Pulled/slow-roasted pork for a complete novice
So following all the great suggestions on my "Help me organise a BBQ" thread, I've decided to give pulled pork a go. I don't think a party is the right time to try doing it on the grill, so I'm going to cook it in the oven. I have purchased a hefty piece (4kg) of pork shoulder on the bone which is sitting in my fridge.
I have many questions.
1. Should I leave the skin on? The butcher has scored it for me and said I should definitely leave it on. But then how will the rub penetrate the meat?
2. I plan to roast it at 110-120 celsius (250F). Should I cover it, or will that prevent it from getting the lovely crust that I've read so much about? Also, I have a fan-assisted oven - should I lower the temperature a little bit to compensate (as is usual)?
3. Can I slow-cook it overnight? The party is on Saturday afternoon and I'm worried that even if I put it in the oven first thing in the morning it will not be cooked until the evening. That's not necessarily a huge problem as people are arriving from 3pm and will probably stay until late. But the butcher said that some people roast shoulder at very low temperatures for 24 hours, so cooking overnight would seem to make sense. Bearing in mind that it's getting on for 10 pounds of meat.
4. Am I right in thinking that the meat will "pull" at 190-200F?
Any other tips/advice gratefully received. I would like to try proper BBQ pork on my Weber, but I think I'll wait for a less pressurised occasion that Mr GG's birthday!
This is a recipe for brined bone-in/skin-on roast pork shoulder that I have prepared at least a dozen times since 2000. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Plenty of succulent meat and lots of ultra-crisp skin. We serve it in slices for the first go-round, then chop up the leftovers and mix with barbecue sauce to serve on burger buns. As a happy coincidence, I usually make the old chili sauce/grape jelly sweet-and-sour meatballs as part of the buffet when I'm roasting one of these pork shoulders, so we use the excess sauce from the meatballs to mix with the chopped pork for that second serving. It works really well.
Serves 10-12. Don’t forget to brine the pork the night before you plan to cook it.
4 cups kosher salt
4 cups sugar
1 8-10 lb. skin-on, bone-in pork shoulder
TO BRINE: Pour 4 gallons cold water into a large stockpot or plastic bucket. Add salt and sugar and stir until dissolved. Place pork in brine and set aside in a cool place to soak for 8-12 hours. Drain, rinse, then pat dry with paper towels.
Preheat oven to 350°. Place pork on a rack set in a roasting pan. [ADVICE: line the roaster with non-stick foil before putting the roasting rack in. And a non-stick roasting rack is a good idea.] Pierce the skin (avoid piercing the meat) all over with the tip of a sharp knife. Roast the pork until the skin is browned and crisp and the internal temperature reaches 160° - about 5 to 6 hours. NOTE: For fall-off-the-bone tender meat, reduce the oven temperature to 300° after 5 hours and continue roasting for another 2 to 3 hours. Allow pork roast to rest 20 minutes before carving.
a 3:00 pm party start poses an interesting question about the cooking start. i am not a real fan of overnight cooking since i like pulled pork cooked open, then covered. unless i wanted to get up very early, i'd probably cook the whole thing the day before. you won't lose flavor and the whole thing will seem more relaxed. on party day reheat and go.
i understand hesitancy about grill cooking/smoking a shoulder for party food the first time out. i encourage you to consider a safe fudge proposed by cooks illustrated. start the pork in a disposable roaster over a 275 indirect fire on the weber--using wood chips/chunks for smoke. put the lid vents over the meat, not the fire. you can likely maintain this level of heat for 3 hrs if you add a bit of charcoal every hour. the meat won't be cooked but it will be smokey. wrap the meat pan and all in foil. bring it inside and pop it into an oven. now you can relax. cooks says 325 for 2 more hrs. i'd go a little longer a little lower--but if you're cooking the day before, you can stay relaxed and simply test the meat for fork tenderness. it won't get away from you. i very much like cook's notion of letting the still-wrapped, fork tender roast (and pan) rest in a crimped brown paper bag for an additional hour. it'll move from fork tender to "very pullable" during this time--plus you get the routine advantages of resting meat.
any rub should sit on the meat at least 3 hrs--though you can extend this to a couple of days if you want more zip. meat should be room temp when you start to cook. notice that if you really want to do the whole thing inside, you could adapt this process by cooking the meat open in the oven for 3 hrs and then wrap it up. i'd likely cut off the skin, but regard this as a personal preference. eating crispy pork skin sets off a remote alarm in my doctor's office.
you'll have a good bit of meat, so consider offering the pork with more than one kind of sauce.
