Slow roast shoulder of pork with perfect crackling

The weather is getting worse and, while it is lovely to live in an apartment where three of the walls are windows, it does get gloomy when you are surrounded by rain spattered glass and grey clouds. When that happens, the only thing to do is put the lights on and make everything look cosy and then curl up, knowing that something meaty and tasty is in the oven….. just relaxing while the smell of roasting meat fills the room. It’s a smell that has always reassured me that things are happy and well in the family.

 A smell that was a constant in my childhood and it means home and happiness with loved ones. My wonderful brother and I are very similar in many ways. One of our favourite things is the crispy, fatty bits on a roast joint… all juicy and packed with flavour.

Not everyone likes this of course….The Bear has many good points and I am always glad I married him, but one of his finest points is that he doesn’t like crackling or the fat on a roast. That, of course, is good for me as it means that I don’t have to share. My brother used the same criteria when he got married – my sister in law is absolutely fabulous and we all love her dearly (he made a brilliant choice, marrying her) but again, she hates that sort of thing. Perfect. There’s nothing finer in our eyes that a gorgeous piece of crackling and the two of us have been known to stand in the kitchen at home dividing up the crisp and tasty skin….

Anyway, while I was shopping I’d spotted this marvellous piece of pork. Outdoor reared and free range meant that it was guaranteed to be tasty. The rain was bouncing off the pavements outside and I just knew that roast pork would be the perfect  antidote to the gloomy rain blues.

Pork shoulder is a great cut because it isn’t expensive but, as with most things, treated with care and respect you can produce the most delicious meals. Time is what shoulder needs, time and heat and salt. That’s all.

This was a lovely piece of pork shoulder with a good layer of skin around it, which is just what you need to get perfect crackling.

Pork shoulder needs slow cooking and it will turn into the softest, tenderest piece of meat ever. The rind will crisp up (if you slice at it) into delicious strips of hard, crunchy and tasty crackling.

But the rind is tough and to get through it you need a very sharp knife. Butchers will slice the rind for you and, in fact, most joints come with the skin cut already but I like to get a lot of narrowly spaced slashes so I start by sharpening my favourite filleting knife.

I’ve never yet managed to use a sharpening steel so I use the Chantry knife sharpener which is one of my better kitchen equipment buys. All you have to do is run the knife through the middle a few times and the blade is perfectly sharp, which is something I have never achieved using a steel.

While you are doing all of this, get the oven preheated to 230 degrees C/450 degrees F

There were some slashes in the rind already but I sliced between them, so each strip of rind was about 1 cm wide, if that. Be careful, if you are slashing not to slice into the meat itself – just cut the rind and the fat below.

The next thing is to get some kitchen roll and dry off the rind before rubbing it over with a smear of oil and then some salt.

What you have done is wiped off the water and added some oil to help start the crisping process and salt to drive out extra moisture and add flavour.

I like to use Maldon sea salt as the crystals are large and easy to pack into the slices of rind. Maldon has a great taste as well. When the pork comes out of the oven the rind will have crisped and almost bubbled up with flecks of salt crystals embedded into it to make the crackling taste divine.

By now the oven will be bouncingly hot so get the pork into a roasting tray and put it into the oven for twenty to thirty minutes.

This is a very hot oven and what it does is sear the rind and start making the crackling. If the oven isn’t hot then the rind won’t ever get crispy.

After the first burst of heat you will see, when you peek inside, that the slices are separating and the rind is starting to cook. You just know, when it looks like this after half an hour that it will have the perfect crackling when it is finished!

You can turn the oven down now to a moderate 170 degrees C/340 degrees F and just leave the joint to cook slowly for a two and a half hours……

There now.

Golden, bubbled and crisp. Studded with salt crystals promising that every mouthful will be deliciosuly savoury.

When you get it out of the oven if you rap on the top of the crackling it makes a hollow sound.

The meat is dark and caramelised from the fat dripping over it as it roasts.

