Porky Christmas Goodness - please help make this happen!!
December 24, 2013 1:17 AM   Subscribe

I have a 3 lbs Pork Shoulder I do NOT want to braise, but rather roast. I need advice on whether roasting is an option. I also have some Pork Cheeks going in the slow cooker overnight with a bit of white wine, garlic, rosemary, and shallot. Plus a lot of fat trimmings. Including a small amount of smokey slab bacon. Can I make Rillettes from this after overnight slow cooking? Or was the addition of wine and shallot a deal breaker? Specific plans for the Pork Shoulder (Injection? Brine? Wet rub?) after the jump....

Whatever is going to become a version of Rillettes with the Pork Cheeks + extra fats and aromatics smells AWESOME right now. I'm less concerned about this, although most Rillettes recipes don't seem to include wine or shallots, so I'm a bit concerned I've strayed too far from tradition. Maybe someone knowledgable in Charcuterie can weigh in?

My real concern is that I chose a Pork Shoulder over a Pork Loin for roasting. Did I screw up??

I've become TOTALLY enamored of Salmon Creek Farms Pork. I have access to heritage pigs, local ranches, Kurobuta, Berkshire blah blah..... Salmon Creek is the BEST.

Long story short, I want to cook this 3lbs Pork Shoulder, but do it roast beef style. My options so far seem to be:

- Brining before roasting

- Injecting a modified salt/sugar/aromatic liquid before roasting + scoring the meat and adding a garlic/herb/ olive oil rub onto the outside

- Scoring the meat and doing a salt /sugar /garlic/herb/oil rub, marinating for a few hours at room temp before roasting in the oven

- Throwing the slab of meat in the slow cooker and admitting that there is No Way a shoulder pork roast will be edible without low and slow cooking


In short, I fear that a Pork Shoulder can only be slow cooked or bbq'd, and not traditionally roasted.

For a 3lbs Shoulder, I'm leaning towards some version of injection with rub on the outside, and about 2 hrs in a 350 degree oven.

Am I on target? Or misguided? Should I wrap the Shoulder with Bacon since it is skinless??

What are my options here that do not involve a slow-cooker pulled pork type result?

Please weigh in with your experience!

Thank you:))

PS. I do not have maple syrup or molasses on hand. I do have raw sugar, palm sugar, local honey, all types of salt, bay leaves from a friend's tree, lemon and lemon zest from the backyard, rosemary and thyme fresh, many types of pepper + grains of paradise, ginger, mustard seed, organic apple juice and apple cider vinegar, white wine, fennel seed, fennel bulb and frond, and fresh parsley at the ready. Garlic and shallot.

In short, I have a quality protein, an embarrassment of riches pantry -wise, a deadline of Christmas Eve dinner time, and no clear strategy.

Please advise me.
posted by jbenben to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This guy's recipe is the best I have found for pork butt (shoulder) in the oven. It involves a wet rub overnight (wrapped in plastic), and I vary mine but I think I do use the mustard and Frank's hot sauce. Liquid smoke if you want that flavor.

The most important thing is 250 F until the internal temp reaches 190 F. To break down that fat. Do not take it out at 175.

Thus, my biggest mistake is always thinking I can cook it like a regular roast and don't give it enough time, so we have sometimes eaten at 7:00 p.m. instead of 5:00 or 6:00. It's perfectly okay to start it earlier and let it rest (he wraps his in a towel, but he's pulling it).

Of course, nothing with sugar on it beforehand or it will burn. Maybe the last 1/2 hour if you are up to 180. But sugar leans toward a BBQ flavor.

I don't use the vinegar sauce because I have to have tomato in mine. So I don't think that particular cut of meat would be bad, per se, but it's the kind that needs to be low and slow to break down the fat and taste really good.

Another great rub I have used is the one Jacques Pepin puts on his spatchcocked chicken. I put it on a Chef Prime pork roast the other night, marinated for a couple of hours in a big baggie. It's garlic, Dijon mustard, hot sauce, soy sauce, a little white wine. So not too far off from the above gentlemen's wet rub.

