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Pork Butt

Pork Shoulder Roasting Techniques

by Tim Granzeau

Traditional pork carnitas utilizes pork butt, actually pork shoulder and turns it into meat that’s brown and crisp on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside.  The method is very slow cooking in a lot of pork fat.

PORK SHOULDER: A TOUGH CUT

Pork shoulder is a heavily worked muscle with a web of connective tissue in the tough protein. Low and slow cooking is essential to slowly cook the protein and dissolve the connective tissue into succulent gelatin.

COOK A PORK SHOULDER SLOWLY TO 195F TO 205F.

          COOKING A SHOULDER IN STOCK IS NOT THE BEST WAY

                   Stock removes water resulting in stringy pork with less flavor.

          CONFIT THE SHOULDER SLOWLY IN PORK FAT AT 275F.

Cooking slowly in fat increases the cooking time yielding a more tender texture and holds in moisture for flavor.  The low temperature also eliminates the Maillard reaction.  The meat can be browned in a hot oven after the confit is complete.

Traditionally Confit requires a lot of fat.  A better technique is to cut the shoulder into large chunks and fully season the meat.  Pack a braising pan tightly with aromatics, herbs and other flavoring agents. (ie: orange and cinnamon for Carnitas.)  Top the meat with fat and cover before cooking.

          DRY ROAST A WHOLE SKIN ON SHOULDER AT 250F.

You may also roast a pork shoulder with skin-on that protects the meat from drying out and becoming stringy.  Go to a butcher you can order skin-on pork shoulder weighing eight to twelve pounds.

You might also try a smaller section of shoulder with a full covering of fat back or extra thick bacon or pork jowl.

Season well and roast at 250F until the roast reaches 205F.  This may take up to 12 hours.

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