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!

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

  1. I looooovvvvveeee slow roasted pork shoulder. I’m a caterer, and we feature it on some of our menus. So great for this time of year. I cook it even more slowly – after the 1/2 hour sizzle I turn the oven down to about 100-110 and it will happily cook for 12 hours or more and become meltingly tender. Pork shoulder is such an underrated cut of meat, but I much prefer it to legs as I think it has more flavour, and doesn’t dry out like legs can. And it is the perfect meal for a cold drizzly day!

  2. …I’m much too greedy to wait that long! Our upper floor is an open plan room with kitchen, dining are and living area so I can always smell anything cooking. It’s torturous enough smelling the meat for 3 or more hours! I keep saying I will cook it for longer… but what can I do when I see that crackling? Maybe next time I will cook it over night, wear nose plugs and go downstairs to bed!

  3. Mmmmmmmmmmmm !!! I am with you on the fat on meat! but it has to be the right sort, a bit of blubber on lamb? blah !. I love the way that the meat here is secondary, as the prize of the joint is the cracking!!!!

  4. It was delicious – well the meat – just can’t see the attraction of crackling (you’ll be talking about pork scratchings next!), actually, any fat on meat. I take it off steak, ham, lamb; the whole lot.
    But, as I say, the meat was beautifully cooked.

  5. That crackling looks lovely . I have never got mine very crispy before but I never had the oven that high :-0

  6. wow 3 window i would just love that with few candles around how relaxing it would be haha that was funny! now i should find a man who hates chocolates 😛 am not a big fan if fat crisp but the slow cooked meat sounds good for this climate 🙂

  7. Loved this post, you made me want to cook it! One year for Christmas dinner I cooked Nigella’s recipe (in Nigella Bites) for 24-hour slow roasted pork shoulder – you have to put it in the oven the day before. I couldn’t get to sleep with all those delicious smells! And the leftovers are gorgeous eaten in crusty bread rolls or even shredded and eaten with Chinese pancakes as you do with Chinese roasted duck! Thank you, you reminded me of it – the perfect meal now the weather is getting more wintry!

  8. I’m with the Bear on this one – I take the fat off everything; bacon, steaks etc. More for the texture than the taste, I hate the thought of anything gristly etc. But dear god… that crackling does look tempting…

  9. We went to the butchers and we had the belly pork tonight. We ate more than our fair share! It was delicious. Thank you for reminding me how delicious a good pork joint is. Whilst you and the Bear are Jack Spratt and his wife, Mr OC and myself are both Jack’s wife, so there was a bit of a tug of war.

  10. Well Lou… I don’t think the weight matters so much when it is a good sized piece. Two and a half if you needed it to be done in that time, or three or four or five hours would do your meat. Take the heat lower and you can cook it for 10 hours or more…(see the 5am Foodie’s comment at the start) The importance is the blisteringly high start to crisp things and then the long and slow cooking to make it tender. This makes it a great thing to cook when you aren’t sure when you are going to eat. The high start makes your crackling, the low slow cooking makes it tender. The low heat won’t over cook it no matter how long you leave it. Aim for three hours, I reckon. If it’s on longer it will be fine and delicious… but you will be chomping at the bit to get at it! 🙂

  11. I went into minor panic when I realised on Easter Sunday morning that instead of ordering my regular rolled loin of pork for the family dinner that night I had ordered a rolled shoulder (must have been a senior moment). I found your recipe on the net & am so grateful. I cooked it for 4 hours after the initial high heat burst & it was the nicest pork I have ever tasted – complete with crackling. When I told my daughter on the phone that morning that I had to slow roast it she said – so we don’t get crackling. But we did! And we all enjoyed it sooooo much.

  12. Oh that’s great Yvonne! After I started doing pork like this, I realised that pork shoulder was the best way of eating pork… and the crackling… well, that really is one of the great treats!I bet you buy shoulder from now on!

  13. I will – & shared my story yesterday with friends who also want the recipe. It was Anzac Day in Oz yesterday & I had dinner followed by 2-Up with these friends so did not need a meal last night. But I have just finished off the pork (reheated in the microwave) with steamed vegies & leftover gravy for dinner tonight -BEAUTIFUL.

  14. Oh my! Your pork shoulder just changed my life! It just fell apart in the softest, saltiest, most mouthwatering chunks. I can’t believe it happened in my kitchen. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am so satisfyingly full and now need several hours asleep on the sofa. DELICIOUS!

