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My Shoulder Won't Fall Apart

Most recipes for pork shoulder indicate that the meat should be falling off the bone when done. I have gone through 3 pork shoulders in the last 10 days or so and cannot get that consistency out of them. For reference, I am using a dutch oven for the cooking. The recipes I've tried called for cooking it at 225 for 4 1/4 hours or 350 for 3 hours.

Can anyone give me a recipe that always work for them?

I've tried with both an arm cut picnic shoulder as well as a boston butt shoulder roast.

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  1. I cook them in my smoker at about 1 1/2 hours per pound at 225-240. I am using 10 lb butts though. That means they are in the cooker close to 15 hours.

    Look to internal temperature rather than hours. I pull my butts when they hit about 190 internal temp.

    Your butts are simply not done yet, need lots of time to break down all the connective tissues.

    7 Replies
    1. re: duck833

      geez, i am seeing recipes that say 150-160 internal. i will try the higher temp and see what happens.

      1. re: MaxCaviar

        l use a low heat electric smoker and cook Boston butts for 15-18 hours, do not know internal temperature, but on looks alone they appear right. There is a period of time with Boston butts, shown as rubbery and with shoulders, as dense meat and a little rubbery that occurs before the connective tissues melt and it 'falls apart'. Should be able to pull it with two forks with no effort at all. When in doubt just keep on heat longer. At low temp almost impossible to overcook. Mine l turn just once, all they need. Easier to cook two small one rather than one large. And as Duck833 says ,Boston butts are the way to go, less chance to screw up

        1. re: MaxCaviar

          Pork butt or picnic, 2 halves of the shoulder (top or bottom)
          are great at 155 But if you want pulled pork which is to say shredible for sandwiches You need to cook to 200 f.
          At 180 to 190 they are tender and sliceable but not yet shredible which bbq types call pullable.
          No problem really, but cooking time is a poor indicator. Cook slow, (250 is fine) till an instaread thermometer anywhere in the roast says 200.
          Enjoy.
          dick

          1. re: MaxCaviar

            A recipe for falling apart shoulder at 155-160 internal temp is written by a moron... no offense intended, just stating a fact. As everyone is saying, needs to hit 190-200 for fall apart, or 170-180 for slicing. 6-lb picnics or butts will take about 8-10 hrs at 250 to get there...

            1. re: MaxCaviar

              160-180 degrees F is the range at which collagen will begin to melt. The internal temp will stall as the collagen is melting. This is a crucial time since it's the melting of the collagen and connective tissue that will give your shoulder that fall off the bone moist goodness that you are looking for. As soon as the meat is through the stall period the temp can rise quickly. No question your recipes that call for pulling at 150-160 are wrong. You want to pull it at around 200-205* if you are using a thermometer.

              1. re: MaxCaviar

                Oh that's way too low if you want it to fall apart. You need the connective tissue to start breaking down. FWIW, the one time I did a pulled pork off a shoulder in the oven, I had it in a 210*F oven for 10 hours and it literally *fell apart*.

                1. re: MaxCaviar

                  Adjust your time, not the cooking temperature.

              2. Long and slow, as the folks are saying. If the oven's set at 250ยบ you really CANNOT overcook a shoulder butt (and I'm assuming you're cooking butt and not leg!). I have cooked these things all day or overnight - I prefer the latter, just because I get to wake up to a delicious-smelling house! Mrs. O, on the other hand, hates the smell of any food other than bacon before she's fully awake.

                Slow-cookers are pretty good for this, too, and use less juice than an oven.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Will Owen

                  How high is the highest you take leg? I always cook with shoulder, but have 3 pork legs I would liek to slow roast or braise if possible.

                  1. re: jsaimd

                    You can braise a leg just fine, and it'll be delicious, just not as gooey-luscious as the shoulder butt. Whenever I do a leg, I just cook it until it's done, try very hard not to let it get dry, and then slice it to serve. The muscles are too long with too little fat and collagen to melt like the butt does, so I treat it more like fresh ham. As for internal temperature, I'm not sure - I haven't cooked one since I've had my remote thermometer.

                2. Last time I made a pork shoulder I baked it in a dutch oven in the oven at 250 degrees for 8 or 9 hours. You need to cook yours about twice as long to get that falling-off-the-bone goodness!

                  1. I usually do mine in a dutch oven too, at 250- at least 8hrs, sometimes longer. You really have to cook the hell out if it, but it's soooo worth it!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Luvfriedokra

                      It seems that the recipes posted here work regardless of the weight of the roast, correct?

                      1. re: MaxCaviar

                        Answering both you and Upstate Girl below, if you have a full butt or picnic from a shoulder, each will weight about 6 lbs. They will have enough fat throughout the roast to cook to temp and still be moist. Remember you want bone-in, not some boned and tied up thing. If you find a partial roast of 3 or 4 lbs, it may be too small to stay moist on its own... you could drape bacon strips all over a small roast, to maintain moisture....

                    2. It sound like you're not cooking it long enough. When it's done, you should be able to pull the bone right out and it will fall apart. It's a beautiful thing!
                      With a dutch oven, just make sure that you don't run out of liquid and cook as long as it takes. I usually go at 250 or 275 and cook for at least 5-8 hours. Good luck!