For years, my daughter has insisted that she doesn’t like pulled pork butt. At all. It’s gross. And for even longer, my son has begged me to make as much as much slow roasted pork shoulder as humanly possible, so he can keep shoving it down his gullet, because there is no such thing as enough for him.
**Not interested in my family history on pulled pork? Here’s the recipe instead!**
So what’s a dad to do? As I have done in the past, a simple renaming of a dish can go a long way, even with kids smart enough to know what I’m up to.
Trout went from being pushed aside to well received when it was renamed “white salmon.” And the attitude towards turkey was completely reversed when the naming rights changed from “Grandma’s Turkey In A Warm Water Bath” to “Dad’s Roasted Turkey With Crispy Skin!”
So please excuse the title of today’s post, but instead of talking about pulled pork (gross), I will be discussing how to roast pork shoulder in the oven! I toyed with the idea of telling my kids that I would be writing about how to cook a pulled pork butt or Boston Butt in the oven, but I was afraid that they wouldn’t be able to get past that name, even if appropriate and accurate.
Much like my roast beef post, the focus of this dish is primarily the protein, and then a few other items, most of which I really haven’t given much thought to. So let’s talk about the cut of meat I use for this pork shoulder recipe.
Where To Buy Your Pork Roast
The pork shoulder is a relatively inexpensive cut, sometimes called a Boston Butt, even if you shop at the high end stores like Whole Foods or maybe some of your local gourmet butcher shops. In my neck of the woods, I can find a four or five pound pork shoulder roast for $5.99 a pound, at Whole Foods no less, well under the $15.99 or $16.99 they charge a pound for some of the finer beef steaks they sell, and well under the almost $30 a pound filet mignons they sell.
Sustainability and respectable living conditions for the animals I eat is a very important consideration when choosing both the stores I shop at as well as the dish I want to prepare for my family. So I find it quite reassuring that Whole Foods, at least the one where I shop, gets a fair percentage of their pork products from Niman Ranch, a well respected farming cooperative with high standards towards their animal products. Plus they have yummy bacon, but that’s a different story.
Whole Foods, and most other grocers for that matter, have been working fairly diligently over the past few years to include more and more options from local vendors. And that includes in the butcher shop. So if you are inclined, and I am, look for the “local” tag and buy your bone-in or boneless pork shoulder from the farmers working just down the road from you.
I’m certainly not suggesting that you should always buy your meat from Whole Foods, I certainly don’t, but I would suggest trying to find a good pulled pork butt source that provides antibiotic free options, as well as being free from added hormones. You should also look for animal products that have been raised, and slaughtered, in as humane conditions as possible, and not crowded into abusive and confining farming operations.
If you are more of a farmers market type, odds are that you could find a high quality meat farmer there offering all sorts of pork cuts, such as a pork butt, but also bacon, ribs, chops and pretty much anything else you can think of. It may cost a pinch more than the grocery, but spend a few minutes talking to the vendor and you’ll get a good idea if the bone in pork shoulder you are eyeing was raised the way you would hope. Totally worth the extra time and dollars in my opinion.
For my first go at roasting a pork shoulder in the oven, I started with Michael Chiarello’s recipe at Food Network, making only a few (relatively) minor tweaks. For instance, his recipe starts with a 6 pound roast, which was significantly larger than the pork shoulder I had in my fridge. Then I cut back on the salt that he called for, as well as the chili pepper, as I didn’t want to overwhelm my daughter and never get another chance to convince her that she really does like pulled pork!
Also, I changed a few of his recommended spices around, simply because I didn’t have them in my kitchen. But it really doesn’t matter, grab a bunch of your favorite spices and a pork shoulder, and it’s pretty hard to go wrong!
Oven Roasting Your Pork Shoulder
As far as the actual cooking process for this roast pork recipe, there really isn’t much to discuss. I choose to use the oven for simplicity’s sake, and while I know that I will receive a fair amount of abuse for this decision, I’m sticking by it! First, it’s super easy and allows me to have a full day of work and activities without having to tend to a fire, and second, it tastes good enough that many guests have no idea I never ever fired up a smoker for this pork shoulder recipe!
Another benefit of working with an oven is that it is ideal for those of us who have ever lived in a high rise apartment or town home, anyone without the ability to simply walk out back and fire up their grill or smoker. With your oven, all you need is a nice roasting pan, your spices and quite a bit of time and patience for slow cooking, and you’ll end up with a beautiful crusty juicy pork should roast.
So it comes down to this… spice the pork up, sling it into the oven around 10:00 in the morning, or even earlier for a larger roast, and then simply let it bake until 5:30 or 6:00, and it will simply fall of the bone and taste delicious for you! As an added bonus, your kids will thank you! And your friends. And spouse. And anyone else lucky enough to be eating dinner with you!
One final reminder, please pay attention to the size of the pork butt you are buying, it really does matter. Don’t buy a 10 pound roast and then wonder why it isn’t completely done in the time frame discussed here, where I was cooking a pork roast half that size.
When I cook a really large pork butt or shoulder, which I consider anything over 6 pound to be large and 8-10 pounds to be really large, I get started a few hours earlier. No real science here, but just an insurance policy to make sure everything gets the right amount of time to cook properly all the way through.
For a 4-5 pound roast, I think 8 hours of cooking time would be fine, a little more wouldn’t hurt. For a 6-8 pound roast, I would add an hour or so, and for anything over 8 pounds I would shoot for at least 10 hours of cooking time, which looks like starting the spice rub around 6:30 am, in the oven at 7:00 am, pulled out of the oven to let it rest around 5:30 or 6:00 pm and then eating at 6:00 or 6:30.
How To Cook Pork Shoulder In The Oven
- 4-5 pound pork shoulder roast also called Boston Butt
- 3 tablespoons sea salt
- 1 tablespoon mustard powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons chipotle chili powder
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Pre-heat the oven to 250
- Combine all of the spices in a small bowl and mix together
- Rub the spice rub over the pork shoulder on all sides, place into an oven proof dutch oven, and then into oven without the lid
- After 8-10 hours, give or take, remove from the oven, and let sit for another 30 minutes
- Place pork shoulder on cutting board and pull the pork into small bite sized pieces using forks
I know that I make a lot of excuses for myself when I present these nutrition panel, but without some context, they are close to useless, you need to know how I actually came up with these numbers for them to be of much use for you. In this case, I assumed that I bought a 4 lb bone in pork shoulder roast, and after cooking and removing the shoulder bone, was left with a little over 3 pounds of pork. If we then split that pork shoulder 10 ways, that means each serving is about 5 ounces, which is what I entered into my nutrition calculator. So if your serving is about 5 ounces, this should be helpful, but if you really load your plate up, it might be time to bump some of these numbers up!