Meat Recipes

12 Hour Roast Pork Shoulder, crackling, Puy lentils, parsley butter

October 24, 2008


Pinky to the corner of your mouth folks.. It is mini-post time!! (a short post, with few pictures, but still dead interesting!)

Again, more simple, rustic food. YAY!

So, those that didn’t get grossed out by the terrine post before (apparently quite a few people don’t like pate! nutters), I also served up a hunking great lump of pork to the veggers. I promised some more info on it, so here we go.

A Boston But loves a crowd to be honest, and I love it too. This cut can run really pretty big, and when the picnic roast is included too, you get yourself a full shoulder – enough to easily serve 20.

I wasn’t planning on feeding the 5000, so this is a Boston But (the upper section of the shoulder), weighing in at about 10lbs with the skin on.

My aim here was to create a dish that I could just leave alone. When having a party, the last thing you want to be doing if frantically rushing around in the kitchen, trying to cook 100 different things to feed a large group of people. I should know, been there, done that, didn’t buy the t-shirt or the mug. Never again.

The basic premise is to slap a large lump of meat into a low oven, and let it cook very gently until it it is fall apart tender. Pork shoulder is a great joint for doing this. You can see the fat running through the meat, and on the surface – this is important for a few reasons:

1) proper raised pork fat is gorgeous

2) the fat lubricates the meat whilst cooking, keeping it moist and tender

3) proper raised pork fat is gorgeous

4)proper raised pork fat is gorgeous

So I was reading through the River Cottage Meat book, and came across a slow roasted pork shoulder recipe. Hugh’s combination of spices didn’t quite gel with me for the meal I was serving, so I used my own. But the basic method is all him, which is also really all 1000 other cooks and chefs.. the method isn’t complicated and doesn’t change much from person to person. It has been done in fancy restaurants, and in homes. The big deciding factor is how good this is going to be is really down to the quality of the pork.

You want to make sure you get a cut with the skin on. Why? one word.. CRACKLING!!! yes folks, that crispy, fatty roasted pork skin that is sinfully good, but also rather crappy for you. No skin, no crackling, and only a slightly happy pork roast because of it.

I of course favor locally raised, natural meat from pigs that have led a decent life, been fed properly and raised without hormones or other nasties. Sea Breeze Farm was again my source for this hunk of meat – I guess by know I really don’t have to tell you how much I love these guys.

I have to say I have never roasted a piece of meat for this long before. Not even close. I did a smaller boston but, about 4lb’s a few weeks ago, but roasted at a temperature of about 375F if I remember correctly. That turned out amazing, but I fear that temperature would be rather bad for such a large lump of meat – burnt on the outside, raw in the middle – and a lot of sick guests.

So how did it turn out? Well, good and bad. My guests loved it. Those that ate meat. The whole thing went, and I was expecting left-overs for at least a few days of sandwiches.

I myself, being the picky bastard that I am, and rather anal about the food I make, thought it could have been better. I felt like the whole thing was a bit dry. There was still a good deal of fat with the meat, which was great, but the meat tasted dry(ish). I was the only one that thought so though.

I have actually been thinking about this a bit the last week. I am not really that used to the whole “pulled pork” style, which of course slow roasting produces.. it could have been that..

The basic method was to cook it at 450F for 30 minutes, to get it all sizzling, then turn it down to 250F for at least 10 hours, preferably 14. The final 30 minutes you crank the heat back up to crispen up the crackling.

What resulted to me, was a crust to the meat that was bordering on burnt. But, think about it, a roast in the oven that long, it is going to get some charring, even at a lowish temperature I guess. It was really borderline, but to me it wasn’t perfect, and that just plain pisses me off.

Here are my thoughts:

1) my gas oven is really shit at temperature control: This could easily be. Gas ovens are notoriously bad at keeping an even temperature. I should get a good oven thermometer and check it out. What if it really was roasting at 300F for 12 hours? That might explain it.

2) I should have cooked it for less time: Personally, I agree with this one.. I think even slow cooked meats can be cooked too long – especially if the temperature is inconsistent (read.. too high)

3) I should roast it with the crackling off, and cook that separately: This is almost certain. The crackling was damaged. It wasn’t an amazing golden brown that I wanted.. it was getting pretty dark – and that was even before the last temp rise to crispen it up. Cooking this separately will give me more control, and also let me get my spice rub down into the meat more.

4) Clean my sodding oven: A sotty oven really isn’t going to help things

5) I let it rest too long: So, I take it out the oven, and let it rest up a bit. I then take photos of it, and then get called for Halloween photos with all the kids running around (waaay too cute to pass up). This could have been out of the oven for 1 hour.. possibly.

So, I dunno. I got an email from one of the meat eaters (there really wasn’t many carnivores there..) saying how amazing it was, and did I do the great crackling, so I figure it wasn’t as bad as I made out. I did however waaaay prefer the 4lb shoulder roast that I did a few weeks before. It was more me. The fat was gorgeous, it had tons more flavor, but was lacking the crackling.

