HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Cooking with Pork Shoulders?

  • b


I was at the butcher recently and they were having a special on "Pork Shoulders" - these huge chunks of Pork that were practically the size of roast chickens. My question is how to cook these things? I was thinking of buying one and cutting it up and cooking those smaller pieces? But I am not sure what meats come from the pork shoulder- as in, do they get pork tenderloins from them? Or meat for bacon? Or ground pork? Or a ham? Am I making sense? Like with a cow- the meat from the shoulder is different from the meat from the middle torso area...and so on. If anyone has any recipes, hints or tips on what to do with Pork Shoulders, I'd appreciate it greatly. Thank you,


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Shoulder or shoulder butt?

    Shoulder butt is rather fatty. I have seen it sliced up into steaks for grilling. The extra fat keeps them from getting dry and tough.

    Shoulder is not quite as fatty, and a bit tougher, but I find that pork, with the right cooking, is rarely tough.

    No, tenderloin does not come from this cut. To my knowledge, it's sold as is.

    Both shoulder and shoulder butt are great cut into chunks and used in stews. I trim off the larger chunks of pure fat before cutting into pieces, but you could choose to skim later.

    Both are also great roasted--low and slow. The extra fat keeps the meat juicy.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Colleen

      Its my understanding that the term butt comes from the barrels they used to ship the shoulders in. That the meat is just labeled two different ways.

      1. re: Becca Porter

        There are (1) whole shoulder, consisting of both the butt portion and the "shoulder;" (2) the butt, or upper shoulder portion; and (3)the shoulder, or lower shoulder portion.

        The term doesn't come from the shipping containers, but from the expression meaning the large end of something.

    2. Braise the shoulder is the first thing that comes to mind. Depending on the choice of spices, you can have great taco/burrito meat, or great pulled pork sandwiches, or great sugo for spaghetti, etc.

      Try to cook at least a day ahead as the shoulder is fatty and the extra day allows you to refrigerate the dish and lift off the cold fat.

      I also use shoulder to make sausages as the fat/meat ratio is almost perfect. Which also means that ground shoulder will make a terrific meat loaf or pate.

      1. A pork shoulder is the hog's shoulder or front legs. Ham is the hog's rear legs. A tenderloin in located along the hog's side. Bacon is the pork belly.

        Pork shoulders are usually pretty cheap at the supermarkets and can be cut up in several ways.

        First, I like to debone the roast. This involves renoving the shoulder blade which is the only bone. Then I cut the meat into either steaks, or I tie the meat into a roast. Sometimes, I dice the meat to make a pork stew - maybe chile verde or my favorite, posole - pork and hominy stew.

        Other than the hassle of the bone, I like the meat as it has sufficient fat to have some flavor and sufficient lean.

        1. Had the same quandry recently when my "pork share" from community sponsored agriculture had a huge shoulder. My boyfriend did extensive research, and came up with braising as the ideal technique. He braised it very, very, slowly (as in all night and most of the next day) in apple cider with sliced onions and it was melt in the mouth succulent.

          1. I cook pork shoulders frequently. Around here they usually sell for about 60-90 cents/lb. so it is a very economical cut of meat. But the meat is naturally quite tough and requires cooking for a long time to make it tender. What I do is to first trim off the entire thick layer of skin and outside fat. Next I place it in a pan with about 1/4" of oil to brown the outside surface. Then I put it in a large crock pot with no liquid added and let it slowly cook until most of the fat has cooked away and the meat is very tender. At the low heat setting this can take up to 11 hours for a 7-8 lb. shoulder. Remove it from the crock pot and let it stand for 30-40 minutes and then separate the lean meat from the bone and gristle. It will yield several lbs. of tender and juicy chunks pork that you can serve as roast pork or many other ways. The liquid remaining after cooking also makes good pork gravy. I often put some of the pork cooked this way into a baking dish, pour bbq sauce over it and pop it in the oven for about 20 minutes.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Sam D.
              Steve Drucker


              Not to change this thread, but now I understand why your Las Vegas suggestions, although rare, have always been spot-on.

              To get back on track: I'm surprised that no one has mentioned that shredded bbq pork (with or without sauce) always starts with pork shoulder.

