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Crock Pot Pork Butt Failure

Our new place doesn't have a gas stove, so I thought I would try the crock pot for a pork butt.

5lbs.

Didn't fit the crock pot, so I cut it into 4 pieces.

Added 1C of stock, mustard powder, and cayenne pepper with a small handful of salt.

Set the crock pot to low, and went to bed.

Next morning:
lard on the kitchen counter in waves
pork was tender but mushy with a bland flavour, with the fatty skin an even more tender mush
the house smelled like cooking oils, and not in a good way

The insert was moved from the crock pot and put into our refrigerator. I'm thinking of warming it and adding nuts to it to make a lard bird feeder square (we are over-run with mosquitos here and need all the birds, frogs, and other bug eaters we can get). I feel wasteful because I really don't have any desire to eat it. It's simply not good (dog and cat might disagree).

I'm sure I did something wrong, but this was disgusting. Yet another reason we need a gas stove. Last I heard it would be more than 2 months, but I'll wait. Tonight I successfully roasted a chicken (took 2.5 hours instead of 1.25 hours with same method--grrr), but will learn this house. Patience is a virtue.

But butt in a crock pot, don't think I'll try it again.

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  1. I suspect several issues at play:

    1. If you had to cut it into pieces to get it to fit, it sounds like you were overloading the crock pot, which accounts for it overflowing. (Also, one cup of liquid sounds like about twice as much as you'd need for a moist cooking environment like a crock pot: butts give off tremendous amounts of fat and juice in that kind of sealed environment.)

    2. Smaller pieces of meat (which you had because you'd cut it into four pieces to fit it all into the crock pot) cook much faster than large ones, even on low. If they were on overnight, then you overcooked the heck out of the pork, so of course it's mushy, bland and gross.

    3. Most importantly, it sounds like you didn't sear the pork butt before you put it in the crock pot. (I'm confused, do you have an electric stove instead of gas or do you just not have a stove at all?) Meat that hasn't been seared just isn't going to get browned and crispy and tasty in a moist cooking environment like a crock pot: you'd have the same problem if you stuck a raw butt into a Dutch oven.

    1 Reply
    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

      Looks like you pretty much said it all there Barmy ...
      IMO, great analysis

    2. I don't understand the stove problem either. You can cook a pork butt on an electric stove or in an oven--electric or gas. Julia Child herself did some of her cooking on electric. I don't know the problem with the crock pot though.

      1. Too bad about the pork butt. I agree with BFP, tho. Too much liquid and it overcooked, not well-trimmed. I've never had that happen before & I've made pork butt in the crock for pulled pork all the time. And it does not have to be browned first. If you want it crispy, like carnitas, you can broil the shredded meat for a few minutes. Don't feel guilty - just feed it to the dog & cat!!

        PS - Try installing a bat house in your backyard. They can do wonders to cut down on the insect population. My parents had one when they lived in the woods in CT.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Phurstluv

          The bat house sounds like a great idea--thanks!

          Everyone else--thanks for the advice. I'm used to slow cooking in a gas oven, and we still haven't unpacked the kitchen. We have an electric stove which appears to cook hot (the oven thermometer might be in box #25) , but keeping an oven on all day (my roast pork cooks for 23 hours) when it's 90F out is not very appealing to me at the moment. I'll try some of these methods during my next trial.

          1. re: Caralien

            Yes, the bat house did seem to help them. They also had a bug zapper!

            As suggested further down on this subject, I did find a pork shoulder roast at Albertsons with the skin on, so I bought it. My stores usually don't have them with the skin on.

            I am now slow roasting it, uncovered at 300, planning to do it for 7 hours. I only rubbed it with lots of kosher salt, and some brown sugar/salt/paprika. I do know how you feel tho, re: keeping the oven on all day on a hot day - not fun! Luckily, it's only about 80 today, so it's not too bad. But I would've put it in the crockpot if it were hotter. But that also means I would've had to trim off most of the fat & skin, and I wanted to keep it and get it super crispy this time. Guess it's all about what you have in mind at the time.

            1. re: Phurstluv

              My normal roast is damned good and I don't need to do much to it (aside from the rub). Once the weather cools down in a few months, I'll try it again. It may simply be that for me, slow roasts are better seasonally. Summer--fresh vegs and lighter local foods respecting the bounty we have out here, with the winter filled with slower things when patience is higher and the temperatures cooler.

        2. For decades I have been doing bone-in pork shoulders in the crock pot, I trim off the outside layer of fat, salt the meat and brush it with Kitchen Bouquet. Then put it in the pot. Sometimes I first sear the outside of the meat in the skillet but not always. It just depends on how I'm feeling. But I NEVER add any liquid because the meat lets off a lot of liquid while it is cooking. For a 6-8 lb. shoulder the cooking time on the LOW heat setting is about 11 hours,.About halfway through I turn the meat over. It never fails to come out tender, juicy and succulent. There is usually about 2 cups of liquid that can be used for gravy or whatever.

