Fennel Grilled Pork Shoulder

Certain flavors were just meant to be together. Such it is with pork and fennel. Add orange, and you’ve got a divine trinity of deliciousness. And here, I share one of my best grilling preparations with you. Make this for your next barbecue, tell your friends you made it up yourself (I don’t mind), and you’ll be revered in the backyards of your neighborhood.

I love pork shoulder. It’s one of the least expensive cuts, it’s usually huge, and it’s got an amazing flavor and meat/fat ratio. Confirming its pedigree, it’s the pork most often used for Mexican carnitas. Now that’s some street cred!

While this particular recipe is my own, it takes its inspiration from the countless Italian preparations pairing pork with fennel — including your basic Italian sausage, whose predominate spicing is fennel seed, and the fabulous fennel salami, finocchiona. So it would be delicious served with a mushroom risotto, some orzo tossed with sage and butter, or perhaps the ancient Italian grain, farro, cooked with tomatoes and more fennel. The brining and marinade are important, so plan your pork shoulder a couple days ahead. Enjoy!

*   *   *

Fennel grilled pork shoulder
serves 6-8, as a main course with side dishes

1 pork shoulder, 3 to 4 lbs.
1 bulb fennel
2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup fennel powder (i.e. ground fennel)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp. sugar
olive oil
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 clove garlic
flaky sea salt & freshly ground pepper

The day before: Using a large knife, slice halfway through the shoulder across the grain, cutting in the direction of the bone. To butterfly, open on the cut, flatten out as best you can, and pound lightly with a meat mallet to create as close to a large 1 or 2 inch thick cutlet. Salt the meat with 2 tbsp. salt, one on each side, and place in the fridge for a few hours.

Using a mandoline or a sharp knive, slice the fennel bulb as thinly as you can from base to where the stems begin. Toss with orange juice. The evening before you cook, place pork shoulder in marinade, tossing to coat thoroughly. Store overnight in a large covered container. The next day, periodically shake the container or open and flip the shoulder to evenly distribute marinade.

When it time to cook, heat your grill to the highest temperature. Remove the shoulder from the marinade, drain, and then rub entire surface with fennel powder. Keep marinade and fennel. Drizzle canola oil over the shoulder and brush with your fingers to ensure its covered. Place shoulder on grill and cover. Cook for 5 minutes. Open cover and flip the shoulder. Cook an additional 5-7 minutes, depending on heat of grill, until meat is browned and has grill marks. Flip over and cook for one more minute.

While the shoulder is cooking, place remaining marinade and fennel in a skillet. Add a drizzle of olive oil. Cook over high heat until until sauce is reduced by half. Add teaspoon sugar. Continue cooking until sauce is thickened and reduced to about 1/2 cup. Remove from heat. While the meat and sauce are cooking, dress your cutting board. Drizzle with olive oil (roughly 2 tbsp.), then sprinkle with chopped or grated garlic, chopped parsley, salt and pepper.

Remove your shoulder from the grill and place on cutting board. Let sit for 5 minutes for juices to redistribute. Pour reduced marinade over top of shoulder and begin cutting against the grain into slices about 1 inch thick. Dredge slices in sauce and cutting board dressing. Add more olive oil or salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with a medium bodied red wine such as a Chianti or zinfandel.


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mom
    May 06, 2011 @ 15:11:26

    This would be delicious as a stuffing for the arepas I made last night for Cinco de Mayo even though they are Central American, not Mexican.


  2. Par
    May 07, 2011 @ 00:01:34

    Ah ha! That’s the shoulder you showed from the fridge. That came out very nice. Gotta try that!


  3. Ben
    May 13, 2011 @ 00:21:32

    I am confused by this rather rapid prep time that you speak of. I usually do it for 2 hrs./lb. at about 225 on the Green Egg. This usually gives me a cook time of 20 hrs for a 10 lb. shoulder. What is the texture of Boston Butt like when it is cooked comparatively rapidly like this?


    • scolgin
      May 13, 2011 @ 00:59:21

      It’s one of those weird things, like with baby back ribs, where you can either cook them for hours and hours. Or you can cook them really hot really fast. Trust me… This will be one of the best things you’ve ever put in your mouth. Especially on the BGE — get it nice and hot, sear it, etc.


  4. Benjamin J Thompson (@ThompsonBenjami)
    Jun 19, 2013 @ 20:16:06

    So, it’s perfectly 75 and sunny here in Chicago today and I was thinking of this recipe. I haven’t tried it yet so I came back here and watched the video again. When you sliced it on the end it was MR+ to M. Is that correct? I’m nervous but Boston Butt is like $1.50/lb. around the corner at the Mexican grocery mart, so it’s no big deal if I screw it up.


    • scolgin
      Jun 19, 2013 @ 21:17:00

      Hey, hope you’ve still got time if you want to do this. I would probably go medium to medium well — if you have a fairly fatty cut of pork (i.e. the shoulder I used) you don’t want it MR. You just don’t want to overcook it.


  5. Benjamin J Thompson (@ThompsonBenjami)
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 00:31:13

    It worked! I have a vacuum sealer to speed up the marinade process. Used chimmichurri instead of your recipe and served with roasted potatoes. Tomorrow, leftover slices flash grilled and chopped for tacos.


  6. Benjamin J Thompson (@ThompsonBenjami)
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 00:33:19

    And BTW, I got a mayonnaise hater to eat mayonnaise the other day by melting some mayo over corn on the cob with lime juice and queso fresco. She was like, “Why is this corn so gooood?” We all just laughed.


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