Pork Shoulder Roasts – are used most commonly to make pulled (shredded) pork for bbq pork sandwiches, Po’ Boys, rice dishes, jambalayas, soups & stews.
Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder
Author: Tribune Chef Frank Schuchman
Recipe type: Main Entree
Ah, the humble pig is a reminder for you to be a little humble in the year ahead. The pig also roots its food by moving forward, another blessing that you too will “move forward” or “progress” in the year to come. All forms of pork are eaten during the first few weeks of the New Year such as roasts, chops, hams, sausages, smoked shanks, and bacon. A pork shoulder roast is a wonderful light flavored cut of pork that is lean and always inexpensive. (Usually half the price of ground beef) This may also be labeled as a “Pork Shoulder Roast” or ”Shoulder Butt” or “Pork Butt” and is similar to a beef chuck roast. Bone-in is cheaper, and they average 7# – 10# pounds. This cut is also widely used in sausage making. Like a beef chuck “pot roast”, there is a bunch of outside fat that you’ll see, but leave it on to keep your roast moist – it can easily be trimmed off after the roast is fully cooked to reveal the lean cuts inside. And like a beef pot roast, we are going to cook it at a low temperature for a very long time so it does not dry out making it fork tender and juicy! We do need to add some Southern flavor, and that’s easy, just mix up a batch of herbs & spices called a “Dry Rub”. Once rubbed all over the roast…they will do all of the work! You can leave this rub on the roast for 2 to 24 hours.
- The Dry Rub:
- 2 Tbl ground Cumin
- 1 Tbl Chili Powder (find your favorite, every chili powder is different)
- 2 Tbl Granulated Garlic (not garlic salt)
- Tbl Ground Black Pepper (cracked peppercorns are best – simply fold up some plain white paper with whole peppercorns inside and smash with a mallet or hammer)
- Tbl dry Oregano (rub into the palm of your hand, then into the bowl)
- 2 tsp Celery Salt (about half the sodium content as regular table salt – and twice the flavor)
- tsp red chili pepper flakes (spicy – optional, but goes great with the heavy amount of black pepper used in this rub)
- Wet Rub:
- Hot Sauce – such as Louisiana “Crystal”
- 1 TBL ground cayenne pepper
- 7-10# Pork Shoulder Roast, Bone-in
- 2 cups water
- 4-5 Bay Leaves
- Dry Rub:
- Mix all dry ingredients. Done. Now, use about 1 TBL of salad oil and rub it all over the pork roast. This will help the dry rub to stick to the meat. Now rub the spice mix all over the roast, cover it evenly top to bottom. Let rest in the fridge, covered, 2 to 24 hours.
- Hint: These simple spice & herb staples should always be in your kitchen. No worries, if you don’t have them now, accumulate them when you can. They are all inexpensive, always go on sale and are widely available.
- Wet Rub – is another way to add flavor. I use a hot sauce, especially the Louisiana “Crystal” brand www.crystalhotsauce.com (available in almost every grocery store) I keep shaking the bottle into the dry rub until it forms a loose wet paste then rub it onto the roast. To build some serious heat, add 1 TBL of ground cayenne pepper. This is a tasty rub for beef roast, steaks and even a roasted chicken… lift the skin and push the mix up inside! Oh My!
- Hot Hot Hot!
- The lip-smackin’ spices and hot sauces of the South also play a role in the New Year. It is said that the fire of chili peppers will “chase away” demons and bad omens in the year ahead. Cajun and Creole whole grain mustards are also spicy staples in many kitchens. It is also rumored that the “heat” will spice up your love life!
- The Recipe
- Grab a big roasting pan like you use on Thanksgiving. If you have a rack to suspend the roast, use it. But really, you want the roast to contain a lot of moisture, so it is perfectly fine to just set the roast in the bottom of the pan. I add about 2 cups of water (at least 1” inch deep) along with 4-5 bay leaves. Cover it with the lid or foil, and toss it in the oven: 275-300 degrees for about 4 hours, but it could take as long as 6 hours to get it really falling off the bone. Bring the internal temperature up to165-180 in the thickest part of the roast (always take at least 4 temps in different thick areas). To check for doneness, yep, grab a fork and see if will come apart easily.
- Every hour check the water level, if getting low, just add more water.
- The roast is going to be in the oven for a long time – so take a break and make some other stuff. (wash dishes, prep some veggies, start on the other recipes)
- + hours later…when it is fork tender, remove from the liquid. When cool enough to work with grab a fork and gently pull the meat apart. The excess fat can easily be pulled off and discarded. Refrigerate and/or freeze some for another day.
- This “shredded” pork can now be used to make a tasty pork sandwich. I use a burger bun or hoagie roll, lightly toasted and buttered. I add my favorite bbq sauce to the pork as it heats up in a frying pan. Put the pork on the buns and enjoy! A Southern Po’ Boy is made the same way, just change the bun to a hoagie style roll. This is a ‘naked’ Po’ Boy, to “dress” it add mayo, lettuce and tomato slices! In the South, you’ll order your Po’ Boy naked or dressed.
- For your New Year’s good luck, add the shredded pork to your Hoppin’ John recipe. You can substitute diced ham in place of the bacon too.
- To Freeze: use zip-lock bags, add enough meat for several sandwiches. Partially zip close the bag and firmly press all of the air out and seal closed. Label and date the bag. Pressed flat bags can be stacked like nice little pillows – saving room in your freezer.
“Pink” meat is ok! If for some reason you see ‘pink’ colored meat at 160 degrees, its ok. It has to do with oxygen affecting the surface ‘color’ of the meat, and has nothing to do about the pork being ‘fully cooked’. Even pink inside is ok, it’s the high moisture content that is causing the color change, nothing to worry about. You will often notice this when using a crock pot for cooking. “It never reached 165 degrees!” When cooking low & slow at oven temps in the 200’s, you may not reach 165 up to 180 degrees. The reason is the oven temp is so low, the center of a thick roast or turkey may not read the high temps you are looking for. Crock pots are notorious for this… after 8 hours and the roast has totally fallen apart, yet when you take the temperature, it still has not hit 165 degrees! It’s ok, with a 5-7 pound roast, after 4 hours at 200+ degrees, you have hit your mark and the food is safe. Alternative Method – add Veggies! For more flavor and nutrition I add veggies – the classic combo is called “Mirepoix” (pr: meer-pwah) which is equal amounts of diced celery, carrots and onions. The Southern equivalent is called “The Trinity” and is celery, onions and green bell peppers. Both versions are widely used throughout basic American recipes. When cooking beef & pork roasts, including roasted chicken, I will add these veggies. Then when it comes time to shred the meat, I finely chop these veggies right into the meats (and/or into their gravy sauce) for added flavors and nutrition.