Pulled pork is so delicious – it’s one of the absolute best things that you can cook in your smoker or charcoal grill. Juicy, smoky, rich, and tender, it just melts in your mouth – an absolutely amazing tasting meat that fully justifies the amount of time you spend cooking it!
There’s simply nothing like it, and there’s no other way of getting the same rich and tasty experience from your pork – you simply have to let it cook for a long time in a nice, hot environment, until it’s soft and tender enough to just pull apart.
That’s no mean feat – it takes a lot of time and patience, and some careful preparation too. You’ll need to monitor the temperature of your pork butt too – there’s no room for guesswork when you’re dealing with something that can easily take 5 hours or more to cook.
Depending on how much you’re cooking, you could even end up needing over 24 hours to cook your pork – so it’s essential that you do everything to get it right the first time!
If you’re looking for tips and a handy guide to knowing when exactly your pork is going to be at the perfect temperature to be pulled, then great news – this article will give you just that. You’ll learn everything you need to know about making the absolute best pulled pork, every single time!
Safe Temperature For Pork
You want to get the most delicious tasting pulled pork possible, and that’s exactly what you’ll learn how to make in this article – but first of all, you should go back to basics.
Before you can learn how to make something delicious, you need to know how to make it safe – so exactly how hot do you need to get your pork butt before it’s safe to eat?
Well, first of all – how do you know what temperature your pork is at? You can’t tell just by looking – the surface of your pork could be many different colors and shades, especially if you’ve done a rich, homemade rub or marinade.
And you can’t tell by touch either – even if you could tell how well cooked the surface is by touch, you won’t have a clue about the centre of the meat. And, of course, it’s going to be very, very hot!
Well, you can cut the meat open to see – but there are two problems here too! First of all, you can’t accurately tell if the pork is cooked here just by looking at it either.
It might retain a pinkish hue, which could lead you to believe that the pork is undercooked – or might make you think that an undercooked piece of meat is in fact cooked, as you’re used to pork being a little bit pink!
Second of all, cutting the meat open is a great way to ruin the flavor and texture of it – and also the consistency of the whole thing! If you cut the meat too early, and especially if you cut it while it’s cooking, you’re going to release a whole load of delicious juices – and they’re not going back into the meat ever!
All of that flavor is lost – and what’s more, the meat is drier now, which means it’s just not going to be as soft and tender. Not good for pulled pork at all!
No, the only way to be sure of the internal temperature of your meat is by using a good quality, reliable meat thermometer.
With one of these, you can probe the internal temperature of the meat directly, without cutting into it. It’s the only way that you can accurately assess the internal temperature of the meat to see if it’s reached a safe or delicious level.
Check it over a few points of your pork butt to make sure that the temperature is consistent and correct throughout – and if it isn’t, then you need more time or more heat!
Just make sure not to overprobe – you’re still poking holes in your meat, and some of the juices will inevitably run out. Make sure you’re not checking too often – after all, you know that a large lump of meat isn’t going to be cooked in 30 minutes!
You can find a handy temperature guide for cooking all sorts of meat on FoodSafety.gov. As the pork butt you’ll be cooking for your pulled pork is – unsurprisingly – made from pork, we can see that the minimum safe temperature for pork is 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
As long as your pork is at an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, then it’s safe to eat – even if it’s still got a little bit of a pinkish color to it.
However, 145 degrees Fahrenheit only gives you a safe temperature – it’s not high enough to give your juicy, delicious pork butt the softness and tenderness that lets it be easily pulled apart to make pulled pork. For that, you’ll have to read the next section!
Best Temperature For Pulled Pork
As previously stated – 145 degrees Fahrenheit is the minimum temperature for your pork to be cooked to, if you want to guarantee that it’s safe to eat.
At that temperature, you can be sure that any nasty stuff that might have been able to harm you has been killed off. However, for making a delicious pork butt into the perfect pulled pork, you’re going to need to get it quite a bit hotter than that!
145 degrees Fahrenheit just isn;t high enough for your pork butt to develop the softness and tenderness that you’re after. INstead, you’ll need to make sure that your pork butt reaches an internal temperature of 195 degrees Fahrenheit.
