Crock-Pot Pulled Pork and Pig Anatomy

I consider myself to be pretty decent in the kitchen, but using a slow cooker is a pretty new adventure to me..  We didn’t have one growing up, so it was never really on my radar.  I guess slow-cooker meals would’ve been a fancy solution to dinner during grad school, provided I actually got home at my intended time.  I usually opted for cereal, eggs, or quinoa (or some combination of all three) instead.

But, I married into a Crock-Pot.  When KMN and I were living apart (you can read a bit about our story in this post), there wasn’t much point in using it when I went to visit KMN, since the meal would have to cook for pretty much the entire length of my visit.  But nowadays, the Crock-Pot and I (and KMN) are comfortably co-habitating, and I’ll hopefully be expanding my working sphere beyond our front door soon, so I figure that learning how to use the little (big) guy might not be a bad idea.

Pre-blog, I’d used it to make over-cooked chicken legs, and a very unremarkable soup.  I was not impressed, but knew there must be some tasty recipes out there.  I recalled hearing people discuss making pulled pork in the slow-cooker.  This sounded promising.  So I grabbed the little cookbook that came with our Crock-Pot (Crock-Pot Slow Cooker Cookbook), and sure enough – I found a recipe for Carolina Barbecued Pork.  My adaptation appears below.

I should note that the only pork I’ve used in cooking, ever, has been ground pork.  I tend to the vegetarian/poultry side of things, but cook a lot more meat now that I live with KMN.  Chicken gets boring fast, and I don’t really like beef.  Pork seemed like a reasonable compromise.  The recipe called for boneless pork butt or shoulder roast.  So, I headed over to the meat section of the Fairprice, hoping the cuts were well labeled.  Indeed, I was able to find something labeled “Pork Shoulder/Butt”.  I found this perplexing, but was glad not to have to choose between the two.  About 2 lbs of boneless shoulder/butts came home with me.

[Some subsequent Googling educated me: Pork shoulder and butt are, indeed, the same cut.  It’s the shoulder blade area, above the front legs – and especially good for pulled pork because it is marbled with enough fat to stay moist while cooking. Don’t ask me why the “butt” is over the front legs.]

The only other ingredient we didn’t have at home was Worcestershire sauce. I was a bit nervous about how much this western condiment would cost, but I was able to find a very small bottle (but really, who ever uses a whole bottle of Worcestershire sauce?) for about $3.50 SGD (~$2.80 USD).  Awesome.  I was good to go.

Shoulder/butts in the Crock-Pot.

Shoulder/butts in the crock-pot.

As per the recipe, I mixed up:
2 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs paprika
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
and used it as a rub on the meat, which then went right into the Crock-Pot, along with several quartered onions.



Next, I made a royal mess while mixing up the sauce ingredients:
3/4 cup cider vinegar
4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp chili powder
Pour ~2/3 of this mixture over the meat.  Save the rest in the fridge as a drizzle for the finished product.  Cook on high for 6 hrs (or low for 10 hrs).  

I really don't know how I managed to make such a big mess with so few ingredients...

I really don’t know how I managed to make such a big mess with so few ingredients…

I was a bit nervous, because the liquid definitely didn’t cover all of the meat, but I trusted the recipe and left this cooking all afternoon, while I did some errands and met KMN for a gym session (this was last Wednesday).  I’m always a *tad* anxious about leaving the Crock-Pot on while I’m out, but if I only used it when I was home, that would defeat half the point, right?  And when we returned, the apartment smelled great and the juices were bubbling away.

The final product, post-pulling.  (Despite my worries, the pulling was fun, and easy!)

The final product, post-pulling. (Despite my worries, the pulling was fun, and easy!)

I easily shredded the meat with two forks, and all we had to add was some freshly cooked rice and a salad.  Dinner was served!  I was so eager to taste it that I forgot to take a photo until I was nearly finished:

Veggies, mostly already in my tummy...

Veggies, mostly already in my tummy…

Carolina BBQ Pork, served over rice

Carolina BBQ Pork, served over rice.

The final product was quite tasty.  The sauce isn’t a thick BBQ sauce (obviously), but still has quite a good, tangy flavor, which I loved.  If you’re more sensitive to vinegar, though, you might want to cut back to 1/2 cup, plus some water.  As for me, I think I’ll cut back on the sugar next time – this was slightly sweet for my taste.  But there’s a huge range of preferred BBQ tastes, so it all depends what you like.

