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Slow cooked pork shoulder not so tender

Just Joe Sep 3, 2009 07:43 AM

So i took a bonless pork sholder, put a sweet mosquite rub on it. wrapped in in tin foil, thru it into the over at 275 for 5 hours. internal temp was about 160ish when i took it out. i let it rest for about 20-30 min, and when i went to tear up the meat it was difficult. the meat didnt "fall apart" like it should have. the bottom of the roast, the part that was touching the pan did but that was only about an inch of the roast, the rest was still tough. Juicy, but tough. what did i do wrong? what could i do differently? should i use a bone in roast instead.... HELP???? Thanks

Just Joe

  1. h
    hawkeyeui93 May 25, 2012 03:22 PM

    Joe: To answer your question and without knowing how big the cut of meat was in your situation, I would guess you needed more time and a lower cooking temperature [I use 225 degrees F maximum]. Another thing I use with success is putting the meat in a cooking bag with some liquid.

    1. r
      RJPAUTO May 24, 2012 10:25 PM

      Listen, As long as the internal temp. reaches at least 170*, the pork is done. A smoker set-up to the proper temp will be between 160 and 220 degrees . it doesn't matter what the finale temp is. As long as its at least 160 degrees. All that really matters is how tender and juicy the finale product is. If you don't turn up the heat too far, and wait long enough, the finale product will be fantastic.......R J P

      4 Replies
      1. re: RJPAUTO
        scubadoo97 May 25, 2012 03:00 AM

        It might be done at 170 but I will not be tender and done enough for pulling.
        You need to go to about 200 to 210 for enough collagen to break down for pulling

        1. re: scubadoo97
          foreverhungry May 25, 2012 07:12 AM

          scubadoo - not necessarily. It depends on time, also. Collagen can break down at lower temperatures, such as 160, if held there for long enough. 200ish is the target temperature most folks talk about because that's the fastest way to get the collagen to break down. If a pork shoulder was held at 160 for 10 hours, you'd get the same breakdown; but of course, it takes a lot longer, so few people use that method.

          1. re: foreverhungry
            scubadoo97 May 25, 2012 11:15 AM

            I do understand that forerverhungy as in sous vide short ribs and appreciate you pointing that out but in the range that most people smoke/bbq like 225-275 this is not the case

            1. re: scubadoo97
              foreverhungry May 25, 2012 12:06 PM

              Yes, in the range of smoker temps, right, it's not possible to slow the cooking process down that much. I was talking more generally. In theory, one could do a pig shoulder roast in a 170-180 degree oven, for 12-15 hours, and that would yield the same fork tender as the more traditional smoking at 250ish. If someone doesn't have a smoker, or doesn't want the meat smoked, then from what I understand, cooking at 180 for a longer time would be more preferable than 250 or 300 for a shorter time because the higher temperature would dry the meat out more, even though it's in the oven for a shorter period.

      2. b
        blackpointyboots May 19, 2012 07:20 PM

        Smoker, oven or slow cooker I usually do 8 hours plus and do vinegar or beer mops if it is getting too dry in the smoker.

        1. m
          moonbeamer May 18, 2012 10:35 PM

          I think most of the temperatures mentioned in the last few posts for roast pork are much too high, if we're talking about slow-roasting (12 hours or more). I routinely roast pork to only 130-132F, with excellent results (tender, moist, and still slightly pink--medium rare). Whole cuts of industrially-raised pork are no more prone to bacterial contamination than beef, which is often cooked to even lower temperatures (for rare or "bleu" roast beef).

          As for safety, use only a whole cut (bone-in, skin-on fresh ham, or loin), and after bringing it back from the grocery, trim off any surface fat or "silverskin", and rinse it off well under running water (any e coli or other pathogens will be on the surface, having been spattered on during the butchering process, and most will be flushed away during this rinsing process). Then dry-salt the cut generously, wrap it up in a clean plastic bag, and put it in a cold refrigerator for 24 hours or longer, until ready to begin the roasting (the concentrated salt on the surface is also a biocide, and in conjunction with the cold referigerator temperature, will prrevent any surviving bacteria from reproducing). After 24 hours the salt will have penetrated well into the meat, by osmosis (this kind of "dry-brining" is much less messy than wet-brining, and every bit as effective).

          Having taken these precautions, it's unnecessary to begin by roasting at 450F for 20 minutes or so, as some advise (for example, Paula Wolfert, in her otherwise excellent cookbook on slow-cooking)--and it's also ineffective, since evaporation will keep the surface temperature of the meat well below 150F or so, until the surface layers have dried out considerably, which takes much longer than 20 minutes; though for a well-browned roast, one can finish up the roasting process this way, after the meat has reached an internal temperature of 130-132F--which typically takes 12 hours or longer, at an oven thermostat setting of 170F, (my oven's lowest setting).

          The best cuts for this kind of slow-roasting are those with a minimum of internal or intermuscular "marbled" fat, since any fat will not be rendered out at these low tempeatures, and biting into gobs of half-raw fat is not pleasant. My preferred cuts are whole loin, or bone-in, skin-on fresh ham; I would avoid a "Boston butt" roast or a "Picnic" ham (front shoulder), as these cuts have lots of intermuscular fat, and are better cooked by conventional higher-temperature methods.

          3 Replies
          1. re: moonbeamer
            fourunder May 19, 2012 11:15 AM

            Just curious....at what designation point oven.heat setting are you referring to, or consider, as *conventional highe-temperature methods*

            1. re: fourunder
              moonbeamer May 20, 2012 01:18 AM

              By "conventional high-temperature methods" I meant the temperatures recommended by standard cookbooks, e.g. to roast pork or chicken at 275-325 F for an hour or two.

              If there's time, I prefer to to slow-roast for 10-12 hours at 170 F, which is the lowest thermostat setting on my (GE electric) oven.

