This roast pork came about by accident. I found a beautiful pork butt at the farmers’ market and set my sights on pork tacos. I didn’t realise until I got home that the roast was frozen solid. After thirty hours in the fridge, it had finally thawed, but by then it was Monday night and I didn’t have time to make the taco filling. I’d heard that you can cook a pork roast overnight, and a quick Google search told me that Jamie Oliver is a believer. If he’s on board, that’s good enough for me. I made a quick paste of garlic, brown sugar, mustard, thyme, and spices and slathered the pork with it. I gave it a quick blast in a scorching oven to get some caramelisation going, then turned the oven down as low as it would go, and went upstairs to bed. The next morning, we woke in a cloud of garlic, sugar, and pork aroma — like bacon on steroids. The surface of the roast was burnished and crisp, and when I went at it with two forks, the meat virtually fell apart. Every accident should be this happy.
"The surface of the roast was burnished and crisp, and when I went at it with two forks, the meat virtually fell apart."
- 1 (5 pound/2.3 kg) boneless pork butt (pork shoulder - see Note)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ⅓ cup (75 g) firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1½ tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tbsp maple syrup
- An eighth to ¼ tsp ground chipotle (or use chili powder in a pinch)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Sitting time: 1 hour
Tie the pork with twine in several places so that it’s nice and compact. Place it on a plate or small baking sheet and season liberally with salt. Let it sit at room temperature for about an hour.
Combine the brown sugar, maple syrup, mustard, thyme, garlic, and ground chipotle in a small bowl. Add a couple pinches of salt and several grinds of pepper. Set aside.
Heat the oven to 475°F (245°C). Smear the sugar, mustard, and garlic mixture all over the pork, concentrating a good amount 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. Put it in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until you start to smell garlic and sugar. Remove the pork from the oven and cover the pan tightly with foil. Return the pork to the oven and turn the heat down to 200°F (95°C).
Leave the pork in the oven overnight to cook for at least 8 hours and up to 10 hours. When you wake up, your house will smell amazing and the pork will be tender. Cover the roast with foil and keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days.
The day of: Slice or shred what you think you’ll need, put it in a covered baking dish, and reheat in a 200°F to 250°F (95°C to 120°C) oven.
Variation: Co-author Amanda Hesser's riff: “I make this pork shoulder as often as possible, and when I do, I sometimes change up the seasoning. I capitalize the spices and lowercase the sweetness by adding a tbsp of smoked paprika in place of the chipotle and a large pinch of red pepper flakes, and omitting the maple syrup and brown sugar.”
• Pork butt is actually a cut from the shoulder.
• Buying Pork: Pork has changed a lot over the years. Commercial pork is leaner than it used to be, making it less flavorful and prone to dryness. I typically don’t buy it a lot, except for the occasional sausage. Instead, I seek out local pork from small farms whenever possible. It may be a bit more expensive, but the taste is far superior. When you’re buying pork shoulder, look for a piece of meat with good marbling and a generous fat cap. You’ll taste the difference.
• Serves 4 for two dinners, with lots of leftovers.
Recipe from Food 52 A New Way To Dinner by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs (Ten Speed Press, hb, $59.99). Read more about the book here.