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OMIGOD - The Most Amazing Pork in the Crock-Pot!!!!

I have to tell you, I was not prepared for what wound up coming out of my slow-cooker on Monday night. I had my hopes, but I honestly didn't know what to expect.

I'd read about the "unctuousness" of well-made carnitas - and that's not even what I was trying to do.

Anyhow, it was really, really simple. I took two pork picnic roasts (shoulders, with the skin still on), about 3.5lbs each. I separated the skin from the meat, but left it on, rubbed the skin with salt and pepper, then seared them in a skillet.

I let them cool a bit, then rubbed cumin, garlic powder (I was somehow out of fresh garlic) and Penzey's Adobo seasoning on the outside and under the skin.

I then put them in my slow-cooker, with a couple of roughly chopped onions, and a cup of chicken broth in the bottom.

The next morning, I set them up, put them on the low, 10-hour setting, and let it go.

When I got home, I pulled them out, carefully, put them in the oven under the broiler to crisp up the skin, and separated the fat from the juices, ultimately reducing the juice for a pan-sauce.

I wish I'd held onto the fat, as it would have been amazing for making other things (like my roasted cauliflower last night).

But what I'd put in the slow cooker was transformed into this luscious, unctuous, amazing dish.

It's a keeper.

- Andrew Langer

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  1. Sounds delicious! I don't have adobo seasoning, maybe a trip to Penzey's is in order. I'm high on pork shoulder these days and will try your recipe next time I find them on sale.
    What did you serve with it?

    Thanks for telling us about it.

    1. My thanks as well. I plan to make this in short order. I haven't used my slow cooker that much because I, like you, prefer to do the prep the night before but the actual slow cooking the day of. I just haven't been sure how to manage that. Did you place the seared meat in the slow cook pot in the fridge overnight? I would love some tactical direction. I worry about the hot to cold and cold to hot issues, not knowing anything about chemistry.

      1 Reply
      1. re: rockridgechow

        I often sear my meat the night before, pop it in the fridge, and throw it in the crock pot in the morning. Some dishes I even stick the crock in the fridge overnight (eg. meat, liquid, chopped onions). I just try to take the crock out first thing in the morning so it has a chance to warm up a bit before I stick it in the base. Haven't cracked a crock yet. Knock on wood.

      2. I'm wondering about the part of the recipe where you put the ingreds in the slow cooker....then you say "Next morning" you set them up and cook for 10 hours. Is the pork and onion sitting in the pot all night with no heat? Is something missing here?

        The recipe sounds fabulous otherwise.

        19 Replies
        1. re: oakjoan

          Yes - Monday tends to be my slow-cooker day, because I can easily do the prep work on Sunday nights (and use the pre-prepared food for Monday's and probably Wednesday's dinner).

          Whenever I'm doing something in the slow-cooker, as I'm making Sunday's dinner, I also do my searing, chopping, arranging, etc. I put it all in the pot, and then put it in the fridge for starting before I leave for work on Monday.

          1. re: Langrrr

            Wondering your thoughts..... I have a frozen 5lb "half picnic fresh roast". I often (due to my inability to "plan ahead") do my defrosting of meat by placing it in frequently changed cold water. This recipe sounds perfect for surprise visitors coming for dinner - so cold water is filling the sink as I type! Wondering what are some thoughts on placing a frozen roast into the slow cooker - especially considering this roast is on the larger size? I know....I know..... Lots of controversy about this topic, and I know BOTH methods are definitely not the PREFERRED way of defrosting. ( I don't want to start a frenzy here!) Just curious if I should stick to my sink method or just toss it in the crockpot for a longer time?
            Also, my roast does not appear to have this BEAUTIFUL thick layer of skin, (that has caused my mouth to begin watering at 7:30am, :'( ) BUT, I do see a beautiful thick layer of fat. Once defrosted (by either method mentioned above), how can I get the "cracklin'" effect without skin, but fat layer only? Will pan searing work, or should I use the broiler method for a better result? In addition, considering any of the many wonderful rubs mentioned, without that thick layer of skin-should a rub be applied before or after the searing? Is it a good idea, or is it even possible, to lift the fat layer to apply any rub?
            Thank you for a wonderful recipe and any input you have!