I think I have to get back to experimenting more. This is a bloody large, expensive cut to experiment on though! I think this set me back 60bucks. I am in two minds about roasting a couple of smaller joints for a shorter period of time for this party actually.. we shall see.

So – if anyone has some suggestions.. feel free!

Oh – and the lentils. Holy crap, these were good. The French Lentils (Puy) were simmered with some herbs (bay, parsley, thyme and black peppercorns), then finished in a little chicken stock. Right at the end some perfect parsley butter is mixed in. WOW. I loved these, and I am not really a massive lentil fan. A ton of flavor, they still held their shape well (love Puy for that), and some great butteriness to them. Excellent stuff.


12 Hour Roast Pork Shoulder, crackling, Puy lentils, parsley butter (serves at least 6)

1 boston but  – about 10lbs, skin on

4 cloves of garlic

1tablespoon of sea salt

10 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and chopped

olive oil

3 cups of Puy lentils (often called French lentils)

9 cups of water

2 bay leaves

4 sprigs of thyme

4 sprigs of parsley

5 black peppercorns

cheesecloth and string

butter – 4 tablespoons

3 tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley – chopped really fine

a little fresh lemon juice

Take the meat out of the fridge about 40minutes before you want to cook it.

Preheat oven to 450F

Take a utility knife and score lines through the pork skin and outer fat, about 1/2” apart.

In a pestle and mortar pound together the garlic, salt and thyme. Loosen with a little olive oil to get a paste. Rub half of this over the skin of the meat, making sure to work it really well into the cuts you just made.

Place the meat on a roasting rack, skins side up, sitting in a pan large enough to surround the joint of pork. Quite a bit of fat is going to come out of this, so you need a large pan.

Bung this in the oven for 30 minutes to sizzle. After 30 minutes, turn the oven down to 225-250F. Carefully flip the meat over so the skin is now pointing down. Rub the other half of the mixture into the bottom of the meat (now pointing upwards). Put a cup of water into the pan, and bung it back into the oven.

Roast for 6 hours. Flip the meat, and baste with the juices. Skin should now be pointing up. Roast for another 4-6 hours.

30 minutes before you are wanting to serve, crank the heat back up to 450F to crisp up the skin.

Remove from the oven, and let rest for 20 minutes.

For the lentils: About 30 minutes before you want to eat put the lentils, and the water into a large saucepan. Put the whole sprigs of thyme, bay and parsley on a bit of cheesecloth, along with the peppercorns. Bring the corners together to form a little bag, and tie off with string. Put this in with the lentils too. Get this boiling, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until just soft enough to bite through a lentil, but so they still retain their shape and texture.

Pour a little hot water into a bowl. Discard the water. Put the butter, chopped parsley and a couple of drops of lemon juice into the bowl. Mix, and mash together until you have one smooth butter. Add more lemon if you think it needs a bit more sharpness.

Just before you want to serve the lentils mix the butter carefully with them, until the butter has melted, and everything is combined.

To serve: Give your guests a dish of the lentils, and some plates. Put the meat on a carving tray, and pull off the crackling. Divide this among the guests. Let them pass the meat and lentils around – letting them carve their own meat.

I like to serve this with some simple pickled shallots – like these:

OH, OK.. this wasn’t quite a mini post was it. There goes that idea.

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  • atypicprig October 25, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    If your oven is a little uneven, I’ve heard that adding a quarry stone or a bread/pizza stone can help keep it stable.

  • claudia (cook eat FRET) October 27, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    i just spent some time all over your blog
    impressive to say the least
    so i’ve put you in my reader…

    just beautiful food with a lot of heart

  • Y October 28, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    I wish I could remember the exact details, but at a place I worked, we used to slow cook pork shoulder in the oven overnight, similar to what you’ve done, and it turned out amazing every time. A wet rub was first applied, and the crackling was done separately (for presentation purposes, really). A temperature probe was also set so that the oven turned off once the internal temperature of the meat hit a certain point .. 87’C or something like that. We ate a good few pork shoulder offcut-inspired staff meals, until I got quite sick of the stuff! 😀

  • Heather October 29, 2008 at 5:02 am

    I think we’re always our worst critics, but the 100-lb. pig I roasted was too dry too, and I chalk that up to the heat being too high (325-ish until I got some control). /shrug


  • Chocolate Shavings October 29, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Wow… this is comfort food at its best. I agree, pork can be one of most delicious meals when properly prepared. Yours, sounds absolutely delicious.

  • We Are Never Full November 5, 2008 at 2:26 am

    the one thing i can say when cooking pernil, you should always keep it skin side up. the melting fat actually is used to baste the meat – self basting meat in a way. i usually still baste w/ the juices, but i would be curious to see if you notice a difference next time w/ it skin side up.

  • robin @ caviar and codfish November 12, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Hey Matt,
    I’ve never slow-roasted that much meat in the oven–I could see it drying out a bit even with all that fat. I think in a charcoal grill is better, I guess then you can sacrifice total moistness for flavor. Your meat is bone in right? (think I see the bone there.)

