03 Jul The Belauded Pork Butt: A celebration of the pork shoulder and a hybridized technique
The mighty pork shoulder is a workhorse. It’s a large cut with many varied employable techniques. It’s delicious slow roasted or slow smoked until the muscles give way to pulled strands. Due to its heavy marbling of fat, it works well ground and seasoned for an endless array of sausages. The versatility of the this cut is why chefs love it so much.
Key to Success
The key ingredient to almost any shoulder preparation is time. Oven-roasted shoulder will take about six hours depending on the size. Smoking a shoulder can sometimes take up to ten hours. The meat has to cook long enough for the connective tissues to break down. A key indicator for doneness will be that the meat around the bone is drawing back, and the bone can be wiggled loose.
Seasoning a shoulder roast is fairly simple. An easy rule of thumb is to rub the pork roast with equal parts salt and sugar, approximately 1 tablespoon of each per pound. The roast should be rubbed and refrigerated for at least 6 hours or overnight. It is fine to add other spices or seasoning to the pork rub. Paprika can be added in equal parts to the salt and sugar, and brown sugar can be substituted for cane sugar. I actually prefer dark brown sugar to white sugar for pork preparation. Anything else you’d like to add to the rub can be added in half measurements to the salt and sugar, such as garlic or onion powder, ground cumin or ginger, cayenne or chili powder. All of these can be added in at one and a half teaspoons per pound of meat.
I generally love smoking meat. The flavor is unparalleled and it generally yields a tender and juicy end result. The downside to smoking is that it requires a good bit of fuel and a fair amount of heat maintenance to keep the temperature steady. All of the work pays off, though, and in the end the reward is one delicious hunk of meat. Oven roasting is great because it is almost entirely hands off. Every once in awhile it requires a basting here and there, but the end result is still just as juicy and delicious as the smoked version and it will generally take a little less time. The biggest setback is the lack of smoky flavor. Fortunately, there’s a way to get the best of both worlds: use both techniques.
- Start the roast in the oven at 265 degrees.
- Allow the pork to cook for five and a half hours in the oven, basting once or twice every hour, and then turn off the oven and let the pork rest while preparing a grill for finishing.
- Once the coals are hot and ready, slather the roast in the rest of the drippings from the roasting pan and place on the hot grill.
- Get a good char on the roast and then move it over to indirect heat to allow for a smoky finish.
- Remove the roast from the grill and set it aside while using the hot coals to grill some onions or leeks to go with the pork roast, or whatever vegetables you prefer. Once the veggies are done, the pork should be well rested and ready to pull.
The meat should easily shred apart with minimal resistance. Call the neighbors over and show off your skills by sharing this amazing pork roast with them. They will leave happy and maybe one day return the favor with a kind gesture of their own.