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My Shoulder Won't Fall Apart

MaxCaviar Oct 14, 2008 11:45 AM

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.

  1. d
    duck833 Oct 14, 2008 11:50 AM

    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
      MaxCaviar Oct 14, 2008 12:09 PM

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

      1. re: MaxCaviar
        Delucacheesemonger Oct 14, 2008 12:26 PM

        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
          mr jig Oct 14, 2008 12:27 PM

          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
            woodburner Oct 15, 2008 08:48 AM

            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
              scubadoo97 Oct 15, 2008 11:15 AM

              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
                jgg13 Oct 16, 2008 01:58 PM

                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
                  r
                  ricepad Oct 16, 2008 10:58 PM

                  Adjust your time, not the cooking temperature.

              2. Will Owen Oct 14, 2008 01:16 PM

                Long and slow, as the folks are saying. If the oven's set at 250º 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
                  j
                  jsaimd Oct 14, 2008 08:08 PM

                  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
                    Will Owen Oct 16, 2008 06:51 PM

                    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. j
                  janniecooks Oct 14, 2008 02:21 PM

                  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. Luvfriedokra Oct 14, 2008 05:49 PM

                    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
                      MaxCaviar Oct 16, 2008 01:22 PM

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

                      1. re: MaxCaviar
                        woodburner Oct 16, 2008 05:31 PM

                        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. j
                      jcattles Oct 15, 2008 08:38 AM

                      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!

                      1. Robin Joy Oct 15, 2008 09:40 AM

                        I posted this elsewhere a couple of days ago and it may be a little off subject, but, crackling aside, the meat is beautifully moist and soft:

                        Have I finally cracked crackling?

                        I've struggled for years with unreliable results, but this really seems to work:

                        Pre-heat oven to gas 6/200C/400F.

                        For four people take a 1-1.5kg (say 2 1/2 ibs) piece of boneless, skin on, belly pork. This will be about 10 inches square and 1 to 2 inches thick. Score the skin with a very sharp knife at about 1/2 inch spaces. Now cut the meat across and across again into 4 equal squares (so no carving!). Place meat, spaced a little, skin side up in a roasting tin and scatter chopped onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf, garlic etc around meat. Pour round boiling water to come about half way up the meat and stick it in the oven for 2 1/2 hours. Top up hot water if needed. Remove meat and place in another roasting dish, brush with olive oil and sprinkle over some salt. Back into the oven for 15 minutes. Serve.

                        The cooking liquid can of course be used to make gravy.

                        This was given to me by someone who said they had read it recently, so sorry if I've stolen it.

                        1. BerkshireTsarina Oct 15, 2008 10:02 AM

                          Slow cooker at high for 6 hours, plus an additional warming up to 4 hours (I do this from Rick Bayless's Guajillo Pork and Potatoes and it comes out perfectly every time).

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: BerkshireTsarina
                            u
                            upstate girl Oct 16, 2008 03:06 PM

                            I think everyone is right about the temp and I agree with the slow cooker ideas. It's lovely in the slow cooker and low maintenance. Are you sure you have a cut with enough fat on it? I know I've had tough pot roasts and the conclusion I've come to is that they weren't fatty enough.

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