              The actual ambient temperature inside the oven depends on what's being cooked: with nothing in the oven the temperature (as measured by a BBQ thermometer set on the oven rack) reaches 170 F pretty quickly; but with a refrigerator-cold chicken or pork roast, the ambient temperatures (as measured by an IR scans of the meat, the roasting pan, the walls of the oven, etc.) usually begin around 150 F or so and gradually rise, eventually reaching 170 F if I leave the meat in that long (15-24 hours or so); but I usually end the cooking when the internal temperature (as measured by a thermocouple probe, inserted into the meat) reaches 131-2 F (pork roast) or 148-50 (chicken).

              I've never been able to figure out just where the thermostat's sensor is located in the oven: any suggestions?

              1. re: moonbeamer
                fourunder May 20, 2012 05:56 AM

                Most capillary tube clips that hold the thermostat sensor are located on the roof of the oven, whether gas or electric. A newer model may heat from the interior walls, rather than with an element, much like a small appliance/enamel portable oven.

          2. f
            fourunder May 15, 2012 01:17 PM

            During my latest weekly shopping excursion, I spotted a very nice looking Boston Butt Pork Roast, rolled and tied and weighing in at 6.5 pounds. Prompted in part by a recent posters experience on a Bone-in Pork Sirloin Roast, where I made some recommendations, I decided to purchase this, roast it and share my results with you all here on Chowhound...Regrettably, I must admit that my suggestions were less than perfect for the other member....but hopefully they will forgive me and try the low and slow approach again...gaining some confidence in the method and credibility for me in the process. : 0 )

            The roast method was very simple.:

            * Removed the roast from the refrigerator 2 hours prior to placing in the oven.

            * Rinse the meat, and pat dry

            * Seasoned with Kosher Salt and Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

            * Preheat oven for 30 minutes @ 450*

            * Place Roast on a rack into the oven @ 450* for 20 minutes

            * Reduced the heat to 200*

            * Set the Digital Temperature Probe for 160*

            * Hit 160* in 8.5 hours total time including the 20 minute browning phase

            * Oven temperature was reduced down to 140* and the roast was allowed to rest uncovered for an additional 2 hours

            * The finished results, you can clearly see the fat and collagen was sufficiently melted and butter soft.

            * The meat was white on one muscle and pink on the the other.

            I recommend you give this a try....there is no need to bring the temperature to 190* as others suggest. The meat was both moist and tender.

            11 Replies
            1. re: fourunder
              bagofwater May 15, 2012 02:05 PM

              Temperature and tenderness correlate, but it is not a hard and fast rule. Generally, if you want to make pulled pork, your internal temperature will have to get to 190-200f. If you want to slice it as a roast, your target is usually 170f give or take. Length of cooking time can alter those targets somewhat -- for example, the slow roasting you did meant more collagen melted than if you had employed another means, and you ended up with a great sliced roast at a lower target temp.

              1. re: bagofwater
                fourunder May 15, 2012 06:44 PM

                I agree with all you have stated....however, there still is much confusion when it comes to pork roasts, not pulled pork, and what is deemed as the best and safe temperature....from information supplied by various sources available on the internet, and especially by the different members here on Chowhound. I have no desire to argue who is correct, but will only say every one needs to find their own preference and comfort level for temperature for any specific cuts of pork.


                Others have opined you only need to cook pork to 137*....some have even indicated 129*. I surmise their position is to allow for carryover increase in temperature. I have stated for pork tenderloin, many commercial kitchens will pull at 135*. For Loin Cuts, I recommend 140-145*. Fresh Hams, 155-160*. Picnic Shoulder's 190+ for bone-in, and or , pulled pork. . My targets are based on low and slow roasting with an expected carryover increase of 5-7* only @ 225* as the roasting temperature.

                I definitely agree with you that there is no hard and fast rule.....

                1. re: fourunder
                  bagofwater May 18, 2012 05:29 AM

                  There is a difference between temperatures for food safety and temperatures for quality of product. Where the latter is concerned, it varies by cut of meat, and by cooking process, as has been discussed ad nauseum. Cook a pork loin to the temperature you would cook a pork butt, and you may as well just order a pizza, because the roast would be inedible.

                  However, when it comes to the former, there *are* empirical rules. There is a logarithmic relationship between time and temperature regarding pasteurization. At an internal temperature of 135f, bacteria are killed (to 5 decimals) in about a half-hour. At 165f, it is an instant kill. Only a few minutes are required at 145f for a pasteurization-level kill. The kill time/temp scale for trichina is actually lower, which, combined with the virtual disappearance of that parasite in pork, is why we no longer cook our chops to shoe leather consistency.

                  1. re: bagofwater
                    sandylc May 18, 2012 11:05 AM

                    Thank you for the great info. One thing that I have noticed with chicken and the government, is that they keep trying to build in extra degrees for safety; sort of an idiot-proof system. They have raised the minimum temp of poultry to 165 recently. It was always 160 before. Also, I've never seen mention of what you speak of from them regarding maintaining a lower temp for a longer period of time. I read years ago that 140 for 3 minutes also kills salmonella, for example. Of course, that doesn't cook the chicken, though!

                    1. re: sandylc
                      1POINT21GW May 24, 2012 11:51 PM

                      Chicken is perfectly safe to eat (and extremely moist) at 150 degrees F (even 147 degrees F).

                      Regarding the government's recommendations (as if I cared what they recommended), you're absolutely right - they build in a giant margin of error in all of their temps.

                      1. re: 1POINT21GW
                        foreverhungry May 25, 2012 07:09 AM

                        Re 1point21gw - Research seems to suggest otherwise: http://ps.fass.org/content/62/7/1211....

                        In this experiment, a Salmonella strain required a temperature of 165F for 2 minutes to be completely eliminated from eggs.

                        Killing bacteria is a complex relationship between acidity, osmolarity (salt and other ions), temperature, and time. The gov't recommends hitting 165 because assuming that the meat in question spends only a few seconds at the target temperature before the heat decreases, then a higher temperature needs to be hit than if the meat spends more time at temperature. 150F is sufficient to kill Salmonella, but only when held there for an extended period of time, which is unlikely.

