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Do I Cook A Pork Shoulder Fat Side Up Or Down?

Are you ready to take your pork shoulder cooking skills to the next level? Look no further! In this blog post, we’ll be diving into the age-old debate of whether to cook a pork shoulder fat side up or down.

With so many different opinions out there, it can be overwhelming to determine the best method for achieving that juicy and tender pork. But fear not, we’ve done the research and experimentation for you.

So, do i cook a pork shoulder fat side up or down?

Cooking pork roast fat side up allows the fat to melt into the meat and protect it from the oven’s direct heat. This makes the meat more succulent. However, some say that cooking pork shoulder fat side down keeps the juices in the meat and makes for a moist end product. Others say that roasting pork meat with the fat side down gives a crispy skin to the pork, making it more delicious.

Let’s dive in.

What’s the Difference Between Pork Shoulder and Pork Butt?

Main Differences:

Pork butt, also known as Boston butt, is located higher on the foreleg of the pig, while pork shoulder is situated lower down. This means that pork butt has a higher fat content and more marbling, resulting in a more tender and flavorful cut compared to pork shoulder.

On the other hand, pork shoulder has less fat and more muscle, making it tougher and chewier.

Cooking Process:

The disparity in fat content and texture between pork butt and pork shoulder has a significant impact on the cooking process. Due to its higher fat content, pork butt can be cooked faster, while pork shoulder requires longer cooking times to break down the muscle fibers and achieve tenderness.

Both cuts are best cooked using low and slow methods such as roasting, stewing, braising, or smoking.

Do I Cook A Pork Shoulder Fat Side Up Or Down-2

Trimming Fat:

Before cooking pork shoulder, it is essential to trim away the thick layer of fat on the outside of the meat.

This not only helps prevent flare-ups but also ensures even cooking. Although the fat cap can be left on during cooking for added flavor, it should be removed before serving.

Cooking Fat Side Up or Down:

The decision to cook pork shoulder with the fat side up or down ultimately depends on personal preference and the chosen cooking method. Cooking it with the fat side up allows for basting with rendered fat, resulting in a crispy exterior.

On the other hand, cooking it with the fat side down creates a barrier between the heat source and meat for slow cooking.

What Is the Fat Cap?

When preparing a pork shoulder, it is important to take into account the fat cap for various reasons:

  • Adds depth to flavor: As the pork shoulder cooks, the fat cap melts and infuses into the meat, creating a more flavorful end product.
  • Protects the meat: Acting as a shield, the fat cap keeps the meat moist and prevents it from becoming dry during extended cooking times.
  • Regulates temperature: Serving as an insulator, the fat cap helps distribute heat evenly throughout the meat, resulting in a more evenly cooked end product.
  • Can cause issues if not managed properly: If there is too much fat, the end product can become greasy and overly fatty, while too little fat can result in dry and tough meat.
  • Trim excess fat before cooking: Before cooking, it is crucial to remove any excess fat from the pork shoulder, leaving approximately 1/4 inch of fat on top of the meat for optimal results.
  • Cook with the fat side up: When deciding which side of the pork shoulder to cook on, it is typically recommended to cook with the fat side facing up. This allows for the fat to melt and baste the meat as it cooks.
Also Read:  Do You Put Pellet Grill Fat Side Up Or Down?

In summary, the fat cap on a pork shoulder plays a critical role in enhancing flavor, moisture, and temperature control during cooking.

How Do You Use Pork Fat Trimmings?

Pork fat trimmings are a versatile and valuable ingredient that can greatly enhance the flavor and nutritional value of your dishes.

As an expert in cooking with pork fat, I am here to share my tips and ideas on how you can make the most of this ingredient.

Render Lard

The most common use for pork fat trimmings is to render them into lard. This process involves heating the fat in a pan until it melts, then straining it into a jar. Lard can be used in cooking and baking, adding a rich and savory flavor to your dishes.

Basting Liquid

Instead of using butter or oil, try using melted pork fat trimmings as a basting liquid for meats and vegetables. This will not only infuse your food with a delicious flavor but also help keep it moist while cooking.

Sauces and Gravies

For sauces and gravies that are rich in flavor and depth, consider adding pork fat trimmings. It can be used in place of butter or oil when making roux, or added directly to the sauce for an extra boost of deliciousness.


A classic French cooking technique, confit involves slow-cooking meat in its own fat. Pork fat trimmings are perfect for this method as they provide both flavor and moisture to the meat, resulting in tender and succulent dishes.

Skincare Products

Aside from its culinary uses, pork fat also has skin conditioning properties that make it useful in body care products like soaps and lotions. You can easily render pork fat at home and use it as a base for homemade skincare products.

Remember, don’t shy away from incorporating pork fat trimmings into your dishes! With these tips, you can easily add both flavor and nutritional benefits to your cooking.

Pork Shoulder Fat up or Down

When preparing pork shoulder, it is usually advised to cook it with the layer of fat facing upwards. This allows the fat to melt and moisten the meat as it cooks, resulting in a more flavorful and tender final product. However, there are a few instances where this rule does not apply, such as when most of the heat is coming from below or if you prefer a crispy outside. In these cases, it may be better to cook the pork shoulder with the fat side facing downwards. It is also recommended to flip the pork shoulder halfway through cooking to ensure both sides are evenly cooked and prevent any flare-ups caused by the rendered fat.

Aside from cooking purposes, pork shoulder fat can also be used in various ways to enhance your dishes. Below are some expert suggestions on how to make the most out of pork shoulder fat trimmings.

  • Making lard: One of the most common uses for pork fat is to turn it into lard. This can be achieved by heating the fat in a pan until it melts and then straining it to remove any impurities. The resulting lard can then be used for frying or as a base for sauces and gravies.
  • Basting liquid: As mentioned earlier, cooking pork shoulder with the fat side up allows the melted fat to baste and infuse flavor into the meat. You can also mix in herbs and spices for an added boost of taste.
  • Confit dishes: Pork shoulder fat is ideal for making confit dishes, where meat is slow-cooked in its own rendered fat. This results in juicy and flavorful meat that can be used in a variety of dishes.
  • Skincare products: Pork fat is packed with nutrients and can be utilized in skincare products like soaps and body butters for added nourishment.
  • Enhancing sauces and gravies: The rendered fat from pork shoulder can add depth and richness to sauces and gravies when used as a base or in small amounts. Just remember to adjust the seasoning accordingly, as the fat will also add some saltiness.
Also Read:  Is Pork Fat A Healthy Fat?


After much deliberation and experimentation, the age-old question of whether to cook a pork shoulder fat side up or down has finally been put to rest. And the verdict is in: cooking with the fat side up is the way to go for achieving mouthwatering and succulent pork.

But don’t just take our word for it. Through thorough research and trials, it has been proven that cooking with the fat side up allows for better distribution of heat and results in a juicier and more tender meat. Of course, there are exceptions where cooking with the fat side down may be more suitable, such as when using high heat or aiming for a crispy exterior.

But let’s not limit ourselves to just cooking with pork fat. This versatile ingredient can also be used in various other ways to elevate your dishes. From creating flavorful basting liquids and lard to indulging in rich confit dishes and even incorporating it into skincare products, pork fat adds a unique depth of flavor that should not be underestimated.