more for your money: pork shoulder part one {slow cooker pulled pork}

slow cooked pork shoulderPork shoulder is one of the more inexpensive cuts of meat, making it a great budget choice. It is perfect for slow cooking, which means you’re saving time as well as money.

The other way to save money on the groceries, besides buying economically, is to reduce waste.

But cutting waste is more than just eating what you buy before the used-by date – it’s about going back to the old fashioned ways of using every edible part of an animal or plant.

In this series, I’ll be writing about how to get even more value from your humble pork shoulder by:

  • slow cooking the shoulder to make tender and tasty pulled pork
  • making the most of the leftovers
  • making stock from the bones
  • rendering lard from the skin and fat
  • making soap from the rendered lard

We pick up a pork shoulder for around $15 from our local butcher. For two adults and two children, we get 4 meals worth of meat (that’s $3.75 per meal) and we usually have enough leftovers for a couple of lunches as well.

And when you make stock and lard from what would often otherwise be thrown away (both of which are not cheap to purchase from the supermarket) you’re getting even more value for your money.

Today’s post is about preparing and slow cooking a pork shoulder.

preparing the pork shoulder

Prepare the pork shoulder the day before you want to cook it so that the spice rub has time to flavour the meat.

When you buy a pork shoulder, the skin and fat layer will be intact.

Pork shoulder

While crackling is one of my most favourite things, the skin doesn’t crackle in the slow cooker, so the first thing to is remove the skin.

I’m going to be frank here, removing the skin is not the most fun you will ever have – it’s a bit of a fiddly job. If you don’t want to cook it for crackling or render the lard, you might ask the butcher to remove it for you, this will save you a bit of time and effort.

To remove the skin, make a cut across one part of the shoulder and pull the skin, slicing between the meat and fat to remove.

Pork Shoulder - removing the skin

A good pair of kitchen scissors makes this job sooo much easier. It takes about 5 minutes using the scissors.

Pork Shoulder - removing the skin with scissors

Remove all of the skin and as much fat as you can. Your shoulder should now look something like this:

Pork Shoulder - skin removed

Using the spice mixture in the recipe below, rub the pork shoulder all over with the mixture, making sure you get it into all the nooks and crannies. Place the shoulder in a covered container and leave in the fridge overnight.

Pork Shoulder with spice rub

what to do with the skin

If you want to make crackling with the skin, rub it all over with oil and salt and put it into a very hot oven until bubbling and crisp, around 40 – 50 minutes.

If you want to render it into lard, and I’ll be covering how to do that later in this series, then cut it into small pieces (again a good pair of kitchen scissors make light work of this, but I’ve also used clean pair of $3 paper scissors as well) and put it into a container in the freezer.

Rendering takes a while, so it’s a good idea to collect the skin and fat of several pork shoulders before rendering or buy some extra rind (can be purchased for less than $1 a tray at the supermarket) or fat (see your butcher) to make the rendering worth your while.

cooking the pork shoulder

In the morning, throw a roughly chopped onion into the bottom of your slow cooker and then heat a frying pan and add a little oil (lard is good here) until hot and brown the pork shoulder on all sides.

Place the shoulder on top of the onion and then add a cup or so of stock and any juices from the container. You can use the stock to deglaze the pan first before adding it to the slow cooker. Beef stock will do, but I use pork stock, made from previous pork shoulder bones.

Cook on low for 8 hours or so, until cooked through and tender.

Pork shoulder with roast vegetables and gravy

Pork shoulder with roast vegetables and gravy

To make the most tasty gravy ever, heat some oil or lard in a frying pan and add an equal amount of plain flour (arrowroot flour makes a great gluten-free flour alternative). Cook the flour for a few minutes and then ladle the liquid from the slow cooker pot, a little at a time, through a fine mesh sieve and into the pan, stirring well between each addition to prevent lumps.

Be patient, it will start out really thick and a bit lumpy, but keep stirring and adding just a little liquid at a time and the lumps will go. When you’ve got a thin gravy, bring it to the boil and then simmer, stirring, until thickened. You can thin down the gravy and mellow the flavour with leftover stock if you wish.

Serve with the gravy, some roast vegetables (in the picture there’s pumpkin, sweet potato and carrots) and steamed greens.


Remove the leftover meat from the bone and shred using two forks. You should have a heap of leftover pork.

Pork Shoulder - pulled

Divide the pork into meal sized portions and freeze for later. Later in the series I’ll share our recipe for pulled pork and refried bean enchiladas as well as give some other ideas for how to use the leftovers.

Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder
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Prep Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
  1. 1 pork shoulder, bone in
  2. 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  3. 2 tsp. ground cumin
  4. 2 tsp. ground paprika
  5. 1 tsp. ground coriander
  6. 1 tsp. dried oregano
  7. a good grind each of salt and pepper
  8. 1 onion, roughly chopped
  9. 1 - 2 cups of pork or beef stock
  1. Remove the skin and fat from the pork shoulder.
  2. Mix the rub ingredients together and rub all over the pork shoulder on both sides, rubbing the mixture right into all the nooks and crannies.
  3. Refrigerate in a covered container over night.
  1. Place the onion in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  2. Heat oil or lard in a fry pan until hot and brown the pork shoulder on all sides.
  3. Place the pork shoulder into the slow cooker.
  4. Using the stock, deglaze the hot pan, scraping up any flavourings in the pan. Pour the stock into the slow cooker.
  5. Cook on low for 8 hours or until cooked through, tender and falling off the bone.
  1. Melt 1 - 2 Tbsp. of oil or lard in a fry pan. Add the same quantity of flour and mix well, cooking for a few minutes.
  2. Ladle the liquid from the slow cooker through a sieve and into the fry pan, a little at a time, stirring well.
  3. Bring your gravy to the boil and simmer until thickened.
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  1. Eileen Miles says

    ‘Pulled ****’ is a term we have only recently heard here in Australia. Is that all it means? that the meat has been shredded with forks instead of slicing? I think this recipe looks great and as there is only two of us a great money saver. I think the pork is more expensive but still a bargain cut.

    • says

      Yep, just shredded. And you’re right, it’s a term I’ve recently come across too – thanks to the internet.

      I’m exploring Mexican cuisine at the moment (as my recipes will reflect). We’ve never really eaten it as it hasn’t had much influence here in Australia.

  2. says

    Yum, I LOVE pulled pork :) It’s one of my staple slow cooker meals. I usually make crackling from the skin because it’s so delicious, but I’m interested to see how you make lard and then soap from it.