                        Given the increase in frequency of Salmonella presence in many food products, and given that many heat-tolerant strains are proliferating, the gov't seems justified in calling for 165, just as they were justified in dropping the safe temp for pork products.

                        1. re: foreverhungry
                          bagofwater May 25, 2012 07:51 AM

                          There is a difference between sterilization (complete kill) and pasteurization. The experiment in question is a test case for the former.

                          Cooking, for the most part, does not fully kill all the harmful bacteria in your food. What it does is pasteurize your food, and sufficiently halts the activity of the few surviving bacteria to make it safe enough for consumption.

                          1. re: bagofwater
                            foreverhungry May 25, 2012 08:23 AM

                            Good point, there is a difference between sterilization and pasteurization. But from what I understand (and I may be incorrect), sterilization eliminates all bacteria, whereas pasteurization eliminates all bacteria that can cause disease and food spoilage, so bacteria that are not involved in disease and spoilage may still remain.

                            If that's indeed the case, then the point is still to eliminate potential pathogens.

                            "Safe enough for consumption" also depends on who's doing the consuming. A small amount of pathogens may be fine for me, but could cause serious issues for someone that's immune compromised. That part of the reason the gov't builds in a safety margin for its recommendations, because it has to consider the population as a whole, and not only healthiest.

                          2. re: foreverhungry
                            1POINT21GW May 25, 2012 02:05 PM

                            From Keys to Good Cooking by Harold McGee:

                            "Chicken and turkey breasts are less juicy but more pleasing at slightly higher temperatures, around 150 degrees F/65 degrees C."

                            From Cookwise by Shirley Corriher:

                            "Different meats, different ideal temperatures:

                            Dark-meat chicken: 165 degrees F to 175 degrees F (74 degrees C to 79 degrees C)

                            White-meat chicken: 149 degrees F to 152 degrees F (65 degrees C to 67 degrees C)

                            From On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee:

                            "MEAT DONENESS AND SAFETY

                            As we’ve seen, meats inevitably harbor bacteria, and it takes temperatures of 160°F/70°C or higher to guarantee the rapid destruction of the bacteria that can cause human disease—temperatures at which meat is well-done and has lost much of its moisture. So is eating juicy, pink-red meat risky? Not if the cut is an intact piece of healthy muscle tissue, a steak or chop, and its surface has been thoroughly cooked: bacteria are on the meat surfaces, not inside."

                            In other words, with whole cuts of meat it is the external temperature, not the internal temperature, that must exceed 160 degrees F. Normal cooking methods-sautéing, grilling, roasting, braising, etc.-raise surface temperatures far above 160 degrees Fahrenheit. (To get a sense of this, consider that meat only begins to brown at 230 degrees Fahrenheit.)

                            People very rarely get sick from rare or medium rare meat. Overwhelmingly, people get sick from the way meat is handled in the home: from cross-contamination, lack of cleanliness, and holding meat at dangerous temps. Internal temperature should be the least of your worries.

                            These guidelines do not apply to children under 7, the elderly, and the immuno-compromised.

                            From Keys to Good Cooking by Harold McGee:

                            "Ordinary cooking can't eliminate all microbes and toxins in food. The only way to guarantee microbe- and toxin-free food is to pressure-cook it for hours and consume it immediately. Such food would also be pleasure free."

                            1. re: 1POINT21GW
                              foreverhungry May 25, 2012 02:56 PM

                              I think the key statement in there is "These guidelines do not apply to children under 7, the elderly, and the immuno-compromised."

                              That's why the gov't takes a more conservative view.

                              Neither myself nor those I typically cook for are immune compromised or elderly. I tend to cook to the lower end of the range, especially pork. I shoot for just cooked chicken.

                              If I was cooking for someone that was immune compromised, I'd be more conservative.

                              1. re: foreverhungry
                                1POINT21GW May 25, 2012 03:31 PM

                                This position seems different/shifted from what you stated in your original reply.

              2. s
                Shasty May 14, 2012 05:05 AM

                My solution, as i just had a similar problem. After smoking a 6lb butt on my electric smoker for over 10 hours, it was still tough. However i did know that the connective tissue apparently did not get hot enough to "melt". so, i decided to throw it in my pressure cooker with some beef broth for about 45 minutes, and it was pulled pork heaven. Falling apart, bones pulled right out. Also, the broth after combining with the pork juices was incredible.

                1. s
                  sandylc Dec 16, 2011 01:45 PM

                  -no foil
                  -use a covered roasting pan
                  -cook it longer

                  1. k
                    kunigunda Dec 16, 2011 05:25 AM

                    I attempted to smoke a small shoulder roast 2-3lbs in an electric -big chief- smoker. Not sure but think I placed it too high in the smoker. After 3 hrs and lots of smoke it registered only 120. I moved it to the lowest rack and tested it after another 1.5 hrs. 160. Wrapped it in foil and put it in a 275 oven for 2 hrs. It was dinner time then. After resting outside the oven for maybe 15 minutes I had to serve it. It registered 180. It obviously was not going to fall apart so I sliced it thin. It was very juicy and flavourful and not at all tough....but it was not pulled pork. If anyone is listening, should the temp of my roast have been higher after 4 hrs in the smoker? Thanks.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: kunigunda
                      scubadoo97 Dec 16, 2011 06:18 AM

                      The answer is no. You didn't mention the temperature of your smoker. I usually set mine at 225.

                      Last pork shoulder I did was around 5 pounds or so. Took over 16 hrs to get to 205 internal for pulling and I did wrap it when it was around 165 and finished it in a 225 oven just because it was getting very late and I didn't want to have to go outside and deal with it.

                      1. re: scubadoo97
                        kunigunda Dec 16, 2011 08:21 AM

                        Yow! That's a long time! I just pulled it out of the oven at 225 after 2+ more hrs after being refriged overnite. It's still in foil. Not sure I want to mess with it anymore. Unfortunately the smoker I have is a cheap one. It is either on or off. No temp gauge. The chips sit in an iron pan on top of the cooking coil beneath the drip pan. Sounds like I need to smoke for a few hrs for flavor and then throw in oven or crockpot til done.

