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Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder with Peach Sauce

By Cook's Illustrated Published September 2010

Why This Recipe Works

Bone-in pork butt takes longer to cook than boneless but retains more moisture and cooks more evenly. We started our slow-roasted pork shoulder recipe by rubbing our roast’s exterior with brown sugar and salt, then left it to rest overnight. The sugar dried out the exterior and boosted browning. Elevating the pork shoulder on a V-rack and pouring water in the roasting pan kept the slow-roasted pork’s drippings from burning as it roasted. It also created a significant jus with no burning. Finally, a fruity sauce recipe with sweet and sour elements cut the slow-roasted pork shoulder’s richness.

Ingredients

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Pork Roast

1 bone-in pork butt, 6 to 8 pounds (see note)
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
ground black pepper

Peach Sauce

10 ounces frozen peaches, cut into 1-inch chunks (about 2 cups) or 2 fresh peaches, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
2 cups dry white wine
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard

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Instructions

Serves 8 to 12

We prefer natural to enhanced pork (pork that has been injected with a salt solution to increase moistness and flavor), though both will work in this recipe. Add more water to the roasting pan as necessary during the last hours of cooking to prevent the fond from burning. Serve the pork with the accompanying peach sauce or cherry sauce (related recipe) or with a sweet-tart chutney.

1. FOR THE ROAST: Using sharp knife, cut slits 1 inch apart in crosshatch pattern in fat cap of roast, being careful not to cut into meat. Combine salt and brown sugar in medium bowl. Rub salt mixture over entire pork shoulder and into slits. Wrap roast tightly in double layer of plastic wrap, place on rimmed baking sheet, and refrigerate at least 12 and up to 24 hours.

2. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Unwrap roast and brush off any excess salt mixture from surface. Season roast with pepper. Transfer roast to V-rack coated with nonstick cooking spray set in large roasting pan and add 1 quart water to roasting pan.

3. Cook roast, basting twice during cooking, until meat is extremely tender and instant-read thermometer inserted into roast near but not touching bone registers 190 degrees, 5 to 6 hours. Transfer roast to carving board and let rest, loosely tented with foil, 1 hour. Transfer liquid in roasting pan to fat separator and let stand 5 minutes. Pour off ¼ cup jus; discard fat and reserve remaining jus for another use.

4. FOR THE SAUCE: Bring peaches, wine, granulated sugar, ¼ cup vinegar, ¼ cup defatted jus, and thyme to simmer in small saucepan; cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 2 cups, about 30 minutes. Stir in remaining tablespoon vinegar and mustard. Remove thyme, cover, and keep warm.

5. Using sharp paring knife, cut around inverted T-shaped bone until it can be pulled free from roast (use clean kitchen towel to grasp bone). Using serrated knife, slice roast. Serve, passing sauce separately.

Cooking Class

Bone-In Pork Butt: Fatty, Moist, Flavorful

Instead of the lean, center-cut loin, our choice for roasting is pork butt (also known as Boston butt). This shoulder roast packs plenty of intramuscular fat that melts and bastes the meat during cooking, and it’s available with or without the bone. We prefer bone-in for two reasons: First, bone conducts heat poorly and, in effect, acts as an insulator against heat. This means that the meat surrounding it stays cooler and the roast cooks at a slower, gentler pace. Second, bones have a large percentage of the meat’s connective tissue attached to them, which eventually breaks down to gelatin and helps the roast retain moisture.

BETTER WITH THE BONE

Technique

The Importance of Taking Things Slow

For super-tender meat and a deeply browned crust, our roast pork shoulder takes time—about 24 hours total—but the results are worth the wait.

OVERNIGHT SALTY-SWEET RUB

We rub our roast with a mixture of salt and sugar and let it rest overnight. The salt enhances juiciness and seasons the meat throughout, while the sugar caramelizes to create a crackling-crisp, salty-sweet crust.

LOW OVEN

Just like in a pot roast, cooking the pork low and slow (325 degrees for 5 to 6 hours) pushes the meat well beyond its “done” mark into the 190-degree range, encouraging intramuscular fat to melt, collagen to break down and tenderize the meat, and the fat cap to render and crisp.