Cast Iron

Melissa Clark's Crispy Salt & Pepper Pork

March  7, 2017
11 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 2 to 4, depending on hunger
Author Notes

“The thing is to manage expectations,” Melissa Clark writes. “With pork butt, you think soft, spoonable meat that's been roasted or braised for hours until it practically collapses. This is different. It's a celebration of crisp and chewy textures.“ But shifting expectations isn’t the only thing that makes this recipe such a success. Clark packs a lot of smart moves in here, to play up best sides this wily cut of meat didn’t know it had—and it all happens within about 30 minutes. Serve with steamed rice, or on its own. Cold beer is recommended. Adapted slightly from Dinner: Changing the Game (Clarkson Potter, 2017). —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
  • 1 pound boneless pork shoulder (butt), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns (or more black pepper if you can't find them—it just won't be as tongue-tingling)
  • Pinch of red chile flakes
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil (make sure it's refined for high heat), or grapeseed or safflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, like Maldon
  • 1/2 cup soft herbs, such as cilantro, mint, chives, and/or basil
  • 1 small jalapeño or other chile, seeded and sliced or chopped
  • Crisp lettuce leaves, torn and/or sliced cucumbers, for serving
  • Lime wedges, for serving
  1. In a large bowl, toss the pork cubes with the fine sea salt. Using a spice mill or a mortar and pestle, coarsely grind together the black peppercorns, Sichuan peppercorns, and the red chile flakes. If you’ve gone electric, be careful not to overdo it; you want some texture here. Add the spices to the pork, tossing well. Let it rest for 20 minutes at room temperature.
  2. Heat a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron or stainless steel, not nonstick) over high heat until it is very hot. Add the oil and let it heat until it is shimmering. Then add the pork and sprinkle it with the flaky sea salt. Stir-fry until the pork cubes are golden brown all over, 5 to 7 minutes. Do this in a couple batches if needed to be sure not to crowd the meat in the pan, or it will steam, rather than brown. (To get a good sear on the meat and avoid sticking, it helps to leave it alone in the pan for a minute or two before stirring, then leave it alone again, repeat. It should be nice and brown on the bottom each time you do this.)
  3. Transfer the pork to a platter and top it with the herbs and chile. Serve with the lettuce and/or cucumbers, with lime wedges on the side.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Avi Steinhardt
    Avi Steinhardt
  • juliunruly
  • Anna Fiore
    Anna Fiore
  • Rhonda35
  • Burnt Offerings
    Burnt Offerings
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

