Cook Pork Shoulder In A Crock Pot

Cooking pork shoulder in a crock pot is nothing short of a secret weapon in the kitchen. You cook it once a week, and voila, you are all good to put a series of crowd-pleasing pork dishes. 

A famous chef once said how pork shoulder in a crock pot is the king of versatility. One couldn’t agree more, as pork shoulder slow-cooked in a crock pot is the base for cooking various mouthwatering dishes. 

Moreover, it doesn’t demand much, almost self-cooks as long as you throw in the right blend of spices into the pot and allow the magic to happen.  

Slow-Cooker Pork Shoulder

You can prepare roast pork in many ways, depending on which variant you have an appetite for. Of course, the classic recipe is always good, all it needs is a nice cut of meat and only a few other ingredients. So here is a very classic and quite simple pork shoulder recipe for the slow cooker.

Ingredients

  • 4-pound pork shoulder without the fat rind
  • 2 teaspoons ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • fresh oregano
  • fresh marjoram
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 glass beer or root beer
  • 1 small chili pepper if you like it hot

Preparation

  • Cross cut into the boneless and rind-free pork shoulder
  • Rub well with the olive oil, pepper, salt, and cumin
  • Place the meat cut into your slow cooker
  • Thinly slice the garlic and thinly slice the onion and put it in the pot
  • Put the fresh oregano sprig and marjoram sprig on the meat. Use dried herbs if you don’t have fresh ones. Add some of the chili pepper to taste
  • Pour the beer over it and add a little more water until the meat is about three-quarters covered
  • Turn the slow cooker to low and simmer for eight to nine hours

When the meat is ready, I carefully take it out of the slow cooker, put it in a bowl and put it under the grill again for about 10 minutes at high top heat. This creates a nice crispy crust.

In the meantime I pass the meat broth through a sieve, then I grate a potato into the meat broth and let it cook for a while until it forms a nice thick hearty sauce.

When everything is ready then it’s time to serve and enjoy the food.

soft tender and juicy pork shoulder from the slow cooker

Roast pork can be eaten with many things, in a sandwich, with mashed potatoes, spaetzle, or traditionally with dumplings.

pork roast with dumplings

What Is a Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder?

Pork shoulder is the primal cut, which traditionally goes by the name “picnic roast,”  and is bagged from the pig’s shoulder, which is right above its forelegs. It is in fact known as “ the top portion of the front leg of the hog.”

Ideally, the meat is divided into two separate cuts –  the top, also known as the blade shoulder, which is universally referred to as the Boston Butt. 

The other cut is acquired from the lower arm shoulder, which is known as pork shoulder, or picnic roast. So, in this article, we will be talking about the latter, so gear up to become the master of pork shoulders by the end of this article. 

Here’s some general knowledge for you. The color of pork meat can vary depending on different regions, and it can often be dark in color for the oxygen-storing myoglobin factor. This also makes the meat tough as a result of multiple connective tissues. 

pork shoulder

The upside of dark-colored pork meat is that it’s packed with good fat, and the meat is cooked with love and can be swarming with out-of-the-world flavors. 

The trick is to cook it nice and slow on low heat, hence crock pots are the ultimate way to cook pork shoulders. It helps to break down the collagen into gelatin that eventually melts the fat. It’s important to consider that pork shoulders contain an immense amount of fat, and the flavor of the pork is relatively more than other leaner cuts, such as pork chops. 

However, the lower half of the foreleg, also known as the pork shoulder, is leaner. 

Pigs use their foreleg muscles to walk, making the meat around this area tougher than other parts. And the only way to transfer tough meat to soft, tender, and moist meat is to slow cook it, and the best possible way to slow cook is to use a crock pot. 

Is Pork Shoulder The Same As Pulled Pork?

If you have some unanswered questions about the significance of pork shoulder and pulled pork, that’s totally understandable. 

Pork shoulder is the meat cut that is ideally used to cook pulled pork. Simply put, pulled pork is the dish, and pork shoulder is the meat cut used to cook pulled pork

Now, in case you want to know what on earth is pulled pork? Pulled pork is a traditional Southern American dish made from shredded and barbecued pork shoulders, prepared following the slow-cooked process. 

Why Should You Use Pork Shoulder To Cook Pulled Pork?

