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Pork shoulder is one of the most inexpensive, foolproof, and delicious cuts of meat around. If good flavor-for-the-buck value is what you're looking for, pork shoulder is perhaps the greatest of all bits of culinary alchemy. It's the transformation of one of the cheapest cuts of meat in the butcher's display case into one of the most festive centerpieces imaginable, in all of it's juicy, porky, spoon-tender in the middle, impossibly crisp and crusty-on-the-outside glory.
What's the secret? A two stage cooking process. First, we slow-cook the shoulder in a low oven. This lends ample time for the tough connective tissue inside the shoulder to break down into juicy, rich gelatin while ensuring that it doesn't dry out. At the same time, proteins in the skin begin to break down, softening up its structure. Why is this important? Because it allows that skin to puff, crackle, and crisp up when you finish the shoulder with a blast in a hot, hot oven.
And get ready, this recipe is custom-built for leftovers. You'll find yourself using that tender pulled pork meat in barbecue sandwiches or tacos or pasta sauces for days the come. As for the skin? I'd be surprised if it even makes it out of the kitchen and to the dining room table intact.
Check out more details of the science here, or jump straight to the recipe below.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.