Slow Cooker

Slow-Cooker Pork Shoulder With Brown Sugar & Balsamic Glaze

November  9, 2018
58 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Cook time 5 hours
  • Serves 8 to 10
Author Notes

I've taken the uber-popular Crock-Pot Brown Sugar & Balsamic–Glazed Pork Tenderloin recipe and repurposed it with boneless pork shoulder. Fatty shoulder, more than lean tenderloin, gets effortlessly tender when slow-cooked like this. In addition to making the recipe totally hands-off, the slow cooker is an insurance policy against the meat drying out. I upped the ante on the glaze, too, adding a little mustard powder to balance out all that sweet and salty. —Eric Kim

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: This Is Our Most-Popular Recipe of All Time...but Why? —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 4 pounds pork shoulder (boneless pork butt)
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2 teaspoons ground sage
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mustard powder
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  1. Put the pork shoulder, garlic, sage, salt, pepper, bay leaves, and water into a slow cooker and smoosh around with your hands. Cook on High for 4 hours.
  2. In a measuring cup, whisk together the brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, mustard powder, and cornstarch. Add to the slow cooker and cook for another hour.
  3. Carve pork against the grain into individual portions and serve with roasted carrots or white rice.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Megan Nestor
    Megan Nestor
  • MTDavids
  • Lazyretirementgirl
  • Pam Shropshire
    Pam Shropshire
  • Eleanor Goodman Gipson
    Eleanor Goodman Gipson
Eric Kim was the Table for One columnist at Food52. He is currently working on his first cookbook, KOREAN AMERICAN, to be published by Clarkson Potter in 2022. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can find his bylines at The New York Times, where he works now as a writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ericjoonho.

