Since meat needs to cook for a long time before it reaches that fall-apart consistency, making pulled pork can be quite a project. That makes it even more disappointing when the results aren’t what you’d hoped.
What can you do if your pulled pork comes out too salty? More importantly, how can you avoid this issue in the first place? Our guide will tell you what you need to know.
Pulled Pork Too Salty
If your pulled pork is too salty, you can try to correct the mistake by reheating it in a water bath or using the pork as a base ingredient for other dishes. To avoid this issue in the future, make your own spice rub from scratch, and use only about 1 tablespoon of rub per pound of meat.
How To Avoid Over-Salting
With some dishes, it’s possible to add only a small amount of salt at the beginning of the cooking process, adding more gradually to taste. Obviously, due to the slow-cooking process, this isn’t a possibility when it comes to pulled pork.
You’ll want to include at least some salt in your seasoning rub. Without it, the meat will taste too bland. Salt also helps the bark develop, creating a delicious charred exterior and holding the moisture inside the meat.
The best way to avoid over-salting pulled pork is to use the correct amount of seasoning rub. Try not to use more than 1 tablespoon of rub per pound of meat.
As for dimensions, the salt should make up roughly half of the spice rub. If you’re using a simple dalmatian rub—which is recommended more for beef brisket than pulled pork—4 tablespoons of kosher salt and 4 tablespoons of black pepper will yield 1/2 cup of rub.
Those of you who’ve opted for a store-bought rub should use the mix sparingly. Often, these prepared rubs contain more than the recommended amount of salt, which can throw off your results.
The Importance of Using the Right Salt
Your pulled pork might have turned out too salty because you used the wrong kind of salt in the spice rub recipe.
Table salt is distinctly different from kosher salt. If you look at the two types side by side, you’ll be able to see that the grains of table salt are much smaller. That means that the crystals will impart a stronger salt flavor.
If the recipe calls for kosher salt and table salt is all you have on hand, you can make the substitution by reducing the salt by about 25 percent. Don’t use the same amount, or you’ll make the pulled pork too salty for sure.
Also of note: Don’t make the mistake of confusing pink Himalayan sea salt with curing salt, which is also pink in color. Curing salts (also known as Prague powder) contain sodium nitrite, which may have carcinogenic properties when consumed in high doses.
Pulled Pork Too Salty: Suggested Fixes
If you’ve tasted the pulled pork and found that the meat tasted too salty, you might still be able to remedy the situation. Here are a few suggestions.
The first rule of taste testing: Don’t panic. You’ve just cooked off a huge cut of pork. Just because the first bite tasted too salty doesn’t mean that the entire batch is ruined.
Your test piece might have included a high bark-to-meat ratio, which would throw off the flavors. When you mix all the shredded pork together, the flavors could balance themselves out.
Try another bite or two to make sure that your initial reaction was correct. If you still think the pork is too salty to be palatable, feel free to use one of our other recommended fixes.
Try Using Vinegar
If you were planning on mixing the pulled pork with barbecue sauce anyway, your problem might resolve itself. Store-bought brands are fine in a pinch, but you might want to make your own in order to ensure that there’s enough vinegar in the recipe to offset the salt.
Tip: Carolina-style barbecue sauce is a great choice in this case. The recipe is mustard-based, which means it contains plenty of vinegar. It’s also one of the easiest barbecue sauces to make.
Use the Oven
This technique will only work if you shredded a small amount of the pulled pork and realized that it was overly salty. Once all the meat has been shredded, you’ll want to follow the water-solution method we’ve outlined below.
Set the cooked pork butt in a roasting pan. Add about 1/2 cup of water or salt-free chicken stock to the pan and preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Place the pan inside the preheated oven and roast for about 30 minutes, continually basting the meat to remove the excess salt. This will soften the bark significantly, but we’d rather deal with softer bark than throw the whole meal out the window.
After 30 minutes, take the pork out of the oven and remove it to a platter. Discard the liquid in the pan—if the meat was really that salty, it won’t be usable. Shred the remaining pork and serve as planned.
Use a Water Solution
If you have any of the pulled pork cooking juices left, transfer them to a cooking pot. Add about 1/4 cup of water or sodium-free chicken stock to the juices, stir thoroughly, and taste the mixture. If it’s still too salty, keep adding small amounts of water until it suits your taste.
You may need to add other seasonings in order to keep the juices from becoming too bland. Try a teaspoon or two of brown sugar, paprika, dried herbs, or whatever other ingredients you might have used in the spice rub.
When the liquid has achieved the flavor you’re looking for, transfer the pulled pork to a large bowl. Add the water solution in small amounts, mixing well and tasting after each addition.
You can stop adding the mixture once the pork is moistened. At this point, the salty flavor should have diminished enough for you to enjoy the dish. Reheat the pork, if necessary, and serve as desired.
Use The Pork as a Base Ingredient
The more ingredients there are in a dish, the less you’ll notice the excess salt. Try mixing the pulled pork with your favorite barbecue sauce, then tucking it into a toasted bulky roll and topping the mixture with coleslaw.
Pulled pork makes an excellent taco filling when paired with corn or flour tortillas. Top the meat with shredded cabbage, pickled jalapenos, and salsa verde. You can also add cheeses like queso fresco or Cotija, but be careful, as these can be quite salty on their own.
You can also use pulled pork to make a chili or casserole. Just remember not to add any more salt to the recipe until it’s finished cooking—the pork might have already provided enough.
The Bottom Line
Too-salty pulled pork is a disappointment, but you can usually correct the mistake by using one of our recommended solutions. If nothing else, you’ll have learned a valuable lesson that you can apply to your next barbecue.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!