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Totally killer slow-roasted pork shoulder

So I finally had a reason to use the absurdly large pork shoulder I bought about a month ago. It was about 20 lbs - a full shoulder - at about $1 a lb. I couldn't resist.

Anyway. Party weekend. On Thursday night I trimmed off all the skin, leaving a thin layer of fat on the surface. Rubbed it generously (and I mean generously) with a dry rub (recipe in Bittman's How to Cook Everything - I think it's called somebody-or-other's rib rub), put it in the roasting pan, covered with plastic and refrigerated overnight. In the morning, I stuck it in the oven at 250o F and let it cook for about 10 hours. It may have gone a little longer - maybe 12 hours. Anyway, Friday night I served it hacked into chunks (it was falling apart tender) with the pan juices (skimmed of fat) and some side dishes. Unbelievably good.

After dinner, I took all the rest of it (we'd barely made a dent) and pulled it into shreds, removing as much visible fat as I could find. Refrigerated it. Saturday evening, the shreds were mixed with all the rest of the pan juices and some of a bottle of BBQ sauce (not tons - just enough for some flavour), Reheated in the crock pot until ready to eat (late in the evening) - I have to tell you people were going crazy. Served it on small buns with miscellaneous pickly, relishy things to put on it.

This is just about the biggest bang you can get for your buck. Almost no work, really, and insanely good. I had friends begging for the recipe.

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  1. Oh yes! Lately, pork shoulder has been my go to meal that my whole family will eat and it is so simple. Thanks for sharing your method, love trying new ways of preparing.

    1 Reply
    1. re: chocolate chick

      I do this a lot too - I've perfected the pulled pork though, by adding some vinegar (usually cider) in with the BBQ sauce. Gives it a deeper flavor. I'm not from NC either.

      1. Another reason to love pork. The only problem I believe you encountered is you over-paid for the meat. Full Shoulder Picnic and Leg cuts regularly go on sale for .59-.69/lb at my area supermarkets here in New Jersey.

        The only question I have is, what did you do with the bones?

        10 Replies
        1. re: fourunder

          A whole pork shoulder for 59-69/lb? Wow!!! What is the name of that store?????

          1. re: Uncle Bob

            Uncle Bob,

            Shop Rite Supermarkets. The three locations I shop at are:
            Rochelle Park on Passaic Street
            Hackensack on River Street and
            Paramus on State Highway #4 Eastbound

            All stores routinely run Manager's or In-Store specials and sales are not always advertised. You can go online I believe for a weekly flyer. The Manager's specials are not always items that are approaching a sale end date either. When the pork is not on sale, it's usually sold for $1.29-1.49.....still a good value. Half portions are always higher.

            I prefer the Paramus location for best. They also run Pork Loin Roasts, 4-6 ribs for $1.49 or less. When they are .99 cents. I usually gobble up three or four......I prefer the smaller ones for portion size. Simply cut in half and I have some great pork chops double/triple cut. When I do the roast, I slice the meat partially off the bones and re-tie the roast together.....that way I have a cheap spare/back rib portion as well.

            BTW.....the 59/69 special is at least once a month.

          2. re: fourunder

            You know, I was actually surprised at what a small amount of bones were in that gigantic thing. After the meat was removed, there was only a sort of scapula-shaped bit and something more arm-bony. Since it was so cooked to death, the meat just literally slid off and it was like one of those medical skeletons - not a scrap of anything left on it. Threw it out. I'm not allowed to give cooked bones to my dog.

            1. re: Nyleve


              Remember this word........Soup.....next time, add the bones and cartilage...even a little fat is acceptable and make a stock for soup or future soup. Never waste a good thing. I always find roasted bones from pork or chicken makes the stock seem a little more rich and flavorful.

              1. re: fourunder

                Oh I know - but honestly, there was absolutely nothing left on the bones. There was almost no discernable cartilage, the fat was really fatty. I always save stuff like that for soup. But thanks for the reminder.

            2. re: fourunder

              I don't know where your shopping, but I go right to the Restaurant Wholesale Supply House. The best I can do is $1.16/pound. Are you sure your buying Pork? Not Goat!!!!!!! Gutpyle!

