How Root Beer Can Elevate Your Pulled Pork

Pulled pork is an easy crowd pleasing dish that's great for feeding groups big and small. The key to a great pulled pork is giving it time and a little bit of help to break down the meat, and there's one unexpected ingredient that can help do that while adding a great flavor.

According to Food Crumbles, the key to a good pulled pork is to get the right piece of meat, and then cook it low and slow until the connective tissues have time to break down. Tissues like collagen are what hold cuts of meat together. When they're cooked for long periods of time, they render into juices and leave the delicious muscle fibers behind. This means that after enough time in the smoker or slow cooker, and a brief but essential resting period, you'll be left with perfectly tender pull-apart meat. Another way to help those tissues to break down is to use an acidic marinade to help that process along, and one great option that most people wouldn't think to use is root beer (via Allrecipes).

Root beer's flavor and acidity make it a perfect cooking liquid

While root beer, or any soda for that matter, might seem like an unconventional choice to flavor a savory meat, it can actually lend a ton of flavor to your pulled pork while tenderizing the meat. Allrecipes praises root beer's abilities in particular because of its high acidity, and complex flavor. Root beer and other sodas have a ton of phosphoric and citric acids that make them surprisingly well suited to help soften and tenderize meat. According to Livestrong, soda is slightly less acidic than other common cooking acids like lemon juice and vinegar.

Root beer also has a great flavor. As Mashed notes, root beer was originally used as a medicine, and takes much of its flavoring from sassafras and sasparilla roots. Allrecipes notes that it won't impart so much flavor that you'll only notice the root beer, but it will lend an interesting sweetness to accompany a smoky or tangy barbecue sauce. It recommends adding a can of root beer to the slow cooker along with your pulled pork to slowly cook and break down. It can also make for a great marinade base. Just be sure to keep your marinading or cooking time under eight hours or your meat might start to turn mushy instead of tender, per Southern Kitchen.