Overall, though – I was thrilled with this recipe.  It was easy (minus the mess!) and tasted great.  Plus, we made plenty of extra pork. I enjoyed some on a salad the next day (didn’t even need any dressing!), and we froze the rest.  I think we’ll be enjoying that on sandwiches the next time we need a super fast dinner.  This recipe is certainly flagged as a “make again”!

Do you have a favorite slow cooker recipe?  Please share it, or the link to it!!
(Especially if it doesn’t require lots of pre-packaged American products.)

23 thoughts on “Crock-Pot Pulled Pork and Pig Anatomy

  1. karen

    The slow cooker was a lifesaver when I was a grad student. Hot soup or stew ready and waiting when I get home in the autumn/winter… Mmmm…

    Another reason why slow cookers are popular here is that most homes don’t have ovens. And even if we do have ovens, some days are just too hot for turning the oven on… you know what I mean! Then it’s out with the slow cooker again. Also, I would leave the slow cooker on and leave the house but can’t imagine doing that with the oven. I know there are fancy ovens on timers and such, but it still feels strange and slightly dangerous to me.

  2. Sarrilly

    Nice! 🙂 Pulled pork sandwiches are always a hit around here too…my biggest pet peeve about Crock Pots is that I can never seem to clean mine as easily as I think it should be to clean. Maybe not so much with the pulled pork but def. with the baked beans recipe I use. Strange, right? Any suggestions?

    1. Holly KN Post author

      I recall reading a recipe for slow cooker oatmeal that suggested using a liner to ease clean up. I can imagine oatmeal leads to a sticky mess similar to that of baked beans. I think Reynolds makes (or at least made) these kind of liners. Might be worth checking out!!!

  3. Heather Heath Roth

    This might fail at the prepackaged department, but I’m sure you can improvise.

    3-4 frozen chicken breasts
    1 envelope ranch dressing mix
    1 envelope taco seasoning mix
    1 medium onion, diced
    1/2 jar salsa (or 1 can diced tomatoes)
    1 15-oz can black beans
    1 15-oz can cannellini (or any white) beans
    1 15-oz can kidney beans
    1 15-oz can vegetarian baked beans
    1 15-oz can kernel corn (or ½ bag frozen corn)
    Put everything in crock pot in order listed. Do NOT rinse or drain
    beans. Do NOT stir. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Take chicken out and
    shred with two forks. Put chicken back in, stir, and eat. Freezes well.

    1. Holly KN Post author

      Interesting, starting with frozen chicken breasts. Is that common?

      Canned beans are a little pricey out here, but I think that with some creative substituting/adjusting, this could work. And I *have* been looking for some kind of Mexican-like recipe to make… Thanks, Heather! I’ll definitely be giving this one a try. 🙂

  4. Jean

    I’m afraid I haven’t got any crock pot recipes, I just thought it was funny that your grad school diet of “cereal, eggs, and quinoa” is EXACTLY what I ate when I lived in New York and what I opt for these days when left to my own devices. I never seem to get tired of them!

    1. Holly KN Post author

      How could you get tired of them? Every one has so much variety! All those kinds of cereal, plus oatmeal! And toppings! Eggs can be hard/soft boiled, scrambled, fried, or turned into an omelet with just about anything inside. Quinoa is sweet, or savory, depending on what you mix it with. In short, 3 foods, nearly endless combinations!

  5. Elena

    Yes. Crockpot. Yes.

    I did not grow up with one either, but I got one for xmas 2 years ago and I love it. Pulled pork is a favorite, but since I’m on my own, and tend not to eat much meat anyhow, it’s a rare treat for me. What I love most about it is that I can have yummy meals in the summer when it’s too hot for anything (I know you can relate). Funny note: I operate mine in the bedroom because the cats are kept out of there during the day (all the time if I can help it) and so they can’t open the lid and eat from it while it cooks. hooray for having no kitchen door.

    These days I make two variations on chicken in mine: one I call “vaguely mexican chicken” and one is a classic chicken soup. It’s hard for me to give recipes because I’m no measurer but here’s the basic outlines.

    vaguely mx chicken:
    pkg of boneless skinless chicken thighs
    plain diced tomatoes and all associated juices (generally i used canned out of laziness, fresh works just fine)
    beans of whatever sort are lying around
    chopped up onions (usually one whole big one I guess; chop it up however you want)
    a bunch of cloves of garlic roughly chopped (I am a garlic addict so I’ll usually use a whole bulb but do what you want)
    chopped jalapenos (optional, obv)
    a little water depending on how much liquid has come from the tomatoes or beans

