Whether oven roasted, smoked, braised or cooked in a crock pot, pork shoulder is one of those cuts of meat that just gets better the longer it cooks. Pork shoulder is probably one of the cheapest cuts of meat around but smells so good when it cooks, it will make you want to hang out in the kitchen.
Both a pork shoulder and a pork butt come from the shoulder area. Cuts labeled “pork shoulder” or “picnic shoulder” are from the thinner, triangle-shaped end of the shoulder, whereas the “butt” is from the thicker, fatty end of the shoulder. As such, pork shoulder is better for cooking whole and slicing, whereas pork butt is perfect for making pulled pork and other recipes in which the meat is meant to fall apart. Yet both pork shoulder and pork butt benefit from long, slow cooking and are great cut up and used as stew meat and in chilis.
Pork Shoulder Cuts
How to Cook Pork Shoulder in the Oven
- Let the pork shoulder sit and come to room temperature for half an hour prior to cooking.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C).
- Put the pork on a rack in a roasting pan, so it does not sit in its own juices. Place the pork fat side up so it will baste itself.
- Pierce the pork with a knife in a few different spots. This will allow the juices to spill out and baste the meat.
- Coat the pork with your favorite seasonings, marinade or rub.
- Roast pork for about 3 hours. The skin should be crispy.
- Check the pork with a meat thermometer to determine if it is done cooking. The internal temperature should reach at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius).
- Let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving.
How to Cook Pork Shoulder in a Slow Cooker
- Coat the pork with your favorite seasonings or rub. Let it sit for 30 minutes so the rub sticks to the meat.
- Add other desired ingredients to the crock pot, such as vegetables or herbs for more flavor.
- Place the pork shoulder into the crock pot on top of the other ingredients.
- Cover 1/2 to 3/4 of the pork shoulder with liquids of your choice, such as water, unsweetened apple juice or stock.
- Place the cover on the crock pot and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or until the pork is very tender.
How to Cook Pork Shoulder on the Grill
- Preheat the grill to medium high heat. Use olive oil or nonstick cooking spray on the grill grates to prevent the meat from sticking.
- Pierce the pork shoulder with a knife a few times over the surface.
- Coat the pork with your favorite seasonings, rub or marinade.
- Grill the pork shoulder for approximately 3 hours.
- Check the pork with a meat thermometer to determine if it is done cooking. The internal temperature should reach 160 degrees F (70 degrees C).
- Let the pork shoulder rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving.
Storing Pork Roasts
Sealed, prepacked fresh pork cuts can be kept in the refrigerator 2 to 4 days. If you do plan on keeping the raw, fresh pork longer than 2 to 3 days before cooking it, store it well-wrapped in the freezer. Generally, fresh cuts of pork, like roasts, can be kept in the freezer up to 6 months.
Follow these steps to help keep your pork fresh in the freezer:
- Use one of these freezer wrap materials: specially-coated freezer paper (place the waxed side against the meat); heavy-duty aluminum foil; heavy-duty polyethylene film; heavy-duty plastic bags.
- Cover sharp bones with extra paper so the bones do not pierce the wrapping.
- Wrap the meat tightly, pressing as much air out of the package as possible.
- Label with the name of the pork cut and date.
- Freeze at 0 degrees F or lower.
Family Favorite – Pulled Pork Sandwiches
I use a boneless pork shoulder for this recipe instead of a pork butt (or Boston butt) because it is leaner. For best flavor prep the meat one day ahead.
- 3 tablespoons paprika
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon dry mustard
- 3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
- 1 (5 to 7 pound) boneless pork shoulder or pork butt
Mustard Barbecue Sauce:
- 1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
- 1 cup yellow mustard
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Mix the paprika, garlic powder, brown sugar, dry mustard and salt together in a small bowl. Rub the spice blend all over the pork. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Put the pork in a roasting pan and roast it for about 6 hours. An instant-read thermometer stuck into the thickest part of the pork should register at least 170 degrees F, but basically, what you want to do is to roast it until it falls apart.
While the pork is roasting, make the mustard sauce. Combine the vinegar, mustard, ketchup, brown sugar, garlic, salt, cayenne and black pepper in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer gently, stirring, for 30 minutes until the sauce is thickened slightly. Take it off the heat and let it sit until you’re ready for it.
When the pork is done, take it out of the oven and put it on a large platter. Allow the meat to rest for about 20 minutes. While the pork is still warm, you want to “pull” the meat. Use 2 forks: 1 to steady the meat and the other to “pull” shreds of meat off the roast. Put the shredded pork in a bowl and pour half of the sauce over. Stir well so that the pork is coated with the sauce.
To serve, spoon pulled pork mixture onto the bottom half of a hamburger bun and top with some of the mustard sauce.
Porchetta-Style Roast Pork
Porchetta, or roast suckling pig seasoned with garlic and herbs, is a traditional Italian dish. Here, the flavors of porchetta are used on a roasted pork shoulder. You’ll need to start this dish one day ahead, as the pork has to marinate overnight.
Makes 8 servings
- 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
- 5 1/2- to 6-pound boneless pork shoulder, excess fat trimmed
- 6 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for brushing
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
Stir fennel seeds in small skillet over medium-high heat until slightly darker in color and fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer seeds to a spice mill and cool. Add kosher salt, peppercorns and dried crushed red pepper. Grind to medium-fine consistency (not a powder).
