Some Pig.
July 21, 2012 9:20 PM   Subscribe

12 pounds of pork shoulder!... uh, now what?

so, my darling husband went to Costco and now I have this huge 12-lb pork shoulder that's been in my freezer for a couple of weeks, and I need to figure out some method of dealing with it.

I'm kind of thinking roast it low and slow here, but... how? Ideally I'd like to just make the entire thing into some kind of pulled pork type deal that I can portion off and re-freeze for later use. The problem being, I've never done this before. Well I kind of did last week with a little pork loin that we tried on the gas grill, but after following the directions on the included package recipe to the letter, it turned out wayyyy overdone and roughly the consistency of shoe leather. Tasty shoe leather, but yea I'm not about to try that again.

I found a couple recipes online but all of them involved grilling or smoking or crockpots or copious amounts of sugar or sugary bbq sauce (we've gone Paleo, so we don't even have sugar in the house anymore). I also don't have a crockpot or a smoker, and it's a thousand degrees outside so our gas grill has been earmarked for items that take less than 20 minutes to prepare. So I guess options are somewhat limited.

I'm hoping there's some way I can marinate this thing in some kind of savoury spices, etc, so that I can just toss it in the oven for several hours while we go ride bikes, come home and have it be all tender and amazing. Does this ever happen in real life?

posted by lonefrontranger to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I'm hoping there's some way I can marinate this thing in some kind of savoury spices, etc, so that I can just toss it in the oven for several hours while we go ride bikes, come home and have it be all tender and amazing. Does this ever happen in real life?

You can cook it low-and-slow in the oven rather than the crockpot, using this recipe. Note that it takes a long time for a shoulder of this size to cook at a low temperature -- it's a start-in-the-morning kind of thing -- but the results will be worth it. Your favorite pork marinade or spice rub would work well here, or you could go with a classic salt/pepper seasoning and then make a sauce to go with the meat.
posted by vorfeed at 9:31 PM on July 21, 2012

Best answer: Your little pork loin turned out like that because it is small and doesn't have much fat or connective tissue. The low-and-slow method works best with cuts that are fatty and have the connective tissue that kind of melts. This looks to give a good way to cook it, though it uses a charcoal kettle grill, not gas.

You can do Eastern North Carolina style, which is not the sugary mop of other kinds of barbecue. It is applied to the chopped, cook pork, and consists of vinegar and spices; in parts of South Carolina, mustard is a central player. No tomatoes or sugar required.

For the oven method, yes, you can do this. But with a cut of that size, it's going to take more than a bike-ride's amount of time. I've done 4-pound Boston butts low and slow in the oven and I leave for a good 6 or 7 hours, with the oven temp set around 225-250F. I give it a dry rub and wrap it two layers of heavy duty tinfoil; for liquid, I dump in some soy sauce and some liquid smoke (be sure to only buy the kind that is just liquid smoke and nothing else) before I wrap it all up. Cook it until it falls apart when you poke it gently. This may take much longer than you think; it will technically be safe to eat at...170F? Something like that, lower even, but it will not yet be falling-apart tender. For that, you must have patience.
posted by rtha at 9:36 PM on July 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The River Cottage Meat Cookbook has a recipe for 24 hour pork shoulder. Basically you rub it with ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, and five-spice powder, and then put it in the oven at the highest it goes. After 30 minutes, you turn the oven down to 225, and leave it there for another 23-and-a-half hours. Voila.

Here is another very similar recipe, if you find mine too vague.
posted by KathrynT at 9:37 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get yourself a large amount of lard. Dry-season the shoulder. I'd cut it up into smaller pieces first.

Confit the thing, and pack portions into mason jars.

Topped with fat, they'll keep in the fridge for several weeks - they taste better a week+ after sitting around, and will last pretty much indefinitely frozen (thaw in fridge).

