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Dec 20, 2010 09:19 AM

Advice for making Bo Ssam (Aka Korean pork shoulder)

I am hosting a dinner party for New Years for my family, should be about 5-8 people. I am going to make Momofoku Bo Ssam ( and I am very excited because I've been wanting to make this for at least a year! (ever since I saw a video of the Working Class Foodies making it at home


My two issues that might require some alternations. First is that I couldn't find bone in pork shoulder and had to get bone less. I assume that means I'd lower the cooking time so I don't over cook the pork (which I am going to do anyway since I got a 7 pound shoulder and the recipe calls for an 8-10)

The other issue that my family is coming in from out of town and I am not sure what our schedule is going to be like new year's day. I don't know if we are going to be out and about. I was debating either pre-cook the shoulder in the oven several days in advance or cooking the shoulder in the crock pot instead of the oven (I know shoulder cooks beautifully in a crock pot but I wouldn't be around to baste it) then warming it up and finish of the crispy crust the night of.

Which would be the better option? How many day in advance could I cook the shoulder if I chose that option?

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    1. Well I ended up cooking it days in advance (and it was a good thing too as my mother in law was hospitalized for a minor emergencyand I had to drop everything and run to the hospital)

      Anyway I cooked it the 6 hours in advance and then the day off i made the sauces and cranked the oven up to 500 and cooked the pork with a brown sugar crust. The end result was very very tasty and well received. I look forward to reading your take on making bo ssam.

      1. re: msjess

        I'm so excited to come across your posting since I'm in the same boat--I'm making a bo ssam this week but just cannot roast it right before serving and must cook it at least a day ahead.

        Can you give me specifics on what you did? I was planning on roasting for 5-6 hours, removing from the oven & wrapping the whole pan tightly in foil (to keep the juices in) and popping it in the fridge as soon as it's cool enough. Then, on the day of, reheating at a lower temp (250?) for an hour, then cranking up to 500 for the sugar crust.

        Does that sound about like what worked for you? Any advice is appreciated as I'm cooking for a party & terrified that I'm going to serve dry, unrepresentative pork to people who've never had delicious bo ssam.

    2. I recently had the bo ssam dinner and have been dying to try it at home. Just looked over a few recipes and am reviving this thread to ask a few questions of my own.

      1. Most recipes use a dry cure, but I saw one with a liquid brining solution instead. Any thoughts on which might be better?

      2. I think I remember that Ssam Bar left the skin on to get nice a crispy but the recipes take the skin off. Has anyone tried to leave it on?

      28 Replies
      1. re: twinkienic

        Dry cure is my preference. More work, more hassle with brine.

          1. re: vancouverkim

            Dumb Q. I know, but where is the recipe for the Ssam Sauce?

            1. re: Joebob

              You can find the recipe on the Martha Stewart site (link in the original post). I recommend that you place the ingredients for the ginger scallion sauce in a blender instead of mixing in a bowl. This emulsifies the sauce and gives it a creamier texture.

              1. re: vancouverkim

                I'm planning to make this for a superbowl party and am still trying to find a good answer about the skin. It seems that if the skin can be made light and crisp then it would be good to leave it on, but sometimes when i roast a pork shoulder, the skin is tough, not crispy. Is it safer to take it off?

                Also, do I rinse off the dry rub before cooking. Most people seem to, but none of the recipes I've looked at say to do that?

                1. re: missmasala

                  Made this yesterday. The dry rub was not evident after it had sat (and there wasn't as much juice leached out of the meat as I would have expected) so I just put it in the oven as it was. The skin crisped very nicely (I scored it before cooking, my mom always did that and I'm not sure whether it helped, but it didn't hurt). The final brown sugar coating did NOT melt and caramelize in my oven, it just sat there and developed hideous little burned black blisters -- which set off my smoke alarms, OF COURSE!!! What stuck came off when I started cutting the pork.

                  This is one of the best things I have ever made in my life. With the sauces it was amazing. It is crazy sexy food...

                  1. re: buttertart

                    You know what? I have to do two, anyway. (it's a lot of people) I'm gonna do one skin on and one skin off and see which comes out better.

                    And i'll wing it on rinsing the dry rub as well. Since you left the skin on, did you put the dry rub mainly on the underside. or also rub a lot of it into the skin slits?

