Whether the pork was finished ahead of schedule, or the dinner guests arrived late, there may be reasons to stall for time and keep the meat warm. Or perhaps you’re attempting a four-hour rest and need a method to hold your pork shoulder effectively without losing too much heat.
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When it comes to holding pork shoulder, or any other meat product for that matter, it all boils down to how it’s packaged and where it’s kept. Meat that has been properly packed and stored in the appropriate conditions hold for up to 12 hours!
In any case, when keeping pork warm, the “danger zone” should always be considered and monitored.
The danger zone is the temperature range at which pork is deemed no longer edible. This temperature is 40 degrees (F) or higher for raw pork. It’s 140 degrees (F) or lower for cooked pork. This is a USDA guideline. Bacterial growth may occur in any pork sitting between these temperatures.
Soon after pork reaches room temperature, bacterial growth accelerates exponentially. As a result, precise packaging techniques are necessary for maintaining a pork shoulder for more than 2 hours without refrigeration.
When you hear about someone resting a smoked pork shoulder for 9 hours, they didn’t simply just leave the meat out for 9 hours. They took extra precautions to keep the meat warm and steady while it rested.
Pork Shoulder Storage Methods (Keeping the Meat Warm)
Using an oven to hold a smoked pork shoulder is a popular method. Especially if you’ve worked hard to perfect your bark. Place the wrapped pork shoulder on a baking pan and set the oven to warm. If your oven doesn’t have a “warm” function, set it to 170 degrees(F). You can wrap the pork shoulder once more with tin foil or butcher paper for added security.
Pork can normally be kept in the oven for up to 2 hours. After that, you run the risk of overcooking the meat, which will cause it to dry out.
If you’re concerned that the pork shoulder will overcook or dry out in the oven, place it in an aluminium baking pan or baking bowl with a little chicken stock. This will help the pork in staying hydrated.
Using an Ice Cooler
Yes, you read that correctly: an ice cooler. As strange as it may sound, coolers are ideal for keeping smoked foods warm. They are constructed to be insulative and to keep things cool. This also works in the opposite direction, trapping heat extremely well.
However, it is not as simple as simply placing the pork shoulder in the cooler. The cooler must be “prepped,” which just takes a few simple steps.
To begin, bring a large pot of water to a boil and pour it into the cooler you intend to use. Allow the water to settle for about 10 minutes before dumping it. After rinsing the cooler, immediately close the lid tightly. (If you plan to keep the meat in the cooler for more than an hour, line it with dry towels to boost insulation.)
If the pork shoulder hasn’t already been wrapped in tin foil, do it now. Then, wrap it in a dry cloth towel and quickly set it into the cooler, sealing the lid tightly. If you do this right, you should buy yourself about 4 hours of time. After you remove it from the cooler, use a meat thermometer to ensure it is still at a safe temperature.
This seems like more work than it is. You can also start preparing this while the pork shoulder is smoking. This is an excellent alternative if you’re on the go, such as at tailgating or camping activities.
Some folks are afraid of holding meat in the oven because they fear it will dry out. Using a crock pot is a fool proof way to keep the meat moist as it sits.
You can also add more liquid to the slow cooker, such as chicken stock, rendered fat from the drip pan, or even spirts of apple cider vinegar.
If you’re already planning on making pulled pork, this is a great choice.
The slow cooker can really aid in this process. Some smokers actually like to finish their smoked pork shoulders in the slow cooker every time.
There are multiple successful ways for holding meat and keeping it warm for at least a few hours.
You won’t have to worry about anything as long as you follow the risk zones for meat and keep it safely stored.
This article was written by Robert McCall, the founder of bbqdropout.com. Robert also owns and operates the BBQ dropout YouTube channel where he demonstrates his first-hand experience cooking all kinds of meats and strives to provide helpful, authoritative content for people looking how to barbecue.
He primarily hand writes the bulk of the content but occasionally will leverage AI assisted tools, such as chatGPT, to properly edit and format each blog post on this website. This ensures a pleasurable reading experience for visitors. Read more about our editorial policies here. If there are any improvements that can be made to this article, reach out to us directly at email@example.com