Learn how to make perfect German pork roast with crackling. Typically prepared with boneless pork shoulder this delectable Bavarian specialty is known as Schweinebraten or Krustenbraten.
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Read on for relevant information, step-by-step pictures and video + a pork gravy recipe with the drippings from the roast (about 3-4 mins)
About This German Pork Roast Recipe
Boneless pork shoulder roast is a classic dish in Bavaria. Known as Schweinebraten it is popular at beer gardens, beer halls and of course – the tents on the Wiesn during Oktoberfest. More often than not Schweinebraten is cooked with a Bavarian dark lager and when in season – Märzen lager (aka Oktoberfest beer).
What is Schweinebraten?
In direct translation from German Schweinebraten means pork roast or roasted pork (schwein=pig and braten=to roast/roasted).
When the pork meat has a considerable fat cap with the skin on top it is also called Krustenbraten on account of the crispy and puffy skin that results during the time spent in the oven. In other words, Krustenbraten stands for pork roast with crackling.
Either way it is delicious, tender and possibly the tastiest and easiest to prepare roast out there.
The Best Cut of Pork to use
The key ingredients for a classic Schweinebraten are simple – pork shoulder, root vegetables (carrots, beets, sweet potato etc) and dark German lager.
However, the choice of meat matters.
As the name unequivocally suggests the best cut of pork to use for Schweinebraten is boneless pork shoulder from near the neck of the pig (see diagram below).
It is a very flavorful cut with generous fat marbling which ensures that the meat stays moist and juicy after hours of slow cooking in the oven. Marbling correlates with better taste.
Technically you can also use picnic shoulder (also know as picnic ham or Boston pork butt) or even pork loin. However, beware that although the Schweinebraten will turn out delicious the cooked meat will have a denser texture as pork loin is much leaner. When slow roasting pork a higher fat content will always give you juicier, tastier results.
Our advice is to stick with actual pork shoulder.
If you use boneless pork shoulder with the skin on, then you will end up with some great crackling and make the Krustenbraten version.
More Pork Shoulder Recipe Considerations – Skin Attached vs Skin Removed and Boneless vs Bone-in
When we lived in Germany we absolutely delighted in the fact that we could go to the butcher and ask for meat for Schweinebraten. The man would ask us for how many people (this drives the size of the meat and correspondingly its weight) and cut us a good piece with the skin on. The butcher would even score the skin for us (see pictures below or watch Chris do it in the video).
Generally, in the US you will have a hard time securing pork shoulder with the skin on as shown in the labeled picture above. Somehow the majority of people are afraid of fat or maybe do not know what to do with it. Most frequently pork shoulder sold for roasting will have a fat cap, sometimes a more generous one, but skin still attached to the fat is a rarity.
If you want crackling and Krustenbraten that looks like this below – you must go to the butcher and ask for the right cut of meat.
As to whether you must have boneless meat…
You don’t have to – you can absolutely prepare a finger-licking-good bone-in pork shoulder roast.
You just need to roast it a bit longer and you will not have uniform pieces when slicing the ready meat. If you go boneless, you can carve perfect pieces such as these below.
How to Make Boneless Pork Shoulder Roast
The two picture collages below organize the few easy steps you need to complete. Or you can watch Chris do it in the video above. Including some tasty pork gravy:)
Basically, you need to prepare a rub consisting of spices commonly used in Bavarian cuisine such as cloves, caraway seeds, cumin, and kosher salt and black pepper. Variations include coating the pork with mustard or both honey and mustard. You can also use garlic powder. Mix the spices in a small bowl – you will need several tablespoons worth.
Then all you have to do is
- score the fat cap/skin (traditionally done, especially when with the skin so the crackling has the Krustenbraten diamond shapes)
- rub the meat with spices on all sides and then place it in a roasting pan with a rack (you could gently brush with olive oil first)
- roast it at 350 F for about an hour and a half then take it out, add the vegetables, pour the beer over them and the meat and put it back in the oven to finish roasting
- let the meat rest for a few minutes before slicing and serving
The boneless pork shoulder roast cooking time is in direct correlation with the size of the piece of meat.
Allow up to 3-4 hours total time to slow cook pork shoulder bigger cuts of 5-6 lbs and about 2 hours for pieces that are around 3 lbs. The internal temperature of the meat should reach 155 F when measured with a food thermometer. Even then, a more accurate way to know it is done is to stick a fork inside the meat to see how tender it is.
This is not precise science. The calibration of your oven matters as well.
Trust your eyes for the crackling – if it is turning too dark, lower the temperature. If the opposite, increase the temperature of your oven in the final few minutes of roasting (once the internal temp has been reached).
