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Smoked Pork Shoulder Done Early? (Here’s What To Do)

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When dealing with the many issues that can emerge when smoking pork shoulder, one would not imagine the pork shoulder cooking too fast would be one of them.

Usually, it’s the reverse problem: the pork shoulder takes far too long to cook, especially in the stall. Human error is usually to blame when a pork shoulder cooks too quickly but can also depend on the type of cut being smoked, or even the smoker you’re using.

Most of the time, this isn’t a significant concern. With correct technique, pork shoulders can rest for a long time, sometimes up to 12 hours!

In this post, we’ll go over all of the possible reasons your pork shoulder is cooking too quickly, as well as what you can do to solve and prevent the problem.

“Why Did My Pork Shoulder Finish Early?”

Too Much Heat

Sometimes the answer is as simple as this: there was too much heat, but this generally is the most common reason for pork shoulders finishing much too quickly. 

 Setting the smoker to the incorrect temperature is a common error made by beginning smokers. In addition to not regulating the temperature adequately and not using a water pan. Some people will raise the heat when they encounter the stall, to get through it faster, which can also cause the pork shoulder to finish early. 

For pork shoulder, smokers are typically set to 225 degrees(F). At this heat, the rule of thumb is that the pork will take about one hour per pound to fully cook. So, a 9lbs pork shoulder should take roughly 9 hours to smoke. Depending on how merciful the stall is.  

Different Cuts of Meat

The proportions of marbling and retained water in various cuts of beef vary. A piece of meat with less fat will most likely cook more slowly than one with a high fat cap.

The broken-down fats begin to escape and cook out as the pork smokes, causing the internal temperature to rise.

This is also a sign that you have exited the stall. The lower the fat content of a cut, the longer it may take to reach this stage in the process.

Keep in mind that bone-in pork cooks much faster than boneless pork. The bone conducts heat far more quickly, cooking the inside at a faster rate.

What To Do if Your Pork Shoulder is Done Early

Hold in the Oven

It’s a great idea to use an oven to keep the pork shoulder warm. Ovens are extremely insulative, in addition to being entirely temperature controlled. Most ovens offer a “warming” setting that is ideal for storing smoked pork.

Pork can be kept in an oven for 1 to 12 hours. After that, you might want to think about refrigeration.

Holding in a Cooler

Another possibility is to keep the pork in a cooler. The cooler method is popular for resting pork and can hold it for up to 4 hours. Of course, you don’t just throw the pork shoulder in the cooler and call it a day. This method requires slight preparation.

• To begin, boil some water and pour it into the cooler. Allow it to rest in this position for about 10 minutes. The cooler should then be emptied and dried.

• Use dry towels to line the inside of the cooler.

• Take the pork shoulder and wrap it in tin foil again before placing it in the cooler.

The point of filtering the cooler with boiling water is to “preheat” the inside for the pork. 

If you need to hold the pork longer than 4 hours, consider using the oven. 

Abide By the Danger Zone

Whatever method you use to hold the pork shoulder, always follow the universal laws of the danger zone. This is the temperature range at which various meats are safe to eat. This zone for pork is between 40- and 140-degrees Fahrenheit.

If you’re storing pork for more than 3 hours, use a meat thermometer to keep track of its temperature.

If the temperature of the pork shoulder falls below 140 degrees Fahrenheit, it is no longer safe to eat. 

What Happens if Pork Smokes Too Fast?

If the meat is smoked too quickly, the outside of the pork will cook too fast for the interior to keep up.

This might cause the bark to grow overly tough, or it can leave burnt or charred skin. This is almost always the reason why pulled pork becomes nearly impossible to shred. 

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, a pork shoulder finishing early isn’t anything to be concerned about.

There are several things you can do to keep the pork fresh for a little longer.

The most important thing is to keep an eye on its temperature and make sure it never falls below the danger zone.

There isn’t much you can do to bring it back after that.