  15. Oh Sally! How lovely! I am so glad you liked it…it just shows, doesn’t it, that the cheaper cuts, given care and time make far more delicious meals than a fancy fillet that just needs a quick fry and perhaps a sauce. Go and buy some more pork for next weekend

    🙂

  16. Absolutely lovely.This is the second time we have done this and both times has been a great success. Irresistable crackling and very tender meat 🙂

  17. Thanks, James….. I’m envious as now we are in Malaysia, pork is hard to get and expensive when it can be found.

  18. My 15yo son told me he’d gone off pork and I promised i’d tempt him back with a slow roast shoulder.. We’ve a local estate park – used by the Queen no less! – that has a fine butchers so I got a great shoulder of pork (Gloucestershire Old Spot) last weekend and slow roasted it, following your instructions – it was perfect.
    I have to say i’m not always a fan of crackling – only because i’ve never got it right – I ground some black peppercorns, along with my salt, for the crackling seasoning – and this was yummy and my son adored it too.
    In fact, i’ve another joint to cook for friends tomorrow.. Can’t wait to convert more to this recipe, thank you from the wintery UK.

  19. Absolutely fabulous. Had slow roast shoulder with exquisite crackling today……… recovering after a Christmas night out – so it was perfect comfort food on a cold afternoon!

  20. I soak mine over night in water just enough to cover the meat not crackle,with equal amounts of sugar and salt then follow usual method of cooking, everyone I have done this for has said its the best pork they have had, works great with chops an hour soaking is enough.

    What it does is the salt draws out the water and pulls the sugar into the meat just enough to slightly change the texture and taste it also helps keep it moist.

  21. Ohhhhhh……. You’re all eating pork! Mark… Love the idea of black pepper to be rubbed in! And how lucky are you to get a rare breed, a Royal rare breed!
    Clare….there’s something about a savoury, crunchy and a teensy bit fatty meal that sorts any post party malaise!
    Martyn…. I am definitely going to try this when I get some shoulder.
    The good news is I have found a marvellous pork butcher here….. Porky cooking will recommence! 🙂

  22. For a gallon of water use about one cup of sugar and same of salt, give it a good mix before putting the meat in,they call it brining, myself I never used this amount of water for a 1500g of pork shoulder I used about 4/5 pints in a stew pan with 4/5oz of salt and white sugar, but definitely leave it at least 12 hours, adjust the water so it does not cover the crackle as long as it covers most of the meat, or as I have done is lift the crackle alittle.

  23. I am planning on cooking the pork as described above but I like the idea of slow cooking it for 6 hours after the initial 30 minutes hot burst. Can someone please tell me how I adjust the temperature so as not to overcook? My thoughts are around 150 C for the 6 hours but unsure.

    Thanks

  24. 3.5kg shoulder roast has just gone in the oven. Guess what’s got pride of place at tomorrows Xmas lunch?
    BTW: if the skin doesn’t go properly crackly we do this. Once the meat has been taken out to rest, Cut away the skin and place it on a plate in the microwave covered in paper kitchen towel or greaseproof paper. Zap it for one minute on full power, take it out, turn it, drain any juice & repeat the microwave bit. It may need one more minute (or even two depending on the size) but always do it in 1 minute bursts – not all in one blast. Once it’s covered in plenty of bubbles you can take it out to rest during which time it will really start to go brittle.
    Merry Xmas!

  25. Hi there, I am in nepalese guy married to a brit who has been here for a good 8 odd years now..had to learn how to cook as my other half has never everr.(don’t ask!!).This is arguably the best lesson in slow roast..and the pictures add so much to it..am doing it righ tnow..and yup..the crackling looks fabolus and bubbly..my 6 year old daughter loves it..next stop..your oriental curries..do some more

  26. Amit, what a good father you are! A roast piece of pork and crackling make good memories of happy family times – food is the true source of memories and good times. Let me know how your daughter enjoys the curries!

  27. Get a scalpel with replaceable blades, makes slicing the rind easy.
    Don’t guess when it’s done, use a probe thermometer.

  28. I am in the proses of cooking the shoulder in oven i have about a half hour to go it looks and smells fab this is the second time i have did it this way the first time was ace and its looking like this one will be the same its snowing here in the north east of Scotland so this is the perfect meal to warm the hart yummm

  29. Dave G – I envy you the pork and, I have to say, the snow! It’s so hot here. Enjoy your meal, tucked up safe and warm inside while the world turns white outside!
    Simon – good idea on the scalpel, if you can get one! And yes to the meat probe…but I have to say you won’t need it for the slow cooked pork. It will definitely be cooked after a couple of hours 🙂
    Ohhhh…. I am thinking of the pork now and wishing we had some!

