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Can You Overcook A Pork Shoulder? (Explained)

Can you overcook a pork shoulder?

As with any other kind of cooking, it is possible to overcook a pork shoulder.

As a rule, pork shoulder is usually cooked correctly and fully when it has an internal temperature of about 200°F.

If the internal temperature is less, it will be under-cooked. If the internal temperature of the pork shoulder rises much above 205°F, then the meat will start to dry out, leaving the whole thing as unappetizingly tough and chewy.

That said, pork shoulder is a cut of meat which benefits from a longer cooking time, and is somewhat easier to work with than pork chops or tenderloin.

A pork shoulder can be cooked whole or in chunks, and has great versatility.


Can you overcook pork shoulder in the oven?

Those who lack access to a smoker will find it easy and convenient to use an oven instead. One can prepare the meat, put it in a roasting pan, put it in the oven, and go on with the day. By dinner time, the meat will be ready. 

Cooking a pork shoulder in the oven is similar to cooking a pork shoulder in a smoker. The key is selecting a pork shoulder that is the right size for your needs. 

Using an oven, you can expect to cook a four or five pound pork shoulder for about eight hours.

A six to eight pound pork shoulder should take about nine hours to cook. Any piece of meat bigger than eight pounds will take at least ten hours to cook.

When using an oven to cook a pork shoulder, the inside of the roasting pan and the oven need to be kept moist.

This is done by adding liquid, whether water, meat or vegetable stock, or wine to the roasting pan. Only a small amount of liquid is needed. Enough liquid to cover about one-third of the pork shoulder is sufficient.

The meat will braise in the pan, and not boil. If the meat is completely submerged in liquid, then the pan will boil, causing the meat to become tough.

The oven should be set at a low temperature. The pork shoulder will remain moist.


Does pork shoulder get more tender the longer it cooks?

Pork shoulder begins as a tough and fat cut of meat.

When slow-cooked over several hours, it will become slowly, but steadily more tender, eventually reaching a peak that can be shredded with a fork when done.

Pork shoulder is loaded with fat. This fat melts and keeps the meat moist as it cooks.

The fat also prevents the meat from drying out as it cooks, and contributes to its tenderness when cooked.

Because pork shoulder becomes more tender in slow cooking, it won’t become dry and rubbery so long as its internal temperature rises no higher than 200°F.


How do you know if you have overcooked a pork shoulder?

Pork shoulder goes through three phases of cooking in an oven or smoker. It begins as a very tough piece of meat.

Over time, it gradually becomes more tender.

If overcooked, it again becomes tough, because the fat is mostly melted off, and the collagen in the meat has run and dried out.

So the ultimate proof of the cooking is in the eating. If the pork shoulder is dry and tough, it is very likely overcooked.

Occasionally, the pork shoulder will lose texture instead, and feel gooey. It will be tender, and not tough.

The best way to avoid overcooking any piece of meat, including a pork shoulder, is to use a meat probe.

A thermometer reading of the internal temperature will let you know immediately if the meat is in danger of overcooking.


At what temperature is pork shoulder done?

As noted earlier, pork shoulder is usually cooked correctly and fully when it has an internal temperature of about 200°F.

If the internal temperature is less, it will be under-cooked.

If the internal temperature of the pork shoulder rises much above 205°F, then the meat will start to dry out, leaving the whole thing tough and chewy, or gooey and textureless.


When do you pull pork shoulder off the smoker?

You can expect to cook a pork shoulder for at least an hour and a half to two hours of cooking time per pound of pork.

Thus, an eight pound pork shoulder should take between twelve and sixteen hours in a smoker with a closed lid.

The temperature of the smoker might range from 200 to 225°F. The goal is to have the pork shoulder reach an internal temperature of 200°F

The temperature can be checked by putting a probe into the meat.

If a temperature probe is not available, a fork, toothpick or skewer can be used instead. If the fork goes into the meat without difficulty and comes out easily, the pork shoulder is ready.

Similarly, if the meat falls away from the bone easily, it is cooked. If you have a boneless cut, if you can pull a chunk of meat away easily with a pair of meat shredder claws, the meat is cooked.


Does pork shoulder get more tender the longer it cooks?

As long as the correct temperature is maintained, and the pork shoulder is not overheated, then it should become more tender the longer it cooks.

However, there are several other reasons that a pork shoulder might remain tough and not become more tender when placed in a smoker. 

The pork shoulder may become tough if it is not marinaded. 

Cooking the pork shoulder at the wrong temperature may cause it to become tough.

Constantly checking on the pork shoulder may cause it to dry out and become tough. 

Cutting the pork shoulder while cooking can cause juices to flow out and be lost. 


Final Thoughts 

While it takes time, pork shoulder is otherwise a fairly simple cut of meat to cook. It is difficult to overcook, since the meat becomes more tender while cooked over a long period of time.

It is possible to overcook a pork shoulder by overheating it. If pork shoulder is overheated for too long, it will become tough and chewy.