            1. re: nsand415

              -- you should thaw the roast completely -- otherwise the outside is overcooked and dry while the inside is undercooked and tough.

              -- you are not ever, ever going to have crispy skin in the slow cooker. Not ever. You could get browned fat in the oven, but not ever in the slow cooker.

              -- searing a dry rub will result in burned-bitter spices

              -- you want to leave the fat cap intact.

              1. re: sunshine842

                She is defrosted, pan seared and in the cooker now. thank you for your input!

                1. re: sunshine842

                  Why would searing dry rub result in bitter tastes?

                  1. re: xiaobao12

                    I find that some spices, like cumin and coriander, hold up better to searing than others, especially powdered paprikas, which burn readily. Much depends on heat level and level of fat present in the pan. It's common in Indian cooking to "bloom" spices, even paprika, a shallow depth of oil even before starting to brown onions.

                    High and dry searing, however, doesn't really help and can harm some spices.

                    1. re: xiaobao12

                      because the spices burn and just end up tasting burned and bitter.

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        But I see thousands of recipes calling to rub a piece of meat in a spice mixture and then searing it.... For example, pot roast. Can you comment on that?

                        1. re: xiaobao12

                          Pot roast usually doesn't get anything but salt and pepper.

                          Garlic and onion powder are some of the worst for burning and ruining the entire dish.

                          Seasoning the meat is one thing -- a dry rub is something completely different -- rubs also often contain sugar, which is highly likely to scorch in a sear.

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              Hi Sunshine, you are slowly educating me. Thank you.

                              What about this recipe?

                              http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                              1. re: xiaobao12

                                probably good! It's a pretty basic pot roast recipe. (as in keeping to the basics -- a good basic recipe is gold)

                                You'll notice that they don't put anything on the beef before browning (not searing!)...the fresh herbs are added to the liquid.

                                Browning takes place much more slowly than searing -- you're looking for a deep brown crust on the meat (from a process called the Maillard reaction) -- it takes time to create this, and lower heat.

                                The Maillard reaction also creates a layer of "stuff" on the bottom of the pot to reward you for your patience and for turning down the heat a bit (this recipe calls for just medium heat) -- browned juices and things from the meat itself. Don't ever get rid of that! The French call it the fond (the base) -and it's where tons and tons of fabulous flavor come from. Be careful not to let it burn -- and make sure that when you add the liquid, you stir and scrape all those lovely brown bits into the cooking liquid. You'll be really happy with your dish, as it will have that really deep and satisfying slow-cooked flavor that can't be duplicated by any other means.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  Forgive me sunshine, in the first step, it says to:

                                  1) Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix first 6 ingredients in small bowl. Rub spice blend all over beef.

                                  And it says "Increase heat to medium-high. Add beef"

                                  You've made me realize that one should be careful about the spices that one puts on a piece of meat before searing/browning (is there a diff? My searches don't tell me there is) which is different from your original comment of: -- searing a dry rub will result in burned-bitter spices.

                                  1. re: xiaobao12

                                    but there's two important differences here...

                                    First off, the spice mix doesn't include onion or garlic powder, so it's less likely to be nasty if overcooked. By the way, I'd leave the sugar out -- you truly don't need it...and all it will do is make caramel, and keep the Maillard reaction I described above from happening. It will brown all by itself with a little patience, and I'm not a fan of adding sugar for the sake of adding sugar. (in 40+ years in the kitchen, I've never added sugar to a pot roast)

                                    A dry rub is usually also used as a dry marinade -- you would usually add a dry rub to things like ribs or a brisket -- things that will be grilled or roasted at high, dry heat -- and then you'd put the meat back in the fridge for hours/overnight to let the dry rub flavor the meat and draw out excess moisture.

