Slow roasted pork shoulder - how do you know when it's done? Internal temp?

I'm making and it's a 9 pound pork shoulder that's been in the oven for 13 hours and has reached an internal temperature of 145. I've never cooked one before. Do I pull it out when the internal temperature reaches 160? Or does it need to continue cooking above that temperature to become meltingly tender? Help! I don't want an undercooked or tough shoulder tonight!

  • Posted by: Susige
  • September 28, 2012


Benny January 12, 2014
When I roast my pork shoulder, I use my outdoor cooker and it is roasted over coals at about 250 degrees for 12 hours. the internal temperature is 190-200 when Im done. Chef Ono is correct about that stalling around 160 degrees :) For me, it takes about 1-2 hours to get to that temp and another 4 hours before it rises above.
Kelly D. September 28, 2012
Thanks! My husband - who is working from home - already pulled it (around noon) b/c it had reached 160 degrees, but maybe now I'll have him put it back in the oven around 4pm ... it smelled SO good before I left for work - can't wait for dinner!
ChefOno September 28, 2012

Basting at this point will only prolong the stall and won't add anything. The juiciness of the cut comes mostly from rendered fat and gelatin, just don't let it go above 200F where you really will lose too much internal moisture (internal here meaning within the muscle fibers themselves, not the interior of the roast).


Voted the Best Reply!

ChefOno September 28, 2012

Uncovered, the roast will stall ("The Stall" in BBQ parlance) somewhere in the 150-165F range due to evaporative cooling and it will stay there until a sufficient amount of moisture has evaporated. I would cover it with foil until it reaches 190F. Make sure your probe isn't touching bone.

It would be safe to eat now (yes, 4 minutes at 145 is considered pasteurized) but the fat and collagen won't be at maximum unctuousness at that temperature.

Susige September 28, 2012
Thank you so much for your explanations - it makes sense to me now! I thought the internal temperature needed to go above 160 to get fork tender but I just wasn't sure and didn't want to waste a gorgeous piece of meat.
debb63 January 12, 2014
i love your description of 'maximum unctuousness' - i had to look this up as have never heard 'unctuous' attached to pork, but it totally fits this roast = thanks. PS - the roast urned out great, made the best chili verde!
lazychef September 28, 2012
Pork shoulder is at its best when it's cooked to quite a high internal temperature - upwards of 170. I'm from NC, and I've slow-roasted pork shoulder for barbeque several times. I usually cook it to about 180 or 185, or until the meat pulls apart easily when you poke at it with a fork (and when you pick it all apart, the shoulder bone should come out clean, without a scrap of remaining meat). There's a high enough fat content in the shoulder that it should stay plenty juicy. If you're worried about it drying out, occasionally ladeling the pan juices over the meat should keep it moist until it's reached the ideal temperature. And really- don't worry too much! It's such an easy cut of meat to deal with that you'll be fine :)
Susige September 28, 2012
Thanks! I thought it should go above 160 but there are two of us cooking this today and both of us started worrying about how to know when it's done. I'll just let it keep on doing its thing as it's supposed to take 18 hours according to the recipe.
Nozlee S. September 28, 2012
To be safe, you should definitely keep cooking it until the internal temperature reaches at least 160 degrees. Cooked for that long at such a low temperature, you definitely won't be ending up with tough meat -- if it's really taking that long, feel free to raise the oven's temperature up by 50 degrees or so and checking in every 30 minutes.

Let us know how the shoulder turns out!
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