Pork is not the meat I turn to first when I'm cooking meals at home. We eat a lot of bacon and Clara's favorite pasta sauce is made with sausage, but with the state of pork these days, whole cuts tend to be tougher and more dry than any of us has patience for. So I usually avoid them. This all changed recently when I befriended the pork guy at our Sunday farmers market.
I was flirting with the idea of making a pork stew instead of one of my usual lamb or beef varieties, so I approached the stand and asked the man there what would work best for stew. He heaved a four-pound boneless butt out of his cooler, assuring me that it was beautifully marbled and would be perfect.
What I didn't realize until I got home was that the pork butt was frozen solid. There was no way it was going to thaw in time for me to make a stew that night, so I put it in the fridge and decided I'd deal with it later.
The next night I got home from work late and although the pork butt was no longer frozen, I knew I didn't have enough time to cook and cool a stew before bed. The hole in the fridge where there should have been a nice big batch of pork stew for the week was starting to make me anxious, and I had another night out the following evening.
I decided to go rogue. I thought I'd heard somewhere you can cook a pork roast overnight in the lowest of low ovens and have it turn out brilliantly. A quick Google search yielded some promising results, like this recipe from Jamie Oliver: https://www.housebeautiful.com/lifestyle/recipes-cookbooks/recipes/a927/jamie-oliver-slow-roasted-pork-recipe/. His calls for an 11-to-13-pound shoulder roast on the bone, but with a little tweaking I was pretty sure I could make this work.
I wanted something less Mediterranean and more barbecue, so I stirred together a thick paste of chopped garlic, brown sugar, maple syrup, mustard, thyme, black pepper and a little chipotle powder and slathered the pork with it after salting it liberally. I gave it a quick blast in a scorching oven to get some caramelization going, then turned the oven down as low as it would go. I turned off the lights and went to bed.
The next morming, we woke to an intoxicating garlic-sugar-pork aroma, and the pork looked gorgeous–it was burnished and crisp on the outside, and when I went at it with two forks, it virtually fell apart on its own. I packed some up with a soft roll and some slaw for Jonathan's lunch. Clara and I had it on its own, and then with pasta later in the week.
I've now made this at least five times. Love, thy name is pork butt. —Merrill Stubbs
- Prep time 45 minutes
- Cook time 8 hours
- Serves 8 to 10
4-ib boneless pork butt (from a butcher you know, well-marbled, and with a good layer of fat on top)
or more Kosher salt
light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons
chopped thyme leaves
large cloves garlic, finely chopped
ground chipotle (plus more to taste)
or more freshly ground black pepper
- Tie the pork butt with twine in several places so that it cooks evenly. Salt it generously all over and let it sit at room temperature for about an hour.
- In the meantime, combine the maple syrup, brown sugar, mustard, thyme, garlic and chipotle powder in a small bowl. Add a few pinches of salt and several grinds of pepper.
- Heat the oven to 475° F. When the pork is at room temperature and the oven is hot, smear the sugar, mustard and garlic mixture all over the pork, concentrating a good amount of it on the top of the roast, where the fat is. Nestle the pork (fat-side-up) into a roasting pan or cast iron baking dish just big enough to hold it, and put it in the oven. When you start to smell garlic and sugar burning, and after no longer than 15 minutes, turn the heat down to 200 degrees. (Do not open the oven door to peek!)
- Leave the pork in the oven overnight, for at least 6 hours and up to 8. When you wake up in the morning your house will smell intoxicating, and the pork will be ready to shred and pack up for lunches for the whole family -- all you need is a soft roll and some coleslaw or pickled fennel, or a big pile of mashed potatoes.