How to Cook Pork Shoulder Roast

How to Cook Pork Shoulder Roast

Boston butt is the slightly wedged shaped portion of the pork shoulder above the standard picnic cut which includes the blade bone and the “lean butt” (which is boneless), both extensions of the tenderloin cut and can be used in place of the tenderloin. Generally the pork shoulder is considered a primal cut with the picnic and butt sections being sub-primal cuts however, some sources do refer to the butt as a primary cut.

How to Cook Pork Shoulder Roast

Chris told me that long ago a chef has explained to him that meat likes to be cooked at around the temperature that it reached when it is done.

While I don’t think that is always the case at all (flame kissed steaks and burgers anyone?), it made nice sense when I thought about it in terms of a big tough hunk of meat, like this boneless pork shoulder roast, which needs low and slow cooking to make it turn from impossibly tough to tender.  No amount of trying to rush the process will help, you’ve got to keep the heat low and the time long.

Pork Butt Roast

You can also make this recipe and others like it with a pork butt roast or Boston Butt pork roast, which are actually also from the shoulder area, a little further up, but essentially a similar cut of meat.

Slow Cooking Pork in Oven

When you slow cook pork shoulder in the oven, boneless or bone-in, you have a lot of flexibility, which is a delightful thing when entertaining.  In fact, the cooking time at this low temp could be stretched by an hour or two, and the roast wouldn’t be any worse for the wear.  So you can literally plunk it on the table whenever everyone is ready to eat.

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Fat Side Down or Up?

And even though this recipe calls for boneless pork shoulder, which is a bit easier to cut, you can use bone-in pork shoulder which will cook in about the same amount of time. The instructions call for the fat side to be down in the pan, which give the top the chance to get a nice crust, but it really doesn’t matter. Some people like the fat on the top, which kind of bastes the pork as it cooks, but then you have less crusty surface. Your call, you won’t go wrong.

The best part?   This is free time you can spend reading, dancing, sleeping, cleaning a closet, saving kittens from trees.

Low and Slow and Flexible

The flexibility of this recipe bears repeating, because it’s one of the best things about this dish. You can leave the roast in the very low oven for another hour or two or even three with no repercussions.  The pork is roasted uncovered so that it gets a wonderful crusty brown exterior, while the inside becomes fall-apart tender.

If you feel like it needs a bit more browning or caramelization at the end, turn the heat up to 450°F. for 15 minutes before pulling it out of the oven. Make sure to let it rest for a bit so that the fibers can relax a bit, and the juices re-group.

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And do know that if all has gone as planned, the meat will be so tender that the slices won’t hold together.  That’s part of the appeal.

For a Smaller Pork Shoulder Roast

If your roast is smaller than 6 pounds, you can still use the recipe fully successfully, just shorten the cooking time slightly. You still want to start it at high heat, in a preheated 450°F oven. Roast the pork for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 250°F and continue to cook for 4 to 7 hours until the middle of the roast registers 180°F on an internal thermometer, and as you slide the thermometer in you can feel that the meat is very tender throughout.

  • For a 3 pound pork roast, start with the heat at 450° for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 250°F and continue to cook for 4 to 5 hours until the middle of the roast registers 180°F.
  • 4 pound pork roast: Start with the heat at 450° for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 250°F and continue to cook for 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours until the middle of the roast registers 180°F.
  • 5 pound pork roast: Start with the heat at 450° for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 250°F and continue to cook for 5 1/2 to 7 hours until the middle of the roast registers 180°F.

For a Larger Pork Shoulder Roast

A larger pork roast still starts with a short burst of high heat roasting, then is cooked low and slow for a longer amount of time. Again, you want the meat to be falling apart tender. Every piece or pork and every oven is different, so use the below time ranges as a guideline, start checking at the shorter end of the cooking time, and if you need to let it go longer to get tender, that’s fine. Once it begins to get tender check every 30 minutes until it is fully tender and falling apart.

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For anything larger than a 6 pound roast, you will want to add another half of the marinade ingredients to the blend. If you have a 10 pound or larger roast, you’ll want to double the marinade.

  • 7 pound pork roast: Start with the heat at 450° for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 250°F and continue to cook for 7 to 8 1/2 hours until the middle of the roast registers 180°F.
  • 8 pound pork roast: Start with the heat at 450° for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 250°F and continue to cook for 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 hours until the middle of the roast registers 180°F.
  • 9 pound pork roast: Start with the heat at 450° for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 250°F and continue to cook for 8 to 10 hours until the middle of the roast registers 180°F.
  • 10 pound pork roast: Start with the heat at 450° for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 250°F and continue to cook for 8 1/2 to 10 1/2 hours until the middle of the roast registers 180°F.

Substitutions for Anchovies

I fully recommend the use of anchovies in the marinade, which don’t add any kind of strong fishy flavor, but rather a depth of overall flavor which I promise won’t taste like anchovies. If you don’t have them, or don’t want to use them, you can sub in 2 teaspoons fish sauce, 3 teaspoons minced capers, or even 2 teaspoons soy sauce.

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