35 Reviews

Nancy M. August 16, 2023
So delicious. But I want to air a gripe. I asked the butcher at my grocery store to cube a pound of pork butt for me and he said they can't do that because the meat is prepackaged and no one would want the part that is left if they cut off 1 pound. Whatever happened to meatcutters? Are they all just counter attendants now? So I ended up buying the smallest pork butt in the cooler. 3 pounds, mostly fat, and cubed it myself. Next time I will go to an actual butcher shop.
POlySammo June 1, 2021
I have made this 3 times in 2 weeks. I absolutely love it. I fry garlic chips in the oil first and then use them to sprinkle over the pork at the end. We use the 4 peppercorns mix and leave out the jalapenos and pepper flakes.
It is so tasty while also being inexpensive and super fast. I love this recipe. Strangely so does my 🐈
Shona April 19, 2021
I have made this several times. Mainly because it is amazing. So quick and easy. It’s salty, spicy and crunchy with all the side greens. The first time I followed the recipe exactly, no I splash some fish sauce, sugar and lime juice into the pan to make a sauce from the sticky bits of pork. Excellent recipe.
Monica B. September 3, 2019
Made this for the 5th time tonight. Made 2 pounds of pork (cut a bit smaller than 1 inch, crisps up better that way) since we want to chow down and leftovers.... This was the best version I have made yet. I used half the szechuan peppercorn but grind up fairly fine which lends the right flavor without too overpowering. I also had a peppercorn blend that had some tiny long peppers in it--going to save the remainder for this recipe only. Finally, all it needed was some raw pickled red onions (I had these leftover from a dinner a week ago), jalapeno (I need heat) and some sliced cucumber. A little jasmine rice on the side. Perfect and impresses both kids and guests.
Monica B. September 3, 2019
I forgot to put the maldon this time. Didn't need it but a touch wouldn't hurt either.
senora G. July 23, 2019
This was amazing! I had to modify the heat and sodium for my clients but it still came out great. can't wait to make it again adding the heat and sodium.
Ethyl April 7, 2019
I steal a pound of pork shoulder every time I make sausage so j can make this for lunch before I get to grinding. I've found that getting the right size cubes is key to get the outside crispy without the inside still being raw. I also usually throw in a bit of water mixed with some soy sauce, brown sugar, and lime juice at the end because giving up all that lovely fond makes me sad! (I also leave out the chiles and most of the Sichuan peppercorns because I'm a wimp hahahah!)
Avi S. February 3, 2019
I make this a lot. It’s the best- two recommendations: 1- when adding peppers and salt, add a scant tablespoon of brown sugar- helps caramelization, and the sweetness isn’t overkill at all. 2- serve w ginger scallion relish- David Chang provides a recipe for one alongside his bo ssam
POlySammo June 1, 2021
I made ginger scallion sauce this weekend it was great with the pork. I did add equal amount of garlic and ginger. So good with everything.
juliunruly October 2, 2017
It was fun to cook pork shoulder this way, but I won't be making this particular recipe again. The Sichuan peppercorn was dominated the entire dish to an unpleasant degree (and I am a fan of Sichuan peppercorn, generally speaking), and it seemed like a disjointed pairing with the herbs and lime. I'm caucasian, so I don't claim to be an authority on Asian cooking, but the herbs and lime had my brain expecting/craving the tastes of fish sauce and brown sugar. I would totally cook and serve pork butt like like this again, but just with different seasoning on the meat. Also agree with other reviewers that it should be cubed slightly smaller than 1".
Anna F. September 16, 2017
So surprising the texture of this pork! I never would have guessed that pork butt cooked this way could be so tender. It's not melt in your mouth as if it were braised, but it's still more tender than even a pork chop. Great flavor too. Just make sure your fans are running if you have a small kitchen; the peppercorn aroma got a little spicy to inhale.
Rhonda35 August 23, 2017
Melissa Clark hits it out of the park with this recipe - so delicious!
Amanda H. May 30, 2017
This was excellent. I was initially worried that the pork butt would be too tough to cook this way, but it was perfectly crispy. I cut the piece smaller than 1 inch so there would be greater surface area for frying. I will definitely be making this again!
Dori April 1, 2017
Yummy, but thought there would be more kick.. maybe swap out Thai chilies for jalapeño.... also thought some sliced onion thrown in at the end of cooking, or green onions mixed with the herbs would have been a nice touch. Next time There will be a next time!
Burnt O. March 29, 2017
served with soba noodles with all the herbs, chiles, and Nuoc Cham - that gave it the little bit of sweetness it needed.
tamater S. April 2, 2017
LOVE that handle!
Mallory March 27, 2017
Made this for dinner over the weekend and we all loved it. Wasn't able to get my hands on any sichuan peppercorns, but it was still great without it. Some folks went that taco route and used the pork as a filling in a tortilla piled with the herbs, chopped lettuce, jalapeno, and lime juice. Can't wait to make this again with perhaps different spice/flavor variations.
Kendra March 21, 2017
I just came on here to say the same as Kevin. I made this tonight, and one inch pork pieces is too big and makes it hard to chew. It was delicious! If you flip through the pictures above, that is about the right size.
Kevin March 20, 2017
Quite delicious. I would actually suggest cutting the pork into even slightly smaller than one-inch pieces, to get a better surface-area to volume ratio. I used chopped up cucumbers for the salad with some tomatoes I had and added a little olive oil, vinegar and salt.
Kevin March 20, 2017
Quite delicious. I would actually suggest cutting the pork into even slightly smaller than one-inch pieces, to get a better surface-area to volume ratio. I used chopped up cucumbers for the salad with some tomatoes I had and added a little olive oil, vinegar and salt.
tamater S. March 20, 2017
Instead of oil, I'm thinking of using rendered fat that I usually have on hand refrigerated.
tamater S. March 20, 2017
Woah, it was posted on Mr 5th - I almost missed it...oh well, it's saved now!
AntoniaJames March 14, 2017
Pork shoulder, well marinated (cut into chunks), also can be skewered and grilled on a super hot grill. Get it on, get it off, pop it into roti wraps or tortillas with cucumbers and lettuce and salsa verde / chimichurri / mint+cilantro chutney / chermoula, whatever. Same principle at work here. So delicious, and convincing proof that fat carries flavor. ;o)