Pork roasts, such as Boston butt, loin roast or shoulder roasts, vary widely in the amount of fat they contain. Boston butt roasts have more marbling, while loin roasts are fairly lean. No matter the cut, the slow cooker makes any pork roast tender and flavorful. A classic slow cooker roast recipe often includes vegetables, but this is merely a matter of personal preference. There's no reason why you have to include them.
Slow Cooker Magic
Using a slow cooker to make a pork roast is a form of braising. You don't need any vegetables, but you do need a bit of liquid, which adds flavor and keeps the pork from shrinking and drying out during cooking. You can use almost any liquid you like, depending on your purposes for the roast. If you're serving a roast by itself or making it for pulled pork, add a bit of beer, broth or apple cider. For a Southwestern stew, green chili or posole, cook the pork with broth or a jar of salsa. For an Asian flair, combine water or broth with soy sauce or teriyaki sauce. Citrus juice gives the roast a light, fresh flavor.
The Method Explained
Although you can slow cook a pork roast without vegetables, there are a few basic steps you won't want to miss. Start by browning the roast in a skillet in a bit of vegetable oil. This step adds flavor and seals in the juices. Season the pork roast liberally with salt and pepper. You can also add other seasonings, such as garlic, ginger, chile peppers, rosemary or thyme. Pork roast has a mild -- almost bland -- flavor on its own, but it pairs well with most seasonings. Add enough liquid to partially cover the roast, but not submerge it. Cover the slow cooker and cook the roast on low for six to eight hours, or until it is fork tender and shreds easily.
Heat It Up
Pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the USDA, but when you use a slow cooker, you'll likely cook it to 165 or even 180 F. At these temperatures, the connective tissue in the pork roast breaks down and becomes soft and flavorful. If you've used adequate liquid, the pork roast will be tender and very juicy.
Although you don't have to add vegetables to a pork roast in a slow cooker, you might want to for extra flavor. You can always go with the traditional celery, onion and carrot mix, but don't be afraid to get creative. Try tomatoes and mushrooms for an Italian flair or make an Asian pork roast with a teriyaki sauce, snap peas and bell peppers. For a sweet autumn dish, swap vegetables for fruit. Coat sliced, peeled baking apples in a bit of brown sugar and cinnamon. Flavor the pork roast with apple cider and rosemary and add the apples during the last hour of cooking.
- Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook; Beth Hensperger, et al.
- Meat: A Kitchen Education; James Peterson
Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of MarmaladeMom.org, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."