Not in the slow cooker. At least, that’s the opinion I formed after cooking a pork butt in my slow cooker over the weekend.
Pork butts are on sale at Food Lion right now (sale ends today!). We purchased a 6.9-lb. cut on Saturday for $12 and some change, which is a really good deal. But how to cook it? Alas, we do not own a smoker, which I am betting a lot of you are going to recommend for pork butts. I’ve watched enough Food Network shows to know how awesome a pork butt can be after hours in the smoker.
But pork butts should not just be for professional barbecue makers. And they don’t always have to be barbecued, either.
Because we weren’t going to be home all day to keep an eye on the meat in the oven, I decided to try it in the slow cooker. I rubbed it with some Penzey’s BBQ 3000 (awesome stuff) and placed it in the cooker with the fat cap on top. I added about 1/2 cup of water, but that probably wasn’t necessary since this cut produces so much juice and grease.
That was the problem, in my opinion – the grease. After about 12 hours in the cooker, the meat was deliciously tender and falling off the bone, but the entire hunk of pork was sitting in a lot of grease. It was gross. I drained it off, of course, then shredded the pork and put it back in the cooker with some barbecue sauce. It was good, but I’m not closing the book on pork butts.
Update: I have attached an oven recipe for braised pork butt with salsa to the end of this entry. End update.
The next time, I believe, I will place the meat, fat side up, on a rack in a roasting pan, cover it with aluminum foil and cook it low and slow in the oven. That way, all of the grease will drip off of the meat, basting as it goes, but it will end up in the pan underneath the pork instead of having the pork sitting in the grease.
Some friends of mine also bought a pork butt at Food Lion this weekend and used a recipe to make Korean lettuce wraps. This called for marinating the pork overnight, then slow-roasting it in the oven before shredding it and serving it in lettuce wraps with kimchee and other sauces. Here is that recipe from the New York Times.
I’m interested to hear from you all about how you’ve cooked pork butts in the past and how they turned out. Feel free to talk about smoking pork butts – just because I don’t have a smoker now doesn’t mean I’m not in the market for one!
Braised Pork with Salsa
Although this is technically a slow cooker recipe, my colleague prefers to make it using the oven method.
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder or butt
1 1/2 cups prepared tomatillo salsa
1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds or ground cumin
3 plum tomatoes (1/2 pound), thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1. Trim and discard pork surface fat. Cut meat apart following layers of fat around muscles; trim and discard fat. Cut into 2-inch chunks and rinse with cold water. Place in a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker. Turn heat to high.
2. Combine salsa, broth, onion and cumin seeds in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Pour over the meat. Add tomatoes and mix gently. Put the lid on and cook until the meat is pull-apart tender, 6 to 7 hours.
3. With a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to a large bowl; cover and keep warm. Pour the sauce and vegetables into a large skillet; skim fat. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil, skimming froth from time to time, for about 20 minutes, to intensify flavors and thicken slightly. Add the pork and 1/4 cup cilantro; heat through.
4. To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish each serving with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of the remaining 1/4 cup cilantro.
Oven method: Total: 3 hours Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine pork, salsa, 1/2 cup chicken broth, onion, cumin seeds and tomatoes in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish; cover snugly with foil. Bake until the pork is pull-apart tender, about 2 1/4 hours. Skim fat. Uncover and bake until the meat begins to brown, about 15 minutes more. Stir in 1/4 cup cilantro. Ladle into bowls, garnish with sour cream and remaining cilantro.