                    1. re: buttertart

                      No luck with the brown sugar caramelizing here either, but it was totally unnecessary.

                    2. re: missmasala

                      The shoulder in the oven, roasted but pre-brown sugar...

                      1. re: missmasala

                        My experience was different from both buttertart's and david kaplan's. I still had quite a bit of dry rub on the meat when I removed it from the fridge and I just brushed it off; I didn't rinse it. And I had quite a bit of liquid in the bottom of dish; I put the pork in a different pan to bake it.

                        My brown sugar caramelized exactly as the recipe as printed in the NYTimes said it would, and I wouldn't skip that part. My guests were fighting over the parts of the roast where the caramelized sugar stuck to the meat. And my skin did not crisp; neither the skin on the bottom nor the small amount of skin on top near the bone. I didn't score the skin. Sounds like a good idea and I'm going to make a note to do that next time. Thanks, buttertart.

                        1. re: JoanN

                          so you left the skin on but roasted it skin side down?

                          1. re: missmasala

                            Yes, I did. Perhaps a rookie mistake? This was only the second time I'd cooked a pork shoulder. Should I have put it in the oven with the skin on top? But if I had, I wouldn't have had those wonderful pieces of meat with the caramelized sugar.

                            I posted a photo below of what it looked like out of the oven just before I put on the sugar coating:

                            1. re: JoanN

                              I don't know about mistake, but I've always roasted them skin side up. I guess I assume the skin and fat protect the meat.

                              If I've read people's comments correctly, the general trend seems to be that people who roasted without skin were happy with the brown sugar crust at the end and people with skin were not. If anyone roasted with skin and was happy with their crust/skin, please let me know your technique.

                              I've never had this dish at the restaurant. does anyone know if it comes skin on or skin off when served at momofuku?

                              also, this gets roasted uncovered, right? and would it hurt or help to go a little lower temp and longer?

                              1. re: missmasala

                                As for your last two questions, it definitely gets roasted uncovered. And I don't think my pork would have benefited from longer cooking at lower temp. Mine was fall-apart perfect after six hours @ 300F, basting about once an hour.

                              2. re: JoanN

                                That's very interesting, the skin was dry and crisp and the sugar just sort of lay on top of it. Maybe moistened a bit? Definitely roast with the skin up. The best bits were as glassy and crisp as real Peking duck skin is.
                                I also had it on convection, might have done something abstruse to the caramelization?

                                1. re: buttertart

                                  Forgot to report back about this. Made two of them for the superbowl and basically have realized that this is a foolproof recipe. I'm sure there are better and worse ways of doing this dish, but it's almost impossible to ruin pork shoulder and when it's wrapped up in lettuce with all the other stuff, people are going to love it no matter what. everyone raved about the meal and there was no pork left.
                                  I bought my pork in an asian market and then worked hard to try to get the butcher to score it for me, as my knives at home are two dull for that. He did, but he ended up cutting into the meat on top as well. Then used the dry rub amount for both shoulders instead of doubling it, and even then it seemed like too much. Did rinse the next day, but the rub had pretty much already disappeared. Dried the skin with a blow dryer (found that tip in a Guardian article) and then then roasted. Put the final glaze on, but within 5 minutes one of my shoulders had blackened skin, so pulled it out. The glaze had worked in some places but in others the sugar was still just sitting there. The skin was pretty good and it all tasted great, though. I think if I wanted perfection I would cut the skin off at the end, glaze the meat, and roast the skin separately next to the meat, so that I could have delicious skin and glazed meat all at the same time. Still curious if it comes skin on or off at momofuku.
                                  What else? I did the ginger scallion sauce in the blender and found it overpowering, but it worked with the meat--prob if you use the blender you should adjust the amounts. I didn't find the ssam sauce too vinegary at all, but also I think I bought the wrong things at the korean supermarket. Still, the sauce was spicy and good. Also made some quick-pickled cucumbers with it, which were a big hit.
                                  I usually make an NC-style chopped BBQ meal for the superbowl and I can say that this was a lot less work--in fact, I was amazed at how little hands-on cooking time there was. Partly it's because I bought the kim chee whereas with the BBQ I make the coleslaw and also a lot more sides (potato salad takes more time to make than rice) Next time I think I might steam some mantou and serve those alongside as well. And there will definitely be a next time!

