Whether you call it pork butt, Boston butt or shoulder roast, pork roasts are among the most economical and flavorful roasts around, especially when cooked in a Crock-Pot. Pork butt roast has nothing to do with the rear end of a pig, but actually comes from the shoulder. Full of connective tissue, fat and wiry muscle, pork butt roasts need the long, slow cooking of a slow cooker to reach their full potential.
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Long and Slow
Pork butt roast is a tough cut of meat that needs long, slow cooking to tenderize it. Enter the Crock-Pot. Although the Crock-Pot won't impart the smoky flavor of a grill or smoker, its low heat cooks the meat to fork-tender juiciness, with little moisture loss. Another perk is that you can put the roast in the slow cooker in the morning and walk away from it for several hours.
When buying pork butt, you have the option of boneless or bone-in roasts. You get more for your money with boneless varieties, but the bones do add a bit of flavor. Most pork butts have a thick layer of fat. Ask the butcher to remove this or cut it off yourself. Pull it back as you make short, small cuts. Season the pork butt well with salt and pepper, or with a rub made from spices like salt, pepper, brown sugar, chili powder, garlic and paprika. Sear the pork roast in a bit of hot oil in a saute pan until all sides are evenly browned. This extra step isn't absolutely necessary, but it adds flavor and helps seal in the juices.
Into the Crock
Place the pork butt in the Crock-Pot. Most slow cookers can accommodate a roast between 5 and 8 pounds. Cook larger roasts in the oven or cut them in half. You must add liquid to a slow cooker or the roast will dry out as it cooks. Add 1/2 to 1 cup apple juice, white wine or broth. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on the low setting for 8 to 10 hours. The connective tissue in the roast begins to break down when the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit, but don't be afraid to let the temperature go up to 185 F. As long as you keep liquid in the cooker, the roast won't dry out. Add a bit more liquid if necessary.
Pork butt roast is most commonly used to make pulled pork sandwiches, but its mild flavor makes it tremendously versatile. Add sliced onions, apples or carrots for a sweet yet savory meal, or flavor the roast with chilies and onions to use in posole, green chili or enchiladas. Once the roast is fork tender, transfer it to a carving board. Let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes, or until it's cool enough to handle. Serve it in chunks or use tongs to shred it.