Easy Pork Shoulder Roast
Updated: Jan 9
We often think of pork shoulder when making pulled pork, but this cut is incredibly versatile and deserves center stage for a holiday dinner. Thanks to its higher fat content, shoulder roasts are more forgiving to cook than loin roasts, and because the shoulder gets more exercise than the loin, it has a lot more flavor! Shoulder is not as tender as loin, but a long, slow cook helps break the collagen down, making it tender and juicy.
This pork shoulder roast recipe is adapted from this recipe from cookbook author Christine Pittman. My changes are to replace half of the chicken broth with apple cider for a slightly sweet gravy that complements pork beautifully, and to reduce the internal temperature to 170 degrees F. I like this to hold together a little more as a roast -- at 180 it starts to fall apart too much for my taste, becoming more like pulled pork. However, this is a matter of personal preference. Whatever you do, make sure to use a thermometer to gauge doneness, and not just time; many factors can affect the time it takes for any given roast to come up to the right temperature, including fat content, roast shape, and internal bones. If you rely just on temperature, you may find your pork is under (or over) done.
This recipe uses what is called a "reverse sear" -- first you cook the meat at low temperature, then you blast it at high temperature to get a crispy outside. This helps the meat from drying out.
1 bone-in pork shoulder roast (Boston butt or picnic), 4-8 lbs (note: you can use a smaller roast; plan on 2/3 lb per person)
1.5 teaspoons ground black pepper
1.5 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
Low or no-sodium chicken broth, 1/2 to 2 cups (depending on size of roast and size of pan)
Apple cider, 1/2 to 2 cups (depending on size of roast and size of pan)
Remove roast from fridge and allow it to come up to room temperature for 30-60 minutes. While you are waiting for the chill to come off the roast, use your hands to rub salt, pepper, and garlic powder all over the roast. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Put the roast in a large roasting pan, fat-side-up. You do not need to use a rack in the pan. Add about a quarter of an inch of low or no-sodium chicken broth to the bottom of the pan, and another quarter inch or so of apple cider. Put the roast into the oven, uncovered. Bake until an instant read thermometer reads 170-180 degrees F. It will take about 40 minutes per pound. If at any point most of the broth/juice mixture has evaporated, add another half inch of liquid, to keep the solids in the pan from burning and adding a burnt flavor to the gravy you will make from the drippings.
Take the roast out of the oven. Transfer it to a plate so that you can get at the roasting pan and make your gravy. Let the roast rest, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the pan gravy. (Here’s how to make gravy using the flavorful broth from the bottom of the roasting pan) and finish off your other side dishes. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.
Once the roast has rested, the oven has preheated and you have everything else for your dinner just about ready, put the roast into a clean roasting pan or onto a baking sheet, uncovered, and put it into the hot oven for 13-17 minutes. You want the outside to get nice and brown and for any fat and skin to get crispy. When it’s really nice and browned, take the roast out of the oven and immediately carve it and serve accompanied by gravy. (It does not need to rest a second time.)