Brown on fairly high heat on a skillet to serve, either on its own or as a sandwich filling.
posted by porpoise at 9:38 PM on July 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: 170 is safe, but you want it to come up to 190; that's when the collagen will be liquified. And take care it doesn't dry out; a good way to prevent that is to put a pan of water in there with it, refilling periodically. Or just spritz it with a spray bottle of water/cider vinegar/apple juice every so often. If you have convection, turn it OFF.
posted by supercres at 9:40 PM on July 21, 2012

Bo ssam
posted by zippy at 9:59 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

porpoise probably has the best answer thus far.

That said...

I'd smoke that thing in a jimmy-rigged DIY home smoker and proceed with the bits accordingly before re-freezing.

FWIW, you can get smoking chips from the 99 cents store in your area, if you have one.

Smoking is easier than you think. Google.
posted by jbenben at 10:09 PM on July 21, 2012

Best answer: Otherwise...

I'd rub it with delicious and put it in the oven at 220 degrees F for many many hours.
posted by jbenben at 10:13 PM on July 21, 2012

carnitas. This recipe calls for pork butt, but I'm pretty sure it will work well with shoulder. I've made this recipe at least 5 times--so easy, so delicious. You will be able to make a couple batches with the amount of pork you've got.
posted by vewystwange at 10:24 PM on July 21, 2012

I asked a related question whose answers really helped me understand the mechanics of cooking this cut. I ended up coating it with LoDo Adobo and putting it with little bit of chicken broth into yes, the crockpot, and cooking for 8-9 hours on low, after which it effortlessly fell apart with the touch of a fork. Apparently crockpots aren't necessary for slow cooking as per this article. I've been making this about once a month ever since. The nice thing about the recipe is that it is delicious just as it is, but non-Paleo types can add barbecue sauce at the table. NOM NOM NOM.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:28 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

This recipe for Chile Verde is really delicious, and would totally freeze well.
posted by Mark Doner at 10:33 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding Carnitas. I prefer the Homesick Texan version, which keeps the pork in chunks (chunks that fall apart when you so much as breathe on them, but still.)

Also, is this bone-in or boneless? 12lb is quite big for boneless, but any recipe which calls for cutting the meat into chunks before cooking will be much more of a pain in the ass if it's bone-in. Unless your butchery skills are awesome, which they may well be. But roasting a chunk of meat that size whole will take pretty much all day.

If you're gonna keep it whole you might do it pernil-style instead.
posted by Diablevert at 11:02 PM on July 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

The Cook's Illustrated recipe for pulled pork is amazingly good. They really get the mechanics down, which is crucial for not ending up with shoe leather. It involves smoking on the grill for a few hours (maybe two?) and then finishing in the oven for several hours. I think the smoking part in a gas grill is not too labor intensive once it starts (my family does it in million-degree Texas all the time) and you pretty much leave it unattended in the oven. You can also freeze the leftovers although I wouldn't vouch for the texture staying exactly the same.
posted by MadamM at 11:24 PM on July 21, 2012

You've got 12 pounds-- portion it into 4 parts and do all of the above!

I second the Homesick Texan's Carnitas, personally-- I've done it and it was outstanding.

But I also love pulled pork.

If you're the party-throwin' sort, make pulled pork either in the Southern US fashion or the Mexican peurco pibil fashion (that's pit-pork, seasoned with achiote and habanero), or hawaiian pit-pork fashion.

Don't forget to add liquid smoke if you can't smoke it yourself. Liquid smoke isn't chemical skullduggery; it's moisture from a smoker, captured and filtered. If that's not your thing, use smoked ingredients like smoked chilies (e.g. chipotle), smoked salt, smoked spices..
posted by Sunburnt at 11:49 PM on July 21, 2012

Yeah, whatever you wind up deciding, cut it into portions and freeze before cooking. You don't have to decide right away like that, either. Not that I wouldn't recommend making 12lbs of pulled pork, ever.
posted by rhizome at 1:27 AM on July 22, 2012

This recipe calls for pork butt, but I'm pretty sure it will work well with shoulder.

FYI, pork butt is shoulder. There are some different ways to make the cut, but it's basically the same thing; it's pretty random how they get labeled and sold.

