“Porchetta!” I love the herbs and spices used for roasting this pork dish! So perfumy and with just a little bit of “heat,” it’s like no other pork dish!
I have seen many types of recipes titled “Porchetta.” Online, one of the most popular seems to be a pork loin wrapped in a pork belly. In Italy, the traditional method is roasting an entire baby (suckling) pig with a classic fragrant porchetta dry rub. The meat is typically used to fill a sandwich.
As for how I like to make my rendition of porchetta, it’s just straight-up pork shoulder. We are going to smear that classic porchetta rub over every inch of this roast, and let it marinate overnight in the fridge.
We are going to roast the pork shoulder slow and low just like you would for a pulled pork recipe. But, we are not going to pull our pork for this dish! Once the shoulder is finished roasting with beautiful fragrant bark, we will slice it like a perfectly done prime rib. It just so melts in your mouth good!
So let’s begin . . .
The Pork Shoulder
All that is required for this dish is one good quality pork shoulder (“pork butt”), a classic porchetta rub, and a little bit of water in the roasting pan for the Au Jus. Regarding the size of the pork shoulder, that’s up to you. The smaller “picnic” roasts you find in the supermarket are enough to serve 6-8 people or more at about 6 pounds. If you are going to slice it like prime rib, I suggest going with a boneless shoulder. I am a huge proponent of bone-in meats, but in this case, I prefer it removed for the convenience of slicing and plating.
The Classic Porchetta Rub
The classic porchetta rub is essentially fennel pollen, rosemary, salt, and pepper. However, I like bumping up the flavor intensity a bit by adding a few more items. Regarding the fennel pollen, I substitute it with ground fennel seeds.
For the dry rub, we are going to go with a mix of herbs and spices put through a food processor or ninja until processed very fine. We will be using, fennel seeds, dried or fresh rosemary, fresh sage, garlic, red pepper flakes, kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper.
The dry rub is intense and you may get the urge to tone it down a bit or omit some ingredients you may not personally like. My suggestion is please don’t unless you have some type of allergy or something of that nature. It is important to get the bark of this roast to optimum flavor as it will complement the much larger mass of meat accompanying it.
Prepping the Roast
Add all of your dry rub ingredients to a ninja or food processor and process for several minutes until everything is ground into a fine mix resembling sand. It may feel a little wet from the moisture of the fresh herbs and garlic which is no problem. This will be your dry rub. You may get the urge to mix some olive oil in while blending the ingredients in the food processor. I suggest not doing this. I have this notion about oil preventing flavors from penetrating meet. I prefer to put the dry rub onto the meat with nothing in between and let it sit overnight in the fridge. Just before roasting the shoulder in the oven, we will give the roast a quick rub with just a little bit of olive oil. But not much oil is needed as we will also have some fat on the roast as well.
Once your dry rub is processed, pat your roast with some paper towels until super dry and tacky on the outside. Most picnic roasts come with just the right amount of fat. If the fat left on the roast is too much for your liking you can trim a little more off. Keep some fat on the roast for a delicious flavor and Au Jus. When placing the roast on the roasting pan keep the fat side up.
Once your roast is dried and trimmed (if necessary), rub generous amounts of the dry rub all over your roast. Really massage the dry rub into every inch of the roast and use it generously. When finished, discard any seasoning that you could not get to stick to the roast.
Place the seasoned pork shoulder in the fridge overnight uncovered and let it air dry and marinate at the same time.
The next day, pull the roast out of the fridge and let it come up to room temp by leaving it out for about an hour or so. We just don’t want to pop it in the oven directly from the fridge.
After the roast is sitting out for about 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 550 degrees Fahrenheit.
After another 30 minutes, place the roast on a roasting pan fat side up. Pour 2 cups of water into the pan and place it in the oven.
After 10 minutes in the oven, lower the heat to 225 degrees.
Roasting Technique & Temperatures
I may raise some eyebrows with this one, however, I like preheating the oven to 550 degrees or as high as your oven will go. Roasting at this high temp in the very beginning for a brief period ( 10 minutes) and then letting the oven gradually come down to 225 degrees for the rest of the time creates a perfect roast with an awesome crust or “bark.”
When is it done? Well, we no longer need to cook pork to 165 degrees like in the old days. The threat of trichinosis no longer exists. I would say if we were doing a pork loin, pull it out of the oven at no higher than 135 degrees or so and it will hit the 145 degree safety temperature on its own outside the oven. This way it will be tender and not dried out.
But with pork shoulder, the opposite rule applies. Even though we only have to cook this roast to 145 degrees to be safe, a shoulder cut will actually be tougher at this temperature. Because the shoulder is made up of more tendons and collagen, it needs to be cooked a little longer and brought up to a higher temp to be “melt in your mouth” delicious. I recommend taking the pork shoulder out at 185 degrees Fahrenheit and letting it rest for 10 minutes.
The size of your roast will determine cooking time. But it’s the temperature that dictates when to pull it out of the oven. Generally speaking, the roast will take about 1.5 hours per pound at 225 degrees if you start off with a 550-degree oven for the first 10 minutes regarding this recipe.
Once the roast has rested on a cutting board for about 10 minutes. Slice it into the desired steak-like cuts of meat, spoon on some Au Jus from the pan and serve!
I hope you enjoyed this post! Thank you for visiting my blog!
1 Pork Shoulder Roast, (boneless picnic roast at about 6 lbs)
For the Porchetta Dry Rub
(all dry rub ingredients to be finely ground in a food processor)
1 Tablespoon of dried or fresh rosemary
1 One tablespoon of fresh sage leaves
2 ½ teaspoons of fennel seeds
4 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons of kosher salt
2 teaspoons of black pepper
2 ½ teaspoons of crushed red pepper flakes
Olive Oil (rub for just before roasting)
2 cups of water for the roasting pan for Au Jus