The pork shoulder is known for its extremely flavourful and tender taste after it’s smoked, almost melting in the mouth of anyone lucky enough to have one as a tasty treat or as a main dish.
They are a perfect choice for barbecues since they are extremely plentiful and give off an incredible smoky taste that all meat lovers are sure to enjoy.
The trick to making pork shoulders as tasteful as possible is getting the temperature right when smoking them as going even a little over or under certain amounts can end up ruining them.
You can smoke pork shoulders at slightly higher temperatures however there are some key guidelines to keep in mind, so to ensure you know exactly how long to cook up some pork shoulders and what you need to consider when preparing, we have taken a deep dive into the how and why to smoke pork at higher temperatures.
Recommended Temperature For Smoking Pork Shoulder
Using a smoker on a pork shoulder is not only the easiest way to cook one up and have it ready to eat in no time, it also massively helps the meat both retain its smoky flavor and gain some new ones.
While using a smoker, it is advised to open it up and splash some apple juice and apple cider vinegar every so often just to add a bit of sweetness for the final taste.
When using a smoker on a pork shoulder it is usually advised to cook on a lower setting with 250-275 degrees Fahrenheit being the general rule of thumb.
This can take a little while to cook at these temperatures, however it is often necessary since a slow cook will tenderize the meat making it extremely easy to pull apart and carve up.
It can also be a great idea however to cook on an even cooler setting at 225 degrees which is a much slower process but will ensure to tenderize the meat thoroughly and mitigates any possible food issues by a huge amount.
At this lower temperature it can often take from 1 and a half to 2 hours, so it is a better option if you have a lot of preparation time but want your pork shoulder as tasty and full of flavor as possible.
Can You Smoke A Pork Shoulder At 300 Degrees?
You can certainly cook a pork shoulder at 300 degrees Fahrenheit on the smoker. While this is not usually recommended as pork shoulders need a lower heat to tenderize, it will still cook through the meat thoroughly and will make the process far quicker.
The good news is, cooking a pork shoulder at 300 degrees in a smoker is not considered too hot and while it is a bit hotter than recommended, it will still work well to break down the meat and make it nice and tender when you go to prepare, just make sure to continuously check on it as it cooks to ensure it isn’t getting burnt.
How Long Does It Take To Cook?
The general rule of thumb for smoking on lower settings is that it should take around 2 hours to thoroughly cook each pound of meat.
When the heat setting is set to 300, this changes to 1 hour and 15 minutes each pound making the cooking process a lot quicker and much easier to prepare in time.
For example, if you had an 8 pound pork shoulder, with the smoker at a heating of 300 this on average would take about 10 hours as opposed to the 16 it would take on a lower setting.
Can You Smoke A Pork Shoulder At 350 Degrees?
Setting the smoker to 350 can be a bit more tricky to pull off correctly to make sure the meat is still tender and as tasteful as possible when it’s finished, however it can certainly be done.
This higher temperature setting is usually for when you need an extremely fast cook but also want a slightly charred, almost crispy texture around the outside of the shoulder which a lot of people actually enjoy.
While 350 degrees is usually more so found to be the heating when indirectly grilling pork shoulders, it can also be done in smokers, though do keep in mind that the 250-275 range will cook some pork much more thoroughly when it’s finished.
Additionally, keep in mind that when using a smoker on this setting that because it is so fast and has not taken much time to cook thoroughly, the connective tissue and fat may not have broken down completely which can dilute the taste a little.
How Long Does It Take To Cook?
At 350 degrees a pork shoulder will be cooked up much faster at about 30 – 45 minutes per pound of meat. An 8 pound cut would therefore be finished cooking in as little as 4 hours and a maximum of 6.
Reasons To Cook A Pork Shoulder At A Higher Temperature
There are actually a few good reasons to smoke a pork shoulder at a higher temperature than normal from 300 to 350 degrees. The one obvious reason is the cooking time which is greatly reduced when using higher heats.
It is just important to always check that the pork shoulder has been cooked thoroughly enough so that it won’t cause any health issues.
This can easily be checked by using a probe thermometer to check the internal temperature which should be at least 145 degrees when fully cooked.
Another reason to use a higher temperature is because pork shoulders in actuality are great when overcooked.
This is not to say you should burn the meat to a crisp, but burning it slightly to where it is a bit tougher than usual rather than tender, it can make the pulled pork give off an incredibly dense and smoky flavor that goes great with some herbs and added barbecue sauces.
What Temperature Is Too Hot To Cook A Pork Shoulder?
It is highly advised not to set the smoker to a temperature higher than 350 degrees not only for pork shoulder, but for essentially any meats since this will result in the meat coming out very tough and burnt rather than cooking it thoroughly quickly.
Cooking meats at a smoker temperature above 350 will also not cook them much faster since a lot of the contents will not be broken down enough to be tender which can make the food very unpleasant to snack on once it’s done and also cause some serious food health issues.
Because pork shoulders are required to be cooked from a low to a medium setting in order for the meat to be tenderized correctly, going above the 350 mark is therefore not advised.
What Is the Lowest Temperature You Can Smoke A Pork Shoulder?
The recommended minimum temperature to smoke a pork shoulder at is 225 degrees.
While you could go lower if you wish, this can often take quite a long time and there won’t really be any advantages from cooking it lower as the meat will still be incredibly tender at 225.
At this heat setting it will take usually about 2 hours per pound with an 8 pound shoulder taking up to 16 hours.
There are other factors however that can affect this such as the air humidity, outside temperature and how consistent the grill temperature stays at.
Other Methods Of Cooking Pork Shoulder
While a smoker is definitely the best and most favored method of heating up a pork shoulder, there are a few other ways that can affect the taste a little and speed up the cooking process if you need the meat in a hurry.
Indirect grilling for example involves cooking the meat next to, but not directly over, a fire in a covered grill.
These are usually set to around 325 to 350 degrees and can cook up a pork shoulder in a good amount of time. Unlike smoking, this method can also give the meat an extremely crusty exterior which can make for even more added flavor.
You can also choose to spit roast a pork shoulder which is actually the preferred method of cooking this cut in Tuscany, Puerto Rico and Bali.
This method involves rotating a shoulder slowly on a turnspit next to the fire until the meat browns and becomes crispy.
Spit roasting is usually done at a bit of a higher heat when compared to indirect grilling or smoking, usually ranging in temperature from 350 – 400 degrees and the time to cook is even shorter, usually being the fastest method out of them all.
A smoker does trump the other methods however not only for its lower temperatures, but because the time it will take and the surrounding heat will create the most tender, flavourful and pulled pork possible which is sure to impress all guests who try it.
While it is heavily advised to smoke pork shoulders at a lower temperature from 250 – 275 degrees in order to make them as tasty and tender as possible, if you do want to prepare this cut in a much short timeframe or even want your pork shoulder to be slightly overcooked giving the pieces a sweet and smoky flavor, you can definitely use a heating setting from 300 to 350.
Just make sure to regularly check the smoker while it works to ensure the pork is not getting burnt or too charred, and always try adding some herbs along with apple juices and ciders while it cooks to add that extra hint of flavor to this delicious dish.