Maple and Ale Pork Shoulder with Crispy Skin

It took trips to three different grocery stores to find it – nearly eight pounds of pork shoulder with the bone and the skin on. This is the most serious piece of animal that’s ever been in my kitchen.

At the register, even the cashier commented, “That’s a big piece of meat.”

Uh, yeah.

We set the oven very low and roasted the pork overnight, letting the skin crisp up and the meat cook slowly over 19 hours. By the next morning, the scent carried down the hallway to the bottom of the stairs near the building’s entrance. Coming back from an assignment, I felt like a cartoon character floating up into the air and blindly following the aroma to dinner.

After nearly a day of anticipation, we declared it time for dinner at barely 5 p.m. We pulled the pork from the oven and off of the roasting pan, where a runoff of maple syrup and beer had pooled around the pork and turned into sticky tar. The crust itself looked blackish, but it was not at all burnt. A knife was necessary to break into the crisp, candied skin; the meat inside surrendered to the pull of a fork.

Didn’t bother to serve it with anything else. We just enjoyed the tender meat and sweet crunch of pork skin sprinkled with fennel seed.

The best thing about this roast is that it looks impressive and complicated, but it’s actually simple to make. This cut of meat worked out to be less than $2 per pound. Surprisingly, a lot of that weight was actual meat. We pulled the pork apart and found that those big-looking bones were actually quite small.

This recipe is a keeper. I hope you try this soon, maybe this weekend?

We made this just for us, and have a lot of leftovers. Expect a recipe or two soon.


maple and ale pork shoulder with crispy skin

For the beer, a Belgian ale or English strong ale sounds about right. We chose something familiar – a Rogue Dead Guy Ale – during a quick trip to the store before getting this started. Pick something you like to drink.

serves 4 to 8, recipe from Emily Nunn via Food 52

  • 6 – 8 pounds bone-in pork shoulder with the skin on, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 14 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup grade b maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons malt vinegar
  • 1 beer, a malty and fruity ale

Heat oven to 450°F. Use a sharp knife to slice a grid into the pork shoulder. Keep the lines about a 1/2 inch apart from each other.

Toast fennel seeds in a small skillet over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until fragrant. Crush the fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle. Empty the mortar, placing the crushed fennel in a small bowl. In the mortar and pestle, grind the garlic and salt together to make a paste. Add the olive oil slowly. Add the cayenne pepper, black pepper, and crushed fennel.

Rub a 1/3 or so of the paste into the skinless side of the meat. Then, place the pork skin side down onto a large roasting pan in the lower third of the oven. Roast for 30 minutes. Stir the maple syrup and vinegar into the rest of the paste.

Turn the oven down to 225°F. Carefully flip the shoulder, then use a rubber spatula or brush to spread the remaining paste over the pork. Really push the paste into the scores of the skin.

Place the pork back into the oven and cook for 18 hours (overnight) or more. Turn the oven down to 200°F in the last couple of hours. At this point, pour some of the beer on the pork and baste the meat. Repeat once or twice with the rest of the beer. If the skin isn’t crispy enough in the end, turn the oven up to 450°F and cook the pork for up to 10 minutes. Keep an eye on it.

Let the pork shoulder rest for at least 5 minutes before cutting into it.



15 thoughts on “Maple and Ale Pork Shoulder with Crispy Skin

  1. Holy pig! You’ve got some serious balls woman! I’m still waiting for the day I manage to cook a simple steak properly and look, just look at that gorgeous piece of meat! And slow-cooked for 19 hours…that’s like a pork shoulder straight from heaven. Trying to wipe drool off my keyboard here.

    • Ha, thanks! I suppose this does take some cojones. Anyway, I hope you try it. I think this is easier than cooking a steak correctly. It’d be hard to mess it up because for the most part you’re working with such low temperatures in the oven.

  2. Pingback: Pulled Pork and Pancakes with Bourbon Syrup « a little saffron would make this!

  3. I have made this three times now, on the third time my wife told me that she wanted me to try it without beer and malt vinegar due to her food intolerances. I substituted Apple Cider vinegar for malt vinegar and a combination of red wine vinegar and cranberry juice for the beer. It came out better than ever.

    This recipe is a real crowd pleaser.

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