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How to cook pork shoulder

Pork shoulder is – you guessed it – the cut taken from the shoulder of a pig. As it does a lot of work walking the pig around all day, it is quite a tough, muscular joint and so must be cooked low and slow to avoid any toughness. Cooking down for hours allows this muscular tissue to break down and becoming meltingly soft. Whilst the Americans hail the shoulder (or confusingly, as it’s known there, the ‘butt’) as the top choice for barbecued pulled pork, we Brits also prize the cut for one of our most iconic British dishes – roast pork (with crackling of course!)

Make sure you choose pork shoulder with the skin on, as this is what bubbles up to make that perfect crispy crackling. Avoid paler looking meat and blood spots on the skin, a pinkish-red colour with a little marbling will provide best results. You will commonly find this cut boned and rolled, but roasting on the bone helps keep juicy, just be aware to buy a big enough piece. A bone-in piece will obviously weigh more but yield less.

1
Remove the pork shoulder from the fridge 1 hour before you begin to let it come to room temperature
2
Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 8
3
Using a sharp knife, score the skin of the pork, piercing the fat but not the meat itself
4
Rub the meat with olive oil and sea salt. At this point you can inject your chosen flavour into the meat; whether it be a simple marinade of minced garlic, rosemary, thyme and olive oil; or a fiery rub of chilli, paprika and brown sugar. Make sure you massage your rub or marinade well into every nook and cranny
5
Turn the over, season, and add some rosemary sprigs to the pork
6
Place the vegetables in the base of the cocotte, followed by the pork
7
Place in the oven for 20–30 minutes until you see the skin start to bubble up and turn crisp
8
After the initial 30 minutes, pour the water or stock into the dish – this will give you a delicious gravy base. Place the lid on the dish, return to the oven and reduce the heat to 170°C/gas mark 3.5
9
Slow-cook for at least 2 hours, or better yet, if you have the time turn down to 160°C/gas mark 3 and cook for 6 hours
10
Take the pork out of the oven and leave to rest, allowing 10 minutes for every 1kg of meat
11
The pork is now ready to be carved and served

What to serve with pork shoulder

Serve up your roast pork with all the traditional trimmings; roast potatoes, carrots, cabbage and of course, the all-important apple sauce.

Your meat will be so tender after a good slow-cooking, you can also make pulled pork by shredding it with two forks, perfect for sandwiches or tacos. Pork takes strong flavours well, try something different with Helen Graves' Mexican roast pork with grapefruit and scotch bonnets.

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