When you need to feed a crowd for your summer party, look no further than this Jamaican jerk pork shoulder! This succulent, ultra flavorful pork shoulder marinates in jerk spices overnight and then slowly roasts until it's melt-in-your-mouth tender. No summer gathering is complete without this tropical-inspired pork shoulder.
When it comes to summer entertaining, you can't go wrong with a perfectly roasted pork shoulder. This pork cut is large enough to feed lots of people, and it requires little hands-on preparation time for easy entertaining.
But you know what's even better than a roasted pork shoulder? A jerk-marinated pork shoulder! With a simple marinade, we can transform the humble pork shoulder into a Caribbean delight. The beach is my happy place, so I'm into any meal that tricks me into thinking I've escaped to the Caribbean.
I have a hunch your family and friends feel the same way. Who doesn't love a tropical getaway? So let's get into it and turn your casual backyard gathering into a piece of paradise.
Best Pork Cut for Slow Roasting
For this recipe, we use a pork shoulder as mentioned, but specifically, I recommend the pork butt cut as opposed to the picnic cut. The pork butt cut is still part of the pork shoulder, but it's higher on the foreleg and comes with more fat marbling. This makes for a more tender, flavorful dish. Pulled pork is typically made from the pork butt cut.
Could you use the picnic shoulder cut? Sure, just know that this recipe was created for the pork butt and recommended for best results.
When it comes to size, we have options here. Pork butts are usually sold in both small and large cuts, though the small cuts aren't necessarily small. Those "small" pork butt cuts weigh about 3 to 5 pounds. Compared to a 7- or 8-pound pork butt, this may be small, but it's still a lot of meat.
Expect to get about six to eight servings from the small cut while an 8-pound pork shoulder will produce approximately 10 to 12 servings. Another option is to get two 4-pound cuts and roast them in the same pan. I love this option because you get a lot of meat, but those smaller cuts cook in less time.
How to Make Jerk Marinade
Now that we settled on our pork cut, it's time to prepare our jerk marinade. For this step, we need a food processor or blender. Either one will work just fine.
To start, we throw in some habanero peppers, onion, ginger, garlic, dark brown sugar and spices into the food processor or blender. Traditionally, jerk marinade uses scotch bonnet peppers rather than habanero peppers, but they're difficult to find. Habanero peppers are close cousins and make a fine substitution, but feel free use scotch bonnet peppers if you're lucky enough to get your hands on them.
We give the food processor a whirl until the ingredients begin to roughly come together like so.
As the food processor runs, we add our liquid ingredients and blend. The mixture will smooth out, but some chunks will remain. That's normal.
We want to reserve ½ cup to 1 cup of marinade for injecting. The exact amount depends on the size of your meat. For a 3- to 5-pound pork butt, ½ cup marinade will do, but if you have anywhere from 6 to 8 pounds of meat, reserve a full cup.
We pour the rest of our marinade all over our pork, but before we do that, I like to cut small slits on top and underneath the pork. This allows the marinade to get into the meat for better flavor. As we spread the marinade over the pork, it helps to push some into those slits. Now we cover the pork and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.
How to Roast Pork
And now for roasting! Before we start, I recommend covering the roasting pan with foil and giving the roasting rack a generous coating of cooking spray. Our pork shoulder will release a lot of delicious drippings as it cooks, and cleaning out the pan without foil is not a fun use of time.
Now we place the pork on our prepared roasting rack and start injecting the reserved marinade. Technically, this is an optional step, but I highly recommend it. Pork shoulder is such a big cut of meat, and injecting additional marinade helps maximize the flavor of the interior meat.
Tip: Because our marinade isn't perfectly smooth, a wide-mouth injector works best.
We place our pork in a 275-degree oven and cook uncovered until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 155-165 degrees F. At this point, we've reached what's known as the stall. This is when that wonderful fat marbling starts to render and causes the meat to stop rising in temperature.
To help our pork get past the stall, we remove it from the oven, wrap the roast with food-grade butcher paper or heavy-duty foil and place it back in the pan in the oven.
I've made this recipe many times, both wrapped and unwrapped, and in addition to helping the pork cook faster, wrapping makes for a moister meat. Speaking from experience, this step is well-worth the minimal effort.
From here, we roast the pork until it reaches a minimum internal temperature of 190 degrees F, but it's even better if you have the patience to let it hit 200-205 degrees F. For a small pork shoulder, eight hours takes care of the job pretty consistently, but plan for at least 10 hours and possibly up to 12 hours for a large pork roast. Keep in mind, every cut of meat cooks differently, so this is just a guideline.
Once the pork is tender and ready, we give it time to sit for at least 15 minutes before shredding — 30 minutes is even better. This allows the meat to redistribute its juices, ensuring our pork is perfectly moist.
Now we shred the meat, and we're ready to serve. Bonus points for serving a Jamaican rum mule on the side.
Can You Make Jerk Pork in Slow Cooker?
If you can't give up your oven for as many hours as it takes to cook a pork butt, you can use a slow cooker. While I love the crust the oven gives this meat, the slow cooker also makes a delicious, tender pork butt.
