Darn you, lean pork!
I purchased a 4lb pork shoulder from one of my usual sources and it seemed reasonably well marbled with a tidy little fat cap. This morning, I gave it a good rub with S&P, oregano, and thyme, then set it gently into my oven at 225-235 (my oven fluctuates a bit this low).
I started peeking in at about 4 hours, but let it keep cooking until my tongs could pull some nice loose pieces off with a minimum of pressure (about 7 hours).
Sounds good, right?
Now that it's rested about an hour, i went to sneak a pinch to gnaw on while I contemplate the rest of dinner, and the pinch 1 inch from my tong test is DRY, HARD, and dare I say It, BURNT! Boo to lean pork! Bring back my fat!
Boy, it's a harsh, cold world if we're gonna have to start larding our pork shoulders! I've had my best luck browning the meat in added fat (LARD!!) in my heavy casserole, then I throw in onion and a bit of bouillon or wine and put the lid on, then a long sojourn in a slow oven. If you poke around in the meat when it's at room temperature (which it should be before you start anyway) you can pretty much tell if there are many fat pockets layered between the muscle groups and how well-filled they are. If the shoulder tests out lean under such an exam, I would not be above inserting slabs of bacon fat, or you could cut slices of half-frozen lard. After halfway dismantling it like this you'll want to tie it back up - PITA, I know, but what price porkiness?
Personally I think the roast was cooked too long. It continues to cook after being removed from the oven..... Did you put it into the roasting pan with that fat cap on top? I would have used a little EVOO for the moisture. We buy lean all natural pork from a local farm and I just roast it at 350 for 20 minutes a lb. OR - throw it into the slow cooker.... there's where you'll get the juicy stuff you crave.
A properly FAT pork shoulder is all but impossible to overcook. When the LA Times kitchen was testing their porchetta recipe, they pulled most of their shoulders out after from six to eight hours, but by way of experiment left one in for twelve. It looked much like what lunchbox described, but was perfectly succulent and delicious. Lean pork is in my eyes an essential denial of what pigs are about; anyone is perfectly free to disagree with that, but we were after all describing (and trying to correct) a problem with a piece of meat that was EXPECTED to be fat, and found to be not so.
My opinion why the roast turned out dry is a combination of a slightly high temperature, slightly too long in the oven and a piece of meat that was only four pounds. Combining all three factors together is culprit.
My thoughts are the meat should have been pulled sooner at about 5 hours and not 7. The Op is assuming the temperature is between 225-235*, but it is possible the oven was even hotter.....whenever I cook a pork shoulder roast my oven is set at 225* and over cooking has never occurred.....with a smaller 4 pound roast, I usually cook for 6 hours....and a larger 12-14 pound roast stays in the oven for a minimum 11 hours and sometimes as many as 14 hours total....this is all done without the use of a thermometer, but by simply pulling off a piece of meat to get the right feel to know when it's done........perfectly.
I think that the one cut of modern pork which retains adequate fat is belly. In fact trad. pork belly just has too much for me.
I posted this elsewhere a couple of days ago and it may be a little off subject, but, crackling aside, the meat is beautifully moist and soft:
Have I finally cracked crackling?
I've struggled for years with unreliable results, but this really, really does work:
Pre-heat oven to gas 6/200C/400F.
For four people take a 1-1.5kg (say 2 1/2 ibs) piece of boneless, skin on, belly pork. This will be about 10 inches square and 1 to 2 inches thick. Score the skin with a very sharp knife at about 1/2 inch spaces. Now cut the meat across and across again into 4 equal squares of one portion (so no carving!). Place meat, spaced a little, skin side up in a roasting tin and scatter chopped onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf, garlic etc around meat. Pour round boiling water to come about half way up the meat and stick it in the oven for 2 1/2 hours. Top up hot water if needed. Serve. No resting required. Actually this works fine with plain water, no veggies.
This was given to me by someone who said they had read it recently, so sorry if I've stolen it.
I just needed to vent on that long-past October day-
And you're all right!
I did indeed pull what I could, then chopped the rest into big hunks for some one-on-one braising.
I should have tried with a bigger shoulder, but I am but one man and 8 pounds of pork, no matter how delicious, would surely kill me!
I could not agree more with CPla- I love to braise pork, especially Belly (thank you, Robin Joy)- I have been known to buy an 8 pound belly, make chicharonnes with 1/4, braise 1/4, slow roast 1/4, and confit the last 1/4...
it's about time I do it again!
Had a similar experience with ribs last year. I have a tried-and-true baby back recipe - dry rub, slow smoke for 4 - 5 hours at about 250°, then baste with my homemade sauce. Never fails, perfectly tender ribs - as long as I use standard supermarket ribs. Did it once for a special dinner party using Niman Ranch baby backs from Whole Foods. Followed the same procedure to the letter, and ended up with hard, dried-out, utterly inedible uselessness. And to add insult to injury, they cost nearly twice as much as the supermarket ones.
Had to make an emergency run to the local BBQ joint for a few racks of their mediocre ribs so as not to starve our dinner guests. Never again!