient. To take full advantage of pulled pork's versatility, though, amp up the flavors with a dry rub or marinade.
Use a Dry Rub
Purchase or prepare your own dry rub to add intensity to the flavors of the pork tenderloin. For a classic barbecue flavor, use a rub containing brown sugar, pepper, paprika, mustard powder and garlic powder. If you like it hot, include a little cayenne pepper. Pat the dry rub all over the raw pork tenderloin pieces before putting them in the slow cooker or Dutch oven. To create an even more intense flavor, sear the pork on all sides in a hot skillet after applying the rub.
Use a Marinade
Marinate the pork tenderloin for at least 2 hours prior to slow cooking it, then substitute some of the marinade for the cooking liquid. Using a store-bought or homemade marinade is a great way to transform pulled pork to fit a variety of cuisines. Try blending a mixture of beer, orange segments and chipotle peppers in adobo sauce for a sweet and spicy Latin version. A little soy or teriyaki sauce with minced garlic and ginger gives the pork an Asian twist. A marinade made with olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic and oregano will take your taste buds to Greece.
A classic pulled pork sandwich calls for your favorite barbecue sauce, soft buns, pickles and coleslaw. You can drench the pulled pork in sauce and warm the mixture before serving it, or squeeze the sauce directly onto your sandwich. A side salad and a handful of quality kettle chips make the meal complete. Sandwiches are but one option. Use your pulled pork to fill tacos and burritos, or as an indulgent nacho topping. For a fancy appetizer, arrange some pork on a flatbread with arugula, red onion, sliced fresh peaches and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Try pulled pork lettuce wraps with an array of condiments to make every bite a bit different.
A pork tenderloin usually weighs less than 1 pound and will serve at most two to three people.
Don't directly substitute pork tenderloin for pork shoulder in recipes that call for barbecuing, smoking or slow roasting. Adapt such recipes by using the same seasonings and sauces, but cook the pork with the braising technique.