              1. re: Steve Drucker

                Thanks for the encouraging words, Steve.

            2. I have 2 recipes and have used both with delicious results: For 4 lb pork shoulder at room temp - Chez P (Berk)recipe says roast 2 hrs @400*; Michael C (Napa) says 6-8 hrs @275* - both use a dry rub beforehand. Also, if skin is attached, stab with ice pick all over after 15-30 mins in oven, then at least one more time. Enjoy!

              1. Pork shoulder rocks! Cheap and flavorful. My two favorite ways to cook it are:

                1) Slow-cooked in a crockpot (Rick Rodgers's "Ready and Waiting" slow-cooker cookbook contains a great recipe for a North Carolina-style "barbecue" pulled pork)

                2) Puerco (cochinita) pibil. Pork shoulder marinated in achiote paste and citrus juices, and baked at 325 degrees for approximately 4 hours wrapped in banana leaves (Rick Bayless has a good recipe in his "Mexico: One Plate at a Time" book).

                1. If you're talking about a skin-on and bone-in pork shoulder, you should try a slow roast. Brine it overnight in a solution of equal parts kosher salt and sugar (a cup each of salt and sugar to a gallon of water) in however much water it takes to cover the meat. Preheat your oven to 350. Then drain, rinse and pat the pork shoulder dry. Put the shoulder on a rack in a roasting pan (line it with heavy-duty foil first). Pierce the skin all over with the tip of a sharp knife but avoid piercing the meat. Roast for 5 to 6 hours, until the skin is browned and crisp and a meat thermometer registers an internal temperature of 160. However, if you want the meat to be fall-off-the-bone tender, reduce the oven heat to 300 after the 5th hour of roasting and let it keep going another 2 or 3 hours. Let the meat rest about 20 minutes before carving.

                  1. I cook pork shoulder quite frequently (because as many people have mentioned it is usually quite cheap).

                    I like a dry rub of paprika, pepper, salt, thyme, garlic powder, clove, allspice.

                    Also, try porcetta. stuff fennel, rosemary, salt and garlic into the crevasses of the meat. Let it sit over night and then bake it. If your roast came with skin - do not remove it. It will turn crisp and tasty - like chicken skin but better.

                    In general this cut is hardy and will not dry out no matter how long it's baked.

                    good luck.


                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Boris

                      Cheating a bit on the porketta, I have successfully used the spice combo at the link and cooked the meat slowly as all have advised.

                      Link: http://www.vecchiseasoning.com/Italia...

                      1. re: Tom Hall

                        I don't think porketta is what I refered to in my post as porcetta (in Rome you can get a slice in some corver pizza shops) and porketta seems (based on my quick google search) to be a (midwestern) dish similar but different - perhaps spicier and containing paprika or some other red powdery spice (based on pictures of Porketta spice mixes found on the web).

                        Anyway - I still recommmend my porcetta recipe and would claim that no cheating was involved - especially after you taste it.

                    2. In my humble opinion, I would rather have a baked or spit-barbeques shoulder than a tenderloin roast. I think they are more juicy and flavorful than any other part of the "other white meat". I read alot of the recipes posted here and will try many of them I have not tried before. They all sound good. In other words, cook the whole thing!

                      1. I agree with the posters who suggest you put your pork in a crock pot. I dump in some mojo marinade, Cuban style, then for the last twenty minutes or so put in some slices of spanish onion to steam through slightly on top of the meat. The leftovers, if any, get pulled and mixed with BBQ sauce for pulled pork sandwiches.

                        1. I actually cooked one yesterday. Inspired by an old chowhound post, I took off the skin then threw the 5 # shoulder in the crockpot with 1/2 cup each of soy sauce and shaoxing rice wine, 4 star anise, and shredded onion and red cabbage, for a sort of red-cooked effect. Cooked it for about 6 hours.

                          It turned out v. tasty--the cabbage was wonderful. If I do it again, I'll probably cut the soy sauce/wine in half----the pork and the cabbage both added plenty of liquid to the pot.

                          I was thinking later that cooking the pork in some gin and water might be interesting . . . .

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Wisco

                            Chinese red cooked is IMO the best way to cook a pork shoulder. Absolutely fantastic result. Your recipe sounds good, and in fact it surely is a Chinese red-cooked pork recipe even tho you didn't explicitly say so.

