If you’re a fan of pulled pork, then you are familiar with the cut of meat called pork shoulder. While some people will try to make pulled pork out of tenderloin, that cut of meat is far too lean to actually taste delicious once roasted.
Pork shoulder is a triangular cut of meat that comes from just above the front legs of the pig and so is rich in connective tissue.
It’s incredibly affordable, but can be tough if you don’t properly prepare it. This cut of meat fares best when treated with patience and cooked low and slow.
The best way to prepare pork shoulder is at a low temperature of about 250°F. This temperature allows the fat cap to melt and the connective tissue to break down so that you’re left with fall off the bone tender meat.
But how long do you cook pork shoulder in an oven at 250°F? It will take about 90 to 95 minutes to cook each pound of pork. So if you have a 4 pound pork shoulder, it will take about 6 hours to fully cook your meat to tender.
Read on to discover how to best prepare your pork shoulder for slow roasting, tips and tricks for the best slow-roasted pork shoulder, how often you should check your pork shoulder, and what to look for when the meat is done!
How To Prepare A Pork Shoulder For Slow Roasting
There are a couple of ways that you can prepare your pork shoulder for slow roasting.
One is a little more labor-intensive and involves searing, while the other involves making a nice meat rub to impart a ton of flavor. Read on for more details.
How To Sear Your Pork Shoulder For Slow Roasting
You can sear your pork shoulder using either a cast-iron frying pan or your Dutch oven. I suggest searing it in what you plan to cook the pork in since it will allow you to keep all the juices and crispy bits.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Season your pork shoulder liberally with sea salt and black pepper. I like to use about 1 tablespoon of sea salt per 2 pounds of pork shoulder.
- Heat your frying pan or Dutch oven on the stovetop at medium/high heat.
- Once hot, add some oil and swirl it around so it coats the entire bottom of the pan. Don’t be stingy with the oil.
- Place one side of the pork shoulder into the hot oil and let it sear for 2-3 minutes until browned.
- Turn the pork shoulder over and sear another 2-3 minutes until browned. Repeat on all sides.
- Once you’re finished searing the pork shoulder, place it on a plate and deglaze your frying pan or Dutch oven with broth, wine, cider, or water. Scrape all the crispy bits from the bottom of the pan and stir into the liquid.
- Place your pork shoulder back into your Dutch oven or frying pan. Add any other seasonings, spices, or liquids you like. Cover the pork shoulder and place in the oven at 350°F for 1 hour, then reduce the heat to 250°F.
- Cook for about 90-95 minutes per pound or until a fork pushed through the meat slides through without any resistance.
How To Prepare A Rub For Your Pork Shoulder
I know it might get me in trouble, but I will often skip the searing stage since it adds extra work and if I don’t have a pan I can sear and then roast in, it adds more dishes and mess.
- 1 tbsp. chili powder
- 1-2 tbsp. sea salt
- 1 tsp. cocoa powder
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. thyme
- 2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. celery salt
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 2 tsp. garlic powder
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp. honey, maple syrup, or brown sugar
- 4 pounds of pork shoulder
- 1 cup of broth, apple cider, or water
- Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Combine all spices and salt in a small bowl.
- Add balsamic, Dijon mustard, and sweetener and stir until combined.
- Rub the mixture all over your pork shoulder, coating it evenly.
- Pour the liquid into the bottom of a Dutch oven or roasting pan.
- Place the pork shoulder inside the pan and cover it.
- Put the pork shoulder in the oven and roast at 350°F for 1 hour.
- After 1 hour, turn the heat down to 250°F and continue roasting another 90 minutes per pound or until a fork inserted into the meat slides through without any resistance.
- Remove from the oven and enjoy.
Tips And Tricks For The Best Slow-Cooked Pork Shoulder
If you want to slow roast the most tender, fall-apart pork shoulder that will have all your friends and family applauded your culinary skills, then follow these simple tips:
- Cook it for one hour at a higher temperature: 350°F, then turn the temperature down to 250°F.
- I have slow roasted my fair share of pork shoulders (we even had one for Christmas Day dinner) and this trick is the key to fall-off-the-bone tender meat.
- Cook your pork shoulder for one hour at 350°F and then turn it down to 250°F for the remaining time. The high heat at the beginning will help heat the pork through to the center, allowing the connective tissue to break down.
- Add some broth, water, or cider to the bottom of your roasting pan.
- The best part of a slow-cooked pork shoulder is how tender and juicy it is. One of the best ways to make sure your pork shoulder doesn’t dry out is by adding 1-2 cups of liquid to your roasting pan before putting it in the oven.
- I love to use a chicken or beef broth, apple cider for some extra sweetness, or plain old water if there’s nothing else on hand. Just make sure the bottom of your roasting pan is covered with 1/2 cm of water.
- Keep your pork shoulder covered while cooking.
- This is another tip that will help your pork shoulder cook faster and keep the meat tender and juicy. If you remove the lid, the liquid will evaporate leaving you with a dried-out hunk of meat.
- I find even when covered, especially if using a Dutch oven, the outside still gets a lovely crust, while the inside of the meat is fork-tender.
- Don’t check it too often.
- Checking your pork shoulder requires two steps that can slow down the cooking process and cause your meat to dry out: opening the oven, which loses heat and taking off the lid, which loses moisture.
- I suggest checking your pork shoulder at the 3-hour mark by trying to push a fork through the meat. If there is ANY resistance, your meat isn’t done. Pop it back in the oven and check it in another 1-2 hours depending on how firm it still was.
- Make sure you season it liberally with salt.
- Nothing is worse than spending hours slow-roasting a pork shoulder only to have it come out bland. Do not be afraid of salt. A big cut of meat like pork shoulder can handle a lot of salt, especially if you plan on pulling your pork at the end.
- I use about 1 tablespoon per 3 pounds.
- Coat it in a rub for extra flavor.
- If you want to take your pulled pork to the next level, use a delicious rub to make it sing. I’ve included my favorite recipe above, but you can get creative and use spices and seasonings that you enjoy.
- Adding a rub basically gives you a homemade sauce once it combines with the melting fat and pork juices. It’s delicious!
How Long To Cook Pork Shoulder In An Oven At 250°F
Typically when you’re cooking a pork shoulder in the oven at 250°F, you will want to allot at least 90 minutes per pound of cooking time. I’ve outlined the cooking time for certain sizes below.
- 2 pounds of pork shoulder: approximately 3 hours
- 3 pounds of pork shoulder: approximately 4.5 hours
- 4 pounds of pork shoulder: approximately 6 hours
- 5 pounds of pork shoulder: approximately 7.5 hours
- 10 pounds of pork shoulder: approximately 15 hours
I know it seems like a long time, but the flavor you develop and the tender meat will be worth every minute!
How Often To Check Your Pork Shoulder When Cooking At 250°F
I don’t recommend checking your pork shoulder very often as you slow roast it since it can release heat from the oven and moisture from the roasting pan, which can lead to a longer cooking time and drier meat.
If you must check your meat, I would do so only around the time it should be done, based on the calculations above.
If your meat isn’t yet fork-tender, pop it back in the oven and let it roast another 45-60 minutes, until a fork slides through with no resistance.
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