Highest best use of pork shoulder
January 10, 2019 6:31 AM   Subscribe

I bought a quarter of a heritage breed hog, so this is the first of what no doubt will be several questions on what to do with the various cuts. I want to start with the shoulder. Please point me to your most delicious recipes.
posted by HotToddy to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Spicy Dr. Pepper Shredded Pork.

Mind if I ask what breed?
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:38 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]

when i manage to order a shoulder here in DK, my go-to recipe is this one: https://www.kevinandamanda.com/pulled-pork-recipe/

and afterwards I finish it off with "Step 6" of David Chang's Bo Ssam recipe: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/12197-momofukus-bo-ssam

All delicious, all of the time!
posted by alchemist at 6:40 AM on January 10

Skin on or off? If skin-on, this. (If it’s deboned, you might consider tying it with butcher’s twine so the skin is facing out as much as possible.)

Don’t cover up the flavor too much, else I’d have suggested bo ssam (this would still be good though) or green chili.
posted by supercres at 6:41 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]

First, I'd see what Serious Eats has to say about pork shoulder.

Then, in my opinion, the best thing to do with the shoulder is to smoke it and pull it. If you don't have a smoker, you can make do with a charcoal grill. (Some additional discussion here.) (I've done ribs this way but have never had the nine-or-so hours it takes to do a shoulder.) If your shoulder still has the skin attached, leave it on as it will crisp up and add texture to the pulled pork. Especially with heritage pork, this is not something to drown in barbecue sauce.
posted by gauche at 6:45 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]

We make this Southwestern Pulled Brisket recipe exclusively with pork shoulder and it is AMAZING. We make it into burritos after it's done and freeze about three portions for later.
posted by lydhre at 6:55 AM on January 10

A friend of mine made Binging with Babish's cubano sandwich recipe and could not stop raving about it.
posted by capricorn at 6:56 AM on January 10

I would be very tempted to do the kind of carnitas that involve cooking in lard with a bit of citrus and some spices, and then crisping it in a pan or under a broiler. Gets you super intense pork flavor with not much to hide it, and better texture than slow-cooking in liquid.

(I wouldn't do the kind of Americanized carnitas where you simmer the meat for a long time in strong-flavored liquid. That's tasty too, but it hides the meat flavor a lot more and can end up mushy if you're not careful.)

Rick Bayless has a recipe that looks pretty solid for the meat itself. I wouldn't do it with his accompaniments — adding beans and avocado would be way too rich for me, I'd just serve it on corn tortillas with onions/cilantro/lime and maybe some salsa. There's also a Serious Eats recipe I've used before that uses oil rather than lard, but if this is a Special Pork Occasion you might as well go all-in and get lard.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:02 AM on January 10 [7 favorites]

Do you have the whole shoulder or just the butt or picnic ends?

Smoking and pulling is the obvious answer here. Rub it with a spice mixture and salt at least the day before putting it on the heat. Cook at 225F until it hits about 205F internally; let cool until you can handle it and then pull. If you're just throwing it on the heat and not doing anything else (e.g. the "Texas crutch" or other advanced BBQ methods) this is going to take at least 12 hours.

Shoulder is the preferred cut for lots of other applications, too - for sausages, terrines, rillettes, and other things you're going to want shoulder meat. If you have any interest in learning how to make those things, then use the shoulder for that.

You can also cut steaks/chops from the shoulder. From the picnic end, you're going to want to make chops parallel to the cut where the hock was removed. On the butt end, you make blade steaks - slice perpendicular to the fat cap so you end up with a boneless steak with a sliver of fat on top. These are delicious and, in my opinion, preferable to regular loin chops - they're fattier and more flavorful. If you prefer roasts, you can cut them the same way only, like, 8-12 inches long instead of 1.5 inches long. Roll and tie with butcher twine to ensure they have a uniform thickness.

In general, you're going to end up with two different end products based on the finished temperature. If you go with the medium/medium-rare recommended temperature (and I STRONGLY recommend cooking to medium-rare, the USDA has relaxed their recommendations and trichinosis is a thing of the past in commercial pork), you'll get a texture that is very steak-like - firm but easy to cut. If you keep going in to BBQ territory, around 205F, the collagen holding everything together falls apart and you get pulled pork.

If you have the skin and decide to trim it off, I would also suggest rendering the lard out of it and then making chicharrones/crackling. Cut the skin in to smallish pieces (2 inches or so), put in a cold pot, and add just a 1/2 cup of water or so. Put it over low heat and stir occasionally to ensure the skin doesn't burn on the bottom of the pot. The water is there to prevent burning until enough fat has rendered out; it will fully evaporate by the time you're done. Don't let the skin brown at this step.

When the skin has rendered out what it can, pour off the fat in to a jar and store in the fridge. You can take the rendered skin pieces and throw them in the oven at this point to crisp up; throw some salt on them and you've got a tasty snack!
posted by backseatpilot at 7:15 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]

monkey toes and alchemist covered my two go toos, except i only do step one of alchemist.

both get raves whereever i take them and are my youngest daughters favorite food.

keep in mind i use 1.49 a pound shoulder for these - you may want to show case the flavor of your meat a little more. both these recipes are great and yeild a tender meat that can be used for lots of things but fancy they are not.
posted by domino at 7:16 AM on January 10

Pork rillettes are really good -- fatty pork cooked down into a spread/dip kind of texture. I've made the linked recipe, but there are probably others more authentic out there.
posted by LizardBreath at 7:30 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]

Came here to say rillettes too. You can even just take part of it off to make a couple jars worth and still do something more main dish with the rest. They’re amazing, and you won’t want to share.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:35 AM on January 10

Depending on equipment available, lots of things you could do. Pulled pork is great, but I wonder about using high grade pork for that. Rillettes would be really pleasant. If you’ve got a grinder, pâté de campagne could be another route.