                                    So the herbs and spices in this recipe wouldn't really fall under the heading of being a dry rub -- it's just herbs and spices, but you're right -- you have to be careful not to burn them (most herbs and spices will be bitter if burned...and there's a fine line between toasting and burning, as any of us can attest!)

                                    Secondly, the heat is **medium-high** -- that means you're browning (see where it takes 10-12 minutes), not searing.

                                    Better Homes and Gardens has a pretty good online glossary here: http://www.bhg.com/recipes/how-to/coo...

                                    "Brown: To cook a food in a skillet, broiler, or oven to add flavor and aroma and develop a rich, desirable color on the outside and moistness on the inside."

                                    "Sear: To brown a food, usually meat, quickly on all sides using <<high heat>> [my emphasis]. This helps seal in the juices and may be done in the oven, under a broiler, or on top of the range."

                                    So they're similar processes, but the cooking temps and the goals are different. In general, you want to brown (medium-high heat, slow, and with some fat) for things that are going to be cooked for a while -- soups, stews, and braises, because you want that gorgeous brown fond and all it gives you -- and you sear for things that have shorter temps -- steaks and salmon come to mind as things you would sear rather than brown. If you gave me a steak or a salmon filet and told me to sear them, they'd go in a screaming-hot, **dry** skillet for a few seconds on each side.

                                    Does that help?

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      Yes, it really does! Thank you for taking the time to write. I'm glad I asked you in the first place.

                                      Thank you Sunshine!!!

                                      1. re: xiaobao12

                                        You're welcome! I hope it turns out well for you.

                                      2. re: sunshine842

                                        "...and all it will do is make caramel, and keep the Maillard reaction I described above from happening." - the added sugar won't prohibit the Maillard reaction between the naturally occurring sugar and AA.

                                          1. re: honkman

                                            I'm thinking when it melts into a shell.

                                            At any rate, pot roast doesn't need extra sugar for any reason, so let the Maillard do its own thing.

                  2. That sounds yummy. Only a cup of liquid for all that meat? Do you have to turn it? How does the meat above broth cook? Do you cook it on "Low"? I could go for some carnitas.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Wanda Fuca

                      My slow-cooker, and I think other slow-cookers as well, can be used as slow-roasters. Check your directions. In point of fact, no liquid was really needed for this. My manufacturer recommended it for the sauce it makes.

                      I cooked it on the ultra-low setting (10 hours). No turning was necessary.

                      If you think about it, the picnic shoulder is an oblong shaped piece of port, with a wide end and a skinny end (all wrapped in pork skin). I arranged the two shoulders with the wide-end facing down, so that it tapers toward the top.

                      The shoulder itself bastes in the pork-fat which renders from under the skin.

                    2. Although you probably won't die from anything that would grow at room temperature overnight, I'd be nervous about even the possibility. Put the ingredients in a plastic bag or container in the fridge overnight and then in the slow-cooker in the morning.

                      Wanda - cooking with just a little liquid (i.e., braising) produces more concentrated flavors than stewing. Remember that a lot of liquid comes out of the meat, particularly if it's a "commercial" pork shoulder, which has lots of water injected into it. For much, much more, go to the wonderful Egullet course on braising, beginning at http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?s...

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: KRS

                        Yes - I guess I left out the fact that I put the slow-cooker pot in the fridge after doing the prep work on Sunday night.

                        1. re: KRS

                          well, right... youd have to refrigerate it over-night, but remember, this will be cooking for 10 hours- theres no way any beasties would live through that.

                          1. re: bastet212

                            The beasties make heat stable toxins that can make you just as sick as live organisms---all they need is time to grow before cooking which is why you don't thaw meat on the counter--- the original poster put it in the fridge and so should you.