The fat layer has almost disappeared in the long slow cook, making the meat juicy and the crackling crisp.

The crackling strips snap easily into bite sized bits…. perfect for nibbling at while you slice the pork……

A wet grey afternoon can be ignored because you are inside, in the warmth with a marvellous meal, just ready to share with your loved ones.

That is Heaven… that is my guilty pleasure and that is one more reason to appreciate the Bear not liking everything I adore!

98 thoughts on “Slow roast shoulder of pork with perfect crackling”

  1. I’ve posted in the past but i just wanted to say again this is THE BEST recipe for slow cooked pork & perfect crackling. Easy to follow instructions and just the most amazing results.

    Thank you so much, this is bookmarked for life!!
    xX Bianca

  2. Mike….when your oven smokes it’s because there’s fat on the oven walls already from something previously cooked (roast potatoes are notorious for doing that) and the high temperature is burning it off. Either stick it out till it stops smoking….or you’ll have to get some oven cleaner.
    Bianca….SO glad you like this! You should try some of the other recipes :-)

  3. This is the best way to ensure a crisp, salty crackling! I’ve followed this method twice and both times have been excellent, just had a slow roasted leg of pork and it was incredible! Thanks for sharing the technique!

  4. NP – the weight is not that important (unless you are using a mini joint that would give two people a few slices) The method of cooking (high, very hot start and then low and slow) means you get a pretty much perfect joint from any decent sized piece. Choose a large (I only say that because I am greedy) piece of pork with a good layer of fat and skin and off you go. It will work whether you are feeding four…or six….or eight!

  5. JBizzzay – glad you like it! There’s nothing nicer than crispy, salty crackling straight from the carving plate! I’m amazed any gets to the dinner plates, frankly.

  6. Thanks for the lovely eye candy food porn :)

    The reason you havent really sharpened an edge with a single traditional butcher steel is because they are only used to align the fine foil edge. you must use a proper sharpener or diamond steel to create a sharp edge. This is then kept in check by the chantry, which I have had for 14 years myself, or by a master using a single steel.
    :)

  7. wow,this is my first attempt at cooking pork shoulder.I looked at a few recipies but this was the best by far,easy simple steps to follow.My family are in for a treat tonight. thanks

  8. Rachel, the size doesn’t really matter as you are doing a short, hot (very hot) start and a long and slow (very slow) cook. I actually can’t remember the weight…it was just a rolled, boneless shoulder. The meat will be cooked properly no matter what the size ( a full pig might need longer, I admit :-)) because you are maintaining a low-level of heat after a high sear. You can keep on cooking at the low temperature without spoiling things, too.

  9. Sometimes I rub garlic butter infused with fresh herbs i.e Rosemary, Thyme, Parsley and Basil on the side /underside of Pork Shoulder prior to cooking. On the top (crackling), I drizzle with honey in the last hour of cooking prior to serving.

  10. Just had 1st attempt at pork. WOWEEE!! Truly scrumptious.
    Its a lovely, simple easy recipe. Thanx a lot!

  11. Hi, I can’t wait to try this method, unfortunately the rolled shoulder I have is in a net, not tied together with string like the one in the picture. Does this netting need to be removed to allow the salt to be effective?
    Thanks
    Mark

  12. Well…. I think the net will become embedded in the crackling when it puffs up, so I’d say cut the net. You won’t be able to slash the skin. Sorry for the delay in replying….we went away forChristmas!

  13. oh my life this method worked perfectly well, the crackling was just how it looks in the photographs and the pork amazingly tender. I followed the method step by step and it did not fail.It was appreciated by my extended family, even my 18 month Grandson was tucking in….yummers!

  14. Did this method and all the family loved it. The next time my mum did a joint of pork she asked me how I had cooked mine. The crackling was fab.

  15. Great to see this is working for everyone!
    There really is nothing finer than gorgeous crackling and juicy pork….and I’m loving the idea of the mustard mash and red cabbage!

