Everything you need to know to make delicious and fall-apart-tender oven-roasted pork shoulder with garlic, onion, celery, carrot and thyme.
Pork shoulder is one of the most tender cuts of pork when cooked correctly. And with a roasting pan and a hot oven, it’s easy to put together an impressive roast pork shoulder to feed a crowd.
How do you cook pork shoulder? First, defrost the pork shoulder if it is frozen, then score the fat, season the meat, place it in a roasting pan with vegetables, cook it at 430°F for 30 minutes, then redue the temperature to 320°F for 4 more hours. Let it rest for a few minutes, then slice and enjoy!
How do you make pork shoulder more tender?
Because pork shoulder is a cut from the hard-working forward muscles of the animal, it can be tough if not properly cooked.
Pork shoulder and similarly tough cuts of meat benefit from long, slow and low cooking. This helps break down the collagen in the muscles to yield soft and tender meat that shreds easily.
In addition, the quality of your pork matters when it comes to texture. Always choose the freshest cut that appears firm, pink and moist. The fat should be pearly white.
While pork shoulder is a relatively lean cut, it does have some amount of fat on one side. Instead of trimming this off, use the fat to flavor your meat as it cooks. The long, slow cooking process in the oven helps the fat tender and melt. It then drips down into the meat and infuses your dish with plenty of flavor.
How to make oven-roasted pork shoulder
Once you have found a healthy piece of pork shoulder, you’re ready to start cooking.
- 3 lbs. pork shoulder
- 4 smashed garlic cloves
- 1 chopped onion
- 2 chopped celery sticks
- 1 chopped carrot
- 1 sprig of thyme
- Olive oil
Prepping the pork shoulder
Step 1: Defrost the pork shoulder
If your pork shoulder is frozen, be sure to defrost I it fully before you start cooking. Place the pork in the fridge overnight to safely defrost.
Step 2: Score the pork fat
When your pork is fully defrosted, prep the meat for tossing. Place it on a cutting board and use a sharp chef’s knife to score the meat. This just means making several shallow cuts across the fat
Scoring is necessary to help the fat render and release during roasting. The only thing to keep in mind when scoring the pork is to only cut the fat, not the meat itself.
Step 3: Season the pork shoulder
Next, season the meat before you start roasting. To infuse the meat with flavor start by rubbing the meat with olive oil on all sides. Then, sprinkle with salt. Be sure to cover all sides!
Next, Prepare a simple marinade by rubbing the thyme and minced garlic all over the meat. If you don’t have thyme, other fresh herbs will also work to infuse flavor into your oven-roasted pork shoulder. Try rosemary, oregano, parsley, cilantro or basil.
Cooking the pork shoulder
Step 1: Preheat the oven
Preheat the oven to 450°F (220°C).
Step 2: Put everything together in an iron skillet
While the oven warms, prepare the remaining ingredients. First, place the onion, celery and carrots in a large oven-safe skillet. Be sure to use one that is big enough to hold the meat.
Place the seasoned meat on top of the vegetables in the skillet. Place the meat fat side up so the fat renders and drips down into the meat for added flavor.
Step 3: Cook the pork shoulder
When the oven reaches temperature, Place the skillet in the oven. Roast the pork shoulder for 30 minutes at this temperature.
Step 4: Add water and slow cook
Once 30 minutes have gone by, add the water into the skillet. It should be enough water to cover a little less than half the pork shoulder from the bottom up. You can also use vegetable, chicken or beef stock instead of water if you have some on hand.
Next, then the oven down to 320 (160 ). Now roast the pork shoulder for 4 to 6 more hours If you’re short on time, you can roast the meat at 340 (170 ) and cook it for 2 to 3 hours.
The longer you cook the pork (up to 4 hours for a 3-pound roast), the more tender and juicy it will become.
Step 5: Let it rest and serve
After the desired time has gone by, remove the skillet from the oven. Cover the pork with aluminum foil and let the pork shoulder rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Resting lets the meat reabsorb some of the juices that were lost during roasting.
How to know if pork is done roasting?
If you’re not sure whether the oven-roasted pork shoulder is done or not, slice into the roast. The meat should be pale in the center, but not tough.
If the meat is still pink in the center, continue cooking.
Another immediate way to check if your roasted pork shoulder is finished cooking is to use an instant-read thermometer. According to FoodSaftey.Gov, pork is considered safe to eat when it registers 145 on an internal thermometer. Remember that your meat will continue to rise by 5 to 10 degrees after it’s removed from the oven. This is called carryover cooking.
Do you cut the fat off the pork shoulder before cooking?
You shouldn’t trim all the fat off the pork shoulder before cooking. Having a certain amount of fat on the meat will prevent the roast from becoming dry. In addition, the natural fat on the cut will add extra flavor!
Then again, you can have too much fat in your pork. If there’s a little too much fat, feel free to trim some off.
Can you overcook pork shoulder?
The thing about pork shoulder is that the longer you cook it, the more tender it will become. But that does not mean you should leave it for hours on end – because you can overcook a pork shoulder. Eventually, the meat will dry out and become tough.
It’s best not to roast the pork for more than 3 to 4 hours, though you can go longer if you have an especially roast. Leave it for as long as the recipe says.
What to serve with oven-roasted pork shoulder
This simple and flavorful roast meat dish pairs well with many different dishes. Make pork shoulder into pork carnitas, or for sides, you can build a complete and satisfying meal by pairing your roasted pork shoulder with creamy mashed potatoes or cooked grains like quinoa or white or brown rice. Add a green salad or another fresh vegetable side dish like crisp green beans.
You can store leftover pork shoulder in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days. You can also freeze slices of cooked meat in an airtight container in the freezer for up to three months.
When you’re ready to serve, let the frozen meat defrost overnight in the fridge, or for several hours. You can reheat in the microwave, on the stove or in the oven. You may want to add some liquid during reheating, as this can dry out the meat.
If you do end up with dryer pork than you’d like, you can always add a drizzle of savory sauce like gravy or something sweet like cranberry sauce.
Oven-Roasted Pork Shoulder
- Cutting board
- Chef's knife
- Large oven-safe skillet or roasting pan
- 3 lbs. pork shoulder
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 onion chopped
- 2 celery sticks chopped
- 1 carrot chopped
- 1 sprig of thyme
- Olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Preheat the oven to 450°F
- Score the fat of the pork shoulder with a sharp knife.
- In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, salt, thyme and minced garlic. Rub this mixture all over the meat on all sides.
- In a large oven-safe skillet or roasting pan, place the onion, celery, and carrots. Place the meat fat side up on top of the vegetables in the pan.
- Roast for 30 minutes, until the fat on top is rendered and crisp. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
- Roat for 2 to 3 more hours, until the meat is very tender and juicy.
- Remove the pan from the oven, cover the meat with tin foil, and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Then remove the cover, slice and enjoy.