                                  1. re: missmasala

                                    If you like to score the Pig's skin for any pork or ham roasts.....use a razor blade knife, e.g., a box cutter or utility knife. It's sharper and you can set the depth of the cut without fear of reaching the meat....if that's your goal.

                                    1. re: fourunder

                                      Good idea. I used my trusty Kiwi cleaver.

                                      1. re: fourunder

                                        I saw on this thread that someone said to use a utility knife, but i couldn't locate mine, so thought i would make it easier on myself by having butcher do it. and i was worried about him slicing into the meat because recipes always say not to do that, but it was just fine. In the end, what it made me realize is that pork shoulder is impossible to mess up. roast a pork shoulder any which way and serve it with anything and people will eat it up.

                      2. re: twinkienic

                        hey everyone,
                        i made it for the first time this weekend and it was giant hit!
                        i left the skin on and cooked it bone it for about 5.5 hours.
                        my biggest question has to do with the last step.
                        i followed the instructions and slathered on the brown sugar and a little salt and cranked up the oven to 500. I put the pan back in on the lower rack. Unfortunately, instead of the brown sugar candying in a pleasant brown sugary way, it kinda burned in spots in a nasty burny way. Some of the brown sugar didn't even really cook at all. basically, it was either burned or powdery, but not laquery. I'm wondering if more moisture was needed somehow. Should i have basted the rub with some pan juices? not really sure what went wrong... any tips would be greatly appreciated.

                        1. re: schnapp


                          Funny I found this thread as I was going to post something very similar to your experience and I would love to hear others' feedback on this.

                          For starters, I actually left the salt/sugar 'brine' on this and it ended up being the downfall for me. I can double check my book but it didn't say to remove this and a few other blogs and websites that I saw who did this bo ssam dinner were divided on whether or not to remove it, with something saying they left it on and enjoyed it while others said it ended up being too salty for their tastes. The skin was inedible to me, and I also didn't get the nice lacquered crust either (not that it would have made a difference considering the salt).

                          We did the ssamjang and ginger-scallion sauces he recommended and they were extremely potent on their own but when in the bo ssam it strangely seemed to work. The ssamjang recipe, I believe, has an error as many complained it was too vinegary so I upped the ssamjang and gochuang content by about double and still found the sauce too vinegary on it's own. The ginger-scallion on it's own I didn't love but like I said, it did work in conjunction with everything else. Chang says he's put that stuff on everything and a lot of people have called it addictive, but I just don't find two raw veggies like that all that interesting. Finally, we did his Ramen Broth and that also wasn't spectacular. I used all the proper ingredients, the konbu, pork neck bones etc. and just didn't find it to be that great. The company we had by seemed to like everything but my girlfriend and I didn't think anything was that spectacular and worth making again.

                            1. re: erica

                              I actually caught that article but thanks for looking out! I'm sure there are some on this thread that probably didn't catch it.

                            2. re: vchase

                              I found the ginger-scallion sauce much better after it sat a few hours at room temperature. Freshly made, it just a mouthfull of raw scallion. After sitting, it mellows into something smoother and more complex.

                        2. Okay, I'll be the ass that says it. Traditional bo ssam is not pork shoulder. It's usually boiled pork belly. This thread is about Momofuku style Bo Ssam which utilizes pork shoulder created by culinary genius, David Chang. I personally love this version and have even made it myself a few times. I just wouldn't want anyone to get confused or angry if they order it at a Korean restaurant and get presented with what is normally a very humble dish.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: soypower

                            I'm going to echo soypower.

                            This is not traditional bo ssam, and unless a Korean restaurant is trying to copy David Chang you will get boiled (sometimes boiled and grilled) pork belly with some type of leaf (steamed cabbage leaves/whole leaf kimchi/lettuce) to wrap the chunks of belly in.

                            1. re: soypower

                              Bossam is one of my favorite Korean foods...when I had it at Chang's for the first time...boy was I disappointed.

                              The authentic version is commonly served with belly but that's not a requirement...shoulder is not uncommon and makes a perfectly good bossam. Any pork su-yuk will do (boiled pig).

