Whether you are a newbie or a professional pitmaster, one can hardly go wrong with smoked pork shoulder. It is the most delicious, juicy, and inexpensive cut, which also requires minimum preparation and cooking skills. Yet, sometimes things could go wrong. To avoid undercooking or overcooking, the only thumb rule is to cook it ‘low and slow’ at a recommended ‘optimum temperature’.
At 250℉, pork shoulder should be smoked for ~1 ½ hours per pound of pork. So, an average of 8 to 10 pounds of pork shoulder should be done in 12 to 15 hours. The recommended temperature and timings are perfect for the even breakdown of fat and the connective tissues. You also get a nice and crispy outer crust. Always cook low and slow until the internal temperature reaches 180 to 190℉.
Whether you have it as pulled pork or just the basic version, the high fat-to-meat ratio of pork shoulder is a real treat for everyone. If you want a crispier version, you shall cook it at higher temperatures for a reduced time. This guide will help you understand how long to smoke a pork shoulder at 250 and what are some of the other temperatures you can cook pork shoulder for even results.
How To Select Meat For Smoked Pork Shoulder?
Pork Shoulder is a large cut of meat. It is obtained from the upper portion of the pig’s front leg. A full pork shoulder will usually weigh around 12 to 16 pounds. The meat has intense fat marbling and does not dry out as quickly as other cuts of meat. The pork shoulder can be cut into two parts: the ‘Pork Butt’ (the square-shaped, larger, and tougher cut) and the ‘Picnic Shoulder’, (the smaller and the tender cut with a lot of muscles). The Pork Butt is usually more popular for smoking because of its higher fat content. For a crispier skin, opt for pork shoulder.
The selection of meat would depend on fat marbling, color, and firmness. Raw pork that is vibrant pink in color, and has optimum marbling and firmness are the best to get started with.
How Long To Smoke A Pork Shoulder At 250 Degrees?
Pork shoulder is an intensely flavorful cut of meat and is the right pick for beginners. When cooked correctly, pork shoulder is juicy, tender, and full of flavors. As a general rule, it takes about 90 to 95 minutes to cook per pound of pork shoulder at 250 degrees Fahrenheit (or 121.1℃). Therefore, an 8 pounds of pork shoulder would usually be done in 1 ½ hour X 8 = 12 hours. Likewise, for 10 pounds of meat, it would take about 15 hours to smoke at 250℉.
While this may seem to be a pretty long time, cooking low and slow at 250℉ gives the most authentic and juicy results.
How To Avoid Overcooking And Undercooking Pork Shoulder?
If you do not want the meat to dry out due to overcooking, you should immediately remove it from the heat source before the internal temperature reaches 205℉. If you want a nice dark-colored crust or bark (but not charred), the maximum limit is 200℉. Also, do not cook the meat below an internal temperature of 145℉ or with a smoker setting of less than 225℉.
For even and flavorful results, place the pork shoulder with the fat side facing up. Remember that pork with bone-in will take a little longer to cook than boneless meat.
What Should Be The Internal Temperature of Cooked Pork Shoulder?
The actual cook time depends upon the internal temperature. The pork shoulders are considered perfectly done at an internal temperature of 180 to 190℉ (according to the USDA, it is safe to consume cooked pork at 145℉).
For measuring the internal temperature, use a meat thermometer and insert the probe through the thickest part right before removing the smoked pork from the oven. If you want that the meat easily pulls off from the bone, then an internal temperature of 200℉ for 8 pounds of pork shoulder should work well.
Should You Smoke Pork Shoulder At 225 or 250?
At 225 degrees Fahrenheit, it would take about half an hour more to cook the pork. That is to say, a pound of pork shoulder should be done in an hour. If you continue cooking for an internal temperature of 180 to 190℉, the results will still be good, however, you might compromise on the crispiness of the crust. For a darker crust, you can increase the temperature in the last ½ hour of the process.
Should You Smoke Pork Shoulder At 350?
Smoking pork shoulder at 350 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit is usually not recommended for larger cuts of meat. This may produce uneven results. It would take about 40 to 60 minutes per pound of pork shoulder at 350℉. However, the meat turns out to be crispier and brownish in texture than when smoked at lower temperatures. For smoking at 350℉, it is best to cook with 3 to 4 pounds of meat to get uniform results.
Some Tips For Smoking Pork Shoulder At 250
- Once the process of smoking is complete, let the pork shoulder rest for at least ½ to 1 hour before pulling or serving.
- Hickory wood and sweeter woods like Applewood and Cherrywood are the best to smoke pork shoulder.
- The internal temperature should be at least 145℉ to consider it safe to consume. However, for optimum results, it should be cooked until the internal temperature reaches 180 to 190℉. For making pulled pork, consider an internal temperature of 200℉.
- Always consider brining the pork to prevent dehydration while smoking. Injecting will tenderize and add more flavor to the meat.
- For larger cuts of meat, it is important to overcome the process of ‘stall’. It often happens that the internal temperature typically reaches a plateau at 150 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit or about midway through the smoking process. When this happens, wrap the meat tightly in peach butcher paper or aluminum foil (Texas Crutch Method) and then reintroduce it back to the smoker. The foil or paper will keep the moisture from evaporating and the pork will slowly reach the desired degree of doneness.
- Do not go overboard with seasoning. Rubbing with some simple kosher salt, garlic, black pepper, and brown sugar produce the most flavorful results.
- Monitor the smoker’s temperature to check the progress. You can consider investing in a smoker with an in-built temperature monitoring sensor or connectivity through WiFi/Bluetooth/App.
Being a pitmaster requires a lot of patience but it also needs you to be a bit calculative. For a quick reference, here is a table showing how long you should smoke pork shoulder at different temperatures:
|Temperature||Time per Pound||Time for 4-6 pounds||Time for 8-10 pounds|
|225℉||2 hours||8 to 10 hours||16 to 18 hours|
|250℉||1 ½ hour||6 to 9 hours||12 to 15 hours|
|275℉||1 hour||4 to 6 hours||8 to 10 hours|
|350℉||40 to 60 minutes||3 to 5 hours||6 to 8 hours|
The pork shoulder should be cooked until the internal temperature reaches 185℉ to 200℉. The doneness of the smoked pork would also depend upon the desired outer texture. For example, pork cooked at 350℉ would have a crispier and brownish-looking skin compared to pork shoulder cooked at a lower temperature. The optimum temperature for smoked pork shoulder is 250℉ or 275℉.
Nothing is as bad as spending hours roasting pork shoulder only to have it bland, charred, or unevenly cooked. When you follow all the tricks mentioned above accurately, you are sure to never go wrong with smoking pork shoulders.
Scot has loved smoking food in his free time for the last few years. Each major holiday or off-weekend, Scot spends days testing and prepping new recipes for perfection.