Do not hesitate to cover the roast with foil to protect the skin if needed. For Boston butts this would also help with retaining some moisture.
For bigger cuts of pork shoulder or cuts that have the bone in allow extra time. Go with about 20 additional minutes for each extra pound over 4 lbs. Add the additional time to the secondary roasting time in the oven, after you take out the roast to add the vegetables and the beer (plus any extra water or broth). Keep in mind that roasting times are not subject to a precise science and things like the calibration of your oven matter. It is best to rely on your food thermometer and crackling appearance (if your meat had the skin attached).
Pan Juices Pork Gravy (Optional)
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 749Saturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 221mgCarbohydrates: 77gFiber: 14gSugar: 12gProtein: 85g
For bigger cuts of pork shoulder or cuts that have the bone in allow extra time. Go with about 20 additional minutes for each extra pound over 4 lbs. Add the additional time to the secondary roasting time in the oven, after you take out the roast to add the vegetables and the beer (plus any extra water or broth).
Keep in mind that roasting times are not subject to a precise science and things like the calibration of your oven matter.
It is best to rely on your food thermometer and crackling appearance (if your meat had the skin attached).
- If your meat has skin attached, you do not have to score the skin to get a crackling – just be sure that it is dry before you begin roasting. The scored diamond shapes are traditional for Krustenbraten (and we rather like them) so we always score the skin of pork shoulder roast.
- Make sure that once you place the meat in a baking pan it is level – this really helps with the crackling. Use a couple of garlic cloves to level it.
- Do not cover the meat while in the oven, especially if your cut has the skin on. You want it to get nice and crispy on the outside, not steamed.
- Check on the roast after adding the vegetables and the beer, you may need to add more beer and/or water if the initial liquid has cooked off too quickly. You can also baste the vegetables with the pan juices.
To Beer or Not to Beer the Schweinebraten?
Low bitterness Oktoberfest lagers like the traditional Märzen style Prost Brewing Co. we used are rich in malty flavor and have gorgeous hints of spice to them as well as caramel undertones courtesy of the dark roasted malts in the grain bill. At the same time the Noble hops flavoring them add just enough earthy and herbal notes.
If you choose not to use beer, go with good quality vegetable broth or beef broth as the liquid. But really, this dish tastes best when prepared with dark German lagers. In fact, if you browse German cooking websites you will find at least a thousand recipes the majority of which call for dark beer.
In our opinion Oktoberfest lagers are the way to go – it is like pouring Fall itself onto the root vegetables and around the meat. If they are not in season, use dark lagers such as Dunkel, Bock and Schwarzbier or ales such as ambers and browns.
Can I Cook This in a Crock Pot?
Generally, if you want the crackling a slow cooker is not the way to go. Not to mention that it is not tradition. A crock pot is more suitable for pot roast recipes where you intend to shred the meat once it is cooked and use it for pork sandwiches.
Authentic Side Dishes to Serve with German Pork Roast
You can enjoy the Schweinebraten with a serving of the roasted root vegetables of course. And a side of soft Bavarian pretzel to mop up the pan juices. But if you are looking for more options…
The most authentic side to serve with Schweinebraten is braised red cabbage, in German Rotkohl or Blaukraut. We have a recipe for it coming up or you can check out the one we included in our Traditional Oktoberfest Foods curated compilation.
German potato dumplings or semmelknodel (bread dumplings) are also a very traditional side as are spätzle eggs noodles and mashed potatoes.
Butter braised sauerkraut and a dollop of German mustard are very welcome next to slices of German pork roast.
Finally, if you feel up for it – a thick gravy-like sauce always goes well Schweinebraten, just as it does with Schweinshaxe. You can use the pan juices to make it, see recipe card or watch the video for instructions.
Best Beer to Pair with this dish
Hands down German lagers. If in season go with Märzen. The subtle fall spice notes of the style amplify all the flavors this pork roast is about. The beer’s maltiness and subtle spice match the caramelization of the crispy pork outer layer and the sweetness of the vegetables. Its crisp finish cleanses the palate after each delicious bite of juicy meat. Dream pairing.
If you are making this dish when seasonal Märzens are not available, consider pairing with other crisp lagers such as Vienna lagers, pilsners, helles, dunkel.
For more information on Oktoberfest lagers read Marzen vs Oktoberfest Beer and if you are curious about traditional German brewing techniques, read our post on how Prost Brewing Co. go the extra mile to craft their authentic German beer line up.
Other Pork Recipes
This post is sponsored by Prost Brewing Co. – makers of some of the most authentic German beer styles this side of the Atlantic. We are stoked about it and we thank you for supporting the brands who support Craft Beering.