Traditionally Prepared Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder

slow cooked pork shoulder on a plate on a wooden table

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Some health professionals believe that pork is a particularly inflammatory food. There is some evidence to suggest that this is true.

However, most Americans do not eat pasture-raised pork, nor do they prepare it using the traditional methods that we have used for thousands of years, and I believe this makes a big difference.

How to Buy Pork

When I buy pork, how the pig was raised is most important to me. While I think that all factory farming is heinous, commercial pig farms are arguably among the worst of all the concentrated animal operations, from both a health and an environmental perspective.

The conditions in factory pig farms are so disgusting that commercial pigs must be given multiple antibiotics, steroids and other pharmaceuticals just so they can make it to your table. It is common for hog manure lagoons to pollute the air for miles, destroying quality of life for everyone living nearby, and to even explode and catch fire as methane builds up.

It is also thought that methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA, the highly virulent, flesh-eating staph infection that is resistant to antibiotics, originated on factory pig farms. Swine flu as well.

But not all pork is created equal. Industrial meat simply can’t hold a candle to traditionally produced meat for quality, accountability, safety and taste. Fortunately, it is becoming easier and easier to find pork from pigs raised on pasture and forest—the way our ancestors raised pigs for thousands of years.

Make sure you choose pasture-raised pork every time.

Related: Learn how to select healthy pork here.

Preparing Fresh Pork

In China, it is thought that pork is bad for you unless it is cut into small pieces and marinated in vinegar before cooking in pork fat. Pork and pork fat together form the number one single source of calories in the traditional Chinese diet. Owning pigs is considered wealth, and a crucial component of sustainable rural subsistence even today.

In Argentina and the Philippines, pork is traditionally marinated in vinegar. In India, pork is soaked in yogurt before seasoning and cooking. In Mexico and Central America, it is typical to marinate pork in orange or lime juice. And here in America, we have a long tradition of pickled pigs’ feet and vinegar-marinated barbecue.

The key to properly preparing fresh pork lies in using an acid to marinate the meat prior to cooking. Vinegar, citrus, or yogurt provides the acid that breaks down the meat so that it remains tender and succulent—even after you cook it thoroughly for safety.

Like brining and drying your nuts and seeds, or soaking your grains in whey, marinating pork may also have the added benefit of improving its digestibility and reducing its inflammatory properties. This does not surprise me; our ancestors were pretty smart, after all.

Whether cooking ground, chops, ribs, loins or roasts, you should always prepare an acid marinade for your fresh pork. This could be as simple as a 12–24 hour soak in vinegar and water (2:1), plus some sea salt, or it could be a more elaborate marinade with seasonings and spices to make dinner extra special. If you have a thick piece of meat or a roast, be sure to score it so the marinade can penetrate deep within.

Based on what I now know about traditionally marinating fresh pork, I made the following slow cooker pork shoulder recipe the other night, and even my super-picky kid came back for more. It was hands down the best roast I had ever made or tasted, and I think you will enjoy it too!

slow cooked pork shoulder on a plate on a wooden table

Traditionally Brined Crockpot Pulled Pork Shoulder

After marinating it using traditional preparation techniques, this slow cooker pork shoulder recipe will be the best pork roast you’ve ever tasted!
Prep Time: 1 d
Cook Time: 6 hrs
Total Time: 1 d 6 hrs
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: GAPS, Gluten Free, Paleo
Approx. Cost: $10
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 139kcal




  • Score your shoulder roast with a skewer or sharp knife to allow the marinade to penetrate deeper.
  • Place the scored pork shoulder into the ceramic bowl of your slow cooker. In a 2-to-1 ratio of vinegar and water, pour enough vinegar and water into the slow cooker to assure the pork is completely covered. Add the sea salt.
  • Put the ceramic bowl in the refrigerator and allow the pork to marinate 12–24 hours.
  • After marinating, pour out enough of the liquid from the ceramic bowl to expose about 1/2-inch of pork.
  • Add the onion wedges to the remaining liquid.
  • Season the exposed surface of the pork shoulder with the cumin, mustard, chili powder, cocoa and sugar.
  • Place the bowl into the base of the slow cooker and cook on High until the pork is tender and falls apart easily, 6 to 8 hours.
  • Carefully remove the pork to a cutting board and, using a pair of forks, shred the meat. Remove and discard any excess marinade or fat.
  • Enjoy alone or with your favorite sauce.


Calories: 139kcalCarbohydrates: 24gProtein: 2gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 1mgPotassium: 276mgFiber: 2gSugar: 19gVitamin A: 760IUVitamin C: 2.2mgCalcium: 60mgIron: 2.8mg

28 thoughts on “Traditionally Prepared Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder”

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  1. 1/4 C of salt seems like a lot of salt. I’m curious why so much is needed. What’s it’s function? Does it taste salty when done?