    Season the chicken with cayenne and adobo. or either or neither. dump everything together and cook it until the chicken falls apart and the flavors are mixed (7-ish hours on low, 4(?) on high).
    I serve it with corn tortillas and onions that I’ve quickly pickled in salt and white vinegar (just left them in salt and vinegar in the refrigerator while the crock pot cooks).

    chicken soup:
    pkg boneless skinless chicken thighs
    celery, onions and carrots chopped up (mirepoix)
    garlic (as above)
    ripped up kale
    you can either use chicken broth or you can use water to fill the crock pot about halfway
    if I use water (which I generally do) I make it into broth by adding some soy sauce and balsamic vinegar (liiike, just pour it in while moving it around the circumference of the crockpot – go around one time). This will add umami from the soy sauce and a bit of acidity from the vinegar. If that sounds horrifying to you, skip it.

    both of these will likely need a bit of salt afterwards but I’m afraid to salt beforehand for fear of wayyy over-salting.

    1. Holly KN Post author

      I love how you cook, and I doubly love that you keep your crockpot in the bedroom. 🙂 We sometimes have to get creative about where ours lives, too, depending on the outlet/adapter situations, and what else is going on in the kitchen.

      Soy sauce + balsamic actually sounds like a great seasoning option, if I don’t have chicken stock (canned broth here is way expensive compared to the US, so I refuse to buy it). I adore vinegar. And Asia is teaching me that MOST things can be served with soy sauce. I’ll be giving both a shot in the near future. Sounds like I need to buy stock in boneless skinless thighs. (<---Weird, gross statments.)

  6. Elena

    oh yeah, in both of those cases, the chicken will pretty much just fall apart into bite size shreds when you stir it. I’m too lazy for taking chicken out and shredding it and then putting it back so I just thrash around in the pot with a fork or whatever.

    1. Holly KN Post author

      “…so I just thrash around in the pot…”

      ^ very strange mental pictures, until I got to “…with a fork…”

      That’s how I did the pork, too. Why dirty a cutting board with wet, drippy meat when I can just shred it in right in the pot. Only the forks got dirty, and we used the, to eat, anyway. Efficiency.

  7. Tamar

    If you have a busy day and don’t want to clean up a mess in the morning, you can throw everything into the crock the night beofre and leave it in the fridge. Since we both used to leave the house by 6am, we did this all the time. It always felt like magic to come home to a made dinner.

    1. Holly KN Post author

      THIS is brilliance. As I was assembling last night’s dish, I was thinking to myself, “This is pretty easy, but it’d be pain to fit into an early morning routine.” I suppose your approach would easily solve that problem! 🙂

  8. Tamar

    Oh, right. Recipe. Mulled cider. Basically, it should be half cider and half red wine: you throw in some cinnamon sticks and some orange slices (if you want) and some whole cloves and it’s awesome. If it’s for kids, use cranberry juice instead of wine.

    1. Holly KN Post author

      In a colder climate, I’d already have this in the slow cooker.

      In a tropical climate…I may just have to turn on the air con one night and indulge! 🙂

  9. Silas

    Nice. We tried pulled pork once, but it didn’t quite turn out how we liked it. I have had some success making chili and beef stew in the crock pot, though we have had some misfires (I got a bad goulash recipe once which was very disappointing).

    1. Holly KN Post author

      I’ve definitely got my eye on chili; beef stew is probably a non-starter (I just don’t like beef). I’d suggest giving pulled pork another go; definitely choose the butt/shoulder cut, though!

  10. erica prier

    Maybe try making some stock in your crock pot? If you eat a bit of chicken, just save the bones/fat/anything you cut off or leave behind and toss in whatever veg you have – onions, carrots, zucchini, leek, garlic, bay leaves, maybe there are some Asian veg that would lend a good flavour too? Whack in the pot for a couple hours. I’ve never tried but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work. Then freeze it in an ice cube tray and use in recipes as needed 🙂

    I occasionally make lamb in my crock pot – lamb shank or knuckles with lots of tomatoes, cloves of garlic, onion and sprigs of rosemary. But if you don’t like beef, you probably won’t like lamb.

    1. Holly KN Post author

      This is actually on my list to try. Canned/boxed chicken broth is too expensive here for me to justify buying, so every time we have a chicken, I make stock – while I’m home right now, it’s easy to keep an eye on. But eventually, I think this might be a great way to make stock during the day, then a fresh soup when we get home. You’re reading my mind!

      1. erica prier

        I’ve only just started making my own stock within the past couple years. I don’t know whether it tastes any better than what I would buy, but at least I can control what’s in it as far as salt and preservatives and such. Plus I like being able to ‘recycle’ the chicken bits 🙂 The worms get the veggies when I’m done, too.

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