                        1. re: kunigunda
                          scubadoo97 Dec 16, 2011 09:31 AM

                          You can put a wired thermometer probe in the smoker to monitor your smoker temp. Another one in the meat to monitor internal temp. Usually you want to smoke at a fairly low temp like 225-250.

                          Once the meat hits around 140 internal many say the meat will not accept anymore smoke. Not sure about that but by then you should have gotten a nice bit of smoke flavor to the meat.

                          It is at this point that the internal temperature of the meat begins to stall. It is not uncommon for the meat to sit here for a few hours going up slowly by a degree or two. This get's many new to smoking meats nervous and they push the smoker temps up thinking something is wrong. It is also at this point that a lot of moisture is evaporating from the meat which creates the stall in temperature.

                          Just sit back and let it do it's thing until it reaches about 165-170 where the temp will start to move up more rapidly. You can mitigate the stall by foiling the meat to reduce moisture evaporation and your stall will be shortened. It doesn't matter if you leave the meat in the smoker or bring it inside to finish in the oven at this point as long as you have stopped giving the meat smoke. Foiling will soften the bark which has formed so some people refuse to foil to preserve the bark. Just depends on what you want in the end.

                          1. re: kunigunda
                            ricepad Dec 16, 2011 11:53 AM

                            Sometimes I cheat and take the butts out of the smoker once they hit 140F and put them in the oven at 225F so I don't have to keep running outside to check the fire. I keep a wireless probe thermometer (with an alarm) in the meat to monitor meat temps while I'm reading the paper or preparing sides or taking a nap or watching a game or drinking beer or....you get the idea.

                            1. re: ricepad
                              tommy Dec 16, 2011 12:03 PM

                              "preparing sides or taking a nap or watching a game or drinking beer"

                              That pretty much describes my whole day when making BBQ.

                              1. re: tommy
                                ricepad Dec 16, 2011 12:51 PM

                                Yeah, mine too. Mrs. ricepad thinks that the only reason I have the smoker is so I do the aforementioned things without getting nagged.

                              2. re: ricepad
                                kunigunda Dec 16, 2011 01:35 PM

                                Well, I did drink quite a bit of wine while monitoring the meat. Does that count?

                                1. re: kunigunda
                                  ricepad Dec 18, 2011 11:39 AM

                                  WINE?? Uh...only if you mixed it with 7-up!

                        2. m
                          moonbeamer Aug 19, 2011 01:04 AM

                          Several comments quit rightly mention the breakdown of collagen (gelatinization) as the key to tenderizing pork; but then go on to specify temperatures in the 160-200° F range, and cooking times in the 6-10 hour range.

                          I've had excellent results at much lower temperatures, as low as 131-2° F (internal temperature, as measured by an accurate thermocouple probe), and much, MUCH longer cooking times, in the 24-to-48-hour range (depending on the size of the cut, etc.). I've experimented with different temperatures, and found that pork collagen will eventually gelatinize at 131-2° F: this leaves the meat still pink, and moist—not gray-brown and desiccated (from the shedding of the muscle-cell juices), as it will become at temperatures above 140° F. But this requires holding the meat at this temperature for AT LEAST 24 hours. One of the advantages of a probe thermometer, in addition to the temperature readout, is that it also gives a good indication of tenderness; when the probe can be pushed easily through all parts of the cut, it's done; not before.

                          I wouldn't use pork shoulder, however, as it's interlarded with lots of fat, which at these lower temperatures will not render or "cook": and biting into gobs of semi-raw fat is not pleasant. My favorite cut is a 2-3# piece of (lean) pork loin.

                          I usually poach the cut (whole) in a double-boiler setup, in whatever poaching liquid (cider, milk, wine) suits the recipe. (For a stew-type recipe, it's still best to cook the cut whole, then cut it up into bite-sized pieces afterwards, and combine them with the separately-cooked vegetables). The double-boiler setup is controlled by a sous vide type temperature controller, set so the poaching liquid never rises above 132° or so.

                          The same thing could be done in an oven or smoker, provided the temperature can be held at that level (the lowest temperature setting on my oven, unfortunately, is 170° F, which is much too high). Anyone tried this with a whole fresh ham (which, unlike pork shoulder, is not interlarded with lots of fat)?

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: moonbeamer
                            tommy Aug 19, 2011 06:04 AM

                            How much collagen do you figure is in a pork loin? Probably not a lot. What you're describing seems to be something completely different than making pulled pork from a butt.

                            1. re: tommy
                              moonbeamer Aug 19, 2011 07:42 AM

                              The amount of collagen in a given muscle depends on the age of the animal, how hard that particular muscle has worked during the animal's life, etc.; hard-working muscles on older animals develop lots of cross-linked collagen (as well as more flavor-producing compounds), which unless cooked to the point of gelatinization, makes the meat "tough" (collagen is essentially a "rope" or "cable" made up of many intertwisted gelatin molecules, which bind themselves firmly together with many secondary chemical bonds; when cooked long enough, at a high enough temperature, these secondary bonds eventually break down, and the rope-like collagen fibers are converted into free gelatin molecules, a very useful cooking ingredient, for thickening sauces, or making Jell-O, for example). The toughness of a particular cut (when cooked to the medium-rare point of around 130 F, by conventional, fast-cooking methods) is a good rough-and-ready measure of how much collagen it contains; pork loin, though tenderer than fresh ham, for example, is still fairly tough; beef rump cuts (top or bottom round, sirloin roast, etc.) or beef brisket are MUCH tougher than beef tenderloin--and also more flavorful). (McGee's On Food and Cooking, 2nd edition, is a good primer on all this.)

