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Can you smoke a pork shoulder too long? (Explained)

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Some people may believe that because some pork shoulders can smoke for up to 20 hours, they cannot be over smoked. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Meats cooked in a smoker can overcook just like any other method of cooking.

How to Tell Pork Shoulder is Over Smoked

When the pork shoulder has finished smoking and rested, it should be ready to pull apart into a creamy consistency that melts in your mouth. Over smoked pork shoulder, on the other hand, will be extremely chewy, almost leathery in some places.

Although it is unlikely, the skin or bark may lightly char. Those crispy char bits will have an impact on how everything blends together.

You can also perform a probe test on the shoulder. Insert a skewer (or a thermometer rod) into the thickest part of the shoulder. The skewer should be able to pierce the meat with very little resistance. If it feels tough and difficult to pierce, it has most likely been smoked for too long.

Can You Fix an Over Smoked Pork Shoulder? 

You can rehydrate the pork shoulder by using a slow cooker. Set the crockpot to low heat and add the shoulder. You can now soften and rehydrate the shoulder by adding moisture. This can be accomplished with chicken stock, BBQ sauce, or even the rendered juices from the drip pan. 

If you don’t have a crockpot, a deep baking dish in the oven will suffice. The same rules apply here: add extra moisture to the baking dish with the pork, set the oven to warm (or any low setting), and it should help restore some quality.

When is Pork Shoulder Finished Smoking? (Checking the Internal Temperature)

Technically, pork shoulder can be eaten at any temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, but that doesn’t mean it should be…

Smoking is known as “low and slow” cooking, which involves using a low heat for an extended period of time. Smokers do not simply smoke meat for 20 hours because they have too much time on their hands. It takes a long time to break down all of the fats and tissues into meat.

This is usually completed at a temperature between 195 and 205 degrees (F). If you’re making pulled pork, you’ll want to aim for a temperature of 200 degrees Fahrenheit. The meat is at its best for pulling apart at this temperature. 

Carry-Over Cooking

Have you ever noticed that the internal temperature of a smoked pork shoulder continues to rise after it has been removed from the smoker? This is known as carry-over cooking.

When thick cuts of meat are removed from the smoker or grill, there is still idle heat on the outside of the meat that continues to move inward to the centre, which is the coolest part of the shoulder.

This heat shift will continue to warm the internal temperature, sometimes by up to ten degrees.

This is why many cooks will remove their meat from the smoker while it is still 10 degrees away from where it should be. While resting, the carry-over cooking effect brings the meat up to the desired temperature.

How Long Does Pork Shoulder Smoke Per Pound?

Pork shoulder typically smokes for 1 to 2 hours per pound of meat, depending on the temperature of the smoker.

In the smoking community, the average smoking temperature is a hotly debated topic. Many of them prefer to smoke between 205- and 210-degrees (F). With a lower smoking temperature, the pork has more time to break down tissues without the risk of being overcooked.

However, the majority of smokers believe that 225 degrees (F) is the ideal smoking temperature. The meat will smoke at a rate of about 1 pound per hour at this temperature, not including the stall.

Although it is not widely recommended, some people prefer to heat the oven to 250 degrees (F). This will significantly speed up the process, allowing you to cook the meat at a rate of 1.5 pounds per hour.

However, increasing the heat above 225 increases the risk of over-smoking. When the heat is turned up, the shoulder will probably need more basting to keep it from drying out.

Can Pork Shoulder Smoke for 24 hours?

Typically, 20 hours is the maximum amount of time to smoke a pork shoulder. However, if the smoker is set to a low enough temperature, around 195-200 degrees (F), it will take approximately 24 hours to fully smoke.

Keep in mind that this is not advised. This increases the risk of the meat over-smoking and drying out.

Why is My Pork Shoulder Taking So Long to Cook?

The Stall 

The term “stall” refers to when the internal temperature either slows down or stops completely, despite the fact that the food is still in the smoker. This is most common between 150 and 170 degrees (F).

As a pork shoulder smokes, all of its juices rise to the surface and pool together.

This moisture then evaporates around the meat, cooling it down. This is referred to as “evaporative cooling.” Essentially, the evaporating moisture chills the meat at the same rate that the smoker cooks it, causing the internal temperature to plateau, or stall.

The pork will continue to cook only after most of the moisture has evaporated. In severe cases, this can last as long as 5 hours. 

Was the Pork Pre-Rested? 

Before grilling or smoking, all meat should be rested at room temperature. It allows the outer and inner parts of the meat to warm together, allowing for more even cooking. 

By skipping the pre-resting, the outside of the pork may be finished before the inside has a chance to cook enough. 

 Cold Weather

Check the weather forecast before smoking a pork shoulder. Cold weather can rob a smoker of too much heat.

If you’re smoking meat in cold weather, you’ll need to increase the heat to compensate for the outside temperature. Wind can also play a negative roll by redirecting the heat away from the meat. 

Final Thoughts

To summarise, it is possible to over-smoke a pork shoulder. You should be able to tell if it happened to you by simply probing the meat and handling it.

If it does, there are ways you can help restore some of its quality so that it isn’t a total loss.

Also, keep in mind that just because you can cook something at a higher temperature doesn’t mean you should.

To achieve the best results, smoking necessitates a great deal of perseverance.