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Pork shoulder, the juicy, tender cut favored by barbecue pit masters, can be a simple dinner or an elaborate preparation that’s been brined, marinated, mopped and sauced. It’s chopped and pulled for barbecue sandwiches or sliced for a meaty feast.

About Pork Roasts

A whole pork shoulder, also called a pork butt, Boston roast, shoulder butt or shoulder blade roast, weighs 12 to 18 pounds. It consists of two cuts: the whole pork butt and the whole picnic. Both cuts weigh between six and 10 pounds, and both are sold boneless or bone-in. The picnic typically contains part of the leg.

Some cooks prefer a bone-in cut because they believe the bone adds flavor. They also see it as the perfect test for doneness because if the bone slips out with no meat attached, the roast is done. Whether or not to trim the fat is a matter of personal preference.

How long it takes to cook a pork shoulder depends on the size of the roast and the cooking method. Oven cooking takes about 20 to 25 minutes per pound at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooking a pork roast on the grill at 225F can take as long as eight hours.

Pork Roast in the Oven

Heat the oven to 425F. Combine olive oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper. Rub the mixture all over the surface of the roast. Place the meat on a rack in a roasting pan and cook for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, reduce the oven heat to 325F. Cook for about four hours or until the internal temperature reaches 185F.

Remove the pork from the oven and let it rest for about 30 minutes. When the roast is cool enough to handle, you can slice, chop or pull the meat. Garlic lovers cut slits in the surface of the meat and insert sliced garlic cloves.

Barbecued Pork Shoulder

Shoulder is the pork cut of choice for barbecuing and smoking. Blue ribbons are won or lost on the flavor of the marinade and the juiciness of the cooked meat. Pitmasters disagree on whether or not to brine the pork or to use an injector to force flavor into the meat. Flavor profiles are refined for years, and recipes are passed down for generations.

Heat the grill to 225F. Make a dry rub with brown sugar, salt, pepper and the spices of your choice. Consider garlic and onion powder, paprika and dry mustard. Pat the rub all over the surface of the pork and place it on the grill. Add soaked wood chips to the grill if you want a smoky flavor.

Cook for about five hours or until the internal temperature reaches 195F. Keep the surface moist as the roast cooks by spraying it or mopping it with a combination of apple juice, water and vinegar.

Pernil Pork Roast Recipe

Pernil is a classic Puerto Rican pork roast that’s marinated overnight in a mixture of garlic, cilantro, cumin, lime juice, orange juice, adobo and olive oil. Create a diamond pattern by scoring the fat side of the roast with a sharp knife. Put the pork roast in a zip-top bag, pour the marinade over it, seal the bag and refrigerate.

Heat the oven to 350F. Put the pork on a rack in a roasting pan and pour about 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of the pan. Cover it with foil and cook until the pork is tender, about four hours. Check the skin about a half hour before the roast is finished. It should be crisp and brown. If it isn’t, remove the foil for the last half hour of cooking.

About the Author

Meg Jernigan

Native New Yorker Meg Jernigan stayed in Washington, D.C. after attending the George Washington University, and worked in the tourism industry with the National Park Service for many years. She’s a dedicated foodie with an extensive cookbook collection and years of experience in the kitchen. Jernigan’s recipes have been published online and in magazines like Southern Living.