  16. Saw this recipe last week and out of curiosity used this recipe on Sunday. Never bought shoulder of pork before just loin or leg of pork. It was absolutley delicious and the best crackling ever. This will certainly be on the menu in our house again.

  17. Would it be ok for me to wrap the sides of the pork with foil leaving the top of the joint open to “crackle up”. hope that makes sense?

  18. Hi Cheryl…. I’m not quite sure why you’d want to wrap the sides? It may make the meat a bit wet as the point about roasting is that it’s all exposed to the heat so the outsides roast…you may end up with a kind if steamed joint. But there again you may not! Time to experiment I reckon! Let me know how it turns out :-)

  19. Amazing show roast pork, using a joint of meat from the butchers and this technique regularly gives me some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. Thanks for posting this.

  20. Amazing! We have used this method about 8 times now with various sized pieces of pork and they always turn out meltingly tender with a super crisp crackling. We have this I’m the oven again for tea tonight om nom nom

  21. Brilliant! I think that shows, Kate, that size really isn’t everything 😉 because it does work with various sizes and weights.
    I’m cooking it on Friday for a dinner party because I know the timings will make things easy for me as I have a lot of other things to do – what better than meat that can look after itself, be forgiving if guests are delayed and still be absolutely gorgeous?

  22. Looks great, I am going to try this tomorrow! Just one question; are the oven temperatures for a static or fan oven?

  23. My oven is fan…. Though really as long as you have it on hot and high to start then lower and slower for the rest of the time it doesn’t really matter! Hope you made it anyway, despite my late reply!

  24. I had never cooked a shoulder of pork before and when I did roast some thing, it was always dry.
    I did exactly what Wendall said. AMAZING…by far the juiciest and best tasting pork roast I have ever had, anywhere. The crackling was the best. I’m doing it again next weekend.
    You cant go wrong.

  25. Thanks, Eddie!
    I’m so pleased you like it…and it’s so simple as well. I really think there’s nothing finer than juicy, tasty pork with crunchy, crispy crackling!

  26. Cooking this right now! Just turned the oven down and it smells amazing! Can’t wait for that crunch!

  27. The crunch is my favourite bit…apart from the meat, because that’s gorgeous, too!Hope you enjoyed every morsel!

  28. Is it fatty? And does it have a good skin on it?
    Because it is a slow roast, you need the fat to melt down, infusing the meat with its porky juiciness! You will get good crackling from the skin of a pork loin usually, but you might not have enough fat to do the extended slow roast.
    Follow the first part of the instructions – very hot and high – but reduce the cooking time. You’ll have to gauge that, though, based on weight and it will be easy to see when it’s ready.

  29. After cooking your pork shoulder should you leave it to rest? If so how long do I leave it for can you please let me know asap thanks bye for now.

  30. After cooking my pork shoulder do I have to let it rest if so how long will I leave it for can you please let me know asap as I have my girlfriend mum and dad over and it’s looking gorgeous but I don’t know if you let it rest please let me know thanks bye.

  31. Oh so sorry I missed this – I guess you have eaten it by now. We carve it after about five minutes. I really hope you enjoyed it!

  32. This is brilliant and foolproof, I’ve done it twice and always great, fab crackling and soft fall apart meat :)

  33. I am cooking a whole boned and rolled shoulder of pork for 20+ guests for Christmas. It weighs 8.5 kilos. How long do I cook it for? I’ve never cooked this weight before and I really want to get it right. HELP!! Any advice greatly appreciated. Happy Christmas!

  34. Ooops… missed this… sorry, we were away! The thing about this way of cooking is that after the initial high burst, the temperature goes right down and you can cook away for hours. You can cook for 8 hours or more… for that size, I’d cook as long as possible. The fat will melt down and you’d be left with deliciously tasty and soft meat. For 8.5 kilos, I’d give it a good five hours. Of course it would be ready before then but the longer you leave it the better. Sorry, again… hope you got it done!

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