How Long to Smoke Pork Shoulder at 275°F

Delicious, falling-off-the-bone pork shoulder is the stuff of BBQ dreams! When it comes to smoking this cut of meat, your motto should be, “low and slow.” Packed with mouthwatering flavor, smoked pork shoulder is worth the wait. Anyone can feel like a master pit boss by following these easy tips to get perfectly smoked pork shoulder as well as how long it will take at 275°F.

First, here’s the short answer:

At 275°F, aim to give the pork shoulder 75-90 minutes per pound in your smoker. The minimum internal temperature of pork has to be 145°F before it’s done. The average pork shoulder is around 5 lbs., so the average pork shoulder will need to be smoked for around 6-8 hours at 275°F.

What is Pork Shoulder?

Pork shoulder is not to be confused with the so called pork butt or boston butt. Pork butt comes from the animal’s shoulder or upper back area whereas the pork shoulder is from further down the leg. although still not a lean cut, pork shoulder is quite a bit leaner than pork butt. This cut of meat is relatively affordable and readily available at most grocery stores, which makes is a popular choice for many families. This meat is also a versatile food. Pile it on a toasted bun, wrap it in your favorite tortilla, or heap it atop a bed of rice – any way you serve it is a crowd-pleaser.

Barbecue masters love this cut for smoking because of the high fat content. Having lots of fat in the cut means pork shoulder is less likely to dry out and get stringy as a result of smoking. Pork shoulder can be sold as one solid piece or cut into smaller chunks of a few pounds each. You can use one or several pieces of pork shoulder in your smoker at once. To calculate the total time needed, make sure to get the weight of the total pork shoulder you will be smoking. It does not matter how many pieces you use as long as you have the correct total weight of the pork.

Preparing Pork Shoulder for the Smoker

First, trim the fat. Pork shoulder contains a high amount of fat and also muscular tissue as this part of the animal is often worked during physical activity. Usually, this cut features a lot of connective tissue distributed throughout as well as a thick layer of fat along the top. The meat should be bright pink and red, not pale.

Carefully remove the thick layer of fat along the top with a sharp knife and trim any excess fat. If your pork includes the bone, you will need to debone the pork. Not removing the bone will significantly increase the time needed to smoke the meat.

Next, season and tenderize the meat. Use your choice of spice rub, either store-bought or homemade. Spices like dry mustard, paprika, sugar, pepper, garlic, or onion powder all work well with pork. Ground coffee also makes a great addition to a pork rub. For a simpler take, a dry brine of kosher salt will also work.

While you complete these steps, preheat the smoker or grill. Making sure the grill is completely hot and at 275 degrees Fahrenheit before you add the pork shoulder is paramount to controlling the smoke on the meat. Adding the pork shoulder to a cold smoker will drastically affect the cooking time, so make sure the smoker or grill is ready to go before adding the meat.

The Best Temperatures for Smoking Pork Shoulder

Slow is the keyword for smoking pork shoulder. Attempting to speed up cooking by increasing the temperature and smoking for a shorter length of time could result in dry, tough meat.

There is not a single correct temperature for smoking pork shoulder. The best range is 225 to 275° Fahrenheit. Smoking your meat at 275 degrees is the best compromise between a low-and-slow method and with a time-efficient process.

Also, it doesn’t really matter what type of smoker you’re using. Anything from a charcoal smoker to a pellet smoker give good results as long as you choose the right wood flavor.

How Long to Smoke Pork Shoulder at 275°F

The goal with smoking pork shoulder at 275 degrees Fahrenheit is a beautiful smoke ring and out-of-the-world flavor. You will need to be alert and keep your attention on your pork shoulder during the smoking process to ensure you end up with a tender, delicious cut at the end. Depending on the desired end result, though, you could go one of two ways.

For a juicy, tender cut featuring that beautiful pink, aim for smoking the pork at 90 minutes per pound. To create pork with a little more tooth and bite similar to pulled pork, aim for 70 to 75 minutes per pound.

Many novice smokers might believe you cannot overcook pork shoulder or that it takes a long time to accidentally overcook the pork. While you do have some leeway in the amount of total time you spend smoking the meat, you absolutely can overcook the pork if you leave it in the smoker for too long. Remove the pork shoulder at no later than an internal temperature of 205 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you overcook your pork shoulder by smoking it too long at 275 degrees, you can correct the mistake. You can simmer the pork shoulder for 2-3 hours covered in chicken, pork, or vegetable stock. This will add moisture back to the meat, but it will add a significant amount of time to your cooking process. It might also affect the level of smokiness in the flavor of the pork.

Tips for Smoking Pork Shoulder

Mastering this cut of meat is not easy, but it is worth the time and effort. Here are a few extra tips to help you master this process and have a great time.

Keep an eye on the internal temperature. Well-cooked pork shoulder should measure about 200 degrees internally to be considered done. For a more tender chew, you can let the pork go to an internal temperature of 203 degrees. Do not go over, though, as you run the risk of overcooking.

Don’t probe too often. You will want to use an internal thermometer to measure the pork shoulder’s temperature. However, you do not need to probe it so often. Opening and closing the door of the smoker can cause heat loss, which will add more time to your cooking process.

Don’t forget about the wood! The types of wood you use in your smoker will add depth, complexity, and different flavors to your smoked pork. You can use a variety of wood types in your smoker to complement your pork. Apple or cherry wood both work well with pork, for example.

Use a basting liquid. If you check your pork shoulder and find it is drying out too much during the smoking process, you can baste the meat with your choice of liquids. Using acid as a base for your basting liquid will help keep the meat both moist and tender. Apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, or apple juice are all great options for basting. Using a thicker liquid like barbecue sauce could result in a thick, overly smoky crust on your pork.

Get some rest! Allowing your smoked pork shoulder to rest after you have finished the smoking process is vital to keeping your meat moist after cutting. Cutting into the meat too soon, when the internal temperature is too high, will allow juices to run out all over your cutting board, making a mess of your kitchen and your meat. Wrap the meat in a foil tent and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes prior to cutting. After cutting, you can wrap the meat or store in a covered container to preserve the heat until you are ready to serve.

Season the meat again. After smoking, resting, and cutting, taste the pork shoulder. You might need to add a little more seasoning to your meat to balance it out at this point. Adding salt and other spices to taste at this point will only add flavor and will not affect the tenderness or moistness of the meat.

Slice against the grain. After your pork has rested, you will be ready to carve. Slicing the pork against the grain of the meat will make it easier to pull the meat apart. Identify the grain of the meat, even slicing a sliver off one end to see the direction of the grain. Angle your knife so that you can slice completely against the grain of the meat for pull-apart, delicious slices of pork.

Beating the “Stall”

At around a 150°F internal temperature, the pork shoulder hits what is called the “stall.” Around that time, the pork is releasing its natural moisture, which is then being evaporated by the heat in the smoker. These two processes happen at a rate that will cool the meat and keep it around 150°F for a while, even hours.

You can remove the pork shoulder when it is between 150 and 170°F, then wrap it tightly in foil or butcher paper. This is often called the Texas crutch. Using foil will be more effective. Butcher paper is more porous, meaning it will allow more air and moisture to pass through the barrier, but it will better preserve the crunchy bark on your pork shoulder.

Plan ahead for the stall. It happens to the best pit masters. Accepting the stall as normal will help you plan mentally and actively for how to handle it.

By following this method and using these tips, you can successfully smoke pork shoulder at 275°F for a delicious, tender result!

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