Pork shoulder is super versatile, incredibly flavorsome, and comparatively easy to cook. We spoke to Brent Fairlie, CEO of leading supplier of quality pork products, LYNCA MEATS, to get the lowdown on the best ways to cook this delicious cut of meat.
As its name implies, the pork shoulder is a cut of meat from the upper part of the front leg of a pig. This part of the pig is quite a tough, muscular joint as it gets a lot of exercise. As such, it needs to be cooked low and slow to create a juicy and tender end dish, says Brent:
Whichever cooking method you choose, pork shoulder should always be at room temperature before it is prepared. “You should remove your pork shoulder from the freezer and allow itto defrost overnight. Then remove from the fridge roughly a half an hour to an hour to naturally warm up to room temperature before cooking. This ensures that the pork will cook evenly, rather than burning on the outside and still being cool or uncooked on the inside,” explains Brent.
There are three main traditional ways of slow cooking a pork shoulder, these include:
You can’t go wrong with a traditional pork shoulder roast, and although it requires hours of cooking, the preparation is quick and easy. All you need is an oven, a roasting dish, and an oven-safe metal rack.
- Warm the oven: Let the oven warm up to approximately 150°C – 180°C before inserting the pork shoulder.
- Score the pork: Use a sharp knife to score the pork fat – this will allow the pork’s juices to spill out, baste the meat during cooking, allowing your choice of seasoning to penetrate deeper into the meat.
- Add some flavour: Cover the pork shoulder with a generous amount of seasoning, marinade or rub. These can be homemade or bought. If you are having trouble getting the seasoning to stick to the pork, then cover it with a very thin layer of olive oil and
thenroll it in the seasoning. If you marinate the pork shoulder, it must sit in the marinade for a minimum of 4 hours.
- Place on a rack: The pork shoulder should be placed onto a cooking rack to ensure that it does not cook in its own juices. Place the pork on the rack fat side up – as the pork cooks, the fat will render and this will baste the meat. The fat and juices that collect at the bottom of the baking dish can be used to make the most delicious gravy.
- Roast: Roast the pork shoulder uncovered for approximately 1 hour per 0,5kg. The slower and longer it roasts, the better. As a general rule, the internal temperature of the pork shoulder should be 70°C – 85°C, and the skin should be crispy.
- Let it sit: The pork shoulder should sit for between 10 – 15 minutes before it is carved. This allows the meat to continue to cook off its internal heat and allows it to reabsorb moisture that would otherwise be lost if carved immediately.
Slow-cooked pork is a truly mouth-watering dish – a real show-stopper if done correctly. Pork cooked in this method becomes tender and juicy, and it can be pulled apart using a fork. All you need for this method is a slow cooker.
- Brown the pork shoulder: Heat a frying pan or skillet on the hob, and when it’s very hot, add a bit of oil. Then add your pork shoulder and cook it for several minutes on each side until it is nicely browned all over and the exterior crust is crispy.
- Add seasoning: Add your choice of vegetables and seasoning to the slow cooker – these will add flavour and complexity to the end dish. Place the pork shoulder on top of the vegetables and seasoning.
- Cover with liquid: You can use a variety of liquids to cover your pork shoulder, including stock, water, apple juice, beer, cider or white wine. The liquid should cover a ½ to ¾ of the pork shoulder.
- Cook low and slow: Place the lid onto the slow cooker and let the slow cooking begin. Cooking time in a slow cooker allows plenty of leeway, but the average is around 8 to 10 hours (approximately 2 hours per 0,5kg of meat).
- Pull apart: Many slow cooked pork shoulder recipes are eaten as pulled pork – you can pull it apart using tongs or a fork for the typical shredded texture.
Nothing can beat grilling, or as we South Africans say, braaiing a pork shoulder outdoors on a hot, sunny day! The sound of the pork shoulder sizzling on the braai, and the delicious aromas that will come from the slow roast grill are truly unbeatable. For this method, you will need either a gas braai, or a classic charcoal braai with plenty of briquettes.
- Season and score: Score the skin-side of the pork shoulder and add some flavour with a dry rub of your choice – this will create a delicious crispy exterior crust after grilling.
- Medium heat: Preheat the grill to medium heat – roughly 100°C – and paint the grill grates with olive oil to prevent the meat from sticking.
- Add a tray of water: To regulate the temperature and prevent the meat from drying out, place a small oven-safe pan full of water on the side of the grill.
- Grill slowly: Add your pork to the grill, close the lid and allow to cook for approximately 90 minutes per ½ kg of pork. When done, the pork should boast a crispy brown-black exterior, and the tender internal meat should reach approximately 70°C.
- Add smoky flavours: If you like smoky flavours, then you can add wood chips that you have soaked in water overnight to the grill. Wrap the soaked wood chips in a tin foil boat (a folded pouch that is open on top), and place directly on the coals or the gas burners.
- Let it rest: Remove the pork shoulder from the grill and let it rest for 10 – 15 minutes before carving and serving.