I would pick my flavor profile and use that, then still roast low and slow or you might get chewy pork. And then throw the fennel in the pan toward the end with maybe some apple cider vinegar.

Rillettes sounds very much like Cretons (I have some in my fridge right now! But mine is store bought). I would think the wine would make it taste better, not worse. But that's just my opinion.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 2:08 AM on December 24, 2013

You can definitely "dry" roast pork shoulder - for a very long time at low heat. If you want something that you can slice into neat roast-beef style slices, it won't work - it will be tough. Proper roast pork shoulder is served in big, delicious fall-off-the bone chunks, not slices.

Feel free to rub in whatever spices you like, or brine it or inject it before you cook it. For Christmas, I would go with apple/sage/onion type flavours rather than barbecue-related flavours (smoke/heat/sweet/vinegar).

Does it have crackling (thick layer of skin/fat)? If so, score the crackling - don't cute all the way through to the meat, just through the skin to the fat - and rub salt in it. Start the roast uncovered at very high heat until the fat and skin start to puff up and crackle (30-45 minutes), then turn the heat right down to 300f or so and cover the whole thing with foil or with a lid if your roasting tray has one. Roast for 4-5 hours (or a little longer if you skipped the crackling step), basting occasionally with the fat in the pan, until you can easily pull it apart with a fork. Turn the heat up again and finish it off uncovered until the edges and crackling are brown and crispy. Start earlier than you might think you should - you can always let it rest for a while if it's done early and then put it back in the oven for the final "crisping" step right before dinner.

You can add vegetables - chunks of onion, parsnip, carrot, and potato (or apple! yum) - during the last hour or so.
posted by cilantro at 2:33 AM on December 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

I agree with everything Cilantro says, except I often leave mine uncovered until toward the very end, when I am trying to get it to 190 F (pull off the bone stage). But my butcher often doesn't sell pork butt with a big fat cap on it. So I am going for a crust, which this fatty type of cut can take and it tastes really good. Either way would work, I think.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 2:51 AM on December 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're anxious about a properly cooked pork shoulder roast seeming a bit informal for Christmas (since it isn't really a cut that makes for neat slices), look at some British recipes. Google "pork shoulder Christmas roast" or "pork shoulder sunday roast" and look for the recipes on .co.uk sites. It's a traditional cut for fairly formal meals here, so you could get some ideas on flavo(u)ring and presentation to dress it up.
posted by cilantro at 3:15 AM on December 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

What cilantro said about "Sunday Roast."
You've got some great pig, I think you'd be nuts to brine it.
As for your pork cheeks, you have all the fixin's for rillettes, except time. It's suppose to sit around for about three days. But hell, if as what you say, it smells awesome, I wouldn't sweat it.
With this, I think you can fashion a great spread.
You're going to have a very merry Xmas.
posted by JABof72 at 4:23 AM on December 24, 2013

Just chiming in to say I agree with the "low and slow" advice. Roast it at 250 or maaaaybe 275 if you need to speed things up a bit. I am not that into brining, so I'd just do a wet or dry rub on the meat at least a few hours (ideally 8-12 hours) before roasting. I've had great results that way -- some people think of it as a dry brine.
posted by katie at 5:04 AM on December 24, 2013

Food Lab did it, and with a minimum of work. I generally go with his stuff, since I assume it has a couple of trials behind it. In short: low heat until it pulls apart with a fork (texture a better guide than temp here), then blisteringly high heat.

There's also David Chang's Bo Ssäm method, which is similarly two-staged.
posted by supercres at 6:03 AM on December 24, 2013

I think everyone's covered the shoulder pretty well. Your idea for the rillette sounds good to me; I really think the rillette is much more about turning the meat into beautiful meat jam than how you cooked it to get it to the stage where you can tear it apart. I usually confit the pork to make rillette; Ruhlman's "Le Mans-style" recipe calls for white veal stock and seasonings.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:13 AM on December 24, 2013

I've cooked them this way with great results. Just allow the time, as everyone has said low and slow is the way and baste like mad.

