Sunday, October 19, 2008

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

  • 4 lb pork roast
  • 2 medium onions, sliced to about 1/4 inch
  • 10 whole cloves
  • light beer (room temp)
  • water (warm)
  • 1/2 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder (optional)
  • 16 oz chipotle BBQ sauce (or your favorite BBQ sauce)
  • salt
  • pepper

Late on the night before you're going to eat it (I was up at midnight) slice the onions. Line the bottom of the pot with the slices from one of the onions.

You can trim the roast of excess fat, I didn't go too crazy with this step. It's extra work and you're going to cook off the fat anyway.

Stick the cloves into the meat. You'll be fishing these out later, so put them somewhere they'll be easy to get to. No need to bury them deep.

Place the roast in the cooker on top of the onions.

Dump in the liquid smoke and garlic powder. Since you'll be using BBQ sauce later, this is not all that important if you don't have these ingredients. Feel free to skip this step.

Put the remaining onion slices on top of the roast.

Now, use a combination of the beer and water to fill up the slow cooker 2/3 of the way up the side. If you've got plenty of beer, use all beer. If you don't like beer, use all water. I use a light beer because I think a hoppy beer is too strong for food that's being slow-cooked. Slow cooking tends to make flavors stronger.

Put the cover on and set the thing on low (or just "on" if you only have one setting) and go away. Alternately, I like to set it on "high" for an hour and then switch to "low." This helps get the ingredients up to temperature quicker. (It doesn't help the slow cooker heat up faster, but it will cause the slow cooker to reach a higher temperature, which means it will take less time for the internal temperature of the roast to hit that desirable level.)

Let it sit for 8 to 12 hours. More than 12 is not a problem if the thing is on low with a lid on it. The lid is supposed to keep moisture in, and hopefully the roast will be fairly swimming in its own juices by that time. You have a lot of time flexibility once it's safely cooked. More cooking is better in this recipe, which is why I did it overnight.

If you don't want to start it the night before, you can do this: start it in the morning as early as you can and let it go for a few hours on high. An hour on high is usually worth 2 on low. So starting at 6 on high and switching to low at 8 means it's had the equivalent of 12 hours by the time 4 PM rolls around.

When the roast is cooked, it should be basically falling apart. Very little is holding it together anymore, since you've cooked away all the fat and connective tissue. Remove the roast with a large spoon and fork. It's hot, be careful! It should break apart. Remove the cloves and any bones. And chunks of fat that remain can also be discarded. All that's left is fairly lean and delicious pork.

Shred it with a fork. This should be very easy if the roast has cooked for 12 hours.

Dump all the onions and liquid out of the slow cooker.

Place the meat back in there. Add the BBQ sauce. If dinner is still hours away, add some water to moisten the mixture and keep it moist. Use your judgment here. Salt and pepper to taste.

At dinner time, serve on your favorite rolls with fresh cole slaw.

A nice garnish can be made by slicing another onion and softening the onion rings in a tsp of butter and a tsp of oil. The stringy onions can be added atop the shredded pork on each open-faced sandwich.

It's really, really good. Especially for a recipe where the most work you did was sticking the cloves in there and pulling them back out. And waiting.

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