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How to Debone Pork Shoulder

5 Mins read
How to Debone Pork Shoulder

Pork shoulder is a popular cut of meat that is often used to make delicious pulled pork. However, before you can cook it, you need to remove the bone from the pork shoulder. Deboning a pork shoulder can seem like a daunting task, but with the right technique, it can be done easily and efficiently. In this article, we will guide you through the steps on how to debone pork shoulder and provide some tips to make the process even easier. So, whether you’re a seasoned cook or a beginner, keep reading to learn how to debone pork shoulder like a pro!

What is Pork Shoulder

The pork shoulder, also known as the Boston butt, is a cut of meat from the upper part of the front leg of the pig. It is a heavily marbled cut with lots of fat, making it excellent for braising, stewing, and smoking. The pork shoulder contains parts of the neck, shoulder blade, and upper arm of the pig. It tends to be a tough cut of meat due to the heavily worked muscles in the shoulder area. 

Pork shoulder can weigh 8 to 10 pounds or more. It has a good amount of bone, cartilage, skin, and connective tissue that breaks down during cooking to create a rich mouthfeel. Due to its collagen and marbling, pork shoulder becomes very tender when cooked for a long time, especially if cooked beyond 190 F internal temperature. The abundant fat and juices make it ideal for dishes like pulled pork, carnitas, and sausage. 

Fresh pork shoulder will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator and 6 to 12 months in the freezer. The shelf life depends on the sell-by date. Pork shoulder can be cooked with dry heat methods, such as baking, grilling, and broiling, in addition to braising, stewing, barbecuing, and smoking. It pairs well with a variety of seasonings and spices like garlic, paprika, oregano, thyme, and chili powder.

How to Debone Pork Shoulder

How to Debone Pork Shoulder

How to Debone Pork Shoulder – Step-by-step instructions

Here are the step-by-step instructions for How to Debone Pork Shoulder:

Gather the tools: You will need a sharp knife, a cutting board, a damp cloth, and a platter. Having a sharp knife specially meant for cutting meat will make the job easier. 

Cut through the shoulder joint: Place the pork shoulder on a cutting board with the bone side facing up. Locate the shoulder joint, the top part where the legs connect. Carefully cut through the joint to expose the bone underneath. Then cut the meat away from the sides of the main bone in two portions. 

Remove rib bones: Flip over the pork shoulder to have the rib side facing up. Run your knife under the rib section to detach it from the pork shoulder. Pull it away to reveal the fat deposits and muscles underneath. Use your knife to detach any remaining meat from the ribs.

Remove scapula and humerus bones: Locate the shoulder blade bone (scapula) and upper arm bone (humerus) embedded in the meat. Carefully cut around the bones to detach the meat. Ensure all bones, cartilage, and tendons are removed.

Split in half: With all bones removed, split the pork shoulder in half lengthwise to create two equal-sized portions. This will allow for easier cooking and portioning.

Trim and cut into chunks: Use your knife to trim away any excess fat or meat scraps remaining on the pork shoulder portions. Cut the meat into evenly sized bite-sized chunks. 

Rinse thoroughly: Place the pork shoulder chunks in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels or a clean cloth. Make sure the meat is clean before proceeding to cook it. 

How to Debone Pork Shoulder

How to Debone Pork Shoulder

What to do with boneless pork shoulder

Here are some ways to use boneless pork shoulder:

Boneless pork shoulder is extremely versatile and can be used in many dishes. One of the most popular ways is to make pulled pork. Simply roast the pork shoulder in the oven until tender enough to shred with two forks. Season the shredded pork with your favorite BBQ rub or sauce and serve on buns. Pulled pork sandwiches or tacos are always a hit.

You can also dice the boneless pork shoulder into cubes to make carnitas or stew. Brown the cubes in oil then simmer in broth until tender. Carnitas can be seasoned with chili powder, cumin, oregano, and lime juice. The stew cubes pair well with potatoes, carrots, and a flavorful broth. Both carnitas and stew are delicious on their own or in tortillas, buns, or over rice. 

Boneless pork shoulder can be ground to make sausage or chorizo. Add diced shoulder to pasta dishes like Bolognese sauce, chili, soups, or stews. Grind or dice the pork to make meatballs, meatloaf, or dumplings. 

For a twist, try roasting boneless pork shoulder coated in herbs and spices. Roast until tender and serve sliced. Or braise larger cubes of the shoulder in the oven with stock and vegetables until falling apart tender. Shred or serve the braised pork with the flavorful broth.

Boneless pork shoulder also holds up well on the grill or under the broiler when cut into steaks or chops. Pound the meat to an even thickness, season as desired, and cook through over high, direct heat. The pork will develop a nice char on the outside while remaining juicy inside.

The options for boneless pork shoulder are endless. With its robust flavor and tender texture, this cut is budget-friendly while also satisfying. No part of the shoulder goes to waste when deboned and properly cooked.

How to Debone Pork Shoulder

How to Debone Pork Shoulder

FAQs How to Debone Pork Shoulder

Here are some frequently asked questions about how to debone pork shoulder:

Why debone pork shoulder? 

Deboning the pork shoulder makes the meat more versatile and easier to cook. It allows you to cut the shoulder into chunks or slices as needed for various dishes. The boneless meat also has a better shape for pounding into cutlets. Removing the bone reduces cooking time and results in a more uniform finished dish.

What tools do I need? 

You will need a sharp butcher knife or kitchen knife, a cutting board, kitchen shears, and damp clothes. Sharp knives specifically meant for cutting meat will make the job easier. Kitchen shears can help cut through joints and any remaining connective tissue. 

How long does it take? 

For a home cook, deboning a single pork shoulder will take 30-60 minutes depending on experience. With practice, the process can take closer to 30 minutes. Take your time to ensure all bones and cartilage are removed. 

Can I debone ahead of cooking? 

Yes, deboned pork shoulder can be prepared 1-2 days ahead of cooking. Place the boneless shoulder in a container and refrigerate until ready to use. For longer storage, you can also tightly wrap and freeze the deboned shoulder for up to 3 months.

What cooking methods can I use? 

Boneless pork shoulder is ideal for braising, stewing, grilling, roasting, pan-searing, baking, broiling, and smoking. It can be used in many recipes like pulled pork, carnitas, sausage, meatballs, chops, and roasts. The cooking time will be less than bone-in pork shoulder.

How much does a boneless shoulder yield? 

An average bone-in pork shoulder weighing 6 to 8 pounds will yield about 4 to 6 pounds of boneless meat. Weight loss is due to the removal of bones, excess fat, skin, cartilage, and connective tissue. The actual yield will depend on the specific cut and trimming. 

Can I use leftovers? 

Yes, any leftover boneless pork shoulder can be used in sandwiches, soups, stews, fried rice, burritos, and tacos. Tightly wrap or seal and refrigerate within 2 hours of cooking. Use within 3 to 5

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About author
As the founder and chief editor of Scills Grill, I'm a self-proclaimed BBQ nut. I love cooking outdoors over live fire and smoke, no matter the weather. I use various grills, smokers, and wood-fired ovens to produce epic food. Peter Cobbetts is the president and founder of Scills Grill, with over 15 years' experience in barbecue. He's an exceptional pitmaster and grill expert who specializes in smoking briskets, pork shoulders - using charcoal, wood or propane grills/smokers - as well as reviewing kitchen appliances such as grills, smokers etc., having tried out almost every model available on the market.
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