How To: Prepare a Boneless Roast From a Pork Picnic Shoulder

The Pork Picnic Shoulder is a versatile cut of meat. It consists of the lower shoulder and upper forearm of the animal. The arm and shank bones run through it and it is usually sold with a portion of skin still attached.

The Picnic Shoulder is prized for its high fat content. Bands of fat run throughout the muscles and there is a large fat cap just under the skin. These render during the cooking process keeping the meat moist and flavorful.

The Picnic Shoulder can be either roasted or braised whole, or filleted open, deboned, and rolled back up. Butterflying and Unrolling are two basic techniques commonly used to accomplish this task.

Butterflying cuts flaps of meat from the middle of the roast that open to the right and left side (like a butterfly).  The result is a thin slab of meat with the skin centered in the middle. Butterflying is effective for grilling the meat flat or rolling it back up without the skin.

Since the skin is positioned in the middle of the meat, rolling it back up after it has been butterflied would wrap a portion of skin inside the roast. The skin rolled inside will not brown properly and may be unpalatable.

The first step is to remove the bone. The initial cut is made on the medial or inner side of the limb (The medial side is opposite the outer, fat side). The knife slices through the meat located directly above the bone and continues until the entire length of the bone is exposed. Then, the incision is spread open and cuts are made around the contour of the bone until it is free.

The actual butterflying process starts in the middle of the roast (from the incision where the bone was removed) and cuts outward on both sides. This creates flaps of meat that can be opened up (like a butterfly) to the right and left. Care must be taken not to cut all the way through each side or you will be left with three separate pieces instead of one long one.

Unrolling is the other technique. It creates an elongated slab of meat with the skin positioned on one side. If the intention is to have a rolled roast with the skin wrapped around the outside, Unrolling will yield better results.

Unlike butterflying, the initial cut to remove the bone occurs on the side of the roast instead of in the middle. The picnic roast is naturally shaped like a cone. The large end of the cone is the shoulder side. The short end is the hock side.

Begin the Unrolling process by positioning the roast on a flat cutting surface. The skin side should be facing down. The first incision should be made on one side of the roast, running from hock to shoulder This will begin to split the picnic shoulder in half. The depth of the cut should extend all the way to the bone.

The top portion of meat can then be pulled back allowing the knife to cut along the contour of the bone.

It is eventually freed from the meat by running the blade of the knife along the underside of the bone.  Discard the bone after it has been removed or save it for use in soups and stock.

The Picnic Shoulder is now completely boneless.  The incision that was made to remove the bone runs from hock to shoulder. The top portion of meat can now be laid flat.

Cutting and unrolling another flap may be necessary if one side of the picnic shoulder is still too thick. Turning the roast over so the skin side faces up might help determine the best location to begin the next incision. Once again, begin cutting from the middle of the picnic shoulder and slice outward toward the left side. Fold back the top as you go.

Continue cutting until the knife blade is about one or two inches from penetrating the far left side of the meat.  Unroll the top portion and lay it down flat when possible.

The end result should be a thin slab of meat with the skin located on one side. Trim the roast accordingly to ensure it is even and uniform when rolled back up.

Before rolling, make sure the skin side of the roast is facing down toward the cutting surface. Spread the desired herb mixture or stuffing evenly across the entire slab of meat. Turn the edge farthest from the skin inward and begin rolling. The skin should wrap around the exterior of the roast when complete. Truss the roast with butcher’s twine to ensure it retains its shape during the cooking process.


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Categories: How To


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10 Comments on “How To: Prepare a Boneless Roast From a Pork Picnic Shoulder”

  1. February 2, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    hum i have to try this way its different . let you know when i do…….thanks

  2. February 26, 2013 at 9:26 am #

    Thanks for visiting our blog! Love how informative and clear your pictures are.

    • February 27, 2013 at 8:17 am #

      Thank you for the encouragement. Miss Janine is the photographer in the family. It was her minor in college.

      Thanks again.

      Chris and Janine

  3. May 9, 2013 at 8:45 am #

    Bob, Carlene,

    The pictures of the porchetta you prepared are amazing! You two are a very talented pair.

    Thanks for visiting our site.

    Chris & Janine

  4. June 21, 2013 at 7:59 am #

    Thank you for visiting our blog. We hope the information was helpful.

    Chris & Janine

  5. November 4, 2014 at 8:28 am #


    Thank you for linking our Porchetta story to your blog. We hope our instructions were helpful. Your final product looks delicious!

    Thanks again,

    Chris and Janine


  1. Porchetta Pork Shoulder | BS' in the Kitchen - May 8, 2013

    […] you need some help deboning and butterflying your pork roast (I did), I would recommend reading this article, it does a great job explaining it. Perhaps in the future I will do an instructional video on this […]

  2. oven-roasted porchetta and how to butterfly a pork shoulder - Grated Expectations - June 20, 2013

    […] $10 per sandwich!! So instead we tried making it at home. I mostly followed this recipe and these butterflying instructions, and it turned out AMAZING. The only tricky part was actually preparing the meat because my piece […]

  3. Oven-Roasted Porchetta and How to Butterfly a Pork Shoulder | Grated Expectations - October 26, 2014

    […] $10 per sandwich!! So instead we tried making it at home. I mostly followed this recipe and these butterflying instructions, and it turned out AMAZING. The only tricky part was actually preparing the meat because my piece […]

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