To do this, place the marinated pork shoulder in a slow cooker with a cup of chicken stock and cook on low for eight hours. Keep in mind that slow cookers generally are too small to hold an 8-pound pork butt, so you only want to use this method for a pork butt under 5 pounds. Somewhere around 3 ½ pounds to 4 ½ pounds is good for the slow cooker.
How to Serve
If you'd like to keep it simple, I recommend serving this Jamaican jerk pork shoulder with a side of my coconut-lime rice and a homemade salsa. My jerk salsa, tropical pico de gallo or roasted tomato-chipotle salsa are all delicious accompaniments. Grilled corn is another delicious side option, and Successible Life has a great roundup of five different ways to make grilled corn on the cob in case you'd like some creative inspiration.
Another tropical option is to serve with my Hawaiian potato salad. While it isn't Jamaican, it still brings those island vibes.
Or you can use this Caribbean-inspired pork in so many other ways. Rather than chicken, use the pork in my jerk enchiladas with habanero-sour cream sauce. This jerk pork butt also works well with tacos, nachos, quesadillas, tostadas and burritos. And, of course, you can't go wrong with a jerk pork sandwich.
Feel free to get creative with how you serve this pork, and let me know any fun ideas you might have.
Looking for a refreshing beer pairing? Try a double IPA. Roasted pork generally pairs well with malty beers, and a double IPA has a more malt-forward profile than a single IPA. Plus, you'll love how the earthy hops help bring out the spice.
Or maybe you're in the mood for a glass of wine. I like a malbec with this Caribbean pork dish. Malbec is a fruity, berry-forward wine that matches nicely with our warm spices, and its medium tannins stand up well to the fatty pork.
And, of course, any kind of Caribbean-inspired dish was made for a tropical cocktail. My coconut margarita, strawberry-kiwi margarita or watermelon-coconut mojito make for fun options. Or you could go with a classic tiki cocktail like this Painkiller.
For your next summer gathering, I hope you try this Jamaican jerk pork shoulder. After one bite, you'll want to make this dish a summer tradition.
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Jamaican Jerk Pork Shoulder
- Food processor
- Roasting pan with rack
- Food thermometer
- 4 habanero or scotch bonnet peppers sliced, leave in seeds and membrane
- 1 onion roughly chopped
- 6 green onions sliced
- 1-inch knob of ginger peeled and sliced or grated
- 3 garlic cloves sliced
- 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon allspice
- 1 tablespoon Chinese five-spice powder
- 1 tablespoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg preferably freshly grated
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup spiced rum
- Juice of three limes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pork shoulder, pork butt cut (see notes regarding size)
- Toss the peppers, onion, green onions, ginger, garlic, sugar and spices into a food processor. Blend until everything roughly combines. As the machine runs, add soy sauce, rum, lime juice and olive oil. When you remove the lid from the food processor, it will smell intensely peppery. Don’t worry. This is normal. Reserve ½-1 cup of marinade, depending on the size of your pork.
- Pierce 1-inch slits throughout the top of the pork butt. Turn over and repeat on the bottom. Pour the marinade over the pork and turn a few times to ensure it’s well-coated. Gently use your fingers to get some marinade into the slits. Refrigerate covered at least overnight or up to 24 hours.
- If you have time, take the pork butt out of the refrigerator for an hour before cooking to help it come down in temperature. Proceed to your desired cooking method as listed below.
- Heat oven to 275 degrees F. Remove excess marinade from the pork. Cover a roasting pan with foil. Place on a roasting rack that's been well-coated with cooking spray. Using a wide-mouth meat injector, inject the reserved marinade throughout the pork. Insert a leave-in meat thermometer in the thickest part of the pork, ensuring it doesn't touch any bones.
- Roast uncovered in the oven until the internal temperature of the meat hits 155-165 degrees F.
- Remove the pork from the oven and wrap the roast in food-grade butcher paper or heavy duty aluminum foil. Reinsert the meat thermometer, place the pork on the roasting rack and back in the oven.
- Continue to cook until the pork reaches a minimum internal temperature of 190 degrees F, though 200-205 degrees F is even better.
- Remove the pork from the oven and leave it wrapped. Allow the meat to rest for at least 15 minutes or up to 30-45 minutes to let the juices redistribute throughout the pork. Again, if you have some extra time, that 30-35 minutes is even better. Shred with two forks and serve. Enjoy!
Slow Cooker Method
- Remove excess marinade from the pork. Using a wide-mouth meat injector, inject the reserved marinade throughout the pork. Add to the slow cooker with 1 cup water or chicken stock. Cook on low for eight hours.
- The pork is ready it's fall-apart tender. Allow the meat to rest on warm for 15 minutes. Shred the pork with two forks and serve. Enjoy!
- There's enough marinade to make up to an 8-pound pork butt. For anything in the 6- to 8-pound range, reserve a cup of marinade for injecting. If you use a smaller pork butt in the 3- to 5-pound range, ½ cup of reserved marinade is fine.
- As an alternative to an 8-pound roast, you can also cook two 4-pound pork butts. This is a good option if you want a lot of meat but don't want the additional cooking time.
- If using the slow cooker method, you'll want to keep your pork butt in the 4-pound range as most slow cookers are too small to handle an 8-pound pork roast.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.