                          2. t
                            Tom from Durham

                            make up a marinade/rub of minced garlic, red wine vinegar, Kosher salt, and Mexican oregano. Rub it all over the shoulder--if the skin is still on the shoulder (shoulders come a variety of ways--a picnic shoulder usually has the skin still on it, while a Boston Butt or shoulder roast often has the skin removed), cut slits beneath the skin and meat and shove the mixture in there. Wrap the shoulder and let it sit for a day.

                            The next day, roast the shoulder slow, at 300 degrees. When it's cooked through (2 to 3 hours, probably, depending on its size), remove the shoulder to a carving area. While the shoulder rests, put the roasting pan on the stove. Add some more red wine vinegar and some stock of your choosing--I often use chicken stock. Turn on some burners so you can reduce and deglaze the roasting pan. Slice the roast, cover with sauce, serve with yellow rice, black beans, and sweet fried plantains.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Tom from Durham

                              Sounds great, Tom, but what's "yellow rice?"

                              I know what saffron rice is.

                              1. re: Colleen
                                Tom from Durham

                                It's white rice with a spice mixture that turns it yellow. Saffron can be used, but anatto is more commonly used, as it is cheaper. It is sold prepackaged, spices already mixed in; most grocery stores carry it. Mahatma makes it, so does Goya, so do other companies, I'm sure. You could make it from scratch pretty easily, too, but the prepackaged stuff is good, so I usually use that--just pop it in a rice cooker and forget about it. Allows me to attend to all the other things going on in the kitchen.

                                1. re: Tom from Durham

                                  Thanks muchly. I'll look for the spice mix.

                            2. t
                              Tom from Durham

                              Another idea: I recently made the recipe linked below. It was really good!

                              Link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

                              1. You will see these large Pork Roasts on sale for as little as 99 cents a pound at Safeway. I have adapted a recipe that I got from a Mario Batali. He slits the roast and inserts slivers of garlic. You can't reall overdo the garlic part of this equation. 6-8 lb. Pork Shoulder (if it is bone out you might want to tie it up to even up the cooking)
                                Rub Olive Oil, whole Fennel Seeds, chopped fresh Rosemary and some kosher salt and fresh ground pepper and let this beast sit for a day. Set your oven to 250 degrees and cook the roast until the internal temperature is 150. Turn off the oven and let the roast sit and cool. One and a half hours before you are going to eat, turn the oven up to 350 and bring up the temperature to 160. Pull the roast and let it rest for 15 minutes. This is the most amazingly fragrant and tender roast. The leftovers are great for Porchetta Romana Sandwiches.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Norm Schoen

                                  Shoulder is considered a tougher cut of meat that is usually used for braising.

                                2. If you have a smoker, or know someone who does, that's the absolute best way to cook a pork shoulder. It's divine.

                                  Low and slow cooking is the way to go, regardless of method.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: romansperson

                                    I scored an old water-pan charcoal smoker/grill from a local Goodwill store - had to improvise the missing base, which I did by simply using one of those cheap steel fire pits and some bricks. Of course the first thing I had to try was a big chunk of shoulder butt, and man! was that good. It didn't get it quite up to the 190ยบ I wanted before I ran out of time (and my guests were howling with hunger), but that was something correctable. With a more aggressive use of smoking chips I think I can achieve a fair semblance of real barbecue - of course it won't REALLY be barbecue, but we have a bunch of SoCal locals coming over to eat pork sandwiches and watch "Nashville," and for them I bet it'll do just fine.

                                    1. re: Will Owen

                                      Sounds like real barbecue to me. Much more so than crockpot, oven, or stockpot cooked "barbecue". Careful with the aggressive use of chips. Try to find chunks and don't worry about soaking, the water will not penetrate. I have experimented. The other thing is to make sure you leave the top vents open as much as possible, you want the exhaust to freely exit the cooker.

                                  2. Pork shoulder is probably my favorite meat to cook, so inexpensive, as you note, and incredibly delicious, hearty and flavorful and really easy and foolproof to cook- I always braise it and have never been disappointed. One of my favorite recipes is here:


                                    1. And the chow ingredients page for pork shoulder: