Tough meat can be a thing of the past when slow cooking a loin or shoulder cut pork roast. It's tempting to carve that roast immediately when it's done, but have patience. Let the roast stand after cooking for 30 minutes so the juices redistribute through the meat. Covered loosely with foil the roast will stay hot until meal time.
Pork Shoulder Roast
Also called a Boston-style butt, this cut is from the upper part of the front legs of the pig. It gets lots of exercise so needs long, slow cooking to break down the connective tissues and become tender. That makes it ideal for braising in the oven or a slow cooker. A bone-in roast weighs 6 to 9 pounds while a boneless roast weighs 4 to 7 pounds. You may have to cut the roast to fit a slow cooker.
Pork Loin Roast
Not to be confused with pork tenderloin, which is a different cut entirely, the pork loin roast weighs about 8 pounds but is sold in 2- to 4-pound size roasts. It does not do well with braising, as the meat breaks down and becomes somewhat stringy. That doesn't mean it can't be slow cooked.
Brining the Pork
Brining tenderizes the pork and works for both pork loin roasts and shoulder roasts. Give the roast a saltwater bath in the refrigerator overnight or up to 48 hours. Use one part salt to 15 parts water. Throw in a few handfuls of herbs such as thyme, rosemary or basil and spices such as black peppercorns, cinnamon sticks or cloves. The pork absorbs the flavor of the seasonings as it absorbs the saltwater.
Slow Cooking Pork Shoulder
Rinse the roast and pat dry. Let it set outside the refrigerator until it comes to room temperature, which can take from one to two hours. Brown all sides of the shoulder roast in a tablespoon or two of cooking oil. Choose from canola, sunflower or corn oil. Place the roast in the slow cooker or in a deep pan. Fill the pan 3 to 4 inches deep with liquid. Select from water, fruit juice, beer, wine or vegetable broth. Add in some fresh herbs.such as those you used for the brine. Turn the slow cooker on low and cook for 8 hours. You could also simmer the roast on the stovetop or in the oven for about 30 to 45 minutes per pound.
It's Different for Pork Loin
Since pork loin becomes stringy with too much slow cooking, it's best to use the oven. Take the roast out of the refrigerator, rinse, pat dry and let it come to room temperature. Set the roast in a preheated oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Roast for 15 minutes then turn the temperature down to 275 F. The higher temperature in the beginning browns the pork and melts some of the fat. Roast at 30 to 45 minutes per pound. The internal temperature should reach 160 F. Test with an instant-read thermometer.
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- The Earth-Bound Cook; Myra Goodman
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