Smoking a pork shoulder can be a long task, but that’s not all it takes. Often times with barbecue, you will need to rest the piece of meat for just as long as the actual cook takes.
For pork shoulder, that means resting it for roughly 8-12 hours. This simply lets the internal temperatures stabilize, and for all of the moisture inside the meat to replenish. If you don’t let a pork shoulder rest after smoking – you will absolutely have a dry piece of meat.
Can you let a pork shoulder rest overnight?
You can certainly let a pork shoulder rest overnight. In fact, it is highly recommended. The reason why you would want to rest a pork shoulder overnight is comprised of multiple points:
- Time you started your cook
- Length of Cook
- How large the pork shoulder is
- Method of storing the pork shoulder
- Estimated Serving time
These are just some general high level points to keep in mind that factor into why you should let a pork shoulder rest overnight.
Let’s dig into some of them.
Time you started your cook
When you start smoking your pork shoulder:
Are you starting in the wee-hours of the morning?
Are you starting in the afternoon?
Starting the cook in the evening?
The time that you start smoking your pork shoulder is one of the most important qualities of the cook, and directly determines when you will potentially have to serve the meat.
Remember – these cooks last anywhere from 8-12 hours OR LONGER.
If you start smoking your pork shoulder in the wee-hours of the morning – let’s say about 5am – you could estimate that you will finish at roughly 5-6pm in the evening, and that’s being generous.
Let’s quickly factor that time frame into the other two sub categories.
If you are smoking a pork shoulder in the middle of the afternoon – expect to have the cook finish right at midnight.
And if you’re starting the cook in the evening – well, you are going to be up all night long!
We’ve quickly covered the points of when you will potentially have to start your cook, and how long it can take. Now, let’s consider how large of a pork shoulder you’re smoking.
A pork shoulder generally weighs anywhere from 10-20lbs, and a general rule of thumb to follow regarding how to estimate cook time is to count 1 hour of cook time per pound of meat. That means for a 15lb pork shoulder smoked at the standard 225 degrees – could take over 15 hours! That is a huge factor that directly impacts how long you will be smoking your meat and by default – how long you will rest the pork shoulder.
Once you consider when you start your actual cooking and how much the pork shoulder weighs – consider how you will begin to rest it.
For starters, there are a variety of methods I like to use for storing barbecue, and I cover some of them here for brisket:
The principles are the same, and you want to either store your pork shoulder in a faux cambro (ice chest) or an oven with a warming feature.
This can help prolong your resting if you need to serve at a specific time, or if you just want to have a way to control the ambient temperature – which let’s the internal temps of your pork shoulder come down nice and steady. Having your temps come down steady is a good thing, since you don’t want a lot of random fluctuations affecting your meat that you can’t control.
Alright, now we’ve covered all of that – let’s take a quick look at why a pork shoulder takes so long to smoke!
Why does pulled pork take so long?
Pork shoulder can take a substantially longer amount of time to not only smoke/cook, but to rest. The reasoning behind this is just due to the sheer size of the meat. Not only that, but when you place it off the smoker – it is raging hot. All of that meat, protein, fat, and moisture is moving around inside and will promptly dry out if you cut into it too soon.
Furthermore, with larger cuts such as pork shoulder – you will encounter something known as “the stall”. This is where the internal temperature hits around 150-17o degrees internal, staying at that exact measure for hours on end. There’s a whole science behind why that happens, but for simplicities sake – just keep smoking the meat – it will eventually progress through this stalling phase.
For those interested – basically what happens is the meat starts to sweat and actually cools down the meat. This seemingly prolongs the cooking process to several more hours and can certainly frustrate people that are new to barbecuing.
What temperature should I rest pulled pork?
The temperature you should rest pulled pork should be when the pork shoulder reaches above 200 degrees internal. That can be a great way to indicate when the cook should come to an end. Even though you pull your pork shoulder off the smoker – that’s only half the battle!
Regarding the temperature on when you should rest and pull it apart – that is generally anywhere from 150-160 degrees internal.
Whatever you do – DO NOT PULL THE PORK UNTIL IT HITS AT LEAST 160 DEGREES INTERNAL!
If you make the mistake of tearing apart your pork shoulder before the temperature stabilizes to around 150-160 degrees – you will be certain to have an unfortunately dry amount of pulled pork.
How long can you let a pork shoulder rest?
The recommended length of time to let a pork shoulder rest is between 8-12 hours. This should give it ample time to come down in internal temperature.
You don’t want to rest a pork shoulder longer than that time frame. Any longer, and you will risk either drying out the meat or rendering it too cold to serve. If you are trying to just let it rest for the purpose of letting all the moisture settle down inside – then it’s alright if you let it rest a little longer than 12 hours.
Letting the pork shoulder rest longer than 12 hours should mean to you that it is headed straight to the fridge – otherwise it will not be able to be served appropriately. Once you place it in the fridge for further resting, feel free to heat it back up to the desired internal temperature – then start serving it.