How To Slice Pork Shoulder Thin

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Cutting a large slab of pork shoulder into smaller pieces seems fairly easy when you don’t care about its shape or size.

But if you’ve got a dinner party to host or are a home cook who is meticulous about these things, it’s important to know how to do this job right.

Carving thin slices of pork shoulder, whether raw or cooked, starts with good knowledge about the meat you’re working with.

It is also very important to prepare the right tools for this task.

This includes well-sharpened and honed knives – the right ones which can do the job – and a wide chopping board placed on a stable surface.

What is the Pork Shoulder?

Aside from being a versatile section of the pig, this is one of the cheapest. This costs just $3 per pound at most.

You might even get lucky and get this for a little over a dollar when it’s on sale.

As a comparison, the belly and tenderloin can be had for $4 or more per pound.

First, don’t get confused when you’re at your butcher’s and they call this part a different name.

The following are its aliases, depending on where you live:

• Picnic Ham
• Picnic Roast
• Pork Butt
• Boston Butt

*The term ‘butt’ here isn’t exactly a misnomer. In the old English / Germanic language, the word means ‘widest part’.

On a pig, that happens to be the shoulder.

This particular segment comes from the top of the pig, specifically right behind the head and above the front legs.

Because the muscles in this part are directly connected to the legs (hocks), this can be a bit tough. But if cooked properly – slowly and in low heat – you can get the most of it.

Thinly-Sliced Pork Shoulder Recipes

And if you’re not planning on a whole roast, slicing these as thinly as you could is another way to make sure you can cook it just right.

• Char Siu
• Tonkatsu Donburi
• Hot Pot
• Shogayaki
• Bulgogi

Getting the Right Cut

Let’s now get into more detail about how you can slice thin, even slivers from the pork shoulder so you can try the recipes mentioned above.

1. Prep your tools

Takes a minute.

Here are some of the things which you may need for this task:

• Chopping board

This should be wide (at least 10 x 12 inches) and flat so it’s secure on your work surface

• Knife

A regular chef’s knife works here. You could also add one for carving and a smaller utility or boning knife for disjointing cuts and going around bony sections.

• Freezer
Mandolin Slicer (optional)
Electric Slicer (optional)

To prevent ruining your meat, make sure the knives are sharpened.

If not, do so, but that would take an additional five minutes to your prep, at least.

If you have, hone your knife to straighten its edges before using it.

2. Prep the meat

Takes a minute

Rinse it in a bowl of water or under the faucet. With a paper towel, pat it dry.

Next, transfer to a large chopping board. The skin side should be down and the wider part facing away from you.

Disinfect the surrounding surfaces immediately to prevent the proliferation of E-coli in your kitchen.

3. Start De-Boning

Takes five minutes

There is one large, bent bone in the middle of the slab.

Find the seam running beside this bone and then separate it using your hands.

Carefully split the seam with your blade until you pull it completely apart.

Once you’ve uncovered the bone, run your knife around it so you can pull it out completely.

Don’t worry if there are bits of flesh on the bone since this can give more flavor to broths.

4. Break It Down

Takes three minutes

The whole piece may seem unapproachable at first but just look for the other fatty, white seams in the slab, cutting along those lines.

The widest, flattest, fattest part is usually used for Char Siu or other barbecue recipes.

The smaller, uneven segments can be cut into square chunks for stir fry and ground meat. The skin can be used as chicharron or in stocks.

Don’t throw ‘scraps’ away because they can be used for other recipes.

5. Freeze the Parts

Takes about two hours

You can fold smaller bits onto the bigger wedges to round it off nicely and then place it in the freezer for an hour or two to stiffen it up.

This will make the slicing easier.

Don’t freeze it all the way through, though. That will be impossible to cut.

6. Slice Away!

After resting in the freezer, take the pieces out and put those back onto your board.

A good Chef’s or carving knife will do the trick well, to be honest.

But if you’re not quite confident about your slicing skills, use a mandolin.

If you’ve got an electric slicer, go ahead and use that too.

Last Updated on April 27, 2021 by Andy Wang

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My name is Andy Wang, and I'm a retired chef. I used to work at the City Vineyard restaurant in NYC. I also had a culinary degree from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. And this blog is where I share my love for knives and cooking with people like you.