Pork shoulder is a forgiving cut of pork known for its softer texture compared to other, leaner cuts like chops and tenderloin.
The key to cooking pork shoulder to the perfect, tender texture is to follow the popular saying “slow and steady wins the race”.
The reason why you should cook pork shoulder at a low temperature and for a long time is because the cut of meat is full of connective tissue and fat.
When cooked at this speed and temperature, the tissue and fat (responsible for the juicy texture) break down, resulting in an even more tender bite.
So, whether you’re a passionate foodie or if you simply want to learn how to cook pork shoulder properly, here’s the ultimate guide to smoking pork shoulder at 275 degrees Fahrenheit.
What Is Pork Shoulder?
Pork shoulder is a popular and affordable cut of pork, cut from (you guessed it) the shoulder of a pig.
This is a triangular cut located in the upper section above the pig’s front legs.
Some butcher stores will call this cut “picnic ham”, “picnic shoulder”, or “picnic roast”, though all terms refer to the same cut.
When you buy a pork shoulder, you will receive a chunk of meat with the skin and a layer of fat still attached.
You will also get a cut of meat known as the pork butt, which is located just above the shoulder.
These terms and cuts are often used interchangeably.
Both pork shoulder and pork butt are commonly used in pulled pork recipes due to the high fat content in both cuts, meaning they are the juiciest and most tender cuts of pork.
Regular pork roast can be cooked in the same way as pork shoulder in the smoker, but as it’s a leaner meat, it would be dryer than pork shoulder.
How Long Do I Smoke Pork Shoulder At 275 Degrees Fahrenheit?
To put it simply, if you’re cooking pork shoulder at 275 degrees Fahrenheit, it should take roughly 80 to 90 minutes per pound of meat.
So, if you’re cooking a cut of pork shoulder weighing 10 pounds, you can expect to cook it for up to 15 hours if the conditions are perfect.
Yes, we’re aware that this is a long time to smoke a 10-pound pork shoulder.
However, smoking at this temperature will speed up the process compared to cooking it at 225 degrees Fahrenheit, which would take about 5 hours longer.
Of course, you can extend this cooking time per pound by lowering the temperature in the smoker.
If you want to cook one pound of pork shoulder for 2 hours, then we recommend lowering the temperature to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
The slower and lower, the more tender!
If you cook pork shoulder at a higher temperature and for less time, the fat and tissue won’t break away properly, resulting in a lot of gristle.
The tougher texture makes the pork harder to bite, and while the cut of meat is inexpensive, this will be a total waste of money compared to if you cook the pork shoulder properly.
Best Temperature For Smoking Pork Shoulder
So, what’s the best temperature for smoking pork shoulder?
The best temperature to smoke pork shoulder is at 225 degrees Fahrenheit and allows for 2 hours of cooking time per pound of meat.
The reason this is the best temperature and length to cook pork shoulder is because it’s long enough to allow the meat to become juicy and tender, without having to wait 12 hours for it to finish cooking.
For those who want to experiment with smoking a pork shoulder for longer, then we recommend setting the smoker to a temperature of 185 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
This will extend the cooking process even longer, with an 8 or 10-pound pork shoulder requiring up to 24 hours of cooking time.
If you don’t want to wait 24 hours for an 8-pound chunk of pork shoulder to cook, then you can afford to increase the temperature of the smoker to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
This is basically the highest temperature you can afford to cook pork shoulder at without making it gristly.
An 8-pound pork shoulder will take about 10 hours to cook at this temperature.
However, you’ve got to keep in mind that there are several external factors that will affect the cooking time when smoking pork shoulder.
The weather is the most important factor, because if the weather is windy or a bit too cold, then it’ll be hard to maintain a steady temperature, which will affect the cooking time.
Perfect Internal Temperature Of Pork Shoulder
The “internal temperature” refers to the internal temperature inside the pork, which is important to check throughout the smoking process.
The internal temperature will help you gauge the cooking length and whether the temperature of the smoker needs to be increased or decreased.
Once the internal temperature of the pork shoulder has hit around 190 degrees Fahrenheit, then you can prod the meat with a fork.
This helps to promote the tender texture that you want to achieve. However, try not to make a habit of doing this too often.
Constantly opening and closing the smoker will affect the temperature, meaning it will take even longer for the meat to cook.
You’ll know the pork is done when the internal temperature reaches around 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s important to remember that the meat will continue to cook even when it’s removed from the smoker, which is why it’s recommended to leave it for at least 15 minutes.
If you want to make the most tender pulled pork, then try to aim for an internal temperature of 203 degrees Fahrenheit.
This is the ideal internal temperature that prevents the meat from being overcooked, whilst allowing it to be soft enough to tear apart.
“The stall” is a phenomenon most beginners won’t know about when smoking pork shoulder.
This refers to when the meat reaches an internal temperature of around 150 degrees Fahrenheit and remains at that temperature for a while before eventually increasing.
The reason the meat does this is that it’s essentially sweating out its moisture in an attempt to cool off.
This process is called “evaporative cooling”, and is known to continue for several hours.
While it’s mostly unavoidable, there is a way to help this process to trap the moisture inside the meat – remember, the more moisture, the more tender the texture.
When the pork reaches an internal temperature of 150-170 degrees Fahrenheit for a couple of hours, you can remove the meat from the smoker and wrap it tightly in foil to maintain the moisture.
Whatever you do, try not to panic when the stall happens.
Most newbies will assume that the smoker temperature needs to be turned up, but the reality is that this is a normal process that needs to be trusted.
Faux Cambro Technique
If the pork shoulder cooks quicker than expected, it’s time to try the faux Cambro technique.
This is better than resting and serving the meat once it’s finished cooking.
Cambro is actually a brand of equipment used by professional chefs and caterers, wherein food is kept in insulated boxes to keep the food warm or cold during hours of transportation, ready to be served the moment it arrives.
Obviously, this isn’t something you’ll have in your kitchen – enter the faux Cambro technique.
You can copy this technique by pouring hot water into a cooler and keeping the lid closed for around 30 minutes to preheat the interior.
Then, drain the hot water, line the bottom of the cooler with a clean dish towel, and remove the pork shoulder from the smoker.
Wrap the pork tightly in aluminum foil and place it in the bottom of the cooler.
This technique will keep the meat warm for about 3 to 4 hours when done correctly.
The Importance Of Resting
Resting is a vital step in the cooking process when smoking pork shoulder.
Yes – even though you’ve waited hours for it to finally cook, you need to wait a little longer.
The reason why resting is so important is that when you cut into pork that has just come out of the smoker (without resting), the juices will flow straight onto the cutting board.
This will result in a dry pork shoulder, rendering the whole cooking time useless.
So, once the pork is cooked, remove it from the smoker and wrap it tightly in aluminum foil.
Allow it to sit at room temperature for about an hour before serving.
This will allow the natural fibers in the meat to soak up the juices that pooled in the center, resulting in a moist and tender cut of meat all the way through.
So, there you have it! While 275 degrees Fahrenheit isn’t generally the preferred temperature to smoke pork shoulder, it certainly does the trick.
Just make sure to provide adequate resting time and keep an eye on the temperature to prevent overcooking.