How to Marinate a Pork Shoulder

by Jordan Whitehouse ; Updated September 28, 2017

The great benefit of the pork shoulder is its' layers of fat, making it a wonderful cut for slow roasting. It is sometimes referred to as the "butt," which comes from the old English definition for "the widest part." Pork shoulder is sold bone-in and boneless, with and without the thickest layer of fat on top. Because of the complex bone structure of the shoulder, boneless cuts end up in strange shapes that are best rolled and tied into a uniformly shaped roast.

Although a marinade is a good way to tenderize meat, in the case of pork shoulder, a long and slow cooking method is still needed to create a tender result. Focus on infusing flavor when marinating pork shoulder, as its' mild and fatty flavor can easily adopt exciting tastes.


  • Cut shallow scores around the pork roast before marinating. Take care to press some marinade into the slits before leaving it to rest.

Garlic & Citrus

Popular in Cuba and Puerto Rico, this potent combination of citrus and garlic is often named Pernil Asado. There are many variations to this basic recipe:

Puree 1 tablespoon each of ground cumin and dried oregano with 2 heads of garlic and 2 tablespoons of orange juice. If the mixture is too dry, add more orange juice 1 teaspoon at a time. Mix in salt and pepper to taste and rub the puree all over the pork roast. With the seasoned roast in a bowl, pour over 1 3/4 cup of orange juice and 2 cups of lime juice, cover, and marinate at least 6 hours or overnight.

Chile Heat

This marinade is for spice lovers. The pork can later be roasted with sweet flavors, like pineapple, to balance out the heat. In a bowl, combine:

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup Sriracha

Rub the mixture all over the pork, cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours.

Ginger Pork

This marinade can be adjusted to suit any spice level. In a blender or food processor, puree together:

  • 1/2 head garlic
  • 2-inch piece of ginger
  • 1/2 cup sake
  • 1/2 cup rice wine
  • 1/2 cup hot pepper paste (add less or omit for a less spicy marinade)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Coat the pork roast with the marinade and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.


  • The sake in this recipe can be substituted with any dry white wine, but the rice wine is a particular flavor that should not be substituted.

Dijon Roast

Mustard pairs beautifully with pork. Simply mix together 1/4 cup each of dijon and whole grain mustard with 1 tablespoon each of chopped thyme and softened butter and the grated zest of one lemon. If you're feeling adventurous, try adding 1/8 cup of maple syrup or balsamic vinegar to this basic recipe. Coat the roast in the mixture and marinate for at least 6 hours.

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About the Author

Based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Jordan Whitehouse has been writing on food and drink, small business, and community development since 2004. His work has appeared in a wide range of online and print publications across Canada, including Atlantic Business Magazine, The Grid and Halifax Magazine. Whitehouse studied English literature and psychology at Queen's University, and book and magazine publishing at Centennial College.