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How Long Can You Keep Pork Shoulder Warm? (Explained)

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Smoking delicious cuts of meat is a fine craft. And, like many other crafts, creating and perfecting it requires time and patience.

Smoking meat, such as pork shoulder, takes a long time, sometimes as much as 20 hours! So, when it’s done but it’s not quite time to eat, you’ll want to do everything you can to keep it hot and ready.  

We’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks to keep your pork shoulder (and other cuts of meat) warm and ready to serve after it’s been smoked.

How Long Can You Keep Pork Shoulder Warm

Pork shoulder may be kept for far longer than you might expect. Some smokers rest them for 15 minutes, while others will rest them for up to 6 hours!

But how long can you hold it for and keep it warm?

Pork shoulder can be held for around 12 hours before it becomes unsafe. Remember the 140 rule when it comes to pork: as long as the internal temperature remains at 140 degrees (F) or higher, your pork shoulder is good to go. So, technically, you can keep a pork shoulder for more than 12 hours as long as the internal temperature remains above 140 degrees (F).

This, of course, is dependent on how you hold the pork shoulder. There are a few tricks that can help you keep the internal temperature of 140 degrees(F) for longer, but we’ll get to those later.

What is a Safe Temperature for Pork Shoulder

Allowing a pork shoulder to rest for too long may not only damage its quality and flavor, but it may also be harmful to your health.

All kinds of meat and poultry have danger zones at different temperatures.

As previously stated, the internal temperature of pork shoulder should not be allowed to fall below 140 degrees (F). Anything below that is referred to as the “danger zone,” which refers to the dangerous temperature range of pork. Pork that cools below 140 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended period of time is at risk of producing potentially hazardous bacteria, rendering it unsafe for consumption. 

So, if you smoke a pork shoulder and know you won’t be eating it within 12 hours, store it in the fridge until you are ready to eat.

How Long Should You Hold Pork Shoulder For? 

This can be affected by a variety of circumstances. Is it kept warm in an oven? Is that a cooler? Is it all wrapped up?

Resting time for pork shoulder should be between 35 and 45 minutes. However, some smokers like to keep their pork shoulder in the oven, where it can rest for up to 8 hours! It’s all a matter of trial and error and experience.

After cooking, smoked meats should always be allowed to rest. You don’t want to hold the pork shoulder for less than 15 minutes. Resting allows the meat to circulate and reabsorb all of its juices while remaining at an ideal temperature.

Can Pork Shoulder Rest Too Long

It most certainly can. Because of the liquid in which it is resting, the meat may begin to break down. It softens and mushes the texture while breaking down all of the beautiful bark.

Can Pork Shoulder Dry Out When Being Held?

Absolutely! The last thing you want to do after a 20-hour smoke is ruin your gorgeous cut. 

Wrapping a pork shoulder in tin foil or butcher paper is the traditional method for preserving pork shoulder for holding. Allowing the pork to be exposed to air while holding it can cause it to dry out quickly.

How to Keep Pork Shoulder Warm for Holding


As stated previously, the traditional method for keeping pork shoulder warm is to wrap it in tin foil or butcher paper. It firmly surrounds the pork with all of its juices and fats, helping it retain moisture. 

Using a Cooler

A cooler is a great way to store pork shoulder for extended periods of time. You can keep pork at a safe temperature for up to 8 hours if you use a cooler correctly!

To do this properly, you must prepare the cooler while the pork is still smoking.

1. When the pork is about done, pour boiling water into the cooler and leave it for 10 minutes. The boiling water is used to “pre-heat” the cooler for the pork shoulder. After 10 minutes, drain the water from the cooler, line it with cloth towels, and tightly seal the top.

2. After that, wrap the pork shoulder in a different cloth towel and set it in the cooler. Remember that the pork should be wrapped in tin foil or butcher paper before being wrapped in a towel and placed in a cooler.

Holding in an Oven

Another wonderful method for storing pork shoulder for an extended period of time is to use an oven. You can safely heat the oven to 170-200 degrees (F) and leave it there for hours. 

If you need even more time, preheat the oven to 150°F and leave it there for up to 12 hours until the meat overcooks. When using an oven, always wrap the pork securely and set it on a baking sheet or dish. I like to use a pan with walls so that any moisture that escapes will return to the pork.

Final Thoughts

In a perfect world, dinner would be ready as soon as the pork was finished smoking. But you won’t always have that luxury, so learn how to hold your pork shoulder and keep it warm till dinner time!

Most methods will point you in the right way if you do your research. Just make sure to keep a meat thermometer handy and keep the internal temperature above 140 degrees (F).

Remember that smoking meat is a skilled craft with various ideas and solutions. Have fun, try new things, and keep smoking!