Another thing you could do is stop just short of pulled pork and make smoke roasted pork. Same general idea as pulled pork, spice rub, smoke, low heat, but instead of taking the meat up to 90C, stop at 80-82C, and serve it sliced. There’s a ton of things you can do with it that way, from serving delicious thick-sliced roast pork as a fancy dinner to thin slices that you pile onto something like a cubano

(Quick Cuban roast pork spice mix:
1tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1tbsp onion powder
1tbsp crushed red pepper
2tsp salt
2tsp oregano
1tsp granulated garlic
1tsp white pepper
1tsp cumin
dash cayenne
dash coriander powder

Mix, apply rub, let rest overnight, cook, devour)

Going further, if you have the ability/equipment for dry curing meats, and you’ve got the right cut, coppa is one of the best things pork can become, especially fancy schmancy pork.
In conclusion, pork shoulder is a land of contrasts.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:59 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]

Michoacan style Carnitas - is a great use of shoulder, though usually made in a copper pot for even heat distribution and by slowly churning for hours.
posted by vacapinta at 8:04 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]

Susan Spicer's roasted shoulder recipe is wonderful. The jalapenos aren't super spicy and don't overpower the pork flavor, but you could reduce or eliminate if you wanted.

Jalapeno-Roast Pork
Crescent City Cooking: Unforgettable Recipes from Susan Spicer's New Orleans
By Susan Spicer

1 boneless pork shoulder (about 6 lbs)
Juice and zest of 2 oranges (about 2/3 cup juice)
2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded, and diced
2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 tbsp garlic, minced
2 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp black pepper
2 tbsp evoo or vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Rinse pork and pat dry. Using a paring knife, make several 1/2-inch deep incisions on both sides of the meat. Mix together the juice, jalapenos, thyme, garlic, s&p, and oil. Rub the pork with the mixture, being sure to massage some of the mixture down into the incisions. Place the meat in a roasting pan, fat side up. Cover the pan with foil and roast until meat is fork-tender, about 3-4 hours.

Remove meat from pan. Allow to cool until it can be handled. Shred or slice the pork as desired. After the meat has been removed, add a little water or broth to the roasting pan and stir to dissolve any brown bits crusted to the bottom of the pan. Strain the pan juices and pour them back over the shredded/sliced pork.

posted by CheeseLouise at 8:07 AM on January 10

With high quality meat like this I'd be hesitant to slather it in sauce and pull it. I'd probably slice it thin and make char siu or Vietnamese grilled pork.
posted by gnutron at 8:21 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]

If you have such a nice piece of meat I'd just dry roast it in an oven.

This is my go to pork roast recipe.

This would work so much better with heritage pork than modern pork as there would be so much more fat so much more flavor, it would be a shame to hide that.

I'd then serve it with a sauce on the side or a selection of sauces, either the ones recommended with the recipe or maybe get some ideas from the responses here, maybe some bread, wraps, lettuce leaves rice & invite all my friends around for a huge pork feast.
posted by wwax at 8:47 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]

2nding a dry oven roast as wwax suggested. shoulder is one of the more porky flavored cuts even on the shittiest factory farmed pigs. Dry roasting so thay tou get heavenly crisp skin and tender porky insides would be heavenly.
posted by Dr. Twist at 9:12 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]

Seconding char siu. I used the Strictly Dumpling recipe with maltose instead of molasses.

Bonus: Then you can make baked char siu bao which is such a heavenly food... If you do plan on making the bao, try and undercook the original pork just a little bit since it will finish off when baking.
posted by mustardayonnaise at 9:50 AM on January 10

I would absolutely make carnitas. They showcase the flavor of the pork and have a great combo of crispy and soft pork textures instead of being a uniform softness that you get with a pure shred. They also don't cover the pork flavor with lots of strong spices and sauces. Kenji's guide is a good one!
posted by quince at 11:48 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]

Cochinita pibil!
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:05 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]

Please make carnitas. And then invite me over to eat carnitas.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:35 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]

Momofuku's Bo Ssam is another good use of this cut.
posted by mmascolino at 12:55 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]

Chile Verde
This is my "omg this is so effin' good! why don't i make this more often?" goto dish.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:41 PM on January 10

I can personally recommend a nice garlicky pernil (Puerto Rican roast pork shoulder). So tasty! ...unless you're not into garlic, of course.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:17 PM on January 10

Monkey Toes, it's either a Red Wattle Mix or a Hereford. Not sure which but those are the two they had this year. And thank you everyone for the recipes. I thought I would feel liberated to try lots of fun recipes with all these different cuts at my disposal but instead I feel a little panicky and like I have to be super careful in my choices because I don't want to waste it!
posted by HotToddy at 6:38 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]

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