50 Reviews

Sherry October 19, 2023
Made this as written and both my husband and I really enjoyed it. Sooo good! Thank you for a new go to recipe!
bwbradley September 27, 2023
If you, like me, completely forget the sauce and just dive right in, it will be delicious anyway. This one is going in my regular rotation. Thanks!
MMS May 27, 2023
I don’t have a slow cooker. Can I do in 200 or 220 oven for same amount of time?
Seaview1 May 27, 2023
Hi, if you scroll down through the reviews. Several have said they did it in their oven, though with varying temps. Take a look at what they did, then maybe do a search on cooking a pork roast and see what is suggested. I’ve have only made this in my slow cooker and as the original recipe that is with pork tenderloins, which cook very quick. Hope this helps, in case you are looking to make this weekend.
Alison February 16, 2022
I've made this twice now, and enjoyed it both times, but the second time was a level up. Based on other comments below, on both occasions I reduced the sugar to half cup. The real change was in the cooking method--I used the slow cooker on high for 4 hours, but then let it rest for an hour. I then put the meat plus all the juices with 2 cups of parboiled carrots in a roasting pan, and cooked at 375 for another 45 minutes or so, occasionally basting. I had to add a little more water and a 1/4 cup of Xiaoxing wine (correct spelling is escaping me) to the pan at some point so the sauce did not burn or get too much like toffee. The result was delicious--a deeply flavored crust on the meat, and some thicker sauce to spoon over the rice with the roasted carrots (they were more like glazed carrots). I don't know if the resting time really mattered, since that was more a byproduct of my schedule, but figured I should report it. I served it with rice and sautéed bok choy, but other greens would be good, too.
Seaview1 April 13, 2021
What changed in this revised recipe, the glaze when it was posted on Laura’s Sweet Spot is applied to the pork after it is finished cooking and put under the broiler. It then forms a caramelized glaze and is delicious. For those not liking the sauce, missing that step could be why.
Pam October 1, 2020
Delicious! This recipe was super easy and the results were very tasty. I used a ~3lb pork shoulder butt, and the meat was very tender after five hours. I subbed coconut aminos for soy sauce, so next time I would decrease the sugar to compensate for the sweeter aminos. I also added some sliced carrots and chopped mushrooms with an hour to go. I would definitely make this again.
Bridget B. January 17, 2020
I ordered a 4# boneless pork shoulder from my butcher. It just came and I think it is bigger than this. He also tied it with string. Should I take the string off? If it is bigger than 4# I guess I will cook longer. Can anyone tell me what the proper internal temp should be for "fall apart tender?" Thanks!
mountaingalhhc August 30, 2020
It's not so much an internal temp for "fall apart tender" as the amount of time, slow cooking... Sometimes it just needs another hour to go from almost there to very tender. Experiment with it to find the right amount of time. I've also found, the meat cooking in liquid is usually more tender than the meat that's not.
Bridget B. August 31, 2020
Thank you!
Alissa K. October 18, 2019
I want to make double this recipe in my slow cooker with two separate pieces of 4-pound meat. Do you think I need to keep it in longer or stick to the four hours plus one?
Connie October 4, 2019
I made this with a 4# bone-in piece of meat and followed the directions exactly. It smelled wonderful while cooking. It was not "fall apart tender" but was well cooked and tender - That may be because the butt was bone-in and needed more than 5 hours to cook. The sauce was good, but too sweet for me. I would cut the sugar by 1/2 if I were to make it again. I also expected the sauce to be thicker than it was (since it had contained cornstarch). I am looking forward to having the leftovers in a few days, to see if the flavor is different.
Megan N. August 30, 2019
In the photo, there’s a creamy-looking sauce beneath the roast. What is that?
Little P. August 30, 2019
That is just the sauce from the meat and marinade.. it's the result of all the cooking and glazing, etc.
Megan N. August 30, 2019
I should clarify - it’s the sauce in the 2nd photo I’m wondering about.
Eric K. September 12, 2019
Hi! Sorry for the delay; the sauce is Dorie Greenspan's here:
MTDavids August 16, 2019
Excellent! A great winter option when it's too cold to grill or smoke outside and you have that "Q" craving. Leftovers make a great ingredient in Cowboy Cocktails.
Lazyretirementgirl July 22, 2019
Already in the comments. 😬
Lazyretirementgirl July 22, 2019
Truly excellent. I had a few challenges- a five pound bone in shoulder, no dry mustard. Subbed 3 T of Kozlowski date fig mustard for the dry, reduced the sugar to a third of a cup of demara, used half a cup of cheap port instead of water; all worked fine. I added an hour to the cooking time because of the extra weight - mistake. Small carrots and tiny new potatoes needed more than an hour in the slow cooker, so I put them with some sauce in the oven for 20 minutes. All told, a really delicious meal, and a forgiving recipe. Plus, easy!! Definitely in the rotation. Thanks.
Grace July 17, 2019
Delicious and easy! I used a 2 lbs pork loin. I added carrots for the last hour. Next time, I will cut the carrots up into thick slices as they were a bit too undercooked/crunchy for my taste. I served the pork with some of the sauce drizzled over it.
Pam S. June 17, 2019
I made this Saturday with a pork shoulder as suggested, a 2-lb one with the bone in, and it was delicious! My husband and I agree it is one of the best sauces EVER. Is it bad that I actually ate the sauce with a spoon? I served it with buttermilk mashed potatoes (smothered in sauce) and buttered cabbage with whole grain mustard. This is going in my regular rotation.
Eleanor G. June 10, 2019
Terrific recipe. I am from the South and just have to move more slowly-250 degrees for 8 hours and it was divine. I used an iron camp cooker, but in the oven.
Linda D. June 4, 2019
Thank you for this delicious slow cooker meal! I used apple cider vinegar because I was out of balsamic. I served this dish with mashed potatoes and steamed carrots. Yum!
Mel May 24, 2019
This looked to me like a riff on Chinese red cooked pork, and after reading all the comments and knowing the my husband detests stringy meat, aka pulled pork, I made the following changes:
1. No water (there was plenty of fat and juice)
2. Reduced the preliminary cook time to 2 hours (it was just short of falling apart
3. Bagged the meat, poured the juice into a container, chilled.
4. Next day, strained the juices on to the meat on a rack in a pan, made the glaze with 1/2 the amount of sugar, thickened it on the stove, poured it over the meat
5. Roasted @ 250 for the final hour, basting with glaze and juice.

The end result was perfect, juicy tender, deeply flavored roast slices with a velvety texture. The next day my husband asked for the leftovers for his dinner. A little fussy, but worth it if you have time.
Little P. May 20, 2019
I made this with 2lbs cut of meat. I think the cooking time was too long. The meat fell apart and was super tender, but it wasn't "sliceable" like it looks in your picture. How long should I cooked a smaller piece of meat? Please let me know!
Bob May 21, 2019
205 degrees internal
Rosalind P. May 17, 2019
what's your second most popular? Don't eat pork.