I started this website to help people get cooking and to put them closer in touch with their food. While do we want to make your cooking easier, most of us here at The Kitchn get excited if a reader says they hung out in the kitchen and cooked all day.
But this week I had to draw the line. For four straight days, the temperature climbed to 100 degrees in New York City and throughout much of the country. Like most people, I didn't feel like cooking.
So I did something you might think was nuts: I got out the slow cooker and cooked an eight-pound pork butt.
Here's my plug for slow-cooking in the heat: you can make a lot of food (I'm feeding my family of three all week on the stuff) without heating up the whole house with ovens, mixers, and your blood, sweat and tears. You can also do any grunt work — for these carnitas, garlic smashing was the only real work — in the morning when it's cool, and set the cooker to work during the day, or prep in the evening and set the cooker to work while you sleep.
You really don't need a recipe for cooking in a slow cooker. The basic formula is to place spices with the meat in a slow cooker and cover with liquid (broth, juice, wine, beer, etc.). Cook on LOW for the most tender meat. Chicken is done in as little as four hours. Darker meats like longer cooking times. Cooking on HIGH speeds up the cooking, but the meat is not as tender.
Here's an example, using my carnitas. Why the tomato juice? I didn't have a can of tomatoes and I wanted to use up the juice. Slow-cooking at its best.
Slow-Cooker Carnitasmakes 20-30 taco-sized servings
1 (6-8 pound) pork butt, also called pork shoulder
2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
8 whole cloves garlic, smashed
4 chipotle peppers (canned or dried)
1 cup tomato juice
1 cup orange juice
Trim excess fat from the meat and discard. Place all ingredients in the slow-cooker. Set to cook on LOW for 8 hours. Meat is done when it literally falls off the bone. When cool enough to handle, lift the meat from the juices and place in a large bowl. Remove the bone, then shred the meat.
Skim the fat from the juices and keep as a medium for re-heating the meat.
For carnitas tacos, reheat the meat and serve in corn tortillas with sour cream, cilantro, chopped red onion and lime wedges.
Slow Cooker Recipes
• Slow-Cooked Hoisin and Ginger Pork Wraps with Peanut Slaw
• Curried Vegetable and Chickpea Stew
• Slow-Cooker Lemon Garlic Chicken
• Ultimate Cheater Pulled Pork
• Overnight Oatmeal with Apricots and Buttermilk
Slow Cooker Tips and Tricks
• Back to Basics: How to Use a Slow Cooker
• Recipe Basics: How to Cook Beans in the Slow Cooker
• Good Tip: Stock in the Slow Cooker
• How To Make Fruit Butter in the Slow Cooker
• Two Slow Cooker Meals for Hot Weather
• How To Convert Dutch Oven Recipes to Your Slow Cooker
(The slow-cooker I use is a 6.6 quart All-Clad Slow-Cooker with Ceramic Insert, available at Williams-Sonoma for $179.95)