                              The crux of bossam is that it's boiled pork combined with the two ingredients for kimchi - salted cabbage and kimchi filling. Everything else revolves around that.

                              IMO the thing David Chang sells is more of a Korean pulled pork lettuce wrap and really misses the what makes a good bossam. I would never take Chang's bossam over even the most mediocre Korean one.

                              1. re: joonjoon

                                Yeah, Chang's isn't trying to sell his as authentic. He explains its the idea, but using higher quality ingredients. My korean wife also loves traditional bo ssam. Personally its okay, but if I had a piece of pork belly, boiling it is probably the last way i'd treat it, or want to eat it.

                                I always see things I want to change in traditional korean cooking that just makes sense, like seasoning sam gyup sul....but I keep my mouth shut when my mother in law is cooking.

                                1. re: szw

                                  My peeve is that because of Chang people think Bossam is the dish he makes...try searching Chowhound, for example, for bossam and the results are littered with Chang's bossam but scant on the original.

                                  I haven't heard him explain the dish but I don't see how it's a quality issue - it's a pretty significant transformation of the original dish and I'm not sure what quality has to do with it.

                                  The traditional bossam is actually all about the kimchi filling and salted cabbage...the pork just rounds it out. The boiled pork works because it becomes the vessel for accepting the flavor of kimchi.

                                  1. re: szw

                                    I made the momofuku rubbed, roasted, and grilled belly yesterday as well, and it was off the hook.

                                  2. re: joonjoon

                                    Bossam is one of my favorites as well. I think it's the oyster jeot that really makes it for me. That's why it's a bit sad when Chang uses plain oysters for his version. When I make his version, I always make the traditional oyster muchim with kimchi sauce.

                                    1. re: soypower

                                      That's funny, I actually don't think I've had bossam with gul (oyster) jeot. Around these parts the oyster is plain. But that would TOTALLY MAKE THE DISH!! I need to try this ASAP.

                                2. Thinking of making this (as published in the Times) next week for company who will be staying with me while they're here on business. I have a couple of questions for those who have made it. First, one of the couple can't tolerate anything the least bit hot, so the Ssam Sauce, hot sauce, kimchi are all out. Are these condiments essential to the experience, or can the pork stand alone without them? Second, I usually prepare something that will work in sandwiches for the next couple of days so they can have something easy to eat while they're setting up their booth. I assume the meat shreds. Would it make a good sandwich? What kind of condiments might be complementary? Pickled onions? Mustard? Any other ideas?

                                  17 Replies
                                  1. re: JoanN

                                    I think the roast pork stands on it's own. It won't quite be the same taste experience without the spicy condiments, but you can make a sub for the ssam sauce by using plain miso or korean soybean paste (doenjang) instead of the ssamjang and kochujang. You could also consider purchasing some white kimchi at your local Korean market to add the essential pickly flavor to the dish.

                                    I've used the leftover pork the next day for pulled pork sandwiches slathered in bbq sauce, topped with a vinegary cabbage slaw on a nice kaiser roll. I think you'll find the pork quite versatile.

                                    1. re: soypower

                                      Thanks, soypower. Love the idea of the vinegary slaw. Not so sure about the BBQ sauce. Do you recall, was the leftover pork dry? Did it require some kind of sauce?

                                      1. re: JoanN

                                        Though it is served with many condiments, the pork was succulent and delicious. It's not excessively dry the next day, just better with a little sauce. Since you're roasting it with nothing but sugar and salt, you can really add anything to it. I could see it making a great cuban sandwich the next day.

                                        And la di da, I even found a blog where they used leftover Momofuku pork shoulder for cuban sandwiches...


                                        1. re: soypower

                                          The link you posted is to a yam noodle photo. Can't seem to find the blog you were referring to. Any chance you might locate it again?

                                          1. re: JoanN

                                            Sorry about that! I should have checked the link before pasting it...Here's the actual link:

                                        2. re: JoanN

                                          Chang's Ginger-Scallion Sauce should be a sufficient condiment for your heat-impaired guest. If you think even that's too much, perhaps you could simply use some sort of sweet-sour "pot sticker" sauce. If nothing else, a condiment does add to the "interactive" element of eating the dish.

