~ A quick and easy crock-pot dinner recipe! These incredibly delicious pulled pork sandwiches are just bursting with flavorful island spices. Plus (since this is THK!), we’ve got some great tips for making healthier pulled pork! ~
This Recipe: • Includes Make-Ahead Steps •
It was a mild summer here in Ohio. We’re not complaining … but after last winter (schools were closed multiple days due to the bone-chilling cold weather!) we were hoping for something more … tropical. Ya know, like on a fabulous island.
And now (just when a few 90º days finally started showing up), we know what’s around the corner.
Don’t get us wrong – we LOVE fall. Everything apple and pumpkin and cozy. Love it!
But the fact is, fall will fly by, and soon we’ll be bundled up in our fleece jackets, snuggling under a blanket.
It’ll be chilly, for sure. And then we’ll really be wishing for that gorgeous island. Lucky for us, we kinda found one! (Kinda.)
Remember the other day when we excitedly announced the cookbook project we were so honored to be part of?
Well, today, we’re giving you a preview of that beautiful book … by sharing one of the book’s delicious recipes with you!
And guess what?!? You’re gonna need to get out your flip-flops and sunglasses … ’cause we’re heading to the islands!
We’re featuring Slow Cooker Island Pulled Pork!
And we can totally vouch for it’s amazing deliciousness. You know how adamant we are about testing recipes here at THK … so trust us – we’ve both made this (and loved it)! It’ll make your house smell fantastic all day long, and make your family happy-happy come dinner time. Seriously – this isn’t any same-old, same-old pulled pork sandwich – it’s pulled pork with a whole new twist from warm, lip-smackin’ island spices. So awesome!
This recipe was created by Jill Holland. She’s a big deal! Jill is a sous chef of Catering for Good, and a chef instructor with a Feeding America food bank. And she makes some totally yummilicious food. (Thanks for sharing this great recipe, Jill!)
But before we share the recipe … first, let’s talk pork.
The Best Cut for Making Great Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Some cuts of pork are very, very lean. Others … notsomuch.
So, you might be surprised to see us using fattier pork butt here on THK. Don’t be. You know we’re good with anything in moderation. Plus, we recognize that pork butt really is the cut of choice for pulled pork barbecue. So rather than ignore it, we’d rather meet the issue head on and tell you how to make it as healthy as possible!
Most BBQ restaurants and pitmasters will tell you that the very best pulled pork comes from the shoulder of the pig, which is mysteriously called pork “butt”. (For mega-sized barbecues, some people also use a whole shoulder, which includes both the “butt” and picnic cuts, or sometimes even use the entire hog.)
You may see this particular cut labeled all sorts of things … Boston butt, pork butt, shoulder butt, shoulder roast, country roast, Boston roast, shoulder blade roast, pork shoulder Boston butt, Boston-style shoulder … you get the idea.
Unfortunately, no matter what you call it, pork butt has quite a bit of fat.
It’s excellent for long, slow cooking because it’s also got a lot of collagen-rich connective tissue, which melts and bastes the meat during cooking and yields a really moist, succulent BBQ. In fact, a long, slow cooktime is absolutely key in getting fall-apart pulled pork. You just can’t rush it. And it’s absolutely worth the wait.
Using much leaner pork loin won’t get you where you want to go. It lacks the collagen (and fat) that yield excellent pulled pork, and you’re likely to end up with a disappointingly dry, tough sandwich.
How to Make Deliciously Healthier Pulled Pork
So, here are our tips for enjoying great pork barbecue using pork butt, while keeping an eye on nutrition.
First, recognize that, because it’s less lean than, say, a chicken breast, pork butt may not be a cut you choose to eat often. And, when you do, focus on enjoying it hugely, without huge portion sizes. Go for about a 3-ounce serving, and load your plate up with other goodies like veggies, salads (like our Greek Yogurt Coleslaw), fruit, and whole grains (yup … reach for a whole wheat bun!)
Next, remove as much of the fat as possible.
Some people prefer to cut away large, obvious outer sections of the fat before cooking. But, much of that fat will melt during cooking, and in this particular recipe a lot of it is left behind in the slow cooker. So, you can also wait to remove the fat until after cooking this.
When you’re shredding the cooked meat just before serving, be sure to remove as much fat as you can, including any internal fat. The meat is laced with rather small bits of fat, and the more of that you can remove as you shred the meat, the less unhealthy fat you’ll be eating. For this reason, you may find it more effective to shred the pork in this particular recipe (and other pulled pork recipes using pork butt) with your fingers, rather than using two forks, as we often suggest in THK recipes that involve shredding chicken.
Lastly, note that in this recipe you’re directed to skim the fat off of the juices that are left behind in the slow cooker, and then to add just a bit of the remaining, defatted juices to your meat to moisten it before serving. That’s important, too. To avoid saturating pork butt in the fat that melts away during cooking, remove the meat from the crock-pot and shred it separately from the juices, on a plate or cutting board. Then, you can carefully moisten the shredded meat with defatted juices.
So, now that you’re armed with a fantastic new, sure-to-become-a-favorite recipe (and lots of tips to make it healthier), we bet you’d love to try cooking it in …
A brand-spanking-new FREE slow cooker!
You’d like that, right?!?
Yeah, ya would! So read on …
Winning a Fab Slow Cooker!
We’re giving away a gorgeous Hamilton Beach Set & Forget® Programmable 6 Quart Slow Cooker. This bad boy even has a probe for checking doneness temps (uh-huh … you know we’re all about food safety here at THK 😀 ). You can peek at all the specs and details of this sweeeeet slow cooker here.
