21 Ways to Cook a Perfect Pork Shoulder in the Instant Pot
The Instant Pot and pork shoulder are a match made in heaven. With high pressure cooking, incredibly tender pork doesn’t have to be an hours-long affair; it’s possible in under one hour.
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They say you eat with your eyes first. When I’m cooking with an Instant Pot, I find my other senses get first crack at my meal. When I hear the gentle hiss of the quick release valve venting rich aromas into my kitchen, I know I’m in for a treat. Add pork shoulder to the mix, and you’ve got a formula for culinary greatness.
With both pork shoulder and the Instant Pot, versatility is the key word. Pork shoulder (aka picnic roast or pork butt or Boston Butt) is a blank canvas for your culinary imagination. There are so many traditional ways from all over the world to prepare this cut. A creative chef can mix and match to synthesize something new and delicious. The Instant Pot is similarly flexible — different combinations of settings can produce wildly different results — hearty stews, low-and-slow roasts, fall-off-the-bone barbecue, and even savory stir fries. The electric pressure cooker pork recipes below show off the wild range of options that this dynamic duo can produce.
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Instant Pot pork shoulder FAQs
Questions and answers to some of the most common Instant Pot pork shoulder questions. Read up, then plug in that multi-cooker.
Why does pork shoulder do so well in the Instant Pot?
The fundamental advantage of high-pressure cooking is the time it trims off of recipes that would otherwise require hours of low-and-slow cooking. Unlike pork chops or pork tenderloin, pork shoulder is a fatty, tough cut of meat, full of collagen-rich connective tissues and sturdy, well-used muscles. The hot, wet environment of a pressure cooker makes short work of any braise — in a third of the time, your pork shoulder will be juicy, falling apart, and fork tender.
How long does it take to cook pork shoulder in the Instant Pot? How long per pound?
Cooking time for pork shoulder in the Instant Pot is a function of how thick you cut the pieces. Thicker pieces can take up to an hour or more to cook under pressure, while smaller cubes of meat can be tender and ready to eat in 30 or 40 minutes. Whatever size you decide on, make sure to budget enough total time for the pressure to build up and for a natural release.
How do you cook pork shoulder in the Instant Pot?
Most of the recipes below rely on a similar formula: Use the saute function to brown your meat and build up a caramelized “fond” of flavorful bits that stick to the bottom of the pot. Then add cooking liquid (whether water or stock or even onions!) to deglaze the pan and provide the moisture necessary to pressure cook your pork shoulder and infuse it with flavor.
Wait, onions aren’t liquid. Whaddaya mean?
You caught us — onions are solid, but they’re mostly made of water and once the pressure starts to mount they release more than enough liquid to prevent the dreaded “BURN” message. Dan Shumski, author of How to Instant Pot: Mastering All the Functions of the One Pot That Will Change the Way You Cook, developed two of the recipes below and both rely on onions. He notes, “Where water dilutes flavor, onions add to it. Yet despite the onions, the pork here doesn’t taste overwhelmingly of onions. When it comes to the onions, don't go crazy chopping them — large chunks are fine.”
Pork shoulder classics
These easy recipes represent the little black dresses of Instant Pot pork shoulder meals. They boast short ingredient lists and simple steps, making them a fundamental element of any home cook’s first-time Instant Pot repertoire.
As an introduction to cooking boneless pork shoulder in the Instant Pot, you can’t get much more basic than Dan Shumski’s simple method for making a yummy pork rice bowl. A choose-your-own-adventure sauce specification lets you pick the flavor profile that suits your mood.
Your Italian nonna may have insisted that a proper ragu requires twelve cuts of meat and multiple hours in front of a hot stove. This hearty meat sauce proves Grandma wrong. The Instant Pot saute function lets you build layers of flavor on a foundation of caramelized pork — a perfect complement for al dente pasta.
Because the Instant Pot seals in steam while it cooks, pan drippings don’t have a chance to thicken and can be watery. This pot roast recipe sidesteps this pitfall by cooking down the gravy after the main course is done and thickening it further with a cornstarch slurry. Soy sauce adds a deep savory note, and the flavor profile here is straight-up comfort food.
Mojo criollo is a marinade made from bitter orange juice and a spice mixture. Whether you get it in a bottle from your local bodega or mix up your own, this citrusy elixir is flavor-magic, boosting any meat into the tart garlicky stratosphere. Take advantage of the Instant Pot’s slow cooker setting to coax the most flavor out of this Crock Pot pork roast.
BBQ pork shoulder, y’all
If you ask me, slow-cooked barbecue is the United States’ preeminent contribution to the world’s culinary heritage. While no one would argue that an Instant Pot can take the place of a charcoal smoker, it does make it possible to create delicious renditions of BBQ pulled pork in record time without tending a live fire.
We love this simple pulled pork recipe! Take full advantage of the Instant Pot saute function to get your pork shoulder pieces well-browned and then braise under pressure with onions, Dr. Pepper, and BBQ sauce. A couple of hours later, load up your burger buns and you’re in business.