              1. re: Gutpyle

                First, you make an observation on the prices I quoted from over 2 1/2 years ago...and you can't understand ShopRite?

                I was there again last night @ ShopRite and the pork shoulder was $1.19/b. Around these parts pardner, The Restaurant Depot sells twin packs of pork shoulder for .89-.99/lb day in and day out. You need to find a better wholesaler.

                  1. re: Gutpyle

                    I stock up when it goes on sale locally at the Ranch Market at 68 cents a pound.

                1. I love that rub recipe in Bittman's book; I use it on ribs all the time; it's a definate keeper.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: DGresh

                    I usually make that stuff up by the double or triple batch and keep it in a large shaker. Phenomenal on ribs. I use smoked paprika instead of plain.

                    1. re: Nyleve

                      smoked paprika is the best---it just gives everything a unique zing and leaves people wondering what your secret is...

                  2. do you mind posting the rub recipe?? i have a pork roast langishing in the freezer...

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: asiansensation007

                      Gladly -

                      Just mix together:
                      1 tbsp. salt
                      2 tbsp. sugar
                      1 tbsp. ground cumin
                      1 tbsp. black pepper
                      1 tbsp. chili powder (I use cayenne or ground chilies)
                      2 tbsp. paprika (I use smoked)

                      This is a double recipe from the original, but I always keep some around to sprinkle on stuff. I've even used it on salmon fillets that were either baked or pan seared.

                      1. re: Nyleve

                        Is that 1 tbsp. salt (no quantity in the original post was given)?


                        1. re: velvet jones

                          Oops - sorry. I edited it to fix.

                        2. re: Nyleve

                          SUGAR? in a rub. Is that normal?

                          1. re: marcharry

                            A great deal of BBQ rubs have sugar in it. Usually brown sugar.

                            1. re: marcharry

                              I think it helps offset the spiciness and adds to caramelization. All I can say is that it's delicious.

                        3. Isn't roasted pork shoulder the best? I just did a half I had in my freezer yesterday after reading recipes for it in the blog earlier this week. Gave me cravings. I also found in my freezer some adobo sauce I had made and froze so rubbed the roast down Saturday, into the oven Sunday morning on 250 until we were doing our housework and yardwork. It smelled so good! I thawed out some pinto beans (mexican style) I had also frozen, chopped up white onion with cilantro and a little pineapple, made some fresh corn tortillas. Dinner! yum!!! I also find the pork refreezes well after it has been cooked and shredded. If it seems I freeze a lot, I do! I work long hours during the week so cook on the weekends and love having things I can pull out and heat up. Ok, time to go start cooking for the week!

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: jodymaryk

                            I happened to catch Lidia's Italy on Create and saw this episode where she braised a pork shoulder and it looked very tasty.


                            1. re: fourunder

                              I caught that episode - the braised pork looked fantastic.

                              I love her show!

                              1. re: fourunder

                                I made that recipe about a month ago. The whole house smelled amazing the whole time it was cooking. The pork was fantastic, and the sauce it made was delicious as well. I actually still have a large container of the sauce in the freezer, because it makes a TON.

                                The only change I'd make next time, is to bake the pork in a dutch oven, rather than do it on the stove. I had a lot of trouble keeping the onions from burning a little at the bottom of the pot.

                              2. re: jodymaryk

                                If you see you are going to feeze some for a later date...don't "pull" it. Leave it in a chunk and pull/shred when you thaw. Less surface exposed to the feezer...It's a good thing.


                              3. I just visited my sister and she did something similar for a party but instead of rub she put a whole lot of big green chilis (halved and deseeded), halved onions and whole garlic cloves on top of and around the pork (after salting and peppering it). It smelled fantastic in the oven for about 18 hours. Then discard the veggies, shred the pork and serve it on fresh tortillas with a million different garnishes, Spanish rice and cowboy beans. Fantastic!! (Agreed, very small amount of bone in all that meat.)

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: GretchenS

                                  That sounds soooo good! Going to have to try it!

                                  1. re: GretchenS

                                    I misplaced my Cowboy Beans recipe many years ago -- do you think your sister would share hers?

