Small Pork Shoulder cooking at 200 degrees for 3 hours now... When is it "done"

So I'm roasting this pork shoulder, it's smelling awesome in here and I think it's begun to develop a "bark". When do I know it's done?

Patti Maciesz


Kristen W. May 6, 2013
Chef Ono, your answer clarifies exactly what I was wondering about when I asked pierino my question. Thanks for the explanation.
ChefOno May 6, 2013

Perspective is everything here. A pork shoulder roast can be sliced or pulled, cooked by smoking, grilling, roasting or braising, or, very often, a combination of methods. Just because the cut has the connective tissue (and, secondarily, the fat) to make good pulled pork, doesn't mean that's the only way, or even the best way, to approach the beast.

Pulling the roast at 140F will allow it to coast up to 145-150F which is perfect for slicing. By 185-190F it should be falling-off-the-bone tender -- assuming the heat is kept sufficiently low. The lower the better but the longer it will take to reach the desired state. As a general rule, I target 200-225F, depending, but you can go a lot higher if you don't intend to pull the meat.

pierino May 6, 2013
To continue with ChefOno's point the only thing more intensely debated than gun control legislation now is how to cook pig.
WileyP May 6, 2013
Oh, and you might consider bringing the oven temperature up just a, say, 225-250°
WileyP May 6, 2013
I have to go with Kristen W. on this one. Yes, I think 140° is fine for lean cuts such as loin or tenderloin. But a butt or shoulder has lots of connective tissue and really good marbling and needs that longer, warmer finish to break everything (well, most everything) down. I vote for 190° internal temperature in this case!
pierino May 6, 2013
I'm going to very politely disagree. Pork shoulder (bone in or out)is my favorite cut of meat to cook, followed closely by pork belly. I cook it outside over indirect coals, as for porchetta. Inside I will do something like this This is one of the rare times when using a slow cooker actually is an improvement. It stays on low for 6 hours.
It is perhaps appropriate that this week's theme is "barbecue" which is a subject open to intense debate along largely regional lines.
Kristen W. May 6, 2013
Discussed on this forum, not "fortune" - ugh!
Kristen W. May 6, 2013
Yes, braise. But with pork shoulder if you let it go past the 140 mark and get up to 190 it gets to that fork-tender stage (perfect for pulled pork, for example). That's been discussed on this fortune, and I've done it and it works. I pull a loin or tenderloin roast out at 140, but shoulder, which II would generally braise, I would let go to that other stage of melty-tenderness. I was surprised that you suggested 140 for a shoulder roast and that's why I asked if it was the dry heat that made the difference.
pierino May 6, 2013
The two most important things to pay attention to are oven temperature and internal temperature. 200F constitutes a slow oven. But no two ovens are calibrated identically. Investing in a good instant read such as a thermapen is the best to test for doness. In the dark ages the Feds recommended that you cook pork to 160F which leaves it white and dry and kind of tough to chew. Now they say it's safe to cook only to 140F. By a wet preparation do you mean a braise? I still use the instant read for that.
Kristen W. May 6, 2013
So Pierino, does that mean you only let it get to "fork-tender" 190 degrees in a wet preparation?
pierino May 5, 2013
Using an instant read check for an internal temperature of 140F. Let it rest tented in foil for an additional ten minutes. I like mine a little pink in the middle.
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