As you can see, there are as many different ways to slow-roast pork as there are people cooking it! Your pork will definitely cook just fine however you treat it. Leave the skin on if you like skin... when the pork is done the skin will be easy to remove and taste rather yummy. The flavours get into the meat from the juices that come out of it. Put the pork into a deep casserole with about a cup of liquid of some kind (water or citrus juice work well) and cover it over and slow-roast it for about two hours. Then turn it over and cover it again and give it an other hour or so. THEN take the cover off it and put it back for however long you need to cook it to finish it's falling apart... time and temperature are not essential - it's done when the fork can easily shred the meat from the bone and it's starting to fall apart by itself.
The last pork shoulder I pulled was 4 pounds so it was only half the size of yours... I roasted it at 300F covered for two hours and then uncovered for two hours and it came out magnificently.
I often cook/roast pork shoulder/butt and an fresh hams throughout the year both indoors and out. Indoors I like to roast them slow @ 225* for 10-12 hours, or as needed. Specifically for your needs, I would give yourself a two hour cushion to be safe and cook the pork overnight. If the party was in the evening, I would place the roast in the oven in the morning, but since yours is an afternoon party, I would suggest you put the roast in the oven before you go to bed or around midnight......Bear in mind I make these suggestions with you also dropping the temperature down to 225* from your intended 250*. I have never had a roast need more than 11-12 hours to complete the cooking process and yield excellent results.
Skin on or off .....I leave mine on, but definitely do not cover the roast if you want it to brown and not look grayish in appearance. If you have no plans to eat the skin, then trim it off and you can have more crust or *bark* as i believe it is called by barbecue enthusiasts.
Boneless pork Butt is better than bone in shoulder, but that's for next time.
Cover it. Leave the skin on.
Do Not Roast - that is dry cook. Braise the meat in a moist environment. Place the meat in a relatively close fitting deep pan/casserole dish and fill the dish half way up the side of the meat with liquid - broth, stock, wine, marinade, or all of the above.
Braise at 300F for about 1 hour per pound of meat. Test pull with two forks to see if the meat shreds easily. If not add an additional 30 minutes of cook time and try again.
You need to remove the skin from the shoulder before you cook it. Remove all of the skin, but leave about 1/4 -1/2 inch of the fat. Slather the shoulder with the cheapest mustard you can find and add your rub on top of that. Let that side overnight in the fridge. Bring to room temp before you start to cook, That fat will melt when its cooked.
For the first 1/2 of your cooking time, start it on the grill. Cook over indirect heat using hardwood charcoal and add some maple chunks in there for a nice smokey flavor. If you want to use your oven, start the shoulder in a large pan, fat side up. Cook @ 225-225F for 4-4.1/2 hoursish. Remove from your oven and wrap TWICE in heavy foil. Place back in the over and cook for another 4ish hours our until it has reached 193 degrees. Remove from oven and let it sit for AT LEAST an hour, untouched.
At this point you can eat as is or you can pull the bones out and pull the pork. Add your sauce, i use mustard, honey, crushed red pepper and veggie oil (something else i cant recall). I mix that well and add to the pulled pork and return to the over for an hour @ 225.
1) Leave the skin on. The melting fat will baste the meat and keep it moist. You will get sufficient flavor from the rub when it gets mixed into the pulled meat, but the flavor of smoked pork is what is to be primarily celebrated. Not the rub.
2) Do not cover it. Dry heat will crisp the skin.
3) You can do it overnight, though I would say 24 hours is overkill. I would offer an hour per pound at most.
4) The meat will pull given sufficient time to break down.
Yes, leave the skin on. It will be quite easy to separate it from the meat during the "pull" session.
Yes, cover it. You want the pulled pork to be tender, not crisp. If you want a crisp exterior, cover it for half the cooking time and uncover it for the remainder of the time.
Leave the temperature as the recipe recommends, even for a convection oven. I sometimes cover it uncovered for the first half of the cooking time, then uncover and brown it during the last half of the cycle. But I prefer pulled pork that is fork tender throughout, without crispness. It makes, IMO, a better presentation.
I might cook it overnight to get a jump on the project. If you reach the "done" point before you expect, don't worry. Pulled pork reheats beautifully in the clarified reserved juices from the cooking vessel.
The temperature your recipe dictates as "pull" time may or may not be precisely accurate. If you can put a fork into the end grain of the meat and pull strands of meat apart and away from the meat mass it should be ready to pull.
"Pull" is a term that is frequently misunderstood. It actually refers to the process of removing skin, fat, and other undesirable connective tissue when the meat is cooked and cool enough to handle. The meat fibers are separated in the process of accomplishing that task. That said, I usually use a fork to separate the meat fibers more vigorously once the waste material has been removed.