“Slow and steady wins the race” is a good rule to follow when making pork shoulder. The meat requires long, slow cooking in order to break down the fat and connective tissue. But what’s the proper temperature, and how long should you cook it? In this tutorial, we’ll teach you how long to smoke pork shoulder at 275 degrees for optimum results.
How Long To Smoke Pork Shoulder at 275 Degrees Fahrenheit
If you’re smoking pork shoulder at 275 degrees, the cooking process should take about 80 to 90 minutes per pound. This is a good middle-of-the-road option. We would recommend setting the temperature to 225 degrees if you’re willing to allow the pork to cook for two hours per pound.
Pork Shoulder Explained
Pork shoulder is a relatively inexpensive cut of meat that’s cut from the upper section of the animal’s foreleg. You might also see it labeled as “picnic shoulder” or “picnic roast,” or even “picnic ham.” All of these names refer to the same cut of pork.
If you buy a whole pork shoulder, you’re getting the picnic shoulder as well as another cut called the “pork butt,” or “Boston butt.” This portion is taken from a spot that’s higher up on the shoulder. The cuts are similar enough to be used interchangeably in most recipes.
Pork shoulder and pork butt are the preferred cuts for smoked pulled pork because of the high fat content. If you were to put a regular pork roast in the smoker, the meat would be tender, but it would turn out far too dry.
When pork shoulder isn’t cooked the right way, the meat will be unpleasantly tough, with tons of gristle running through it. That’s why it’s so important to use a low temperature when you’re making smoked pulled pork.
What’s The Best Temperature for Smoking Pork Shoulder?
We prefer to set the smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit when we’re making smoked pulled pork. At this temperature, the meat will cook at a rate of about two hours per pound. This is a deal-breaker for many chefs, who don’t want to wait a full day for their 12-pound pork shoulder to finish cooking.
Others might prefer to set the temperature even lower, aiming for a range of 185 to 200 degrees. As you would expect, this prolongs the cooking process even further. An 8- to 10-pound pork shoulder might take as long as 24 hours to cook when the smoker is set to 185 degrees.
Be aware that the grill temperature can be affected by certain factors, including the weather. If it’s particularly chilly or windy outside, it will be harder to keep the cooking temperature where you want it. This is another reason why it’s best to aim a little bit higher than 185 degrees.
If you want to shave a few hours off the cooking time, try setting the temperature to 300 degrees Fahrenheit instead. At this temperature, an 8-pound pork shoulder might be finished cooking in as little as 10 hours. The consistency might be slightly different from what you’d expect, but the meat should still be fork-tender.
How Long To Smoke Pork Shoulder at 275 Degrees
If you’ve decided to set the smoker to 275 degrees Fahrenheit, you should plan for the meat to cook at a rate of about 80-90 minutes per pound. That means that a 10-pound pork shoulder will take about 15 hours to cook.
That may still sound like a long time, but bear in mind that the process would take five hours longer if you set the grill to 225. Depending on when you start, this could work out much better for the timing of your cookout.
The Ideal Temperature
Once the pork reaches the 190-degree mark, you can start prodding it with a fork to make sure it’s getting nice and tender. Don’t be tempted to do this too often, though, or you’ll let too much heat out of the smoker. That means the meat will take even longer to cook.
Pulled pork is done when the shoulder reaches an internal temperature of about 200 degrees. Remember that the meat will continue cooking for a short time after you remove it from the heat. When you’re getting a readout of 195 degrees Fahrenheit on a digital thermometer, it’s fine to take the pork off the grill.
If you prefer a softer bite, you can leave the pork in the smoker until the thermometer reads 203 degrees Fahrenheit. The meat won’t be overcooked, but it might be easier to shred. Try not to wait any longer, or you’ll run the risk of overcooking the pork.
The Texas Crutch
When the pork shoulder has cooked to about 150 degrees Fahrenheit, it will hover around that temperature for quite some time. This phenomenon is known as the stall, and it can be frustrating for newcomers who don’t know what to expect.
Here’s what’s happening during the stall: The pork shoulder is “sweating out” its natural moisture, which has a cooling effect on the meat. The process is known as “evaporative cooling,” and it can go on for several hours.
To help the meat through the stall, you can remove it from the grill when the temperature is hovering between 150 and 170 degrees. Then wrap it tightly with foil. The moisture will still be fighting to escape the meat, but it will be trapped inside the foil layer.
Butcher paper will have a similar effect, but it’s not as effective because the barrier is more porous. That said, it’s a better choice if you want to preserve a healthy layer of crunchy bark around the exterior.
Although this step is derided by many pitmasters, it does speed the cooking process along nicely. Whenever possible, try to plan ahead and accept the stall as a normal step in the routine. Otherwise, feel free to take advantage of the Texas crutch.
The Faux Cambro Technique
What do you do if the pork finishes cooking sooner than you expect? The simplest method would just be to serve it sooner, shredding the meat as soon as it’s had a chance to rest (see the section below). For obvious reasons, this won’t always work out. That’s where the faux Cambro technique comes in.
Cambro is a brand name for equipment that professional caterers use to hold their ingredients during transport. These insulated boxes can keep dishes hot or cold for hours, so the food is ready to serve as soon as the caterers arrive at their destination.
Fortunately, there’s no need for home chefs to invest in fancy equipment. You can approximate the technique by pouring hot water into a high-quality cooler and closing the lid for about 30 minutes. This step will preheat the interior of the cooler.
After about half an hour, drain the hot water. Use a clean dish towel to line the bottom of the cooler. We would recommend using an old towel, so you won’t mind if it gets tainted with pork fat or barbecue sauce.
As soon as the pork has reached the desired temperature, remove it from the heat and wrap it in aluminum foil. Set it in the bottom of the heated cooler and close the lid. If you’ve done it correctly, the meat should stay hot for 3 to 4 hours.
Letting it Rest
When the pork has finally finished cooking, you’ll probably want to dig right in. However, it’s vital to resist that urge for just a little longer.
During the cooking process, all the juices in the meat are driven toward the center. If you cut into a slab of meat as soon as you take it off the heat, these juices will run out onto the cutting board. This means your succulent, tender pulled pork will turn out much too dry.
After removing the pork shoulder from the grill, wrap it in foil. If you’re waiting to serve it later, use the faux Cambro technique we’ve described above. If not, let it sit at room temperature for about an hour. During this time, the meat’s natural fibers will reabsorb the juices, making for a moist and flavorful batch of pulled pork.
275 isn’t our preferred temperature for smoked pork shoulder, but it can still yield delicious results. The trick is to adjust the cooking time accordingly so that the pork will get nice and tender without overcooking.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!