                              But you're quite right, this is a completely different approach from "pulled pork" and the like, which is cooked well past the well-done 140 F point (usually in the 190-210 F simmering range), long enough to gelatinize all the collagen. By then the meat has turned grayish-brown, and the muscle cells have long since shed their juices; if eaten "plain" it would taste dried-out or desiccated; so the usual recipes strive to relubricate the dried-out muscle fibers with rendered pork fat (as in slow-cooked pork shoulder), or with some kind of broth or sauce using a meat stock (which has lots of gelatin).

                              My method strives to keep the meat well below the well-done temperature of 140 F (the temperature at which the muscle cells shed nearly all their juices), for as long as it takes to gelatinize the collagen. The meat remains moist (the muscle cells retain much of their water), so it's not necessary to relubricate it with rendered pork fat, meat stock, or whatever.

                              1. re: moonbeamer
                                tommy Aug 19, 2011 08:29 AM

                                My pulled pork never tastes dried-our or desiccated, nor does it ever require broth or sauce or meat stock. Unless you are referring to loin, in which case maybe a new thread is best. This one seems to be focusing on butts.

                                1. re: moonbeamer
                                  fourunder Aug 19, 2011 08:39 AM

                                  I've eaten a lot of pork prepared in every cooking application or method known or available......the loin is my least favorite cut....and I eat it medium -rare.

                                  1. re: fourunder
                                    fahrquar1 Oct 1, 2011 12:46 PM

                                    I just ran across this thread while looking at another thread. If smoke is not your goal, then sous vide will also give you the tenderness you want. I did a shoulder a week ago - cleaned and flash heated the outside with boiling water, dried it off, added rub, vacuum sealed it and chunked it in the water bath at 140 for 72 hours. I divided this cook in two portions, and re-rubbed and sealed it in the middle. I pulled it up to 153 for three hours to get the pink out, then took it out, sauced it, and finished it in the oven at 250 for 45 minutes. Very tender and moist. I believe a 24 hour cook would certainly be sufficient, but this as a method has worked for me and is really no extra work. Maybe it's time to try a flight of cooking times!

                            2. c
                              Carolinagirl76 Aug 8, 2011 05:53 PM

                              I'm glad to see I'm not the only one having this problem. I have two favorite recipes that I am having trouble with. One is a beef rump roast that I cook in the slow cooker on low all day with a can of beef broth & jar of peppercinis. The idea is that it falls apart when you shred it and you eat in on pita bread with pepper jack cheese. The other is a boston butt that you cook low (300) & slow in the oven...with salt, pepper, cumin & apricot jam rubbed on and wrapped in foil with onions & jalapenos. Again, it is supposed to fall apart and you serve it with juices on a tortilla topped with cilantro & lime juice. Delicious! If it comes out right. More than half the time on either recipe, instead of falling apart at the touch of a fork it is horribly tough and I can barely cut it with a knife. I have no idea if it just needs to cook longer or if it is overcooked.

                              12 Replies
                              1. re: Carolinagirl76
                                tommy Aug 8, 2011 05:57 PM

                                It's undercooked. Your be hard pressed to overcook a pork butt in that manner.

                                1. re: tommy
                                  Carolinagirl76 Aug 8, 2011 06:07 PM

                                  Even though it is small...3lbs or so, and it cooked for 5 hours?

                                  1. re: Carolinagirl76
                                    tommy Aug 8, 2011 06:24 PM

                                    A pork butt decides when it's done. The clock and we don't.

                                    1. re: tommy
                                      bagofwater Aug 9, 2011 12:49 PM

                                      What tommy said. You have to get the meat to a temperature that will melt the connective tissues contained within. If it's tough, it's undercooked. If it's *dry* (big difference), it's overcooked.

                                      Rule of thumb is 1.25-2 hours per pound on pork butt, depending on the temperature of your cooker. But realize that it's just a guideline. Real results vary, wildly.

                                      1. re: bagofwater
                                        foreverhungry Aug 9, 2011 01:49 PM

                                        For a pork butt to fall apart, it needs to reach an internal temperature of at least 190F, preferably 195. Anything less and won't fall apart. The meat shouldn't be tough - if sliced thin it should be fine - but it won't be fork shredable.

                                        1. re: foreverhungry
                                          ricepad Aug 9, 2011 04:32 PM

                                          Good advice here....and don't worry as you watch the temp climb from 160F to 170F to 180F. It's not going to continue shooting past 190F at the same rate. A pork butt will 'stall' around 195-200F for a LONG time, maybe an hour or more. The time/temperature window of perfection is pretty large.

                                          1. re: ricepad
                                            tommy Aug 9, 2011 05:43 PM

                                            I've found the stall more at 170-180. At 200 it's done for pulling.

                                            1. re: tommy
                                              foreverhungry Aug 10, 2011 06:42 AM

                                              Agreed with the 170-180 stall. It tends to sit there for a looong time.

                                              1. re: foreverhungry
                                                Carolinagirl76 Aug 14, 2011 03:01 PM

                                                I am so so excited! Thanks so much for the advice. I would have guessed it was overcooked b/c it seemed dry & tough....but I cooked the spicy beef recipe tonight and let it go way past when I would normally think it was done and it fell apart beautifully and was delicious! I watched it and was able to see what it looks like at different stages of cooking. Y'all are awesome!

                                                1. re: Carolinagirl76
                                                  BlueTeam Sep 5, 2011 05:26 PM

                                                  Just finished my first pork butt. I have a pellet smoker (MAK 1star). I used a 4 lb pork shoulder bone in. Rubbed it with a sweet rub the night before and put it on @ 225 for 8 hours. I saw two stalls. One at 155 and another at 170. The second stall freaked me out as I figured it should have been done by the 8th hour and I had my kids waiting on diner. I confess I cranked up the smoker to 300 and gave it an extra hour. When at 9 hours it was still only 175, I cranked it up to 350 and powered it to 185 over the next half hour.

                                                  In the end the meat was mostly fall of the bone although I my heart I know that if I had left it at 225 ( or even 250) for a full 10 hours it would have been that much better. I will agree that the pork shoulder is much more forgiving than brisket (which I messed up badly).

