The idea was simple enough. I'd host the wedding shower that my friends were planning for one of our best high school girlfriends. But then, as things often do, plans changed.
Oh I'd still host the shower, but the organizer was unable to attend (granted, she did just have a baby four weeks before. Can she really be blamed?). Then another shower for the bride, one we'd all be attending, was scheduled for that morning.
Suddenly, my casual coed barbecue wedding shower for 50 became a logistical nightmare. How could I cook 36 pounds of meat if I wasn't even at the house? Leaving my husband with the grill to wrangle four 9-pound Boston butts seemed cruel, especially as I pictured myself scampering off in a sundress for a girly brunch as he rotated the butts. Again.
So I started researching and found that you can cook a pretty delicious butt in a slow-cooker. We tested it out a few times and fell in love with Southern Living's Slow-cooker Mustard Barbecue Pork. We made it to rave reviews at the Super Bowl party and again for a low-key weekend gathering of friends.
The slow-cooker makes the party plan insanely easy. For convenience, and to allow the flavors to really absorb into the meat, I rubbed the pantry-friendly spices over the butt the night before, then popped the whole slow-cooker insert into the fridge. The next morning, I'd simply turn it on and head off to work. When I returned, the pork was succulent, tender, and ready to shred. If it was this easy with one 9-pound butt, wouldn't it be pretty simple to multiply the equation by four?
My Mom was in town to help and she offered what might've been the best advice of all: Don't plug them all into the same outlet. We took it one step further, plugging each one into a different wall of my 1940s kitchen. They started cooking at 7am. I left for the first shower at 10:30. We shredded the meat at 5:30 and kept it warm in the toasty inserts until party time at 6:30.
Now, thankfully, I work at MyRecipes.com, which shares space with our brands including Southern Living, so I was able to raid their Test Kitchen closet (see the picture above!) for three large slow-cookers. You want to know something amazing? They didn't even blink when I asked. My only wish is that I'd had more outlets and slow-cookers, so I could've gotten the baked beans going that morning, too!
This recipe is particularly fabulous, because it calls for simple ingredients and an easy mustard sauce that you pour over the meat. The only thing I did differently was that I pulled the meat out of the juices to shred, which was wise, because we ended up having two gallons of juices!
The worst part about the party was that I ended up making way too much, but the good news is that I think it's delicious, which is fortunate as I still have about a gallon of it to eat or freeze. I already know that my next search on MyRecipes.com will be what to do with leftover pulled pork!
The next time you're party planning, don't forget about your slow-cooker. It's easy to use and, if you have to, you can save clean up for later by simply stowing the entire thing in a spare closet, bathtub, or laundry room. "Why, yes! My counters ARE always this clean!" you can say as you pick an imaginary piece of lint off your cashmere sweater.