To enter our giveaway and make all your slow cooking dreams come true, just hop on down to the giveaway box at the bottom of this post!
And Winning Even MORE Great Stuff!
While we’re talking WINS … wanna win more great stuff?
Sure ya do!
Then be sure to check out our post from Monday, when we unveiled the new cookbook “Where Slow Food & Whole Food Meet – Healthy Slow Cooker Dinners from Our Kitchens to Yours.” It’s filled with recipes from top bloggers, including this Slow Cooker Island Pulled Pork we’re previewing for you today! Over 100 pages of stunning photos, make-your-mouth-water recipes, plus great slow cooker tips!
The book was launched this week in partnership with Feeding America, to help raise awareness and funds during Hunger Action month. Hop right on over to Monday’s post to learn how you can help us make a difference … and at the bottom of that post, you’ll see another giveaway! Yee-haw!
Yep – you could win one of two (really, truly gorgeous … we aren’t kidding!) copies of the new cookbook. Plus, we’ve offered links to the other bloggers whose recipes appear in the cookbook, and you can click over to all of their blogs to enter again for even more chances to win cookbooks and slow cookers!
And everyone (everyone!) who subscribes to our Two Healthy Kitchens newsletter will receive a free downloadable ebook version of the cookbook! If you aren’t already a subscriber, simply head on up to the upper right part of our site, to where it says “Get Our Latest Recipes Delivered Right to Your Inbox!” Sign up, and you’ll not only receive updates of our latest recipes, but you’ll also get a copy of the fabulous ebook delivered straight to your inbox (within a day or two) to download onto your computer or tablet!
In addition, the two wonderful ladies who pulled this whole cookbook project together, Christine from the blog Cook the Story and Jennifer from Mother Thyme, both have extra giveaways running on their sites. Be sure to check them out to register for even more great prize packs and giveaways!
And once you’ve entered ALL THOSE GIVEAWAYS, you’ve still got more chances to win!
We’re having some Twitter Parties to help get everyone mobilized for Hunger Action Month. Join us at our main Twitter Party on Thursday, September 18 at 9 pm EST (follow #slowNwholeCookbook). Also, various contributors from the cookbook will be joining Courtney Crozier, a former contestant from “The Biggest Loser,” for her weekly #justcrunchem Twitter Parties on September 11, September 18 and September 25 from 8 – 9 pm EST. They’ll be chatting about the new season of “The Biggest Loser,” healthy food, slow cooking and Hunger Action Month. All those Twitter Parties will include … you guessed it … PRIZES!
And hey – we just have to take a sec again to thank the fantastic sponsors of this cookbook project – San Miguel Produce, Grimmway Farms, and Old Oak Farms by RPE Produce! Plus, of course, Hamilton Beach, who so generously provided the slow cookers for all the participating bloggers to give away as we celebrate the launch of the cookbook!
Wow! From amazing giveaways to fun Twitter Parties to a deliciously flavorful recipe for not-your-ordinary pulled pork … there are enough fun, island-y vibes to keep even Ohioans snug and happy (as we stare down an oncoming winter …).
Have fun … and dig in! (We sure will!)
Mmmmmm … More Slow Cooker Recipes We Love (And You Will, Too)!
- Healthy Crock-Pot Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches
- Crock-Pot North Carolina BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches
- Crock-Pot Creamy Chicken Corn Chowder
- Crock-Pot Crazy Pineapple Chili
- 3-Ingredient Crock-Pot Chicken Tacos
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons thyme
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon sweet or hot paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 3-pound boneless pork butt
- 1 cup apple cider or apple juice
- 1 bay leaf
- 8-10 hamburger buns, sliced open (see note)
- BBQ sauce (see note)
- Fresh cilantro
- In a small bowl, combine onion powder, garlic powder, ginger, cloves, allspice, thyme, dry mustard, salt, paprika, cumin, sugar, black pepper, and cayenne. Use fingers to rub spices together to ensure that ginger is dispersed throughout. Rub spice mixture all over pork.
- Put the pork in the slow cooker, fat side up. Pour apple cider over pork and add bay leaf.
- Cook on low for 8 hours. Remove pork from slow cooker. Use two forks to shred meat. Skim fat off liquid in slow cooker. Drizzle a few tablespoons of the remaining liquid over the meat and mix to combine (see note).
- Serve on a bun as-is or slathered with your favorite BBQ sauce and sprinkled with fresh cilantro.
Hamburger buns: A great way to increase the healthfulness of any sandwich recipe is simply to choose a whole grain or whole wheat bun. Try to go with all-natural brands if possible.
BBQ sauce: Store-bought BBQ sauces often contain surprisingly unhealthy ingredients, and some top brands even have high fructose corn syrup as the very first ingredient. Be sure to check ingredient labels and choose the healthiest, cleanest ingredient list you can.
Shredding the pork: As we discussed in this post, it's important to remove the meat from the slow cooker and shred it separately from the juices, to avoid adding too much of the melted fat back into the meat. And, as you shred, carefully remove as much of the interior fat as you can. Lastly, be sure to skim the fat off the liquid left behind in the slow cooker and add only defatted juices back into your shredded meat to moisten it.
THK make-ahead tip: This recipe comes together so quickly, with the most time-consuming part just being measuring out all the delicious spices. To make this quicker on busy mornings, you can measure and mix together all the spices (excluding the grated fresh ginger and the bay leaf) the night before or even a day or two ahead.