This will, of course,take longer than cooking it to 145 – and you might well have to run your smoker or grill hotter to ensure that your pork butt gets up to this crucial temperature.
Slow and steady, remember – it’s better for your pork to be cooked slowly, and for it to take a good amount of time for it to reach that temperature, than it is for it to be cooked in a blast furnace!
As long as you’ve got your pork to that internal temperature of 195 degrees, you can guarantee that it’ll be soft, moist, and tender – and you’ll be able to literally pull it apart.
Of course, you can actually go higher than this, and this can make the pork even softer and more tender – but going past 203 degrees Fahrenheit can mean you’re running the risk of overcooking it.
Of course, it’s better to overcook the pork than undercook it – but don’t go too far! You want it to be nice and juicy, a delicious meal – not just a smoldering carbon deposit.
How Long Will It Take?
This entirely depends on the temperature of the smoker or grill that you’re using – and a little bit on the weather conditions too.
A great place to start is by setting your smoker to 210 degrees Fahrenheit – or, if you’re using a charcoal grill, get it up to around 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you’re in colder conditions, or it’s windy, then you might need to get your temperatures up higher – wind and cold weather will drain the heat away, so adjust accordingly. As long as you can get your cooker to around these temperatures, however, you should be fine.
At these temperatures, you’re looking at just over an hour of cooking time for every single pound of meat that you’re cooking. So, if you’re just cooking two or three pounds of pork butt, then great news – it’ll be done cooking in two to three hours!
If you’re cooking a ten pound piece of meat, then you’re looking at at least 10 hours of cooking before it’s ready. So, if you’ve got plenty of mouths to feed, then you need to start your cooking well in advance – maybe even the previous day!
You can speed this up by cooking at a higher temperature. You might be able to get your temperature up to 300 degrees easily, and this will certainly speed up your cooking time.
If you just don’t have as much time as you’d need to get the pork butt cooked at a lower temperature, then by all means turn up the heat – it’s better than not cooking it at all, and if it saves you a rush and a bad cooking job, then you should totally do it!
However, it’s usually agreed that the best way to ensure that your pulled pork is at its most delicious is to cook it for a long time at a lower heat – just around the same heat that you want the pork itself to reach if possible, and not too much higher if you can avoid it.
No matter how long it’s been in there, don’t take it out of the cooker until it’s reached the crucial temperature of at least 195 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure that you’ve checked it with your meat thermometer – and don’t leave the meat in the cooker too long either!
What About Resting Time?
Great question – it’s fantastic that you didn’t forget about resting time!
Yes, it’s essential to rest your pork butt after you’ve taken it off the heat. Once it’s spent a few minutes at at least 195 degrees in the grill or smoker, then you can feel free to take it off the heat – that part of the cooking is done. At last – you’re nearly there!
However, don’t go pulling the pork apart straight away, as it’s not finished cooking yet – and while you can eat it now, you’ll get the absolute best flavor, texture, and overall experience if you’re patient and wait for a while.
The pork butt will still be cooking under its own temperature, even when it’s off the heat – and right now, it’s full of delicious juices that are very, very easy to waste!
If you don’t give the meat time to rest, these juices will drain straight out of the pork butt as soon as you start cutting or pulling it. Instead, give it time – around an hour for a five to 10 pound pork butt – before you do anything to it.
Simply wrap it up in some foil and leave it at room temperature for around an hour – don’t be tempted to even look at it! It’ll look so good you might not be able to keep your hands off it!
Once you’ve waited for the crucial resting time – then great news! Your pulled pork is ready to be – well, pulled! It should be so soft and tender that it almost falls apart – and it will look, smell, and taste absolutely amazing!
Pulled pork can take a really, really long time to make – but once you’ve made it, you’ll be really, really happy that you did! It’s so tasty, rich, and juicy – and of course, full of that delicious smoky flavor and aroma too! It doesn’t need to be hard to cook either.
Obviously, it takes quite a bit of time, some patience – and some care and love too! Once you’ve done it once, you’ll know so much more about how making the best pulled pork works – so give it a go yourself!
Hopefully, this guide has shown you how to get the perfect temperatures and timing for your pulled pork. With these hints and tips, you should be able to get the most delicious tasting pulled pork every single time!