Slow-cooking pork creates tender, juicy meat, and a savory dry rub is all you need for flavor. Using a prepared rub is a timesaver, but experimenting with herbs and spices allows you to create your own special masterpiece. Do a little prep work in the morning, then let the slow cooker do most of the work for you. Come home to a savory and ready-made barbecue pork dinner at the end of the day.
Ah, There's the Rub
A basic dry rub is a combination of equal amounts of as many as 10 herbs and spices, without any liquids. The primary ingredient in most dry rubs is paprika; the more paprika used, the stronger and smokier the flavor of the meat. Other common dry rub ingredients include salt, black pepper, brown sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, chili powder, celery seed, dry mustard, onion powder, lemon pepper, coriander, cumin, sage and thyme. The aroma of the rub blend is usually a good indicator of how it's going to taste.
The Reason for the Seasoning
Combine dry rub ingredients in a large plastic bag and shake them together until well blended. Add the pork and continue to shake the bag until it's thoroughly coated. If you don't mind getting messy, use your fingers to massage the rub into the meat. The longer the rub is in contact with the meat, the better the chance for the spices to sink into the skin and create a savory crust on the meat when cooking. Rubs play another important role by promoting the melting of fats in the meat, helping to keep the meat moist.
All Together Now
Pork shoulder is one of the best choices for dry rubs in a slow cooker. A general rule of thumb is to get a cut of meat that is 8 ounces per serving. Let the meat come to room temperature for at least one hour before you add the dry rub. Before adding the prepared meat into the slow cooker, place onion rings or wadded up aluminum foil balls in the bottom of the container to keep the meat from soaking in the fat as it cooks. Count on 1 1/2 to 2 hours of cooking time per pound on low heat, dusting the meat with more dry rub halfway through, if you like.
Dinner is Served
Dry-rubbed cooked pork is a treat to serve on its own, but if you want to recreate the slightly charred skin that grilling creates, remove the pork from the slow cooker and roast under the broiler for a few minutes. For a saucier version, transfer the cooked pork to a cutting board, shred it and douse it with your favorite barbecue sauce. Serve the pork in sandwiches or stuffed into a pita, over couscous or rice, or with your favorite side dishes.
Bonnie Singleton has been writing professionally since 1996. She has written for various newspapers and magazines including "The Washington Times" and "Woman's World." She also wrote for the BBC-TV news magazine "From Washington" and worked for Discovery Channel online for more than a decade. Singleton holds a master's degree in musicology from Florida State University and is a member of the American Independent Writers.