We are solidly in slow cooker season, and the first thing people usually toss in the slow cooker is normally a pork butt, or something similar, but allow me to present to you the slow cooker pork loin! It cooks up tender and creates a flavorful pan sauce.
I sear the outside, just before putting it in the slow cooker, so you still get the crispy caramelized outside with tender, moist meat. The cooking liquid made from a combination of juice from the pork, honey, and balsamic vinegar can be spooned over the pork just before serving or reduced and thickened to create a sweet and tangy glaze.
WHAT IS PORK LOIN?
It’s important to understand the difference between a pork loin and a pork tenderloin to make this recipe.
Pork loin is fattier and much thicker than the tenderloin. You can find it bone-in or boneless, but I usually choose boneless for this recipe so it’s easier to slice and serve. Pork loins are more flexible and therefore better to slow cook.
A tenderloin is a much leaner and thinner cut of meat that has almost no fat on it. Tenderloins are usually best cooked at high temperatures—on the grill or in a blazing hot cast iron pan.
I do not recommend substituting a pork tenderloin in this recipe.
PORK LOIN IS PERFECT FOR A SLOW COOKER
I prefer to sear the pork loin on high heat, and then finish it in my slow cooker. Searing it gives me beautiful caramelization (and flavor) on the outside while the slow, low heat of the slow cooker yields fully-cooked, rich, and tender meat
It is possible to overcook pork loin in a slow cooker, so this isn’t a set it on high then leave for your 10-hour workday kind of recipe. If it goes for too long it can get chewy and sinewy—not good.
HOW TO MAKE HONEY BALSAMIC GLAZE
You could honestly skip the glaze step if you are short on time. The pork is great sliced right out of the slow cooker with some of the juices spooned on top.
If you have a couple of minutes, pour off some of the reserved cooking juices and bring them to a simmer with some cornstarch and water slurry. It will thicken as it simmers and it’s SO delicious spooned over the sliced pork.
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR MAKING THIS RECIPE A SUCCESS
There are a few steps that are worth nailing to make this recipe work.
- Get a good sear on the pork. It helps deepen the flavor.
- This is not a slow cooker recipe to make before work and return to 8 to 10 hours later.
- Most slow cookers have a low and high heat. I prefer cooking this on high heat for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Ultimately, it’s done when the pork reaches around 140˚F. After that, you can keep it warm in the slow cooker until serving but try not to overcook the pork as it can dry out.
- The glaze helps keep the pork juicy if you do happen to overcook slightly. It’ll still be delicious if you slice it thin and serve it with the glaze.
MORE FLAVOR COMBOS FOR PORK LOIN
I picked one of my favorite flavor combos (honey and balsamic), but there’s a wide range of seasonings you could use as a base for this. Here are a few ideas:
- Chipotle peppers and honey
- Ginger, garlic, and soy sauce
- Apple cider vinegar and brown sugar
WHAT TO SERVE WITH PORK LOIN
I like to serve this with a starch and a veggie. Some sort of rice or mashed potato is nice to serve the pork on and a veggie on the side. Roasted cauliflower, steamed broccoli, or pan-seared asparagus are nice options.
TIPS FOR USING UP LEFTOVERS
You probably will have leftovers for this pork unless you are feeding a crowd. It stores best as a whole loin rather than sliced. It reheats beautifully though and you can use it in a bunch of ways.
Pork loin stores well in the fridge for up to five days and reheats well in a 350˚F oven until the pork loin is heated through, about 15 minutes. You can also reheat individual slices in a microwave in 30-second bursts, but the pork loin will dry out slightly in the microwave.
I like leftover pork loin sliced thinly on lunch sandwiches or in wraps or even a thin slice on a breakfast sandwich!