Pork shoulder is best for pulling purposes. The fat content in pork shoulder melts the meat perfectly, tenderizing it, and therefore allowing the meat to break down into shredded pieces. 

All you have to do is cook the pork shoulder in a crock pot for long hours in slow heat for the meat to fall off its bones. Once you are happy with the softness of the meat, you can use it to make a world of pulled pork dishes, as mentioned below. 

Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork Recipe 

This is a dish that can easily become one of your go-to weeknight dinner fixes, because it’s simple, easy, and demands almost no effort. You’d benefit from cooking pork shoulder in bulk because having leftovers is convenient too. 

You might love to cook a nice hearty meal for your family, but not every night. Leftovers mean you get to impress your family with a brand new pork dish, without doing extra work. Everyone’s happily fed and you get all the credit! 

Pork shoulder slow-cooked in a crock pot, depending on the spice mix, can be used in unlimited ways. For trouble-free quick lunches, you can use pulled pork to make sandwiches. If there’s more, you can stir them up into a pasta sauce for dinner. Add in some additional spices for the Italian magic. 

There are countless ways to use pork shoulders and keep it interesting. Casseroles, pizzas, tacos, pork buns, fried rice, burritos, nachos, and salads are all fantastic options to use up pork shoulder meat. You can also freeze some, and store them to be used later. It can easily be thawed for future family meals. 

As mentioned, there are various ways to cook pork shoulder in a Crock-pot, but here are five ways to cook it following the same steps, but with different spice combinations. 

Spice combinations

  • Plain old simple pork

Popularly cooked with a pork shoulder with basic seasonings such as salt, pepper, and bay leaf, with no additional spices. 

You can use it to transfer it to many pork dishes by adding other condiments such as salads, sandwiches, burgers, etc.

  • Asian-spiced pork 

Yum choice for tacos, and dumplings (both steamed and pan-fried). 

Common Asian spices include fennel, coriander, cinnamon, star anise, five-spice blend, soy sauce, garlic, chili flakes, etc.

  • Barbecue-spiced pork 

This has to be our favorite one out of the five. Barbecued pulled pork gives you so many options to rustle up a plate full of love and warmth. 

It is usually a blend of cumin, brown sugar, dry mustard, barbecue sauce, paprika, onions, and garlic.

  • Herbed pork 

This is gold for Italian food lovers. The spice mix contains dried oregano, basil, thyme, tarragon, bay leaf, and rosemary. 

You are free to add any other herb if you have a particular dish in your mind. A great choice to make ravioli, casseroles, or pasta sauces.

  • Mexican-spiced pork

The name says it all. Turn the table around for a Mexican party. 

Use Mexican spices such as ancho chiles, chile powder, dried oregano, tomatoes, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and pepper for a delicious outcome. 

You can impress the family with homemade enchiladas, tacos, tamales, nachos, and even burritos.

How To Cook Pork Shoulder In a Crock-Pot?

Let’s get down to business. You are about to learn a heavenly succulent recipe that will be your family’s new favorite meal. 

The number one rule to cook moist pork shoulder is to let it cook for long hours. So, make sure you have 5-8 hours up your sleeve for it to self-cook in the crock pot (almost!). 

Pork shoulder is a tough cut, but if handled with love, comfort, and time, it will develop into soft pork pieces that simply melt in your mouth. 

When cooking pork shoulder, always and always cook it at low and steady heat. The gelatin in the meat needs to take its own time to baste properly. 

In other words, pork shoulders are rebellious, you cannot rush its cooking time. 

How long to cook a pork shoulder in crock pot

Submerging pork shoulder in a dutch oven, or a crock pot with beer, broth or stock is the only route you should consider if you are a first-timer. Cover it, and let the pork shoulder cook for 5-6 hours at the high setting. If you have more time, it’s recommended that you allow 7-8 hours on the Low-Temperature setting

The final look of the dish should be flakey meats falling off as soon as it you test it with a fork. And the aroma that spreads like wildfire as soon as you open the lid is totally celebratory. 

Enough with the build-up. Let’s get right into it. Here’s a detailed recipe for slow cooker pulled pork made from pork shoulders with a blend of barbecue sauce. 

