The Picnic Roast Two-Step

Every once in a while, I have the opportunity to pick up a picnic roast for under a buck a pound. Whenever I do, I jump on it and get as big a roast as my wallet, freezer, and slow cooker will accommodate. Why? If I can fit it in my slow cooker, I can finish it on my grill and that simple do si do means I can have gloriously tender pulled pork without sacrificing the smokey flavor and delightful crisp bits that emerge from the grill. It just takes a little planning.

First, let's talk a little about meat. Pork can be a little challenging to shop for since it can be labeled many ways in different (or even the same) areas. What I refer to here as a picnic pork roast is also referred to as pork shoulder, shoulder arm picnic, picnic shoulder, and fresh picnic roasts. They are all the same thing. If you find yourself feeling lost about cuts of pork, please refer to one of my favorite guides to pork cuts. Because this cut of pork is high in fat and connective tissue, a long, slow cooking process is necessary to soften that connective tissue and the fat in the roast keeps things moist and flavorful. Dollar for dollar, it's the best way to get amazing flavor without draining your wallet. The giant roast I made recently fed over a dozen people and there were leftovers for days!

The biggest issue with this two-step cooking process is moving a mostly-cooked roast that's, let's face it, heavy. I like using the meat rack because it makes moving it on and off the grill simple and I just let guests pull tender strips of meat from the roast while it just sits on the rack. Also, this stuff is amazing, but also messy. I solve this problem by taking a cue from the name and eating it outdoors! I slice the peppers I've grilled alongside the roast, put out a selection of salsas, and something starchy to have the meat with — everything from taters to tortillas to rice works.

This method gives you perfect smokey grilled pork every time and lets you enjoy warm weather with friends and family alike. So keep your eyes peeled for this affordable cut of pork and get ready to fire up the grill … after you've given it a start in the slow cooker. With amazing food this easy just a couple steps away, you'll want to make sure you get more than one roast because summer's begging for this to happen again and again!

Two-Step Grilled Picnic Roast

  • 1 large picnic pork roast (I used a giant 10 lb. roast that barely fit in my slow cooker, but make sure you use one that's at least 3 lbs.)
  • 1-4 T. dry rub seasoning (choose your favorite variety or make your own)
  • 1/3 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 3-6 whole bell peppers (I used a variety of colors)

The night before you plan to serve your pork, generously rub the roast on all sides with your dry rub seasoning of choice. Let the roast sit with the seasoning while you prepare your slow cooker.

Spray the bottom and sides of your slow cooker with cooking spray and pour the apple cider vinegar into the insert of your slow cooker. Carefully slide the seasoned roast, fatty side down, into the slow cooker. Cover the slow cooker and cook the roast on LOW for 4-6 hours, depending on the size of your roast. If you have a slow cooker that automatically turns to the WARM setting after cooking, it is simplest to just allow the meat to cook and rest overnight. Otherwise, you can complete this step up to 24 hours in advance and refrigerate the roast until ready to grill OR set an alarm and switch your slow cooker to WARM when it goes off.

When you've prepared your grill to cook at a medium-high heat, carefully lift the roast onto a heat-proof meat rack covered with one layer of aluminum foil (I used the one from my turkey roaster). Be careful, as the roast might be quite tender and prone to falling apart at this point. Pour the pan drippings into a bowl and grab a brush to apply them to your roast during grilling.

Carefully place the roast and meat rack directly onto the grill. Brush some of the pan drippings generously over the top of the roast. Repeat the brushing step every 15 or so minutes and check the meat. Add several whole peppers to the grill at the same time and turn them whenever brushing the roast. They might be done before the meat. Simply attempt to pierce them with a fork and when that is easy to do, remove them from the grill and slice them for serving. When your desired level of crust has formed on the meat, carefully remove it from the grill. To serve, use forks to pull the meat off the roast in tender shreds. Serve over rice, on tortillas, or alongside roasted potatoes.

  • Yields: Depends on the size of your roast
  • Preparation Time: 1 day - mostly unattended time required