Place pork in 13 x 9 x 2 inch glass baking dish. Rub garlic all over pork, then coat with spice mixture. Loosely cover pork with waxed paper. Refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 450°F. Brush a large rimmed baking pan with oil. Place roast, fat side up, in the center of the baking pan. If any of the spice mixture has fallen off, return it to the meat and drizzle evenly with 2 tablespoons oil. Roast pork 30 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Roast pork until very tender and a thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 190°F, after about 3 hours 15 minutes. Transfer pork to a cutting board but do not clean the baking pan. Let pork rest 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour all pan juices from the baking pan into 2-cup measuring cup. Let sit for a few minutes and spoon off any fat that rises to top. Place reserved baking pan across 2 burners on the stove. Pour wine and broth onto the pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, scraping up any browned bits. Boil until wine mixture is reduced to 3/4 cup, about 4 minutes.
Add degreased pan juices and whisk to blend. Pour pan sauce into small bowl (sauce will be thin). Thinly slice roast and serve with the sauce.
Pork Ragu Over Pappardelle
Slow cooked pork shoulder adds much more flavor to the ragu than using ground pork.
- 2 pounds of boneless pork shoulder
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon peperoncino flakes (crushed red pepper)
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 3 cups (one 28-ounce can) canned Italian plum tomatoes, crushed
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 lb pappardelle (wide) pasta
Trim the fat from the exterior of the pork. Cut it into bite-sized pieces, about 3/4-inch cubes, trimming more fat as you divide the meat. Pat the pieces dry with paper towels.
Pour the olive oil into the big pan, set it over medium heat and add the pork. Spread the pieces in the pan and season with salt. Cook the pork slowly for 15 minutes or so, turning and moving the pieces occasionally as the meat releases its juices and they cook away.
When the pan is dry and the pork starts to sizzle and crackle, clear a spot on the bottom and add in the chopped garlic and peperoncino. Stir them for a minute or so in the pan until the garlic is fragrant and sizzling, then stir and toss with the meat cubes.
Raise the heat a bit, pour in the white wine, stir and bring to a boil. Let the wine bubble until it is nearly evaporated and the pork is sizzling again. Pour in the crushed tomatoes, 1 cup of water and freshly grated nutmeg. Stir well.
Cover the pan, bring to a boil and then adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook for about 1 1/2 hours until the pork is tender and falls apart under gentle pressure and the sauce has thickened. If the liquid is still thin toward the end of the cooking time, set the cover ajar and raise the heat a bit to reduce it rapidly.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Serve ragu over the cooked pappardelle.
Mediterranean Braised Pork Shoulder
- 4 pound boneless pork shoulder, cut in half
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 celery rib, thinly sliced
- 1 carrot, thinly sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 fennel bulb, cut in 1/4″ wedges
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 thin-skinned oranges, cut in eighths
- 1/2 cup Cerignola or Kalamata olives
- 2 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade or low-sodium if using canned)
- Fennel fronds for garnish
Preheat oven to 300° F.
Secure each piece of pork with kitchen twine, so they will stay together while braising. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven. Brown the meat on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove meat from the pan and transfer to a rimmed plate.
Add the fennel wedges, onion, celery, carrot and garlic to the pan and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the chicken broth, oranges, thyme and bay leaf. Return the pork to the pan with add any accumulated juices on the plate.
Bring to a boil. Cover and braise in the oven for 1 hour. Remove the lid and cook the pork for 2 hours longer, turning the meat over and adding the olives after the first hour. The pork should be very tender, if not, cook for another 30 minutes.
Transfer the pork, fennel, oranges, vegetables and olives with a slotted spoon or skimmer to a serving bowl. Remove the string from the pork and tent with foil.
Place the Dutch oven on the stove over medium-high heat. Simmer until the liquid has reduced slightly, about 10 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper seasoning.
Cut the pork into small chunks and spoon the sauce and vegetables over the pork, sprinkle with the fennel fronds. This dish is often served over polenta or couscous.
Southern Style Pork Shoulder Black-Eyed Pea Chili
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika (pimenton)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 5 pounds, fat trimmed pork shoulder cut into 2 inch chunks
- 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 jalapenos, seeded and very finely chopped
- 2 red bell peppers, finely diced
- 1 – 12 ounce bottle ale
- 2 cups low sodium chicken stock
- 2 cups canned whole Italian tomatoes, crushed
- 2 canned chipotles in adobo, seeded and minced
- 1 pound black-eyed peas, picked over and rinsed
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Shredded cheddar and sour cream for serving
In a large bowl, combine the coriander, paprika and cumin and toss with the pork to coat in a large plastic ziplock bag. Season with salt and pepper.
In a large Dutch Oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add 1/3 of the pork and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer the pork to a plate and repeat the process twice with 2 more batches of pork. Transfer all the pork to the plate. Only add more oil, if necessary, to keep pork from sticking to the pot.
Add the onion, garlic, jalapenos and bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.
Return the pork to the pot along with any accumulated juices from the plate. Add the ale, chicken stock, tomatoes, chipotles and black-eyed peas and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over very low heat until the meat and beans are tender, about 2 1/2 hours. Season the chili with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve the chili in bowls with cheddar and sour cream.
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