Any low and slow cooking method will work fine: oven (pulled pork, carnitas, or perhaps with adobo seasonings? yum...), smoking, braising, stewing, etc. And if you wanted a faster cooking option you could slice the shoulder into pork steaks and grill them; those are fantastic, too, in their own way.

Making pulled pork will take a long time (figure an hour per pound as an approximate time, though you want to go by internal temperature, not time), but mostly it's just sitting in the oven so you can be doing your own thing. There are a gazillion recipes online; this one is pretty typical and will work fine. Personally I'd skip the liquid smoke -- it never tastes all that great to me, and oven-cooked things taste fine in their own right -- but that's up to your own preferences. Almost all of the smoke flavor come from the first hour or two on the smoker, so you might get fantastic results by starting on the gas grill with a tray of wood chips, and then moving it to the oven for the next ten hours.
posted by Forktine at 5:24 AM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, I'd suggest cooking the whole thing and then freezing the leftovers. I am not a fan of thawing meat, cutting it up, and then refreezing some of it uncooked -- that's bad for the texture and adds a bit of food safety risk unnecessarily.
posted by Forktine at 5:26 AM on July 22, 2012

Marks Daily Apple just posted a yummy sounding Paleo pork recipe yesterday. It's aimed at a crockpot but you could do it in a dutch oven in your oven easily enough, and I'd brown the meat first which they don't. Cut off what you need freeze the rest uncooked, if you make 12 pounds of anyone dish you are going to end up throwing all that great meat out as you'll get fed up of looking at it in your freezer unless you have a huge family.
posted by wwax at 6:17 AM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cut off what you need freeze the rest uncooked,

The meat is already frozen in one big chunk:

I have this huge 12-lb pork shoulder that's been in my freezer for a couple of weeks,

As said above, thawing and then refreezing without cooking it is not the best approach.
posted by Forktine at 6:23 AM on July 22, 2012

You can defrost raw meat in your fridge and refreeze it safely.
posted by wwax at 6:48 AM on July 22, 2012

Response by poster: hi everyone, and thanks. This is a boneless shoulder. It is currently thawing in the fridge (I took it out yesterday morning). I think I'm more inclined to just do this whole thing as a piece, then re-freeze in cooked portions. Mostly because I am lazy. It's fine if it's a all-day affair - when I saw this thing in the pile of shopping, I'd pretty much resigned myself to that approach anyhow.

If I can make something approaching the carnitas our local favorite mexi place does, I'll be happy.

Oh, right: husband has gluten sensitivity so I can't use wheat (flour) of any kind (I should have mentioned that earlier too).
posted by lonefrontranger at 7:11 AM on July 22, 2012

Does it have the skin? If so, you can do what Kenji does. Its Paleo friendly, very easy and incredibly delicious all by itself. (Do be sure to drain off all of the fat before the final step, or use a new pan so that you don't fill the kitchen with smoke and ruin all of that lovely rendered fat.) If you keep the seasoning simple, you can serve the meat with different sauces later, including chile verde, etc. To get your carnitas fix, sear a chunk of the cooked pork in a hot cast iron skillet. Oh, and be sure to make sweet potato hash with some of your abundant leftovers.
posted by Skychief at 8:20 AM on July 22, 2012

Best answer: I made this carne adobada recipe just last night and it was fabulous. I cooked it for more like 2.5 hours (the recipe says 1.5).
posted by mudpuppie at 10:54 AM on July 22, 2012

Hawaiian style Kalua Pig! I cover tightly with foil then bake at 250F about 1 hour per pound.

Mix it with cabbage! Make stir fry with it! Turn it into quesadillas! Mix in some BBQ sauce for a pulled pork sandwich! Pile it on a naked potato!