                                                  1. re: BlueTeam
                                                    bagofwater Sep 7, 2011 01:26 PM

                                                    I cook my pork butts at 250 or so. Nothing wrong with taking it up to 300, though 350 may have been a little high. If you pulled it off at 185, you probably could have used another hour in the cooker.

                                                    The 170 stall is always the longer of the two, and sometimes it can sit there for a long, loooong time. I'm not sure which matter inside the meat is going through a state change at that point, but there is obviously a lot of it.

                                2. re: Carolinagirl76
                                  fourunder Aug 9, 2011 08:18 AM

                                  Two thoughts......

                                  1. I'm no expert on slow cookers, but some have two settings, high and low.......opt for the patter and expect 6-8 hours total time, not five.

                                  2. I would not consider 300* to be low temperature.......nothing over 250* in fact. I prefer to maintain 215-225*....especially for pork roasts.

                                3. i
                                  invisiblechef Oct 17, 2010 11:59 AM

                                  You just need to cook it longer. 190 at least

                                  1. Iron Chef John Jul 4, 2010 04:11 PM

                                    Hey Joe--
                                    This is what we do at the restaurant. We currently don't have a smoker (it actually kind of blew up before I got there) so we use a method called "braising".
                                    It is pretty much fool proof!
                                    Dry rub your pork shoulder (also called a Boston Butt or Pork Butt or Pork Shoulder Butt--it is still the shoulder of the pig why it is called the butt, I have no idea) with your favorite rub. Make sure you rub generously on all surfaces of the meat.
                                    Place it in a roasting pan and fill pan with as much water as you can without spilling it.
                                    Cover ENTIRE opening of pan with plastic wrap as tight as you can.
                                    Then, cover entire opening of pan with aluminum foil making sure to coil the plastic wrap underneath the foil. Close tightly.
                                    Place pan in preheated oven 250 degrees for 6-8 hours. Don't worry about drying out the meat--since it is bathing in water, actually spiced water, the meat will soak up the water and not dry out.
                                    Remove pan from oven and remove foil and plastic wrap. Stick a fork or tongs in and give a twist. Should be perfect.
                                    Remove pork from pan and let rest until you can handle it or pull it off, slather it with sauce and serve on your favorite white bun.
                                    Good Luck and God Bless!

                                    1. d
                                      drlee_susquespine Oct 20, 2009 09:48 AM

                                      I'll second the no more than 225 for no less than 8 hours motion. I never go by temp when smoking/slow cooking. It's done when you can pull the bone out. Also, try putting it on a rack in a deep roasting dish with a little water/stock/beer under neath to keep it moist. When it's wrapped up tight, it steams which totally denatures the protein in a different pattern

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: drlee_susquespine
                                        sbp Oct 20, 2009 10:33 AM

                                        I don't wrap until I take it off the heat, so it's really just a prolonged rest. As for "it's done when you can pull out the bone..."

                                        Yes, it is, but it might also be overdone when you can pull out the bone. By using a remote probe thermometer, you can take it off as soon as it hits the "bone pulling" stage, instead of accidentally letting it go an extra hour or two.

                                        Of course, generally, shoulder is pretty forgiving, and not a big deal if you miss the mark on the tender side by a bit.

                                        1. re: sbp
                                          scubadoo97 Oct 20, 2009 02:47 PM

                                          That's exactly true. A pork shoulder is one of the most forgiving cuts. As long as you take it to the point of collagen melt down your fine. Other cuts and meats are not so forgiving.

                                          1. re: scubadoo97
                                            tommy Oct 20, 2009 04:53 PM

                                            well that's the rub. if you don't cook it long enough and to a high enough temp, you'll get tough, dry meat. it's not all that forgiving in that sense. you can't just cook it any ol' way and figure "well, it's forgiving". it's not.

                                            err on the side of overcooking, in my experience.

                                            1. re: tommy
                                              ricepad Oct 20, 2009 10:14 PM

                                              I understand what you mean, but I'll disagree a little. It's more like, "err on the side of cooking it longer than you think you should." A shoulder that's been cooked too long *will* get dried out and tough, after all the collagen's melted away.

                                              1. re: tommy
                                                sbp Oct 21, 2009 08:12 AM

                                                Right, but that's why you can "err on the tender side." Main thing from my experience - spend the $50 and get a remote probe thermometer. Nu-Temp works great.

                                        2. f
                                          FrankD Oct 18, 2009 08:52 PM

                                          Do a search for "red cooked pork shoulder" - this is a Chinese recipe that we make at home frequently. The meat is flavourful and tender, although it does take time. Try it, you'll like it! Even your kids will, since it uses a lot of sugar in the recipe which gives the meat a sweet glaze.

                                          1. s
                                            SonyBob Oct 17, 2009 09:25 PM

                                            I go around and around with my son-in-law about this. You must reach an internal temp of at least 190 to break down the collagen in the meat resulting in that "pulled pork" tenderness. I recommend smoking for 5 or 6 hours then wrapping in foil and leaving it in the smoker or even in the oven at 250 or so 'till the internal temp reaches 200. There's no sense smoking any longer; it won't absorb any more smoke. If you don't wrap in in foil, it will dry out. Yum!

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: SonyBob
                                              tommy Oct 18, 2009 06:32 AM

                                              I'm not convinced that meat doesn't take more smoke the longer it's smoked. It defies common sense.

                                              While the "smoke ring" is a chemical reaction, and it's believable that this reaction slows or stops occurring once the outside of the meat reaches 140, I don't believe that anyone has ever proven that the meat won't continue to take on smoke after the external temp reaches 140 (which is well before the internal temp reaches 140). My experience suggests that meat will continue to take on smoke, which has let to some over-smoked meats.

