Smoking a pork butt is a labor of love. While the effort is minimal, there’s no denying that it takes a great deal of time to get it right.
What do you do if you’ve invested plenty of time already, but the pork still hasn’t reached the desired temperature? Or if an unexpected rain shower puts a literal damper on the barbecue? Fear not–there is a solution, and it’s as simple as switching on the oven.
Finish Pork Butt in Oven
Moving the pork butt to the oven for the last stage of the cook should yield consistent results. The key is to wait until the internal temperature reaches at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and to remove the pork from the heat as soon as it’s finished cooking.
Why Finish Pulled Pork in Oven
Of course, you can leave the pulled pork on the smoker for the entire cook, but there are times when it might not be feasible. Here are a few reasons why.
Erratic Grill Temperatures
The best grills and smokers will maintain a consistent temperature for the duration of the cooking time. Unfortunately, they’re not all capable of doing so.
Some lesser models might run too hot, which won’t give the connective tissue in the pork butt the time it needs to break down. Others might run too cool—a problem that ranges from annoying to downright hazardous.
If the pork falls into the “danger zone” between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit for too long, it might not be safe to consume. Therefore, the cooking temperature should remain safely above this range. Switching to the oven is one way to guarantee this.
As we mentioned, even well-thought-out plans can sometimes go awry. If a stray thundershower or windstorm throws your barbecue off course, it’s a good idea to have a backup plan. When you have the option of finishing pulled pork in the oven, you can take shelter in the house during the final stages of the cook.
Since every pork butt cooks at a different rate, it’s easy to make errors when estimating the total cooking time. If it looks like the pork is going to need more time than you thought, it’s possible to speed things up by putting it in the oven instead. Wrapping it in foil will move things along even faster.
At What Temperature Should You Move Pork Butt To The Oven?
As a general rule, you should leave the pork butt on the smoker until the internal temperature registers about 160 degrees. At this point, the collagen has begun to break down, and the smoky goodness has had a chance to permeate the meat.
The pork butt may also be entering the stall around this time. During the stall, the temperature will halt for a long while—possibly even hours. That’s why some chefs prefer to wrap the meat in foil or butcher paper at this time. The wrapper acts as an oven-within-an-oven, causing the temperature to rise again.
As an alternative, you can leave the meat in the smoker until it’s almost finished cooking, then switch it to the oven to keep warm. This is a great method to use if the meat is nearing the finish line, but your guests aren’t expected for a few more hours.
At What Temperature Should You Finish Pork Butt In The Oven?
Since the recommended temperature for making pulled pork is 225 degrees Fahrenheit, we would suggest sticking with this number for the oven temp. If you’ve chosen to set the smoker to a higher temperature, you can use the same number when you turn on the oven.
What if you’re pressed for time and the pork just isn’t crossing the 160-degree mark? In this case, it’s permissible to finish the meat in a 350-degree oven. The collagen will have converted to gelatin at this point, so your only remaining goal is to get the pork to 195.
One more caveat: Should you decide to hold the meat in a warm oven for a while before serving, the temperature should be considerably lower than the one you used for cooking. In this case, set the oven at 150, or as low as it will go. Use a covered foil pan to hold the meat. Turn the oven off about an hour before you plan to shred and serve the pork.
Can You Overcook Pulled Pork?
While you definitely want the pork to reach 200 degrees Fahrenheit before serving, it is possible to let it cook for too long. Once the meat climbs above the 205-degree threshold, it will begin to dry out. For best results, start resting the pork butt when the internal temperature reaches 195-200 degrees.
Can You Cook The Pork Butt in the Oven the Whole Time?
Sure—but you’ll be sacrificing the smoky taste that makes pulled pork such an enticing dish. While the oven can usually be trusted to maintain a reliable temperature, it doesn’t impart the same flavor as a grill or smoker. With practice, you should be able to smoke a pork butt to at least 160 degrees without resorting to the oven.
Tips on Finishing Pulled Pork in the Oven
- Don’t add the meat to the oven too soon. If the pork’s internal temperature is below 160 when you pull it off the smoker, there may still be too much fat on the meat. This means that the finished product might turn out greasy, rather than juicy and moist.
- Set the pork in a roasting pan and cover it with foil before putting it in the oven. This will help to catch any cooking juices, so you can drizzle them over the pulled pork once it’s shredded.
- Add a bit of extra liquid to the pan to help keep the pork moist. If you used a basting mop, feel free to use it. Otherwise, chicken stock, apple juice, or water will work nicely.
- Shred the pork while it’s still hot. It should rest for 45 minutes to an hour beforehand, but don’t let it cool for longer than 3 hours, or the meat won’t come apart as easily.
Finish Pork Butt In Oven: A Step-By-Step Guide
1. Trim the pork butt, if desired, and pat the surface dry with paper towels.
2. Use your favorite seasoning rub to coat the pork. Kosher salt and black pepper will work, but we prefer to add a bit of brown sugar, cumin, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. A thin layer of yellow mustard will help the spices cling to the meat.
3. Set the smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re using a charcoal grill, set it up for indirect cooking by leaving one side of the grill free of coals. A similar principle applies to gas grills—turn on the flame jets on just one side.
4. Set the pork butt in the smoker with the fat side facing down if the heat source comes from below, or fat side up if the heat is coming from above. Close the lid.
5. Smoke the pork until the internal temperature registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer. Depending on the size of the cut, this could take anywhere from 4 to 6 hours.
6. Take the pork butt out of the smoker and place it in an aluminum roasting pan. Add about 1 cup of liquid, if desired, and cover the pan with foil.
Tip: If you’re pressed for time, go ahead and wrap the pork butt tightly in a double layer of foil. You can add some liquid to the foil in this case, too, but use a smaller amount, and be careful not to spill it.
7. Place the pork in a 225-degree oven (or 350 degrees if you want to speed things up even further). Cook until the internal temperature reaches 195 degrees.
8. Remove the meat from the oven and let it rest for about 1 hour.
9. Shred the meat using a pair of forks, shredding claws, or your fingers. Serve at once.
The Bottom Line
Finishing pork butt in the oven is an easy way to ensure that your meal will be ready in a timely fashion. Although purists might have a hard time with the shortcut, the pulled pork should still be nice and tender, with a delectable smoke flavor.