          If your pork butt is boneless, the cooking time will be less. Trim off any excess fat, season the outside of the meat and DON'T add any liquid. Your result will be vastly improved.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Sam D.

            I do add liquid when I make it, but not a lot. I also have a big slow cooker.

            1. re: Sam D.

              I add a can of ginger ale. I've never had a problem. I have a big slow cooker though. I never sear first (too lazy, defeats the purpose/easyness of the crockpot).

              1. re: Sam D.

                I totally agree with you Sam. I never add liquid for a pork roast in the crock-pot. I also do country spareribs in the crock that turn out wonderful. Sometimes I brown and sometimes not, depends on how lazy I am that day. I use garlic, garlic and garlic, Herbes De Provence and kosher salt. Serve with mashed potatoes, gravy, a steamed side veggie and "must have" applesauce.

              2. Sounds like you just plain overloaded the crockpot so when the fat started to melt it didn't have anywhere to go except out. Next time you try it don't put so much into the pot, and instead of adding water, use freshly-squeezed citrus juice.

                If you want to salvage the pork you've already cooked, pry as much fat off it as you can, put it into a roasting dish, and broil it until the fat melts away and it starts to get a bit more appetising... then drown it in bbq sauce. BBQ sauce covers a multitude of sins!

                1. When I load the pork butt into my crock pot I never add water at that point. I turn it on HIGH,and put some garlic and onions, salt and pepper ( quite a bit) on the bottom of the pot. Place the pork on top, and put the lid on. I try to start it in the morning, not late at night so I can watch how it's doing. Then later as it cooks I add the spices, bay leaves, cumin all the seasonings you want. Then only add about 1/4 of a cup of liquid, either broth or water. And then only if it needs it, which most of the time it won't.

                  5lbs is too big for my crock pot. Most roasts hit around 3.5 to 4lbs. If they are bigger, I cut them in half or take a third off. It just needs the air and room around it to cook properly. You will boil and steam it.

                  You also might want to check your heating unit, mine gets pretty hot, ( It will actually burn you) and I would never leave it on the high setting at night.

                  1. About the cooking liquid -- I would mos def use cider vinegar instead of stock - you need something acidic to cut the fat. And yes, it should throw off a ton of liquid, so leave plenty of room if you ever try it again. Pork butt in a crock pot can be fantastic.

                    I don't brown it either. I put a sliced onion in the pot, and a healthy dose of simple vinegar-based hot sauce, like Franks.

                    Good luck!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: pitu

                      Yes, I use a few tbsp of cider vinegar on the pork butt before cooking in the crock pot. That's the only liquid.

                    2. Regular-sized crockpots have, I believe, a 3.5 quart total capacity. I find that 4 lbs of meat is as much as I can get in there without pushing the limits.

                      1. Agree with others, two problems - too much meat and overcooking.

                        I make pulled pork several times a year. I use a 3 lb. piece of meat and add a can of beer and half cup of barbecue sauce. Makes an extremely flavorful sauce. I cook it on low for about 6-8 hours max.

                        1. So I just made a horrible mistake and had a crock pot pork butt failure too. When I bought the butt roast the butcher told me to make sure I cut out the gland. I figured I'd see it, no big deal. Apparently I missed it. BUMMER! (sorry - that's funny). Anyway, I found a really good blog post about how to cut out "the Mysterious Pork Butt Gland" http://forum.cookshack.com/eve/forums.... (If you have problems with the link - Google it! - The pictures are worth a million words). My second No-no was that I added water to my condensed Amy's Mushroom soup. ;( I'm feeding it to my husband.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: tonyakc

                            Tonyakc, your link works AFTER you delete the "period" at the end of he URL.

                          2. I've noticed you have to be careful with how long you cook pork butt. My first I got only to 185 based on the recommendations of my recipe. Not far enough! The pork although tasted pretty good (but not as succulent as I expected) and had to be cut - would not pull apart. It turns out that 185 is not high enough to "melt" some of the connective tissue that is key to the moisture and texture of pulled portk. The next couple I made sure to get up to the 195 or so needed to pull. These were the best - succulent and easy to pull. Great flavor.

                            But the last one I got delayed by an hour attending the crock pot because we were having a Xmas video chat! And I let it get to far done and although it pulled beautifully, it was not NEARLY as flavorful as the previous ones. Lesson learned!!!!

                            So even a pork butt an be way overcooked and it can turn to gray flavorless mush.

                            Too bad about your experience. If you use the correct times and temps the crock pot is a fantastic way to cook this cut, and it doesn't need to be browned ahead of time.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: audreyhtx1

                              How much liquid do you use?It is a little confusing from all the different posts, thanks. How much of the meat should be covered with liquid at the start.