  2. April @ The 21st Century Housewife

    I really enjoyed reading this post – I can’t bear the thought of factory farms, and won’t eat meat unless it is pasture raised or organic (unless I am served it when I am a guest in someone’s home). I think it is really important that everyone be informed so they can be aware that it really matters how an animal is raised for ethical, nutritional and environmental reasons.

    I often cook pork shoulder in the slow cooker, and am always looking for new ways of doing it so your recipe is perfect for me. I like the mustard and spices you have used, and I look forward to giving it a try.

  3. Great information. Thanks so much for including it. I love posts that are more than just a recipe. I think that makes me a bit nerdy though 🙂

  4. Cathy@My1929Charmer

    My hubs is happy you shared this recipe, since he enjoys pork so much. also i’ve also told him it wasn’t healthy so he was quite happy to hear it is. He and I
    are so glad you shared your creative inspiration with Sunday’s Best – your creativity helped make the party a success!

    1. As long as you are eating organic or pasture-raised pork, it is indeed very healthy, and your husband can enjoy it guilt-free! Thanks for hosting Sunday’s Best! See you next week!

  5. Alea @ Premeditated Leftovers

    I enjoyed reading the history of pork. Great crock pot recipe – I am pinning it to slow cooker board.

  6. Cathy@My1929Charmer

    Thanks so much for all this great information on pork. Loved learning about the history, nutrients etc about pork. You don’t have to worry about my hubs, pork is his meat, now more so knowing all this about it. I will give you recipe a try, sound so very good. Are those your little, or should I say healthy pigs? My fingers are crossed you’ll share your creative inspiration tonight with Sunday’s Best – sharing is a good thing!

  7. This is a great post and a wonderful Pork Shoulder Recipe, it looks delicious! Hope you are having a great week and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  8. Debbie @ Easy Natural Food

    Really interesting article, I’m going to post it on my FB page! But one question – I have the same crockpot, and I use hardly any liquid otherwise everything comes out too watery. It sounds like even after you pour off the liquid there’d still be a several cups of liquid in there. How much liquid is left when it finishes cooking?

    1. There is a lot of liquid throughout the whole process. You are basically cooking the roast in the marinade, almost as if you were simmering vegetables in water. Once the roast is done, you carefully remove the meat from the liquid entirely, and discard the liquid. (It is mostly vinegar and it doesn’t taste particularly good, unless you like a sour sauce on your roast). The meat will be a bit damp from the liquid (just as broccoli would be from simmering water), but it won’t be watery. Pull the meat apart with a fork, and any remaining liquid will shed right off!

    2. 5 stars
      The liquid is actually excellent both as a base from which to make a BBQ sauce or to use as pork stock in recipes that would go well with vinegar. I put the crock with the liquid in the refrigerator then, when the fat solidified on the top, I removed it with a spoon and stored it in small freezer containers so I could use it later as fat. I used part of that fat, along with a little butter and a little olive oil, as well as a little bit of the liquid, to make baked potatoes that were beyond delicious! I also used the layer of fat on the top of the shoulder, where all the seasoning and spices had gone, and which had remained above the liquid, at breakfast. I fried that yummy layer of fat in a skillet and broke a couple of eggs into it. When the eggs were done, I added a few dashes of hot green chile sauce and devoured that yumminess! I am now soaking some beans (lots of beans!) so tomorrow I can cook them in the remaining liquid (with the bone still in there). This is an incredibly delicious and useful recipe, Thanks for posting it!

  9. We get our pork from a neighbouring dairy farm. I often cook pork in the slow cooker , but pulled meat is not something we often eat in Australia!

    1. The nice thing is that once the meat is done, you can use it in any way you wish! In America, we eat it pulled in sandwiches or with a sauce, but it could just as easily be served in other ways, or added as protein to another dish. Enjoy!

  10. Carrie- young living oil lady

    Thank you for sharing with us at Healthy 2Day Wednesdays! Hope to see you again next week. 🙂

  11. Julia @

    What a coincidence that I’m making this tomorrow. Thank you for joining the Frugal Tuesday Tip. I didn’t quite see the frugality angle played up here, so I thought I would add that cooking at home is a very economical way to feed your household when compared to eating out.

    1. Thanks for your comment! In addition to saving money and electricity by using a slow cooker at home, buying a whole or half hog from a local farm is an OUTSTANDING way to save a lot of money on meat.

  12. Great info. we butchered our first pig this spring. what an experience. even though we have been doing our own chickens for some time this was something else. I dont care for pork but my Husband and 2 yr old LOVE the stuff. I will have to tell him about the acid soak.

  13. Happy Mrs Bass @ LAMS

    Wow… so much information! 🙂 I occasionally eat pork roast when my hubbs helps our friends butcher their farm pigs. Happy healthy pigs are certainly the only way to go if you eat pork! Thanks for sharing at Living Green!!!

  14. Mary Hudak-Colllins

    This was very informative! There was so much that I didn’t even realize when considering pork purchase. Thank you for sharing this info and recipe in our linky. I will certainly keep all of this in mind in the future when making pork purchases?



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