                                          Personally, I think reheating a shoulder (whether oven-roasted or barbecued) is good, it's amazing when consumed without ever having been completely cooled. This is in contrast to a braised dish which is sometimes preferable the next day.

                                        3. re: soypower

                                          The recipes above aren't that much different than the standard pork shoulder I've been cooking the last 35 years. Either in the oven or on the Weber. What is intriguing to me is the serving ideas. I can see inviting my family over and putting out the roast with a wide variety of "do it yourself" options. Kimchi and rice for me, sil and wife would like the lettuce wraps, bbq sauce and some bread for brother, some tortillas so the niece and nephew could make tacos.

                                          1. re: kengk

                                            I agree that the basic technique is nothing new (then again, not many cooking techniques are). I also agree that what's very cool about the dish is the "family style" service. I have done something like that with a barbecued shoulder - basically just plopping the whole thing down on a platter in the center of the table - and it was much enjoyed. I accompanied it simply with a bowl of slaw, a bottle of vinegar-based sauce, and a basket of bread - oh, yeah, and a lot of beer.

                                            With Chang's dish though, don't forget the oysters. They're a very welcome addition.

                                            1. re: MGZ

                                              Oysters are one of my favorite things in the world, ice cold and raw or cooked most anyway. It just doesn't seem to "go" with the pork to me but would sure be willing to try it.

                                              1. re: kengk

                                                The oysters really do make this dish! I posted about this previously when I made this for Christmas dinner! Everything worked out well and it was a hit. The oysters ran out early in the dinner!

                                              2. re: MGZ

                                                I think the oysters are a brilliant idea - I read the article last saturday when I wasn't feeling too hot and said OH YEAH I want that. Makes me think of the oysters and (blistering hot) chipolata sausages first course I've read about for years and never seen offered anywhere,

                                          2. re: JoanN

                                            Roasted pork shoulder with a range of condiments is common to many cuisines -- like Mexican carnitas and a Thai dish whose name I'm forgetting. You could go in so many directions and serve it with:

                                            * guacamole and a mild pico de gallo
                                            * a garlicky, herby pesto-like sauce
                                            * a sweet Chinese hoisin sauce with scallions

                                            and so on. I'd probably choose one of the above rather than mix-and-match. The big decision seems to me whether you prefer it to be European/Latin or Asian. If the former, you probably don't want any sweetness in the sauces & condiments, but if the latter, then the balance of sweetness and salty is important. And the only alteration I'd made to the roasted pork shoulder itself is to exclude the sugar from the rub if you're going Euro/Latin -- but others might disagree.

                                            1. re: david kaplan

                                              That's excellent advice. I think I'll stick with the Asian theme and will look toward the types of dipping sauces I might make for dumplings or spring rolls. They would also be easily adaptable to a one spicy/one not presentation. Thanks.

                                              1. re: david kaplan

                                                I would love to try a Thai dish utilizing pork shoulder. Anyone have any leads on finding a recipe?

                                              2. re: JoanN

                                                Made this last night. Although I hadn't been planning on it, I made the Ssam Sauce and was very glad I did. Such a wonderful combination of spicy/sweet that was just outstanding with the pork. And since I was in a Korean market, I picked up some kimchi as well. For the person who can't tolerate spicy, I put out a high-quality bottled BBQ sauce and she seemed very happy with that.

                                                My only problem was that the skin of the pork didn't crisp up. Can't imagine why after 6 hours in the oven and a 12-minute blast at 500F. I saved it, will put it back in the oven, and see if I can't get it crisped up for the sandwiches we'll make with the leftovers.

                                                First photo is of the pork out of the oven before the sugar coating and second is on the table with the accompaniments minus the rice.

                                                  1. re: JoanN

                                                    Just lovely. I'll probably give this a go this weekend. Now, if I could only find kimchi somewhere.

                                                1. Yeah I need to make this dish again, it was so flavorful and the family style service meant that everyone could alter the dish to their tastes. so that the less adventurous eaters did not have the kimchi, or could try and experiment with different sauces.

                                                  What worked for me was cooking the whole thing in advance but then reheating it in the oven and then putting it up to 500 to crisp the skin. YUM!

                                                  I might have a get together with friends and make that and make some kind of vegetarian dish (maybe kimchi quessadillas) for my non meat eating friends.