As a starting point when you’re ready to customize your own barbecue sauce, try out this formula, which relies on liquid smoke to infuse your Instant Pot pork shoulder with the flavor of woodfire and both maple syrup and brown sugar for a touch of sweetness.
Traditional North Carolina-style whole hog BBQ is slow cooked over live fire and then shredded and tossed with a tart and fiery apple cider vinegar based sauce. This rendition infuses the pork shoulder with the sauce over the course of cooking and that is definitely a plus. Serve piled high with an extra dose of sauce and some creamy coleslaw. Dang!
This version of BBQ pulled pork takes its inspiration from the roasted pigs you might find at a Hawaiian luau. With carrots and cabbage and bacon, it’s a one-pot meal for the ages.
Spicy pork shoulder options to bring the heat
Pork shoulder is one of the most flavorful cuts you can find, laced with rich fat and silken collagen. That’s what makes it a perfect laboratory to test your spice tolerance — that porky richness serves as a savory foil for fiery heat.
OK, I know, these are not really pork carnitas like you’d find in Michoacan, simmering in a copper cauldron of bubbling rendered lard, but you know what, this riff on that classic tastes outstanding. The addition of sweetened condensed milk tenderizes the meat and makes for beautiful caramelization.
Every night can be taco night. Customize your heat level by adding more or less canned chipotle chiles in adobo — I like to put in the whole can! The best part of this Yummly original recipe, developed by Instant Pot guru Dan Shumski, is that the cook time is so short. Thanks to the small cubes of pork, you’ll be spritzing lime over your tacos or burritos in an hour flat.
With a hearty dose of cumin and both fresh and dried chilis, this pork stew is bursting with complex heat. Pay a visit to a grocery with a robust selection of Mexican ingredients to get the arbol, guajillo, and ancho chiles, and don’t skip the hominy — these pillowy corn kernels soak up flavor.
You’ll get your Instant Pot up to pressure twice with this recipe — once to braise the pork shoulder so you can shred it and then again to cook your assembled tamales. Don’t be intimidated by the process — get your whole family involved and make your kitchen into a culinary arts and crafts assembly line.
Two key insights from this recipe. 1. Gochujang is delicious — once you’ve busted into a container of this incredible Korean chili paste you’ll find excuses to incorporate it into all sorts of dishes. 2. Use the Instant Pot for its capacity to tenderize tough meat, but don’t be afraid to dirty a second pan to get a sear onto your tender pork chunks after they’ve been pressure cooked.
Hearty pork stews
Picture this: fat flakes falling in front of glowing street lamps, children frolicking in the snow, and the gentle hiss of a manual release venting steam from one of these decadent Instant Pot pork shoulder stews.
I was skeptical about peanut butter in my pork stew at first too, but you know what, it really works. It’s just like a Reese's cup — two great tastes that taste great together. Once the peanut butter emulsifies into the sauce, you’ll be left with nothing but rib-sticking richness.
Apples and pork are a match made in heaven. This formula for winter warmth takes dry apple cider, fresh Granny Smiths, and cubed pork shoulder and makes them into a beautiful bowl of stew. And best of all, with carrots and potatoes cooked in the Instant Pot after the pork is done, it’s a one-pot meal — no side dishes to worry about or extra pans to wash.
This unique and hearty Polish stew has woodsy, floral flavors, thanks to mushrooms, marjoram, and caraway seeds. While the recipe is traditionally made on the stovetop, the author provides tips for making it in the Instant Pot to save time.
Adobo is the national dish of the Philippines — a long dip in a vinegar, soy, and garlic marinade transforms tougher cuts of meat into silken tenderness. Serve over rice!
I confess, this recipe is an all-day project. First, you roast and puree tomato candy. Then pipe elegant Parisian gnocchi from a pastry bag. While you’re braising your pork shoulder in the Instant Pot, you’ll also assemble a bacon-y sweet potato hash and mix up a corn pudding. But when it’s all on the plate together, you’ll be glad you spent the time.
Chinese-style pork shoulder
These recipes show off the versatility of the humble pork shoulder as well as the range and variety of regional Chinese dishes.
This staple of the Cantonese menu gets its deep red-brown color from a marinade containing red fermented tofu (and also sometimes red food coloring). You can eat it on its own over rice, or use it to stuff steamed bao or as a topping for wonton soup.
This recipe turns stir fry on its head — instead of cooking everything over high heat, you’ll start by browning slices of pork shoulder in the Instant Pot on the saute setting, then cut into even smaller slices and braise quickly by pressure cooking for a few minutes in a lovely soy garlic onion pan-sauce.
Congee is a smooth and satisfying rice porridge. This richly flavored version with ginger, scallions, and cilantro also features preserved duck eggs, known as century eggs. You can find preserved duck eggs at a Chinese market. They add rich, salty complexity to make this dish the ultimate comfort food. Top off the dish with furikake and French fried onions for a perfect flavor and texture experience.
What else can your Instant Pot do?
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