Slow Roasted Spice Rubbed Pork Shoulder

You may recall I purchased an entire pig last December and split it with a good friend.  We each ended up with 100 lbs. of fresh, locally loved and raised, lean pork and have been busy enjoying every bit of its truly incredible flavor.  So where are my posts about this first time ever foray into purchasing locally raised meat?  Outside of my initial experience making a Chilie-Brined Fresh Whole Ham, I haven’t written about any of it.

Call me lazy.  Go ahead.

But you know I’ve been avoiding sitting here to avoid thinking about food in general, so I hope that helps explain my lack of motivation.  I’ve been keeping myself busy with spring cleaning by reorganizing my kitchen and sorting though dishes and things I rarely use so I can donate  them along with the several bags of clothes I’ve weeded from my closet that no longer fit.  I’ve saved one pair of slacks so I might hold them up at some point and take a picture, showing just how far I’ve come so far, but I’m not quite ready for that.  I’ll get there.  I will.  Soon.

In the meantime,  I can’t put off writing any longer because the recipes are piling up waiting to be shared, and there’s no better place to begin than with a cut of pork I’ve prepared many times:  the shoulder.  That would be from the front portion of the pig as opposed to the rear where the “ham” comes from.  Although most shoulders are purchased sectioned into either what’s often called a picnic roast and a Boston Butt (which seems confusing considering the cut is from the opposite end of the animal), I happened to have the entire shoulder — about 10 lbs. of pork.

The shoulder is much more fatty than the ham, so cooking it slowly over very low heat allows all that fat to melt into the meat, creating amazingly tender pork perfect for pulling.  I’ve prepared a much smaller cut from the shoulder using a slow cooker to make one type of pulled pork for sandwiches, braised it on the stove top in this recipe with Guinness and dried cherries, or in the oven using lots of garlic and chardonnay for this recipe, and have often used the indirect heat method on the grill — especially in warm weather when I don’t want the house to heat up.  This time, we slow roasted it in the oven over a nine hour period of time until it was dark and crispy on the outside, and fall apart tender inside when two forks are inserted and pulled away from one another.

Oh, my.

Not much is better if you love pork.

And although you’ll be tempted to eat it all by itself like we did late one evening just to try it, it makes the most amazing pulled pork sandwiches when you have just the right slaw to go with it.

Slow Roasted Spice Rubbed Pork Shoulder

Ingredients for the Rub

1/2 c. dark brown sugar, packed

4 T kosher salt

4 T smoked paprika

2 T ground black pepper

1 T ground coriander

1 tsp. dry mustard

1 tsp. onion powder

1 10-lb bone-in pork shoulder

3 c. apple juice

1 c. water


  1. Lay the roast on a large piece of plastic wrap and pat it dry with paper toweling.   Set aside.
  2. Add the dry ingredients to a bowl and whisk to blend well.
  3. Rub the spice mix over the entire roast, going over it more than once until all the spices are used.  Cover with the plastic wrap and allow to rest at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours, refrigerated.
  4. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking time and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  5. Place the pork shoulder on a rack positioned in a large baking pan.
  6. Pour the apple juice and water into the roasting pan and cover the entire pan tightly with foil.
  7. Allow to cook for approximately 9 hours.
  8. Remove the foil for the last 30 minutes of roasting time to crisp up the crust.
  9. Remove from oven and allow the pork shoulder to rest 10-15 minutes.
  1. Place on a platter and using two forks, shred the pork  and use as desired.

Recipe Notes:

  • This recipe was inspired by many different sources primarily so I might learn more about cooking a whole pork shoulder in general, but the ingredient list can be attributed Michael Mina as published in Esquire.
  • Chow is another source because there are so many threads about how home cooks prepare pork shoulder.  Each time I’ve made it, I’ve tried something different and with such a special cut this time, I wanted to make sure it was prepared perfectly.
  • What makes this method of preparation different than the others I’ve tried is that the pork steams under that foil covering instead of sitting in liquid like it would in a braise.
  • The most interesting thing I learned this time is that internal temperature (use a probe connected to the oven or an insta-read thermometer) has to reach 190 degrees F and sustained for quite some time in order for the pork shoulder to be “pullable.”  Now this isn’t the only way to achieve this, because we have been quite successful using the grill for Pibil-Style Pork which also melted as we poked forks into it.  It will make some of you crazy when I say this, but there’s no exact time!  Do your homework — these are only my experiences and honestly, not all pork is the same.
  • Our pork shoulder did not have skin, but at the end of the cooking time, it was the perfect combination of crusty on the outside, and meltingly tender on the inside.  I hear it’s amazing when it’s been allowed to roast slowly with skin still attached, but I’ll have to wait for another time to find that out myself.
  • It’s important to state that if you won’t serve the pork shoulder immediately, then it will need to be reheated in order to pull it.  If you don’t care about that, then there are many other uses for a nicely roasted piece of pork shoulder.  I broke ours up into smaller packages and froze it.  We’re still working through those packages and have shared with family as well.
  • For what it’s worth, the two best ways I’ve prepared pork shoulder is this way (slow roasting in the oven) and grilling using the indirect heat method.  Although using a slow cooker also will yield results that allow for tender pulled pork, ultimately, there will be no contrast of crust and tender interior, so that method pales in comparison to the others.  I know people think using a crock pot convenient, but honestly, I didn’t watch my oven for nine hours.  We were out of the house for much of that time.  Besides, there was no way this whole pork shoulder would have fit into any crock pot.  As far as grilling goes, when you use the indirect heat method, your house doesn’t heat up (perfect for warm weather!) and you also do not have to watch it because there’s no heat directly beneath the pork shoulder.  An estimation of time and period internal temperature testing is what works.
  • So what about our diets and eating all this pork?  We usually eat meat 1-2 times a week and when we do, it is in very small quantity.  I try to follow the 4 0z. rule as closely as possible because that’s what’s healthy for us.  Also, our portions of meat are well-balanced with a good amount of veg either cooked with the meat, or in a huge salad.
  • I am so happy with our decision to purchase this pork from Valley Center farmer Jack of Taj Farms.  Our bacon supply is dwindling as is the sausage.  But we’ve still got neck bones to look forward to, ham hocks, ham ends, and half a head.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  Research is ongoing…
  • Stay tuned for pulled pork sandwiches!

More pork shoulder from around the web

Stacy Snacks“Cuban Roast Pernil:  Pork Shoulder”

Savvy Eats“A Savvy Week:  Pork Shoulder”

Gastronomer’s Guide“Cola-Braised Pork Shoulder with Onions and Dried Cherries”

Dinner and a Love Story“Pork Shoulder Ragu”

Chefdruck Musings — “Slow Caramelized Pork Shoulder Momofuku Style”