Roasts generally fall into two categories: lean roasts (including pork loin and beef tenderloin) derived from little-used muscles, and tough, working cuts laced with fat and connective tissue. While lean roasts should be cooked quickly to prevent them from drying out, tougher cuts—such as the pork shoulder used in this take on Tuscan-style porchetta—benefit from more time in the oven at low heat, which allows the collagen to break down, tenderizing and moistening the meat. After many tests, we found that taking the cut to 195°F in a 300°F oven yielded the most tender, succulent results.


Be sure to buy a boneless pork shoulder butt, not a boneless picnic roast; both are shoulder cuts, but the butt has a better shape for this recipe. Also, we call for ⅓ cup fresh rosemary, which is about 1 ounce (or one plastic clamshell container).


Roasting meat on a baking sheet, rather than in a roasting pan, promotes air circulation, accelerating cooking and boosting browning. And don’t cut short the porchetta’s resting time. The roast is easier to slice after it rests. Use the time while the meat rests to throw together a parsley-caper sauce that’s a perfect foil to the richness of the meat.

For Tender Pork Shoulder, Heat It and Hold It

Pork Shoulder i42 Thermometer

The most tender, moist pork shoulder roast requires a low-and-slow approach. Collagen begins to break down at 160°F, but simply reaching that temperature isn’t enough. The roast must stay at or above 160°F long enough to melt the collagen, but not so long that it loses moisture. In our testing, the sweet spot was cooking the pork to 195°F in a 300°F oven, which takes about four hours. Less time didn’t allow the collagen to break down sufficiently, and longer produced meat that was dry.