Now here's a good one for a cold winter day. Talk about melt-in-your-mouth delicious!
A hefty pork shoulder is slathered with a rub of fennel seeds, pepper, thyme, rosemary, and garlic and set to marinate for a day or two in the fridge.
It is then nestled in a bed of sliced apples and onions, first browned on high heat in the oven, and then covered and allowed to cook low and slow, until it is almost falling apart.
You don't need a knife to eat this slow-roasted pork shoulder. Just a big appetite.
We first encountered this recipe by Napa chef Maria Helm Sinskey in the Wall Street Journal years ago. We've made just a few changes—reduced the salt rather dramatically, added some mustard, puréed and strained the gravy. I love this method of slow cooking a pork shoulder and think you will too!
- For more information on apple varieties, check out our Guide to Apples.
How to Buy Pork Shoulder
- Pork shoulder comes from the top of a pig's front leg (this despite its other nickname, pork butt). It's a well marbled cut that benefits from low and slow cooking, when it becomes meltingly tender. It also goes by "picnic roast" or "picnic shoulder." (We don't recommend substituting another cut here, as it will likely be too lean.)
- Bone-in or boned? This recipe calls for boneless pork shoulder, but you could use bone-in. The bone adds a lot of flavor! The downside? It makes the cook time longer, and you have to do a little work to get the cooked meat off the bone.
- Do you need to tie a pork roast? In this recipe, no. Tying (or trussing) helps it roast a little more evenly and keep its shape better when sliced—but this recipe is fall-apart tender, anyway.
Low and Slow for Roast Pork Shoulder
Pork shoulder is tough unless it's cooked low and slow. The fat in the meat bastes everything from the inside, while the collagen in the meat starts to break down around 160°F. This is what makes the shoulder fall-part tender.
If you cook the meat at a high temp, the fat and water drain out before the collagen melts, making for tough, dry meat. Long, gentle cooking = fork-tender, moist pork shoulder.
What to Serve With Roast Pork
Storing and Freezing Leftover Pork Roast
- Refrigerate leftovers, tightly covered, 3-5 days.
- Freeze leftovers up to 3 months. If you have enough gravy, freeze the meat directly in it to keep it moist.
Try These Other Roast Pork Recipes!
- Slow Cooker Cider Pulled Pork
- Braised, Stuffed Pork Shoulder
- Bacon-Wrapped Pork Roast
- Cuban-Style Roast Pork
Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder With Apple Gravy
The pork shoulder should be marinated in the rub overnight or up to two days.
- For the spice rub:
- 2 tablespoons packed, fresh thyme leaves, lightly chopped, or 1 tablespoons dried thyme
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, lightly chopped
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, toasted
- 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
- Extra virgin olive oil (optional)
- For the pork shoulder roast:
- 4 to 5 pounds (1.8 to 2.2 kg) boneless pork shoulder, sinew and excess fat (beyond 1/4 inch) trimmed
- 4 medium good cooking apples, such as Fuji or Jonagold
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) dry white wine (can sub water)
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Freshly ground black pepper
Make the spice rub:
Put the fennel seeds, peppercorns, thyme and rosemary leaves, garlic and 2 teaspoons salt into a spice grinder or coffee grinder and grind to a paste. (Alternatively, you can pound the mixture with a mortar and pestle.)
Transfer the mixture into a bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Marinate roast overnight in spice rub:
Rub the mixture evenly all over the pork shoulder. If the roast is tied, untie it to rub the inside with the rub mixture as well, then retie it.
Wrap the roast tightly in plastic wrap to hold the rub against the skin and marinate overnight (or up to two days).
Prep apples and onions:
Peel, halve, and core the apples. Cut each apple half into about 4 wedges. Peel the onions. Cut in half from tip to root. Trim the root and tip. Cut each onion half into about 12 thin wedges.
Put the onions and the apples together in a bowl, toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and season with a little salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C).
Place roast on bed of apples and onions:
Place the apples and onions in the bottom of a roasting pan or Dutch oven with a cover. Place the marinated pork shoulder on top of the apples and onions.
Roast uncovered for 30 minutes. Turn the oven heat down to 325°F and add the wine. Cover the roasting pan and slow roast for 2 1/2 to 3 hours until the pork shoulder is falling apart tender and pulls apart easily when probed with a fork.
Transfer the pork shoulder to a serving plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Put the apples and onions into a blender. Add about 1/2 cup water and the mustard and purée.
Check the texture, and add water until you get the desired thickness for the gravy. Press through a sieve for a silky smooth textured gravy. Check the seasoning and correct to taste.
Cut the roast into pieces and serve with the apple gravy. Leftovers will keep refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for 3 months.