                                              1. re: tommy
                                                SonyBob Oct 18, 2009 01:37 PM

                                                Tommy, I mis-spoke myself. You're right, the meat will continue to take on smoke to the point of resulting in a somewhat acrid flavor on the outside. I'm just been guilty of drying out a piece of meat trying to get that last little bit of smoke. I've found that smoking for 5 or 6 hours then wrapping in foil for the remainder gives me a good balance between smoke flavor, smoke ring, and moistness. It's just the way that works for me; everyone has their own way of doing it (probably better than I!).

                                                1. re: SonyBob
                                                  tommy Oct 18, 2009 03:40 PM

                                                  many people subscribe to the very-likely-erroneous "140 degree-no-more-smoke-flavor" theory, which is the only reason i mentioned it. do what works for you!

                                                  i smoke for a few hours, take the butt to 170, the point at which it is most likely to stall, wrap and bring to 200-205. that generally works really well, and i'm a very big critic of my butts.

                                                  1. re: tommy
                                                    Spot Oct 18, 2009 08:09 PM

                                                    FWIW, I finally made Will Owen's adaptation of the LAT recipe last night for the first time, and it was splendid. Added just a bit of orange juice to the drippings before making gravy. Truly a keeper.

                                                2. re: tommy
                                                  scubadoo97 Oct 19, 2009 08:13 AM

                                                  I agree.

                                                  I think the reason the 140* F no more smoke theory persists is that the meat usually has a good crust or bark formed by that time and smoke will not penetrate that crust as well but will certainly continue to layer smoke residue on that bark. My feeling is that the meat will continue to take up smoke as long as it's presented but what happens early on is more significant.

                                              2. Fritter Sep 4, 2009 04:12 AM

                                                I would suggest getting a Polder thermometer. They work just as well for foods in the oven as they do on the grill or smoker. The problem with a regular probe thermometer is that they do not help you track where you are in the conversion process. When you take a temperature and you get 180 degrees that does not help much unless you are pulling your product and checking temps frequently. With pork shoulders the temperature will steadilly rise until you hit a plateau where the conversion starts. Then the temperature will drop and may stay well under 180 for several hours. Essentially the longer you can make that process take the better. When I do 6-8 pound butts at 220 they take over 20 hours with the conversion process alone taking several hours. Your time will be faster than that in the oven but it will vary (cook temperature, roast size ect). What a polder thermometer will do is allow you to constantly see your internal temperature. They run $30ish on average. If you feel your oven is too hot you can always prop the door with a wooden spoon.
                                                Your cooking time in my experience will be very similar irrespective of whether you use a bone in or a boneless roast as long as they are of similar weight. The bone does not affect the time of the conversion process but it does add flavor.

                                                10 Replies
                                                1. re: Fritter
                                                  Braswch Oct 14, 2009 04:52 PM

                                                  How abou for a 14 pound boneless shoulder?
                                                  If I put it in a roasting pan, so I set it in the botton of the pan itself, or on the rack that came with the pan?

                                                  Also, do I cover the pan in foil? or leave it uncovered.

                                                  so just put meat thermometor, put temp at say 325 and wait till it hits 190? would that work?

                                                  1. re: Braswch
                                                    fourunder Oct 15, 2009 01:19 AM

                                                    For a boneless shoulder, I would go for the 160-170* mark at most.....bone-in roasts need the additional time for the connective tissue/collagen to become gelatinous. Wrapping the roast will have a steaming effect at the 325* temperature and the roast will cook faster....I prefer to dry roast at a lower temperature and longer time if possible. Rack or no rack, depends on whether you want even browning and more uniform cooking. Low temperature roasting, a rack will help, but not as important as in higher temperature roasting in my opinion, where you want more heat circulation to hit the bottom of the roast, otherwise, it will cook unevenly.

                                                    1. re: fourunder
                                                      ricepad Oct 15, 2009 11:47 AM

                                                      Whether boneless or bone-in, you're still going to want to hit 190F. The presence or absence of the bone doesn't change the magical melting temperature of collagen.

                                                      1. re: ricepad
                                                        fourunder Oct 15, 2009 12:07 PM

                                                        My boneless pork shoulder roasts never have the magical connective tissue and fats....both are always trimmed out before being rolled and tied.....:-) The trimmed out bone and magic is used for the soup stock pot.

                                                        Many recipes will recommend 160* as the mark to look for, but some will even go as low as 145*. to each his or her own I suppose.... some like bite...others don't.


                                                        1. re: fourunder
                                                          sbp Oct 15, 2009 12:13 PM

                                                          You can't "trim out" all the collagen and fat. While ligaments and tendons are certainly mainly composed of collagen, what makes a pork shoulder tough is the presence of collagen IN the meat itself. Taking the bone out of a cut of meat doesn't make the meat instantly tender.

                                                          Same goes for intramuscular fat. Just as with a prime steak that has extensive "marbling", you can't trim intramuscular fat from a pork shoulder. You won't get optimal tenderness at 160-170; somewhere in the 180's to 190's is needed (though I can't give you an exact temp because every roast has different density and composition).

                                                        2. re: ricepad
                                                          scubadoo97 Oct 15, 2009 12:41 PM

                                                          There is debate as to what effect the bone has on cooking times. Some say it holds heat and helps cook the interior of the meat. Harold McGee says the bone is pourous and so acts as an insulator resulting in the opposite effect. I would personally take a pork shoulder to 190-200 internal. I don't cook large hunks of meat by time I've seen too many variable times to get to that end point. As an example I had a small 4 lb corned beef brisket flat take 10 hrs in my smoker set at 230*F to get to 200* F internal. Other larger ones have cooked faster at the same set temp.

                                                          1. re: scubadoo97
                                                            sbp Oct 15, 2009 03:02 PM

                                                            On cooking times, yes, the bone has some effect (I'd say insulating -- whenever I cook a thick Porterhouse, the meat around the bone is less cooked). But the bone is not going to change the presence of collagen in the roast.

                                                            1. re: sbp
                                                              scubadoo97 Oct 15, 2009 03:24 PM

                                                              No question about that!

