Feed a Crowd: Red Cooked Pork Shoulder

star anise red rice cinnamon red cooked

Cooking for a small crowd can be really stressful for the budding Michael Chiarello. However, it can be one of the most fun things you can do for friends and family. There is something perversely satisfying with making something delicious and sharing it with people you really really care about. A lot of things can go wrong but there are a few things I always do when having a few guests over:

  1. Have lots of booze. If the food sucks, a good buzz makes it better.
  2. Make most of the food ahead of time.
  3. Hope and pray that there are no vegetarians.

This Shanghai recipe for slowly cooked pork starts off with a quick sear in copious amounts of hot oil. There is a lot of potential for an unintentional burn ward visit so use a really hot oven to brown if uncomfortable with the idea of lowering a hunk of pig in hot oil.

Red cooked pork shoulder, like most braised and slow-cooked meats, is much better made a day ahead. The sauce is slightly sweet and rendered aromatic from the use of eight-star anise, cinnamon sticks, and ginger.

recipe adapted from Eileen Yin-fei Lo’s The Chinese Kitchen

Red Cooked Pork Shoulder
Jau Yau Tai Pong

5 to 6 pound skin-on pork shoulder
1 cup + 2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 1/2 cups peanut oil
3/4 cup sugar
3 pieces eight-star anise
2 three-inch cinnamon sticks
4 scallions, trimmed and cut into thirds
2 one-inch slices ginger, peeled
10 cups cold water
1/3 cup Shao-Hsing wine
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered red rice (optional)


  • The powdered red rice can be difficult to find but doesn’t really add anything other than that authentic shade of red. For a more vibrant reddish tint, add the red rice towards the last half hour of cooking.

Red Rice Yeast Coloring
Red rice, inexplicably labeled “yeast”

Wash the pork shoulder with cold water while scraping the skin with a knife. Dry thoroughly with paper towels. Rub the pork shoulder with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and let rest for at least 15 minutes.

Heat the peanut oil in a hot wok over high heat. The oil temperature should be around 375ºF.

The pork shoulder I used weighed 15 pounds and won’t fit in my largest pot so I had to cut off the shank. I used it for a searing test run:

Searing Test with Shank

The skin immediately started getting small white bubbles and the smell reminded me of chicharrón. Sear the pork shoulder on all sides. Ladle hot oil over the meat for 1 to 2 minutes or turn if necessary. Remove the pork shoulder from the wok.

Seared Pork Shoulder

Place the pork shoulder in a large pot and add the rest of the ingredients. Add as much liquid as needed to completely immerse the pork shoulder.
Red Cooked Pork Shoulder Braising

Bring to a boil then lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Try to keep the liquid at 185ºF. Cook for anywhere from 6-12 hours, depending on the size of the pork shoulder. It’s ready when the meat pulls away easily from the bone.

Cool to room temperature and refrigerate overnight. Reheat gently before serving.

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36 Responses to “Feed a Crowd: Red Cooked Pork Shoulder”

  1. ces says:

    hey jude! sorry i just had to say that:)
    great great blog here! it’s so uplifting to see pinoy food blogs that are really at par with other foreign ones…just like you i am a pinoy at heart and palate:) residing in the east coast. i have that cookbook too, memories of philippine kitchen! autographed by mr. romy dorotan himself when we ate at cendrillon:)
    and this pork shoulder looks so go-od!
    btw, i have an on-going weekly meme dubbed lasangpinoy.sundays, i hope you can join also!

  2. [eatingclub vancouver] js says:

    Cool. I never knew that red rice is used for that red cooking. I’ve always wondered why our red-cooked dishes — or “Chinese adobo,” as my mother calls them — never looked reddish, only the same shade of brown as all our other adobo dishes.

  3. Ces, I’ll definitely check out lasang pinoy and plan on joining soon.

    Js, never thought of adding a shade of red to adobo. I’ll try it with chicken some time.

  4. Gay says:

    Hey June (he he), thanks for visiting my site. I’m in rice research but I haven’t seen red rice with that intensity. Looks like atsuete… See you around!

  5. love, tastespotting says:

    uh, LOVE this post and wish you could send some over to us for dinner!

    last blog post: #17317 – Cinnamon, star anise, and red rice for red-cooked pork shoulder.

  6. Maggie says:

    I love pork shoulder and this recipe looks really good! My father was looking for red rice yeast for another recipe so maybe we can split a package and I can try this recipe.

  7. Nico says:

    I found your blog via Google while searching for chinese cooking repipe and your post regarding Crowd: Red Cooked Pork Shoulder | Apple Pie, Patis, and Pâté looks very interesting to me. I could not believe the amount of quality material on this site. The site is extremely eyecatching and pulls the reader straight it, the articles are great quality and are very professionally written. I have seen too many of these sites where it looks like they pay an 8 year old to do the writing – Not this one. Your site is easily the best that I have seen in a long while.

  8. Alex says:

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

    last blog post: Russia and Georgia

  9. MyKitchenInHalfCups says:

    Jude that was always my mom’s line: give ‘em enough to drink and anything will taste great!
    Now I know where to start looking for red rice.

  10. Milo Parler says:

    i heard a lot just about that in the last few days and i think it might be true. Eventhough i believe everyone is responsible for himself. Just my two cents…

  11. Mechelle Manchini says:

    Thanks, that wasvery interesting. Actually,I was born in Moscow in 1974 but my mother and I fled the country and came here in the UK. Truthfully, I didnt care much about my russian heritage until my mother died last month, now I’ve been trying to discover as much as I can. Seemed like cuisine was as good a place as any to start from! You dont generally hear much about russian cuisine do you? Anyway, I found a load of russian recipes here that other readers might be interested in too.

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