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Tips to Cook a Pork Shoulder

by Kristen May, studioD

Pork shoulder is an inexpensive cut of pork with ribbons of fat that make it very tender when cooked slowly, but tough with other cooking methods. Sometimes the shoulder is broken down into two pieces: Boston butt and the picnic shoulder. The Boston butt cut is more commonly found in stores because the picnic shoulder is often smoked as a ham. Cook and serve any pork shoulder in a wide variety of ways.


Any kind of dry rub works well for seasoning a pork shoulder. Use a prepackaged Southern barbecue dry rub, an Italian herb rub or just salt and pepper. Create your own rub or marinade by combining your favorite herbs, spices and flavorings. Some ideas include paprika, thyme, rosemary, minced garlic, sage, dry mustard, cumin, smoky chipotle peppers and olive oil. Get instant flavor by seasoning the meat with a salad dressing mix. Cover the entire surface of the pork shoulder with a seasoning before cooking it.

Cooking Method

Regardless of the cooking method you choose for the bulk of the time, start by searing all sides of the pork shoulder in a lightly oiled pan. This will create a browned crust that gives it an appetizing appearance. After searing, finish the cooking in a slow-cooker or a Dutch oven. Cook in a 325 degree Fahrenheit oven for at least 30 minutes per pound, or in a slow-cooker on low temperature for at least one hour per pound. The meat should be tender and easy to break apart with a fork when it is done.

Serving Methods

Although the layer of fat around the pork shoulder helps keep it moist and flavorful while cooking it, you need to cut off the fat and any skin before serving the pork. Slice the pork shoulder and serve it alongside a vegetable and a starch, such as steamed broccoli and mashed potatoes. Or make pulled pork by shredding the meat with a fork. After getting all of the meat into small pieces, mix in a homemade or store-bought barbecue sauce. Serve the pulled pork on buns or over rice or noodles, with a salad and fat-free dressing on the side.


The average pork shoulder is at least 3 pounds, with some measuring as large as 8 pounds. Although it cooks down slightly, it will probably be far too much for your family to eat in one sitting. Freeze leftover pork by putting it in an airtight freezer-safe container with as little air in the container as possible. It will taste best when thawed and eaten within three months. Refrigerate leftover pork in an airtight container for up to four days. Use leftover pork to make sandwiches, wraps, casseroles, baked pasta dishes or soups.


  • "Joy of Cooking"; Irma S. Rombauer; 2006

About the Author

Kristen May holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, specializing in childhood development. She has been writing for several online publishers covering topics such as entertaining, parenting, cooking, health and wellness, marriage and personal finance.

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