Recipe for poor man’s porchetta

Serves 10

Cambridge restaurateur Gary Strack calls his version of pork shoulder “poor man’s porchetta.” He takes a simpler approach to more traditional versions, which might call for butterflied pork loin wrapped in pork belly. In Rome, you can find porchetta as an entire boned pig, its skin intact for external crispness. A pork shoulder makes a cheap alternative, and since it comes with the skin on, you don’t have to use pork belly or bacon to wrap around it. Make sure the salt is fully dissolved in the brining liquid before you add the meat. Otherwise it settles to the bottom and doesn’t do its job. In this recipe, you roast the meat indirectly on the grill, which means the fire is on the opposite side of the meat. The internal temperature of the grill is 350 degrees (the oven temperature you would use if not grilling).

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cups salt
6 quarts water
3 bottles of beer (any ale or IPA will do)
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon red peppercorns
1 orange, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 apple, quartered
1 teaspoon fresh sage
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 boned pork shoulder (about 10 pounds)

1. In a bowl or clean bucket large enough to hold the pork and all the brine ingredients, combine the salt, water, beer, black and red peppercorns, orange slices, onion, apple, sage, and fennel seed. Stir well and let the mixture sit until the salt dissolves.

2. Add the pork. Cover with ice. Refrigerate for 1 day.


4 tablespoons fennel seed
¼ cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons crushed red pepper
5 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Grated rind of 1 orange

1. Drain the pork and pat it dry.

2. In a cast-iron pan, toast the fennel seed, shaking the pan constantly, for 3 minutes or until they are aromatic and starting to brown.

3. In a bowl, combine the fennel, olive oil, garlic, rosemary, sage, red pepper, parsley, and orange rind. Work the mixture to form a paste. Rub the paste inside the cavity of the pork shoulder. Roll the shoulder up tightly, keeping the ends as even in thickness as possible. Tie with butcher’s twine.

4. Light a charcoal grill on one side or turn a gas grill to medium on one side.

5. Set the meat on the grill on the opposite side of the fire; there should be no fire under the meat. Roast for 2½ hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 160 degrees (the temperature inside the grill should be 350 degrees).

6. Let the meat rest in a warm place for 20 minutes before slicing. Adapted from Gary Strack