Ingredients

  • 1 boneless, skinless pork shoulder (picnic roast about 6lbs)
  • 20 cloves garlic 
  • ½ cup (8 tablespoons) olive oil, divided 
  • 2 teaspoons cumin 
  • 2 tablespoon salt 
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper 
  • 3 tablespoons oregano leaves 
  • ½ cup (8 tablespoons) freshly squeezed orange juice 
  • ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) freshly squeezed lime juice 
  • 1 serrano, seeded and diced
  • ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) freshly chopped fresh cilantro 

Instructions

  1. The first step is to pat dry the pork shoulder using a paper towel. Make incisions of 1 inch on it using a knife.
  2. Use half of the oil which is ¼ cup of the oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and oregano in a food mixer to make a smooth paste. Separate the mix by removing 2 tablespoons of the paste. Set aside. 
  3. Use half of the paste to rub on the pork shoulder, carefully forcing the mix into the incisions made earlier. 
  4. Transfer the pork to your crock pot, cover with a lid, and start to cook in low heat.
  5. Allow at least 5-6 hours for it to cook to perfection. 
  6. Time to prepare the sauce. Use the remaining oil and heat it using a saucepan. Let the oil simmer before you add 2 tablespoons of garlic paste. Stir gently until you are able to smell the aroma of the garlic. It should not take more than 1 minute for the fragrance to spread. 
  7. Take it off the heat, and let it cool down. 
  8. Whisk in orange juice, or lime juice with any choice of garnish (cilantro, coriander, or serrano). Drizzle away. 
  9. Serve and indulge. 

How Long Does it Take To Cook Pork Shoulder In a Crock-Pot?

As mentioned multiple times, you must allow a minimum of 5-6 hours for it to be cooked perfectly, but 7-8 hours makes it magically perfect. The meat will fall apart and melt in your mouth.

What Kind of Pork Meat Is Ideal To Cook In a Crock-Pot?

Pork shoulder or Picnic roast is the best cut for slow-cooked dishes. 

If you have to pick between pork shoulder (the lower part of the shoulder) and a pork butt (the upper part), it is perhaps better to choose pork butt, which is also known as the Boston butt. 

Pork shoulders should be your first choice to cook mouthwatering pork roast. 

Can You Substitute It With Pork Butt?

Pork butt and pork shoulder are similar primal cuts acquired from the shoulder area of pigs. But here’s what makes them different from each other.

  • Fat content

Pork shoulder has less fat if you compare it with pork butt. Less fat means more chewy and tougher. 

Pork butt, on the other hand, is tenderized easily consuming less time. 

  • The shape of the cut

Typically you’ll find pork shoulder meat cut into triangular shapes in butcher shops. Pork butt is cut in rectangular shapes with bones. 

Moreover, pork shoulders have skin on, while pork butt is generally available without the skin. 

  • Cooking methods

Chefs all around the world mostly prefer using pork butt for pulled pork dishes, only because the process to shred the pork meat is easy if cooked in a slow cooker. 

On the other hand, pork shoulder is preferred for grilled, barbecued, and roasted dishes.

Conclusion

As you can see, we can go on and on about cooking pork shoulders in a crock pot, for the love of it. They are a staple at many houses, especially for family dinners, game nights, and special occasions. And, with this detailed handbook on pork shoulders, it can be a staple at your house too. 

Don’t forget to share your take on a pork shoulder recipe with us! Bon appetite. 

FAQs

Can You Overcook Pork Shoulder in a Crock-Pot?

It takes effort to overcook pork shoulder, given that it’s already a tough and fatty meat cut. But if the liquid in your crock pot dries out sooner, then the meat can often become dry and tough. For optimum results, refrain from cooking it over 8 hours. Keep the liquid quantity in check, just to be safe. 

What is Texas Pulled Pork?

Traditionally popular in the southern parts of America, texas-style pulled pork is seasoned with barbecue spices and smoked over hickory wood. It consists of shredded pork shoulder cooked in a slow cooker or a crock pot for 7-8 hours until the meat is fork-tender and fully shredded.

What is Pork Shoulder Best For?

Pulled pork, pork roast, and barbecue-style pork, all are fantastic options. Although we highly recommend not to try cutting it like stakes, it’s just not ideal for stakes. Pork shoulders are also delicious if cooked with crispy skin. The meat will melt in your mouth while the skin crackles beautifully.

Andrea
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