  30. I followed this recipe and will never use another again. 20 years of cooking and finally got the crackling right! Thanks

  31. Amit and Libby…. Soooo pleased you liked it! It is the simplest thing in the world once you’ve done it. Salt, a hot oven and some time…what could be simpler or more delicious? I really didn’t eat much pork before I cooked it like this because like you, Libby, I couldn ‘t get thecrackling right and the pork was often dry. Now? Well, I think it is one of my favourite roasts now!

  32. Never did shoulder before. This sounds great. Is it uncovered for the whole of the time or do you cover after the 30min?

  33. Ankia, if you cover it you would produce steam and your crackling wouldn’t be crackling! Keep it uncovered….the fat renders down, basting the meat and you get crispy, crunchy, savoury crackling 🙂

  34. Wow. Just tucking into thirds of now- cold pork. Have tried this many times but this recipe explains the theories so well, my husband, 4 year old and 18 month old had seconds and no squabbles. Thank you

  35. This sounds so simple and delicious. Its in the oven right now but with a much smaller shoulder as its just the two of us. I was told to add a cup of water half way through cooking (for smaller cuts) to keep the meat moist? Makes sense as the skin doesnt wrap around the entire meat, just a small portion of it. Advice please?

  36. I’m not sure I’d do that as it would make the crackling soft…. I’d still do the hot and high at the start and turn it right down low. I used a very small bit and it worked out fine. I always feel the fat under the crackling bastes it. Sorry for the delay in replying…. I’ve been ill and nowhere near the computer. I guess you’ve eaten it now! what was it like?

  37. just wondering about the temperatures you state. Are they the same for a fan oven?? Or should i lower them???

  38. I don’t suppose it really matters in this case – the essential part is a blisteringly high start and then a long low cook. Maybe knock it down ten or fifteen degrees for the long cook. This is such a forgiving way of cooking….leave it longer or take it out sooner, as long as YOU think it’s right for you, that’s what counts. Pastry or cakes, well, they are more tricky and demand a level of precision in all things, but this? Turn it up, whack it in, later turn it down and leave for some time :-). 2 hours or 8 hours….it will still be good. Maybe baste if you think it needs it, turn it down even lower if you are doing it for longer. Your nose will tell you if it’s all going well.

  39. did exactly as you said. After 1/2 hour of very hot it looked good. just like pictures. turned oven to 120 (fan 0ven) for 7 hours as wanted REALLY slow cook. But although meat was good – crackling was like rubber. Is it because i cooked it too long? All i want is perfect crackling!

  40. I haven’t cooked it for that long and the only thing I can think of is that too much steam was generated during that long low cook in the oven and it softened it all. Perhaps try a shorter cook? ( and that doesn’t mean finding a chef under five feet tall! :-))

  41. This is a great recipe, the meat was lovely and tender and didn’t dry out at all. My top tip for the best crackling is to carefully pour boiling hot water straight from the kettle over the skin, then pat it dry and rub in the salt. Fantastic and crispy as when you tip on the boiling water it blisters the skin, try it!!!

  42. Oh you people cutting all the natural fat off and wasting it – natural Pig Fat (Lard) is much healthier for you than the man made fats, for example, Pork Fat contains no man-made Trans Fats, the very fats causing people to be overweight and linked to heart disease – the method of cooking here is so good for you as most of the fat will melt out of the joint, what doesn’t is handled by the body perfectly – don’t forget, a good natural healthy diet should contain around a good of natural fats….

  43. Just trying this now on a grey and drizzling Sunday… The sound of the crackling was delicious! It’s still cooking but the crackling, although the strips separated like yours, doesn’t look as dark or as deeply cooked. I’m hoping that after the ‘slow cooking’ phase it will look better. Thanks for the recipe, I’ll report back later on how it tastes!

  44. An update… Had the pork yesterday and it was delicious! Any tips on what gravy or sauce to serve with it? Also how can you store leftover crackling (if you have any!)? Thanks, will definitely be doing this again!

  45. Ooops, so sorry, Sarah! We have been away… I have to say I have never had any leftover crackling but I suppose if you store it in an airtight container it should keep its snap.
    Gravy… well, I like the pure meaty juices that have such a rich flavour but I have been known to stir some mustard in or make an apple and mustard sauce ( Bramleys, cooked so they go mushy and fluffy – peel and cooked gently with a knob of butter – then stir in a touch of your favourite mustard and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. You can let the sauce down a little with a drop of water but Bramleys are a very moist apple when cooked.
    And to think at one point I disliked roast pork!

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