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Pork Shoulder Stuck at 190? (Here’s Why)

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There isn’t anything quite as aggravating to a smoker than being stuck in the stall. But what about a second one!? And so near to the finish line…

Don’t worry, you haven’t ruined your pork shoulder.

Experiencing a second stall with pork shoulder isn’t an extremely rare occurrence, there are a number of circumstances that could lead it to plateau at 190 degrees (F).

The 190-degree(F) temperature range is critical in the smoking process.

This is the point at which all of the fats and connective tissues will finish rendering and breaking down. This produces the same “evaporative cooling” effect as when it reaches the original stall temperature of 150-170 degrees (F). 

The issue is that you can occasionally hit both of these stalls. Fortunately, we have all of the tips and tricks for dealing with the second stall to add to your arsenal of smoking knowledge.

Why Does Pork Shoulder Stall at 190 Degrees(F)?

Too Much Moisture

The stall occurs when moisture from broken-down fats stabilises the meat’s internal temperature and prevents it from increasing. These juices rise to the surface and evaporate, keeping the temperature cooler than the smoker can maintain. This is known as evaporative cooling.

This usually occurs between 150 and 170 degrees (F).

However, when the pork shoulder reaches 190 degrees (F), the fats are still rendering and may produce more evaporative cooling, which can also keep you stranded at this temperature.

Additionally, it’s common practise to spritz pork with things like apple cider vinegar, water, apple juice, or even beer as it smokes. However, some individuals tend to over-spritz, which can add too much moisture to the pork shoulder and cause it to take longer to cook.

(Note: Before grilling or smoking any type of red meat, pat it down with a paper towel to remove as much moisture as possible.)

Weather Conditions

Have you checked the weather? Cold weather can have an impact on how meat smokes.

When the weather grows cooler, you’ll have to make a conscious effort to keep the smoker at a hot enough temperature. To battle the chilly temperatures around it, the smoker will require extra heat. Most smokers include built-in thermometers, but if yours doesn’t, you’ll need to use a meat thermometer. (Hot weather has the opposite effect on smoking by making the coals overly hot and smoking the meat too soon.)

Windy weather can also be hard to deal with. Windy conditions can pull heat away from the cooking chamber, causing the pork to stall. You can mitigate this by ensuring that the lid is securely fastened and the vents are closed.

Different Cuts, Different Outcomes

Sometimes the answer is as simple as the cut of meat you use. Different cuts have varying fat puck densities, moisture retention, and skin thickness. Any of these factors can contribute to a longer cooking time.

If you smoke two pork shoulders at the same time, and one of them has more fat than the other, they will most likely finish at separate times. The cut with the highest fat content will be the last to finish.

The shape of a cut can sometimes influence how long it takes to smoke. Uneven cooking can occur with lopsided cuts. Before smoking, most smokers would portion a lopsided cut in half to increase the surface area of the pork. The more flat the surface area of a pork shoulder, the faster moisture evaporates and moves you along the stall.

Untrimmed Pork Shoulder

When smoking a pork shoulder, many people like to leave the skin on. It can offer a lot of texture and savoury flavour.

However, an untrimmed pork shoulder indicates that the entire fat cap is intact. This increased concentration of fat creates greater pooling and requires more time for it to evaporate.

What To Do If Pork Shoulder Stalls at 190 degrees(F)

Wrap it Up 

The good old “Texas Crutch” never fails. In reality, most smokers use this strategy on a regular basis.

If your pork shoulder isn’t already wrapped when it reaches 190°F, a proper wrap should help it move along faster. The wrap retains all of the moisture inside, causing it to evaporate faster, allowing the pork to move through the stall much sooner.

Half Trim 

If the skin on pork shoulder is valuable to you, but you’re dealing with long and unpredictable stalls, try removing only half of it. 

By trimming half of the pork shoulder, you preserve a sizeable chunk of skin and untouched fat while reducing the amount of pooled and rendered liquids that push the meat to stall. This way, you essentially get the best of both worlds.

Wait it Out

If you have the time, you may simply wait for the temperature to raise naturally. The pork has been smoking for a long time at 190 degrees (F). The last thing you want to do is jeopardise your efforts by finding a shortcut to a second stall.

For example, by increasing the ambient smoke temperature of the smoker, you can technically coast through a stall considerably faster. However, just because you can, does not imply you should.

Increasing the temperature can toughen and degrade the quality of the meat.

This is especially bad if you’re aiming for pulled pork, as you risk losing a softer consistency. 

Final Thoughts

To summarise, a stalled pork shoulder at 190 degrees (F) isn’t the end of the world. There’s a lot you can do to help, even if it means waiting a little longer.

If you’re experiencing problems with a second stall, keep these things in mind:

• Keep an eye on how much you spritz or baste the pork. 

• Wrapping pork shoulder during a stall is a terrific alternative to naturally get it through faster.

• Check the weather prediction for the day you plan to smoke; and 

• Always make raising the heat your final resort.