                                                            2. re: scubadoo97
                                                              ricepad Oct 17, 2009 07:50 AM

                                                              WRT cooking by time, I couldn't agree more. As the saying goes, "Cook it until it's done." With a bone-in butt, the bone tells me when the meat is done: If I can grab the bone with a pair of tongs and pull it out easily, it's time pull!

                                                              1. re: ricepad
                                                                sbp Oct 17, 2009 06:13 PM

                                                                Yes, but I do recommend a remote thermometer. With a cut of meat that can take anywhere from 8-12 hours to cook low and slow, it's easy to overcook. The meat will be tender, but dry. With a remote, you know just when it hits 190, ready to take off the smoker and wrap for a nice long rest.

                                                    2. r
                                                      ricepad Sep 3, 2009 11:59 AM

                                                      There's a lot of good advice here, but one thing missing: Beer. Not only do you need to take more time, you're gonna need some beer.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: ricepad
                                                        fourunder Sep 3, 2009 12:02 PM

                                                        Not only do you need to take more time, you're gonna need some beer.

                                                        Is that for the roast.....or for consumption while waiting for the roast to finish cooking?

                                                        1. re: fourunder
                                                          ricepad Sep 3, 2009 12:06 PM

                                                          Hey, ya gotta do *something* while you're tending the meat! Not all of us are lucky enough to live next door to the Swedish Bikini Team!

                                                          1. re: ricepad
                                                            Just Joe Sep 3, 2009 12:26 PM

                                                            Thanks for all the advice. I have a gas oven and the lowest the temp goes is 260, anything less than that the flame goes out... so next week ill try it again... let yall know how it goes. Thanks again

                                                            1. re: Just Joe
                                                              c oliver Sep 3, 2009 03:55 PM

                                                              260 is going to be fine.

                                                      2. sbp Sep 3, 2009 11:17 AM

                                                        Listen to C Oliver and Alanbarnes and forget all these "X temp" for "Y hours." Pork shoulder needs time and temperature. You MUST get an quick read or remote thermometer and take internal temperature.

                                                        The collagen doesn't break down till about 185, and the meat would get dried out at anything over 210. Since every roast has a different density (no 2 pigs are exactly alike), you can't really go by "250 for 10 hours." Also, cranking the heat up high and taking the internal temp up to 185 really quickly doesn't work either.

                                                        So set your oven/grill/smoker at somewhere between 200-300, and let it cook until it's done -- reading somewhere around 190. This may take 7 hours, it may take 10 hours. When it's done, take it out of the oven, wrap in foil, and let rest for a hour.

                                                        If you do this, the pork will be fall apart delicious.

                                                        1. b
                                                          Beaker Sep 3, 2009 09:20 AM

                                                          You need to cook longer, at a lower temp... think 220 degrees or so for at least 8 hours. Might be longer. www.amazingribs.com has an excellent article on cooking pork shoulder.

                                                          1. alanbarnes Sep 3, 2009 08:42 AM

                                                            The only thing you did wrong was that you didn't cook the meat long enough. I suspect your oven thermostat may be the culprit - 275 for 5 hours should have done the trick.

                                                            You can get good results with a pork shoulder from so many cooking methods. Bone in or bone out, wet heat or dry heat, crock pot or dutch oven or smoker or grill, temps anywhere from 200F to 350F, each method has its place. But regardless of the cooking method, if you pull the meat when the internal temp is 160, most of the collagen is going to remain intact. It's springy and elastic, and holds muscle fibers together. Muscle fibers held together by springy, elastic stuff = tough meat.

                                                            You need to get a higher internal temperature. Anywhere between 185 and 200 is good. The heat will convert the collagen into gelatin. The meat will fall apart, and will be unctuous and lip-smacking good.

                                                            1. s
                                                              saffrongold Sep 3, 2009 08:32 AM

                                                              I made the Mayan Pibil Pork from a recipe on the Chowhound site and cooked a 2 lb. piece of meat for 3.5 hours at 300, let it rest for .5 It was cooked in a dutch oven, wrapped in banana leaves and turned out very moist and easy to pull apart.

                                                              1. f
                                                                fourunder Sep 3, 2009 08:31 AM

                                                                I always recommend slow roast, low temperature of 225*....

                                                                Boneless roast usually takes 7-8 hours.

                                                                Bone-In roast (large) usually stays in for 10-11 hours, sometimes longer. When you can pull at the meat and it comes off easily is how I tell if it is done or not...but I would agree with the higher temperature of 190* if using a thermometer.

                                                                1. The Professor Sep 3, 2009 08:20 AM

                                                                  I think you didn't leave it in the oven long enough...also, I would not have wrapped it in foil. I've done pork butts (both boneless and with bone) in the oven, uncovered on a roasting rack starting at 350F for 15 minutes and then reducing the heat to 250/275F for 4-5 hours, and have always ended up with very juicy, easily shredded meat. At that point I don't even bother taking the internal temperature...when it's easily shredded there's really no question that it's done..

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: The Professor
                                                                    c oliver Sep 3, 2009 08:43 AM

                                                                    Yes, but it can go TOO long, hence the testing. But I'm pretty addicted to my meat thermometer for roasts.

                                                                  2. b
                                                                    baseballfan Sep 3, 2009 08:03 AM

                                                                    I have had better luck using the slow cooker. The meat just falls apart after about 8 hours on the low setting. You can do a rub or use your favorite BBQ sauce if you want something wetter.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: baseballfan
                                                                      Indirect Heat Oct 15, 2009 11:31 PM

                                                                      Second that. When I smoke pork shoulder - 225-250 for more like 8-10 hours. Your pork shoulder was "done" but not done. Safe but not tasty. Cook it longer.

                                                                    2. c oliver Sep 3, 2009 07:56 AM

                                                                      The advice I received from Will Owen and others calls for an internal temp of 190. 160 is done but all the fat and connective tissue won't "do their thing" at that point. I use boneless and bone-in, no problem. For a complete recipe, see the following:


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