    I do braise pork shoulder in the oven often. I’ve used that much meat before and had it stay really moist. Usually I get a piece as fatty as you have it, score the fat, and then render it in a pan for 20-30 minutes fat side down, no turning. Once that’s done (really, really browned, like just before burnt), I pour out some of the fat, add some onions or whatever you like and brown up a bit. Then add back the pork (skin side up) and put some pork broth or water in the bottom of the pan, so it reaches up a few inches on the pork. Cover with foil or the top, braise at 225 or so for about 6 hours (sometimes up to 8 hours) and during the last hour (or a bit longer than that), take off the foil to let off some of the stock and to brown up the top again. Once done, you can either make something with the stock and fat on the bottom (I usually have crusty bread, rice, or noodle and drizzle some on top with the pork) or get rid of it.

    Because of the long searing time, the top stays pretty crusty, but if you are a stickler (or you are trying to serve it in pieces instead of pulled), you can put the oven up to broil for a few minutes. Done this before, and it didn’t dry out.

    You may know all about this, but thought I’d chime in just in case!


  • m November 16, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    I did the same recipe, albeit with a fresh ham. I was panicking while starting the brine on a proper ham and the meat spent about 8 days in the brine (mostly hard cider, brown sugar, and salt) before I took it out and did this recipe. I think I did it for just under 17 hours. The result? Horrendous blackened skin, too nasty to eat, but beneath? Lovely lovely food.

  • Mike February 21, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    I came across your site and thought I’d offer my recipe, too. I grew up in the southeastern United States, an area where slow-cooked pork by the shoulder, or by the whole hog, can be as much as a 24 hour endeavour. While the whole show can be a bit much to pull off, I’ve found a great way to enjoy ‘Southern pulled pork’ BBQ without all the effort. Start the day before with the marinating (these measurements are good for a 6 to 10 lb shoulder):

    1 cup apple cider vinegar (this type is key to the taste)
    1.5 cups water
    1 cup of dark brown sugar
    .25 cup of regular yellow mustard
    roughly a teaspoon each of salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper
    .5 teaspoon of cumin
    3 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
    1 large plastic freezer bag

    Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Place the shoulder in the bag and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag up almost to the edge, then carefully work as much of the air out as you can before sealing it. This isn’t to get rid of the air as much as help cover the shoulder in the marinade. Put in the refrigerator and let it marinate for 12 to 24 hours.

    For cooking you’ll need a daubiere or as what I use the ceramic inset to my crockpot. I don’t like using the full crockpot appliance because mine doesn’t give good temp control. Preheat the oven to 120C (250F). Dump the shoulder and the marinade into your choice of container (yes, you can use the marinade for cooking too) and cover with the lid or a few layers of aluminium foil. Let it slow cook for at least 8 hours, after which use a deep probe thermometer to check the internal temp. To serve it needs to be at least 66C (150F).

    When it’s done, carefully transfer the shoulder to a cutting board, preferably one that allows the excess marinade to run off. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, and then you can proceed to ‘pull’ the pork by taking two forks and raking it in opposite directions, separating the meat into small chunks.

    You can then toss the meat in your favorite heated barbecue sauce or serve as-is. Mixing another small batch of marinade, without cutting the apple cider vinegar with water, works nicely as a sauce. Serve over sandwich buns or aside baked beans and coleslaw. Enjoy!

  • Cori April 21, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    I’m making one right now. My only advice that differs from what you did is…it’s seasoned fat side up in the oven at about 225-250. (I started it off at 300 for a few hours) What I’ll be doing different is only crisping the skin at the very end. It’s a fast process since the fat has slowly been melting during cooking time. The whole idea of crisping it at the beginning has been rather foreign to me. This is the 1000th time I’ve made a slow roasted pork shoulder (or at least it seems like it) and every time it turns out, albeit I can see having trouble if your oven isnt consistent. This one should be ready just in time for play off hockey tonite…nothing better than pulled pork sandwiches for the game.

  • Lily November 8, 2009 at 8:14 am

    Thank you so much for putting this online together with your thoughts as they helped me no end. My meat is in the oven and I’ve reduced the temp to 100C from 121C as you said you thought it was too high. (The temps are converted – I love Google ;oP)
    I cannot tell you how much willpower it’s taking to NOT turn it up – just concerns me as it’s sorta against all you hear about _n_o_t_ poisoning people! I did bung it in a really hot oven at 250C for 25 mins t start to try and prevent the poisoning bit and got it from a local butcher. Lived in my area for 2 years and it’s my 1st trip to the butchers rather than the supermarket!
    I will let you know how it turns out.
    *off to make 2 x plum cake. 1 wheat-free and one not*

    Thanks again


  • Lily November 8, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    The pork was so succulent and tender it was fabulous. Everyone loved it and I got lots of compliments thank you so much.

  • Ann May 6, 2011 at 7:45 am

    Can’t wait to serve this at my party next week! One question: I am roasting the whole shoulder, weighing about 17 lbs. Should I increase cooking temp, or just cook longer?

    • mattwright May 6, 2011 at 10:17 pm

      Ann – 12-16hours is what I would suggest there. I wouldn’t increase the cooking temp, and don’t use convection.