CRISPY CRACKLIN' ROASTED PORK SHOULDER

PORK: it's also what's for dinner. Anytime you have the option of roasting a decent sized chunk of pork, having the skin still attached can unlock a whole new level of deliciousness which comes in the form of salty, crispy, utterly decadent crackling roasted skin. It's similar to the satisfaction of biting into a crisp, thick potato chip, except with the flavor of bacon. This now begs the question: why would you NOT request pork with the skin still attached? Well, if you're going to be smoking a piece of pork, the skin will typically dry out, so in some cases, omitting the skin may be a good option. But for roast pork? There's no question.

Here we are taking a really affordable piece of pork, treating it very simply, and transforming it into an unforgettable meal. Great for serving a group or just having extra to eat during the week. There's a couple small tricks which will help you get that amazing crispy skin, but make no mistake, this is really easy to accomplish with any type of standard home oven. It all starts with great quality pork, of course, and you can find this exact piece of meat on our online butcher shop. On to the roasting!

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 3 hours

Difficulty: Easy

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Step 1: Salt the pork ahead of time. This will accomplish two things. One, allowing the salt to work itself into the thick roast, and two, allowing the pork to chill, uncovered, in the fridge for up to 24 hours before cooking. This will help dry out the skin, which will help you achieve extra crispy roasted skin. If you don't have time to do this before hand, it's okay to omit this step. But if you do have the time and want to really nail the details, season liberally with salt the meat on all surfaces except the skin and place on a tray or rack into the refrigerator overnight, uncovered. You can also score the skin at this point if desired (cut shallow lines into the skin exposing seams of meat), which I will feature in another recipe to show you the difference. For this recipe, we will omit that step.

Step 2: Slow roast the pork.  Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. After this hunk of meat was allowed to rest in the fridge overnight with salt and open air, arrange it on the roasting tray. You will notice in the previous photo that it was laying on its side. That's due to the overall shape, which didn't let it stand skin side up very easily, so i've taken a piece of foil and folded it a few times, placing it underneath one side of the roast to help stabilize it. We want this beauty to roast skin side up. You will notice how dry the skin was able to get by resting in the fridge uncovered. Peerrrrrfect. Now if using one (highly recommended), place your oven proof probe thermometer into the center of the meat, but don't allow it to touch the bone. You can do this a two of three times until you find the right spot, it won't hurt the meat. Now place the roast inside the oven, middle rack (if possible), and let the magic happen.

Note about the thermometer: This is the base unit which will sit on the counter top next to the oven. The cord is attached to the unit and the probe is inserted into the meat. The oven door will close on the cord, but don't worry. It is designed for this purpose and won't melt. Set your target temperature to 180 degrees (the number on the bottom right). This is around the internal temperature where meat starts to get that falling apart tender texture. If you much prefer sliced pork that firmly holds its shape, you can go for a lower temperature such as 165. If you want it falling apart into tiny pieces for something like pulled pork, it can go past 180, up to 200 degrees or so. The part of the pork around the bone will take the longest to cook. This photo was taken over 2 hours into the process of cooking.

Step 3: You've got pork. Pull the roasting tray from the oven and set your oven to broil (or if broil is not an option, to a really high temperature like 500 degrees). The internal temperature of 180 was reached on the thermometer after about 3 hours at 250 degrees cooking temp. This time may vary based on the actual temperature of your oven, size of roast, etc. It should definitely be given it's time to slowly roast, so do this with plenty of lead time before serving, even if it means the roast needs to sit on the counter covered with foil for a couple of hours before completing the final steps and serving. You will notice the skin looks slightly opaque and dry. This is exactly where we want it! The oven is heating up to broil, which will be the last step in crisping up the skin. You can remove the thermometer at this point as the roast will only be inside the super hot oven for a few minutes. We've already reached our desired temperature.

Step 4: Crisp the skin! Once the oven is rippin' hot, place the tray back inside underneath the broiler (or into the 500 degree oven if broiling isn't an option). This will only take a few minutes, so keep a close watch on it. The skin will begin to bubble and transform into that amazing cracklin' we all dream about. After just 4 or 5 minutes, and the skin starts to turn really dark around the edges, remove from the oven and revel in the glory of this crispy perfection! You absolutely need to let this roast rest after it comes out of the oven. I recommend at least 20 minutes, or tent it with foil and up to an hour or two.

Step 5: Remove the bone and slice. Once the roast has rested at least a good 20 minutes or more, it will still be very hot to handle. Place it on a cutting board and go to work. The bone should be pretty easily removed from the meat if you've reached the temperature of 180. If it needs a little help, just use a knife to help coax it along. It should pull cleanly from the meat. The skin should also come off the roast in one giant piece, set it aside for chopping and garnishing the platter of meat so everyone can get a few pieces with their meat. Slice and/or pull the pork into chunks and slices. At 180 internal temperature, some of it will pull apart really easily, and some of it will still hold together just enough to slice. I did a combination of both for serving. After the meat is cut and placed on a serving platter, chop up the skin and sprinkle chunks over top the meat. As the cook, you have earned the right to sneak little bites of crispy skin during this process, allowing crunchy crumbs for your ravenous guests to whatever degree of generosity you may be feeling at that time if they happen to be staring at you from a close distance.

Step 6: Serve and enjoy! Feel free to drizzle some of the leftover juices and fat from the roasting tray over top of the meat before serving. This will help keep everything moist and delicious. Serve with your favorite side dishes, or eat nothing more than this deliciously decadent crispy cracklin' skin roasted pork shoulder!