Pulled pork is a barbeque staple that every barbeque enthusiast should master. Usually, they are cooked low and slow in a smoker, where the meat gets tender enough to shred with a fork or pulled apart to serve. But what is the right temperature for that trick to happen?
If you are smoking your first pork butt for the first time, here are some things you should know:
What Temperature For Pulled Pork?
For a pulled pork to become tender, the internal temperature should be around 95°C to 96°C (203°F to 205 °F). It roughly takes 60 to 90 minutes per pound (0.45 kilos) of pork shoulder to smoke at 225°F. In other words, it takes 10 hours to smoke an average-sized pork butt at 225°F. We recommend investing in a meat thermometer to get an accurate reading and prevent overcooking.
Learning how to cook pulled pork is a challenging experience because you have to get the optimal temperature for it to become tender. Before you start cooking, here is some information you should keep in mind about pulled pork.
What Temperature Should Pulled Pork Be?
While pork is safe to eat at 63°C(145°F), you still want to cook pork shoulder much longer to allow every bit of the meat to cook thoroughly. For best texture, the internal temperature for pulled pork should be 205°F. At this temperature setting, the meat will become tender and shred on its own or with minimal effort.
Though it’s safe to consume it at a lower temperature (let’s say 145°F), the connective tissues of the meat will still be intact. Removing it too early from the cooking process will cause the meat to have a tough texture and will not shred well.
One great way to monitor the internal temperature of the meat is by investing in a digital meat thermometer. It works by inserting the thermometer into the meat so you can monitor the cooking process without even opening the smoker or oven.
After removing it from the heat, the meat will continue cooking; therefore, it’s safe to begin resting at around 90°C (195°F) or continue cooking until it reaches 96°C (205°F). Beyond this point, don’t let your meat cook, as it will begin to dry out all the juices.
One thing you really want to do is to let it rest 30 minutes to 3 hours before shredding. It gives enough time for the juices to redistribute so the pulled pork will become moist and tender. Moreover, it’s easier to shred after resting and cooling down slightly.
Here are some steps you can follow to make a delicious and perfect pulled pork:
- Prepare the pork shoulder by trimming it and removing the extra fat.
- Preheat your smoker or barbeque to 162°C (325°F). If you’re using a gas grill, you may set it to low to medium heat, then set it up for indirect cooking. We like to use a pellet smoker as it makes the whole process so much easier.
- Put the pork shoulder in the smoker, where the fat faces the side. You may insert the food thermometer to monitor the temperature.
- At around 48°C (120°F), the meat will begin to turn opaque. As the temperature rises to 60°C (140°F), the meat’s appearance will change again. At this point, the meat will lose that pink color and start to look brown.
- Once the pork hits 90°C to 95°C (195°F to 203°F), you can take the pork out from the smoker. Generally, it takes around 2 hours per pound to cook.
- Allow the pork shoulder to rest under a layer of aluminum foil, ideally in a cooler for at least half an hour to 3 hours. Then it’s ready to shred and serve.
What Temp To Cook Pulled Pork In Oven?
For pulled pork cooked in the oven, the ideal temperature is 96°C (205°F), but it cooks well beyond the recommended 74°C (165°F) that most of us use in cooking pork. The high internal temperature lets the collagen in the pork butt break down, resulting in tender meat.
When the pork reaches the ideal internal temperature of 87°C to 90°C (190°F to 195°F), the meat is ready to be pulled. If you cook the pork to any temperature below that range, the meat won’t be tender enough to pull the meat apart.
Keep in mind that the pork roast will continue to cook internally, and the temperature will increase by 10 degrees after it’s been removed from the oven.
Tips when cooking pulled pork in the oven:
- Make sure you use pork shoulder or butt when making pulled pork. If you choose a leaner cut, it will become dry and less flavorful.
- When you use a bone-in pork shoulder roast, allow it to rest more time in the oven. Slow roast the meat for at least 2 ½ hours or until it’s fork-tender.
What Temp To Cook Pulled Pork In Smoker?
When smoking a pork butt in a smoker, the ideal temperature should be around 107°C to 121°C (225°F to 250°F). It roughly takes 90 minutes per pound (0.5 kilos) to smoke it at this temperature. In other words, it takes 12 hours to smoke an average-sized pork butt.
In general, collagen and connective tissues require a lower and steady temperature during the smoking process. As a result, the pulled pork is moist and has a silky texture. Moreover, when smoking meat, you have to consider the cuts of meat and turn them tender and juicy by controlling the low cooking temperature for a more extended period.
Tips for smoking pork butt:
- Use grill racks to move the butt quickly. You may want to spray it with cooking oil to prevent it from sticking.
- Use gloves to keep your hands clean and prevent cross-contamination.
- Use any good smoking wood, like applewood, to give extra flavor to the food.
What Temperature For Pulled Pork Slow Cooker?
Moist and tender, slow-cooked pulled pork is best suited for tacos, pizzas, sandwiches, etc. In a slow cooker, we recommend a temperature of 90°C to 93°C (195°F to 200°F) to achieve tender, juicy pork that pulls apart easily.
If you’re cooking a large piece of pork and have to cook it more quickly, you can slice it into 2 to 4 smaller chunks, which takes about 8 to 10 hours on a low setting to cook it thoroughly. It can be ready for smaller pieces of pork in as little as hours. Meanwhile, when using a pork shoulder with bone, you have to remove first all the bone pieces before shredding.
If the pork does not shred easily at this temperature setting, it’s not cooked enough. You have to return the meat to the slow cooker until it reaches an internal temperature of 93° (200°F).
Tips for cooking pulled pork in a slow cooker:
- Cook the pork low and slow to make the juiciest and most tender pulled pork.
- Serve the pulled pork as-is, or mix it in your favorite barbeque sauces at the end of cooking.
- Season the meat for 15 to 20 minutes before adding it to the slow cooker.
What Temperature Is Pulled Pork Most Tender?
For flavorful meat, make sure that the meat has reached the correct internal temperature; otherwise, you’ll end up with tough meat that won’t shred. You want to cook the meat low and slow because cooking at a higher temperature can give you tough meat that’s difficult to shred.
To achieve the most tender, juicy, and succulent, the optimal internal temperature for pulled pork is 96°C (205°F). However, there are many different cuts of pork that can get confusing. For shredding, the best cuts of meat are pork shoulder or pork cut. While they are on the same cut of meat, there are slight differences:
- Pork butt: This cut is from the upper shoulder, a fattier cut of meat, making it perfect for shredding. For pork butt, it will be finished cooking and most tender when it reaches an internal temperature of 87°C to 90°C (190°F to 195°F).
- Pork shoulder: This cut is slightly leaner that comes from the shoulder part of the front leg portion of the hog. Since it’s leaner than the pork butt, the temperature setting has to be a little higher, around 90°C to 96°C (195°F to 205°F), to get the juiciest and most tender pulled pork.
Want to Cook The Best Pulled Pork?
For pulled pork to become tender, you have to achieve the ideal temperature. This will only be possible if you have the right smoker, so you may want to consider a Z Grill smoker.
Since our BBQs are equipped with a smart controller, they can regulate the temperature, which is important to achieve the perfect pulled pork. It’s perfect for both quick grilling and low and slow cooking.
If you want to learn more about our products, give us a call or chat with us and we’ll be happy to answer all your queries.