Smokers are a great way to cook meat – after all, the clue is in the name! If you’re after a rich, smoky flavor to go with your meat, then the smoker is the only logical solution.
If you’ve got a delicious looking pork shoulder, and you’re itching to cook it using your smoker, then great news – you’ve made a fantastic choice!
Pork smokes so well, and tastes so great – meaning that your smoker is an amazing way to cook that juicy and tasty pork shoulder!
If you’re unsure of exactly how long to cook your pork shoulder for – and the best way to make sure that it comes out of the smoker tasting absolutely delicious – then you’re not alone!
These common questions and more are explained fully here – you’ll learn everything that you need to know!
So, if you’re craving that pork shoulder, and need to know everything about how to get it done right, read on!
What Temperature Should I Smoke My Pork Shoulder At?
One great thing about smoking pork shoulder is that you’ve got quite a few options when it comes to temperature. Each different temperature that you cook the pork shoulder at will give you different results.
In general, it’s considered best to cook the pork shoulder as slowly as possible.
This means that your smoker will operate at a lower temperature, and will take longer to cook – but also means that you’re getting the juiciest, tastiest result. A high temperature will cook the meat quicker, but that can come at the expense of flavor.
However, it’s important to be realistic too. Not everybody has a full 24 hours or more spare to wait around for a pork shoulder to cook – so if you need to cook at a higher temperature to get the job done on time, and without draining you of all of your time, then of course that’s the way you should go.
You can set your smoker as low as 185 degrees, and get amazing results – but with a 10 pound pork shoulder, you could definitely end up waiting a full 24 hours for it to be fully cooked.
So, fantastic tasting meat, and definitely worth the time if you can spare it – but of course, not everybody can! And, of course, if it’s windy outside, or a little bit cold, then the smoker temperature is going to drop – meaning you’ll have to have your temperature set a little higher anyway.
If, on the other hand, you set the smoker to 275 degrees Fahrenheit, then you’ll be able to cook your 10 pound pork shoulder in around 15 hours.
Your meat will cook at a rate of around 90 minutes per pound at this temperature – and it will still taste delicious. But, perhaps not quite as delicious and tender as if you’d used a lower temperature.
Still, 15 hours is already a very long time – so who could really blame you if you use a higher temperature, if it’s the difference between smoking the pork shoulder and not smoking the pork shoulder?
Most people will agree that the best temperature to have your smoker set to is 225 degrees Fahrenheit. This gives you a nice slow cook time, giving your pork the ideal circumstances in which to become the delicious meat you want it to be.
You can actually set your smoker a little higher for a while at the start of cooking, and bring it down to your desired temperature – you’re adding a big cold thing to a big hot thing, and it’s only natural that the hot thing will get a little colder when you do so!
The temperature will drop from your set temperature and will take a while to recover, so setting it slightly higher at the start of cooking can be a great idea.
The most important thing to remember is that your food has to be safe first – only then can it be delicious.
Therefore, you have to get the temperature of the pork to a safe level first. Foodsafety.gov has a handy guide to safe cooking temperatures for all kinds of meat – click the link to find out more!
For cooking pork, you’ll need to ensure that it reaches a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
That’s the minimum temperature required to kill off any nasty stuff that could make you ill – cooking it any lower than this is extremely dangerous, and should never ever even be considered! Make sure to check the temperature with a meat thermometer – never assume you can just eyeball it!
If you’re looking to get the best texture, flavor, and consistency from your pork shoulder in the smoker, however, you’re going to aim for a higher internal temperature than 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pulled pork is ideal with an internal temperature of around 200 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, it’s tender enough to be – well, pulled!
It’s absolutely delicious at this temperature, and has the right consistency and texture to be pulled apart – whereas at 145 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s still great tasting and perfectly safe to eat, but it’s just not the same!
How Long Should I Smoke My Pork Shoulder For?
As was stated above, the temperature that you should cook your pork shoulder at in the smoker is a personal choice, depending on your cooking style, preferred outcome, and of course the ever-present time pressure.
Therefore, as the amount of time it takes to cook your shoulder is entirely dependent on the temperature that you cook it at, it’s important to make sure that you balance these two factors according to your needs.
If you don’t have over 24 hours to cook your pork shoulder, then there’s no escaping the fact that you’re going to have to cook it at a higher temperature than 185.
Likewise, if you want the best, most tender pulled pork, then you’ll also have to set your temperature a little higher than 185 at least! This isn’t a bad thing – it’s just a fact!
Therefore, before you begin cooking, have a good think about exactly how long you’ll need to cook your pork shoulder for – and how much time you can actually spare to cook it. You can use a smoking calculator to determine exactly how long you’ll need to spend cooking!
Why Smoke Pork Shoulder?
Simply put, because it’s absolutely delicious! Smoking is a fantastic way of cooking because of the flavors that the process imparts.
It’s simply the only real way of getting a real tasting rich smoky flavor – after all, there’s no smoke without smoke! Flavorings that claim to add smoke flavor just can’t compete with what real smoke over a long period of time can impart to the meat.
Another great thing about smoking is how your choice of wood affects the outcome! Using different types of wood will generate a different smelling and tasting smoke, and there are plenty of great woods that you can use.
Alder, hickory, pecan, oak, and hickory are all great traditional smoking woods that add great flavors to your meat – and then of course, there’s wood from fruit trees, such as apple, cherry, or pear trees!
Some wood types complement some types of meat better than others – but when it comes down to it, the choice is yours!
Smoking is the only way to impart these flavors to your meat – and it helps that the smell of a smoker in action, cooking a delicious pork shoulder, is absolutely amazing!
Should I Let My Pork Shoulder Rest After Smoking?
Yes, you definitely should! Meat will continue to cook after you’ve taken it away from the source of heat. The bigger the piece of meat is, the bigger thermal mass it has – meaning that it’ll continue to cook longer the bigger it is. So, it’ll take more time to be perfectly ready to eat!
If you cut into the meat too early, then you’ll end up losing a lot of the delicious juices in the meat – instead of having time to be reabsorbed into the meat while it rests, they’ll simply drip straight out of it.
This can leave your meat lacking flavor, and also being drier than it should be!
Instead, you should take your pork shoulder out of the smoker once it reaches an internal temperature of around 195 degrees Fahrenheit, and leave it to rest. Wrap it in tin foil and leave it to rest at room temperature for around an hour.
Don’t be worried that it’ll get cold in this time – it’s got a lot of thermal mass, and it’ll take a long time to go cold as long as it’s kept wrapped in foil, and is not cut up. If you let the pork get to a slightly higher temperature than this, then it’ll be slightly easier to pull, and a little more tender.
However, don’t leave the meat on the smoker for too long – if it starts to get over around 203 degrees, you’re running the risk of overcooking it, which will impair the flavor and texture.
Again, make sure you’re checking the temperature with a meat thermometer to ensure that it’s where you need it to be. Don’t try to guess – not only is it an obvious health and safety issue, but you’ll also have no idea when your pork shoulder has reached the ideal temperature!
Smoking a pork shoulder is tasty, smells great, and can be a lot of fun! An entire day or more where the smoker is enriching your delicious pork shoulder with beautiful, rich flavors – and you can smell it the whole time! If you’ve got the time spare, it’s an amazing way to cook. Hopefully, this guide has shown you how you can get the best results from smoking your pork shoulder!
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