When most folks think of Germany, and Bavaria’s capital of Munich in particular, they think of lederhosen, Oktoberfest, and washing down grilled sausages with steins of Pilsner while screaming “Wunderbar.”
But the cuisine of this fairytale land goes beyond beer and brats to also pay homage to all things schwein. The Bavarians have figured out a way to roast almost every part of the pig, from the famous knuckle (a hunk of shank from the lower part of the leg with crunchy skin called schweinshaxe) to the beloved pork belly (schweinebauch).
But of particular interest to me is how the Bavarians prepare schweinebraten, or boneless pork shoulder, a staple of American BBQ.
To accomplish my mission of securing an authentic recipe for German pork butt I flew to Munich over Thanksgiving and spent two days working in one of the most iconic restaurants in Bavaria, Ratskeller. During peak tourist periods, such as Oktoberfest and Christmas, Ratskeller will serve more than 5,000 patrons per day. That means they cook a lot of pork.
Ratskeller is owned and operated by Peter Weiss, whose father started it 45 years ago. The cavernous restaurant is in the basement of the Gothic church in Munich’s main square, the Marienplatz. Peter and his son Michael are both graduates of the esteemed Culinary Institute of America.
Ratskeller’s recipe for pork butt starts with a cut of pork from the shoulder near the neck. That’s right, pork butt comes from the shoulder, not the other end. Don’t ask why. They don’t trim off any of the fat or skin. They become a succulent rich unctuous crunchy treat. Ask your butcher for skin-on Boston butt. If it isn’t in stock, they can order it. You can also use picnic ham from a little further down the leg.
The dry rub is simply generous amounts of salt and ground cumin. They let the pork sit overnight in this dry brine, then roast, slice, and serve, ladled with a delicious gravy – wunderbar indeed!
Ratskeller uses a large combi-oven, which adds steam alongside the heating elements which keeps moisture from evaporating, resulting in extremely juicy meat. My recipe lets you cook it in a smoker, grill, conventional oven, or a combi. Yes, there are now several small home combi ovens on the market.
I can say without hesitation that Bavarians have a roast pork that can stand up to the best competition pork butt ever. And it goes really well with beer!
Serve with: your favorite German beer.
- 5 pounds boneless pork Boston butt with fat cap and skin
- 5 tablespoons ground cumin (1 tablespoon per pound of meat)
- 2 ½ teaspoons Morton Coarse Kosher Salt (⅓ teaspoon per pound of meat)
- 2 cups beef broth
- 2 medium onions
- 2 medium carrots
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 celery stalks
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
These recipes were created in US Customary measurements and the conversion to metric is being done by calculations. They should be accurate, but it is possible there could be an error. If you find one, please let us know in the comments at the bottom of the page
- Prep. Peel and quarter the onions. Peel and rough chop the carrots. Rough chop the celery. Mix the salt and cumin together in a small bowl.
- With a sharp knife, cut vertical and horizontal lines through the skin and into the fat, spacing the lines 1-inch apart to create a diamond pattern. Rub all sides with the cumin and salt mix and then place it on a rack in a roasting pan, skin and fat side up. Put it in the refrigerator overnight so the salt can penetrate.
- Fire up. On the day of cooking, preheat your smoker or indoor oven to 325°F. If you are using a grill, set it up for 2-zone cooking with a target temperature of 325°F in the indirect zone.
- Cook. Place the roasting rack containing the pork on the smoker, in the oven, or on the indirect heat side of the grill. Roast the pork for 1 hour. Add the vegetables under the rack and pour beef stock over them. Put the roasting rack back in the cooker and allow the meat to continue to roast.
- After 45 minutes, check to make sure the liquid isn't getting low and if so, add a bit more beef stock or water. Baste the vegetables but not the meat and continue to roast the pork until it hits an internal temperature of 150°F in the center, approximately 45 minutes more.
- When the internal temp hits 150°F, if the skin is not bubbling or browning, turn up the temp to 425°F for about 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can make the skin crisp (cracklin') by moving the roast to an indoor oven at 425°F or place it on a grill in indirect heat on high. Aim for an internal temperature target of 160°F.
- If you are using a combi-oven, roast on 275°F at 60% steam for 2 hours, then 425°F at 60% steam for 30 minutes to allow the fat cap/skin to brown and crisp. Cook to an Internal temperature of 160°F.
- Once the pork has finished cooking, begin making the gravy by discarding the vegetables in the roasting pan and straining the pan juices. Set the strained liquid aside. Heat a saucepan to medium and melt the butter. Slowly add in flour, whisking constantly. When thickened, slowly add the strained pan juices while whisking. If the gravy is too thick, add a little water until you reach your desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve. Remove the cracklin' and set aside. Discard the uncooked fat layer underneath the crackling and on top of the meat. Cut the meat against the grain into thick slices and plate. Break the cracklin' into pieces and place over the pork. Serve with a side of boiled potato or bread dumplings, with a healthy ladle of gravy over the top of the meat and sides.