Forever-Roasted Pork with Toasted Spice Rub

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

I published a version of this recipe in The Tra Vigne Cookbook, but it is so popular that I decided to bring it back with a twist. If you loved the recipe before, now you’ll have to try this variation to compare. I got the idea for forever-roasted pork when I lived in Miami and would go to Little Havana for lechon, Cuban roasted pork. I’ve added my own seasonings, but the idea is the same: a pork shoulder cooked very slowly for a long time until it all but falls apart. Don’t rush it; the anticipation is part of the pleasure. However, you can make the pork ahead and reheat it for guests. I actually prefer it at room temperature.

NotesDon’t try to cut the pork with a knife; just pull it apart into large chunks with a fork. Yes, it’s that tender. Leftovers make fantastic tacos and sandwiches.

For this dish and many others, I slice the onions in a particular way that I’ve come to call onion-soup style. Slice off both ends, then halve lengthwise and peel. Now slice thinly lengthwise (from stem end to root end), not crosswise. This method gives you shorter, more even slices instead of long, stringy slivers that can be unpleasant to eat, especially in a soup.

Serves8 to 10

Cooking Methodroasting


Total Timea day or more

Make Ahead RecipeYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free


Taste and Textureherby, meaty, rich, spiced


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing on the pork
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
  • 24 fresh sage leaves
  • 1½ pounds onions, thinly sliced onion-soup style (see Notes), plus 1 onion, halved and unsliced
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt, preferably gray salt
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 whole boneless pork shoulder (butt), about 6 pounds
  • 4 tablespoons Toasted Spice Rub
  • 4 outer celery ribs, in 6-inch lengths
  • 3 large carrots, peeled


  1. Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over moderate heat. Add the garlic and cook until the cloves start to color. Add the sage and let the leaves sizzle for 10 seconds, then add the thinly sliced onions and salt and cook for 2 minutes. Add the water, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the onions are quite soft, about 15 minutes. Uncover and cook until most of the liquid evaporates. Do not allow the onions to color. Let cool to room temperature.

  2. With a boning knife, carefully cut between the muscles to open up the shoulder so that it lies flat like a book. (You can also ask the butcher to do this for you.) Rub the surface with 1 tablespoon of the spice rub, then spread the cooled onions on top.

  3. Reshape the shoulder to enclose the onions, as if you were closing the book. Tie the pork lightly with kitchen string, taking care not to squeeze the onions out. Rub it all over with olive oil, then with the remaining 3 tablespoons spice rub. (You can refrigerate the pork overnight at this point, but bring it to room temperature before continuing.)

  4. Preheat the oven to 275°F. Line a roasting pan or heavy rimmed baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Put the celery, carrots, and onion halves in the roasting pan to make a vegetable rack and top with the pork.

  5. Roast the pork until it is fork-tender, about 7 hours. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before removing the string. Discard the vegetables; transfer the pork to a platter. To serve, pull the roast apart into large chunks with a meat fork rather than carving it into neat slices.

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