And for the love of god save all the yummy pork fat that melts off and toss your roast veggies in it before roasting them. It might not be as good as duck fat but it's a pretty close second.
posted by wwax at 7:52 AM on December 24, 2013

Shoulder's a tough cut, which is why it's no good for high-heat roasting. It causes the connective crap to get chewy, while low and slow heat (wet or dry, which is to say braising or barbecue) will make that stuff melt into delicious moisture. The dry oven method is really just a smokeless barbecue (not to be confused with grilling) method. You could even add a bit of liquid smoke to any basting liquid, but I would opine that a dry rub is probably better for this application.

I concur with supercres: when the meat is good and cooked, blast it to crisp and brown the exterior; you can increase the exterior surface area before this step by tearing at the roast until it breaks apart into a few large chunks.

Actually, you can break it up (4-6 pieces) before cooking to do the same; I would use the same amount of spice for the whole roast no matter how many pieces it's in.

I can't imagine the meat will be wrong for rillettes-- it's going to be very tender
posted by Sunburnt at 8:28 AM on December 24, 2013

Look. This isn't going to work as a roast but I have an idea that would let you present it to look like a roast. Maybe worth shot?

Truss the shoulder very tightly. Maybe even wrap it in plastic. Or pork skin if you got it. The poach the pork basketball in barely simmering stock you've flavored with aromatics and whatever else. Poach it for a good long time until the internal temp is 190+ you need it to get that hot to melt the collagen. Then I would take the pot off your stove and allow to come to room temp. Don't take it out the wrapping or anything and cool it off over night in the fridge. The next day remove the pork basketball from your stock and allow to get to room temp. Right before you serve it just blast the unwrapped but still trusses shoulder in an absolutely smoking oven. Long enough to get the outside brown and the interior warm. Serve immediately in slices. It won't need to rest.

I mean it's a little crazy but I think resetting the collagen over night will make it sliceable like a roast. I mean I wouldnt do this but it should work.

As for the rillettte you are fine. Regular rillettte are the way they are because it is a way to preserve pork and you wouldnt ordinarily want veg hanging around in a confit held for months at cellar temp.
posted by JPD at 10:30 AM on December 24, 2013


Pork Cheek Rillettes were fab, even if they did not mellow for 3 days.

Methods, Below:

- Pork Shoulder indeed cooked and sliced like Roast Beef, but only with tweaking + luck of quality pork...

- Made an injection of salt/sugar/H2O/Garlic/Fennel Seed/Bay Leaf/White Wine.

Boiled. Tasted for balance. Adjusted wine and H2O, when balanced was achieved, strained, chilled, and injected.

- Wet Rub of minimal Salt, Crushed Garlic, Fennel Seed Powdered in spice grinder, Finely Chopped Parsley + Olive Oil. Rubbed outside scored shoulder.

- Put Shoulder on a rack in a large slow cooker set on Low for a few hours while we did Christmas things.

- Came home, Seared Roast on Cast Iron. Saved the yummy amber liquid in the Slow Cooker and re-Injected that liquid into the Roast.

- Roast into the oven for another 45 min to 1 hr at 375 f - internal temp about 175 f. Crust on Roast achieved.

Sliced it and served with the Amber Liquid (fat + injection cooked out in the slow cooker) as a Jus.

Results? Effing AMAZING.


Cheeks slow cooked overnight in a smaller slow cooker with aromatics. That Amber Liquid I mentioned was some aromatic injection plus A LOT of melted fat off of the roast. Some of that liquid rounded out the fattiness factor require for Rillette for service, otherwise, I might have added melted butter. But that was not necessary.


Yes, with quality raised pork you CAN make a dry Roasted Pork Shoulder for Christmas!

Thanks to everyone for weighing in. The whole thing was a roll of the dice, and in the end, I had to go complicated (but delicious!) to make it work!!

Thanks again!
posted by jbenben at 8:05 PM on December 27, 2013

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