What Are the Best Tips for Boiling Pork Shoulder?

Judith Smith Sullivan

Boiling pork shoulder can produce a flavorful roast or, if cut into bite sized pieces, a delicious base for a stew. As a fatty meat, the shoulder is full of natural flavor and is also one of the least expensive cuts of pork, making it very popular. Boiling a pork shoulder is best done in a slow cooker, simmering the meat on high for one to two hours and then reducing the heat for two to six additional hours. This method will produce a tasty, tender meat.

A slow cooker can be used to boil pork shoulder.
A slow cooker can be used to boil pork shoulder.

Cooking a good shoulder roast begins at the butcher's shop. Pork shoulder comes from the front leg of a pig, with the shoulder section referred to as the "butt" and the leg as the "picnic ham." A pork shoulder is the upper section, often called a boston butt, boston shoulder, or shoulder roast.

Cooking vegetables alongside a pork shoulder is a good way to add extra flavor to the meal.
Cooking vegetables alongside a pork shoulder is a good way to add extra flavor to the meal.

Choose a fresh cut to ensure the best texture and flavor. Avoid frozen meat or freezing the shoulder as meat can lose moisture when it is thawed. Both boneless and bone-in varieties are available. The bone-in gives the meat extra flavor, but the boneless is easier to carve. Although its marbling makes it quite flavorful and juicy, it is typically too tough to fry.

For this reason, boiling pork shoulder is the most popular method of cooking it. This can be done on the stove top or in a slow cooker. There are many recipes for boiling pork shoulder, taking anywhere from two to eight hours of cooking time. The longer the pork shoulder is cooked, the more tender it becomes.

The recommended internal temperature for pork is 160 degrees F (71 degrees C). This usually produces a medium well done pork shoulder. A digital or analog cooking thermometer — not a candy thermometer — will provide the most accurate measurement and will make it easy to tell when the pork shoulder is done.

It is important not to cook the shoulder too quickly. Although it will reach the safe temperature more quickly, the meat will be tough. The fat will not have had time to flavor the meat, so the taste will also be compromised. Properly boiling pork shoulder will allow the meat to tenderize to the point that it will simply fall apart when it is placed on the plate.

Boiling the pork shoulder, at the beginning, for one to two hours speeds up the cooking process without sacrificing texture and flavor. It should not be rapidly boiled as a steady simmer will suffice. Another option is to brown the pork shoulder on all sides in a frying pan before simmering. Some individuals prefer the crunchier texture of browned meat to the smooth texture of boiled meat.

Slow-boiling the pork shoulder at a simmer for a long period of time will bring out its natural flavor. If alternative flavors are desired, a marinade or a combination of vegetables and spices are excellent ways of adding additional flavor. Pork can also be brined, or steeped in a strong salt water solution, to improve flavor and juiciness.

As it is a thick cut, the shoulder may need to be perforated before marinating, or injecting with the marinade, to help the flavoring seep deep into the meat. Many different types of marinades are good choices for pork shoulder, including Jamaican jerk seasonings, barbecue, and traditional Mexican flavorings. Dry spices can also be used to alter the flavor of the meat. They are typically rubbed directly onto the meat prior to browning or boiling or added to vegetables, like onions, celery, and carrots, which are cooked with the shoulder.

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Discussion Comments


What is Bnis Picnic Ham?


Slow cooking (low heat) over a long period of time makes pork pull-apart tender and perfect for pulled pork sandwiches. Brining pork? Pork is already so salty. Has anyone tried brining pork?

"Boiling", to me gives the wrong connotation. It makes me think of a rolling boil, which is not good for cooking any meat. Boiling meat too fast makes it tough. However, as the article mentions cooking the pork in a crock-pot and slowing down the boiling process, that is a better idea, in my opinion. The meat will be more tender.
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