Many exclamation points because that's how kalua pig makes me feel
posted by kamikazegopher at 10:56 AM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Um, that was supposed to be a baked potato. But Freud took over my keyboard for a moment.
posted by kamikazegopher at 12:08 PM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd smoke it out on the gas grill, over indirect low heat using hickory wood chips (in a foil packet over the flame, refreshed every half hour or so), for about four hours. Most meats stop taking up any smoke flavor after 4-5 hours, so there's not a lot of point in standing out there longer than that. Then bring it in and cook it to the desired doneness in the oven, or even in a crock pot if you don't care about the "bark" on the outside. The crock pot has the obvious advantage of not heating up your house as much.

If you do it in the crock pot, make sure to put a few cups of liquid in there to keep it from burning. I'd use an Eastern NC pork vinegar sauce, which is basically cider vinegar, brown sugar, salt, and various kinds of pepper. It's easy to make.

If you want to slice it for sandwiches, cook it to somewhere around 180. This will render some of the fat out, but not all of it, so it'll still retain some structural integrity. If you want pulled pork, which is really the way to go, cook to 190-200F internal. Take it out of the crock pot, let it cool a bit, then pull it apart using forks or your hands. Put it into a bowl and douse with more sauce (discard the stuff from the bottom of the crock pot, unless you really want to add the rendered fat back in; I don't, and I don't think it's authentic to do so, since normally you'd do this over a charcoal pit and it would drip out). The meat will seem a bit dry as you are pulling it, but that's actually okay as it will absorb the sauce. You should see a smoke "ring" around the outside if everything worked right. Get it in the sauce while it's still very warm and it'll be best.

You can refrigerate it and it'll keep for at least a week — probably longer, due to the vinegar, but I've never actually had any stick around that long.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:22 PM on July 22, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions! low and slow it is, looks like I'm going to do the pernil method, so we'll slow cook it overnight.
posted by lonefrontranger at 3:03 PM on July 22, 2012

Response by poster: Kadin2048: sorry - do not have a crockpot, smoker, or charcoal grill, not interested in fussing with it in any way really (neither of us much cares for smoked meat anyhow).

Like I mentioned above we don't do sugar, sandwiches or wheat (or grains of any kind). I wasn't having much luck finding sugar-free or bbq sauce free recipes on the web, plus my pork technique needs work. This is mainly why I think the pernil is looking to be the best bet.
posted by lonefrontranger at 7:42 PM on July 22, 2012

For future references - assuming you're not completely sick of pork at the end of this adventure! - I can now nth the carnitas recipe here. I made it today and it's fantastic.
posted by rtha at 9:47 PM on July 22, 2012

I am actually going out and buying a 12-ish pound pork shoulder this week just so that I can make pork rillettes.
posted by AceRock at 6:46 AM on July 23, 2012

Response by poster: Update: So I slow roasted the whole thing overnight in a 225°F oven; roughly 12 hours. Prior to roasting, I drenched it all over in a sofrito I made using ideas cobbled together from some Puerto Rican / Dominican recipes I found on the web. Poked a bunch of holes in the meat, stuffed the sofrito inside the holes, then spread/massaged it into all the exposed surface area as well.

Sofrito ingredients were diced tomatoes, a whole onion, an entire head of garlic, a whole red bell pepper, salt, cumin, coriander, annato, New Mexico red chili powder, and maybe some other stuff I'm not remembering right now. It is delicious enough on its own that I've been using the leftovers on eggs.

The shoulder came out exactly right, with a nice crust and super falling-apart tender and juicy. Once it had cooled, I pulled / disintegrated it and discarded the messy bits (cartilage, big fat lumps, etc). Packed about 3/4ths back into freezer bags and used the rest as the base for a delicious Paleo-style red chile last night (i.e. no beans, sugar, wheat, etc.).

Thanks everyone for your suggestions. For anyone else reading this thread; assuming you have the space and technology to roast something for 12 hours at this low a temp, it really is a lot easier to do than I'd expected; prepping and applying the sofrito and pulling the pork were the only time consuming bits, and they both took less than 45 minutes on each end. Also, since it was done at night with the windows open, the 225° oven did not noticeably heat up the house at all (to be fair it is a brand new oven, and is well insulated).
posted by lonefrontranger at 9:26 AM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

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