                                    1. re: Sarah

                                      Actually, a cousin brought the beans but I'll be glad to ask her for the recipe and post it if/when I get it.

                                  2. I love doing this but using a Caroline style, vinegar pulled pork:


                                    1. Thanks for this timely recipe with the Bittman rub recipe. I just bought three last night and put them in the freezer - Here in AZ pork shoulder is on sale for 68 cents a pound at the Ranch Markets (I don't remember seeing these prices back in Boston!). I was going to use one of my favorite recipes (in "Nigella Bites" - rubbing with a paste made of garlic, ginger, crushed chilis, oil, and rice vinegar, and slow-roasting overnight), but now I'm going to try this one. Jodymaryk - that's a good idea too. You reminded me I have some achiote paste in the freezer.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Rubee

                                        I made Nigella's recipe again this weekend to have roast pork for the week (and for some Vietnamese recipes since her rub is Asian-inspired), and thought I'd take a picture this time. The pork shoulder was about 8 lbs, so I only roasted it for about 7-8 hours. Next time I'll cut down on the 30-minute initial high-heat sear (at 500) for a smaller roast, since it blackened a bit too much.

                                        Recipe link:

                                      2. Next time leave the skin on the pork shoulder and the pork skin will turn into tasty crunchy cracklings.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Norm Man

                                          Norm Man...that's what I was thinking...but I was wondering whether cooking it at 250 degrees would produce that incredibly crackly crust, or whether one would have to crank up the temperature (broiler?) to create it....what's your (or anyones') experience....thanks

                                          1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                            I have seen a lot of recipes that call for starting it out for the first half hr or 45 minutes at 400 and then turning the heat down. This gives the skin a good head start. I know that the looooong roasting is good, but i think it probably only takes about 5 hrs. But then i've never roasted a 20 lb shoulder.

                                            1. re: julseydesign

                                              The only other time I slow-roasted a pork shoulder, I left the skin on. I don't know - it didn't turn out crispy and addictive, but chewy and tough. It was hard, yes, and I didn't love it. Also found that the thick skin didn't allow the spices to really seep into the meat. Anyway, this time I skinned it and it was, for me anyway, much much better.

                                          2. re: Norm Man

                                            Old topic I'm bumping up re discussion of crispy skin on a roast pork shoulder. The skin is chewy, but I found a British recipe that reminded me to score it deeply and rub the seasoning into the cuts. They remove the skin when the pork is removed from the oven, crank the heat up a good ways - maybe 400 by our temps - and return the skin to crisp up into cracklings. I've done that and it works well, but next time I'll break it up into pieces following the scoring before I return it to the oven.

                                          3. I've got half a pork shoulder (the other half is in the freezer already) marinating in 2/3 mojo + 1/3 new chipotle mojo. After a few days, I'll take it out, cross hatch the skin with a box cutter (reserved for this purpose) and roast it in a slow oven. Heaven. You inspired me! :)

                                            1. This year I took my Thanksgiving promotion "freebie" as a pork shoulder instead of a turkey. We were with family for T-day and I already have a turkey in a neighbor's deep freeze. (That reminds me, I should go get that....)

                                              I did a braise version in the Crock Pot -- lots of onions, garlic, some cumin, bay leaves, S&P, and a little orange juice and lemon juice -- I basically took off on a recipe I vaguely remembered from a Cuban food article.I let it go ALL DAY.

                                              It was wonderful. It gave off enough extra juice that the liquid doesn't taste like citrus at all. The first night, we just had pieces "as is" with roasted sweet potatoes. Another night I heated some of the defatted juices with garlic, fresh thyme, and a splash of red wine -- delicious. Then last night it was BBQ pulled pork sandwiches.

                                              Another night it will be "pseudo Carnitas" (I reheat the meat with a little of the pork fat to crisp the outside) served with beans, and garnished with lime, sea salt, and cilantro.

                                              BUT -- any other ideas? This was a BIG piece of meat and we're only 2 adults and 2 kids. Am I missing out on any variations? I can always freeze some and repeat one of these variations later.

                                              I think this roast was still only about .99 a pound at my ShopRite in South Jersey.