The Perfect Internal Temperature for Pulled Pork (So You Can Shred it Easily)

Pork butts and pork shoulder are the best cuts of meat to use for pulled pork.

You want to cook the pork low and slow so that it will fall apart!

The important thing is that the cut that you’re using must have a lot of connective tissue.

There is one more thing you need to do to properly nail the pulled pork.

You have to get the internal temperature just right during the smoking process.

So what is the optimal pulled pork temperature? The perfect temp for pulled pork is 203°F although you can still shred it once it reaches 195°F

We suggest investing in a meat thermometer so that you get the most accurate readings.

Let’s find out how to do it!

container of pulled pork made from smoked pork shoulder, pulled using bear claws

What Should the Pulled Pork Internal Temp Be?

For perfect pulled pork, cook your pork butt to an internal temperature of 195°F – 203°F

However, I like to wait until the internal temperature of the pork is 203°F.

Because this is when the connective tissue will have completely broken down into juicy gelatin and it is easier to shred.

If you find your pork stalls at 146°F you may need to wrap your pork butt.

You can also do the poke test. Poke the meat a little bit with a fork and it if feels soft, tender, and begins to ‘fall apart’ then that’s how you know that you’re on the right track.

What Temperature Should Pulled Pork Be Cooked To?

According to guidelines, pork is safe to consume at 145°F. However, if you want to shred the pork you need to cook it to at least an internal temperature of 195°F. At this point, the meat will be easily juicy and easy to shred.

What Temperature Should You Cook at for Pulled Pork

Heat your grill/ smoker to 225°F to cook pulled pork. I like to plan at least 1 hour and 15 minutes per pound of cooking time at this temperature.

If you want to speed up the cooking process, increase the temperature to 325°F, this should cut out 2-3 hours.

You can also save another 2 hours if you wrap the pork butt.

What Cut Should You Use For Pulled Pork?

The pork butt or shoulder (also known as the ‘Picnic Shoulder’) are the pieces of meat to use for pulled pork

The shoulder has a triangular shape, that is located close to the leg bone and muscles, so this cut of pork has a lot of connective tissue.

When cooked low and slow this connective tissue breakdown into juicy gelatin.

This is why pork shoulder has this unique rich flavor that simply can’t be found in leaner pork. 

Both the pork butt and shoulder are excellent choices because it also has quite a high-fat content.

This means that you won’t be left with dry pulled pork meat that’s difficult to eat.

At What Temperature Does Pork Butt Stall?

You’ll find that the internal temperature of pork butt will quickly rise, then it will stall at 140°F – 160°F. The stall happens because the meat is contracting and pushing moisture to the surface of the meat.

This moisture then evaporates cooling the surface temperature as well as the ambient temperature of the smoker. You can either wrap the pork butt or wait out the stall.

Cooking Pork Low and Slow

Cuts of meat that have a lot of connective tissue should be cooked low and slow.

This allows the connective to break down into gelatin. This guarantees that the pulled pork will be juicy and tender. Perfect for putting in a sandwich, a pie, or eating on its own.

Since pork shoulder and butt are frequently sold with their skin, they can also be used to make pork crackle.

You are not, however, limited to making pulled pork or crispy pork skin from picnic shoulder.

You can also make burnt ends, slice them into pork slices or bake it to make a pork roast.

This cut of meat is ideal for Chinese-style cooking, as it can be used to make Char Siu or Siu Yuk.

9 Steps to The Perfect Pulled Pork

See the ultimate pulled pork recipe here or follow the guide below to help you make delicious pulled pork:

  1. Prepare the pork shoulder by cleaning it, trimming off the extra fat
  2. Preheat your smoker to 325℉. If you’re using a gas grill, then you want to set it to low to medium heat and set it up for indirect cooking. Pick the wood chips you want to use, we suggest mild wood for pulled pork, this will give it a nice smoky flavor. Give the pork a rub with oil, salt, and black pepper and a spice rub (optional)
  3. Once you have reached the cooking temperature place the pork shoulder in the smoker fat side up. You’ll also want to insert the food thermometer to monitor the internal temperature.
  4. The meat will begin to turn opaque at around the 120℉ mark. The meat’s appearance will then begin to change again when the internal temperature of the meat rises to 140℉. This is when it’ll finally lose that pink color and start looking a little brown. While the meat cooks you can collect your ingredients to make the sauce for the pulled pork.
  5. Theoretically, you can remove the pork once the meat reads 145℉. However, you won’t be able to shred it. The internal temp needs to reach the 160-degree mark first before the collagen starts to break down to form that gelatin. While the
  6. Once your pork roast hit 195°F – 203°F you can take your pork from the smoker. This should take around 2 hours per pound.
  7. Let the pork rest under a layer of aluminum foil for at least half an hour. Then it’s ready to shred and serve!
  8. If you have leftovers, make sure you either make pork belly ends or leftover pulled pork tacos. Otherwise store it with either the cooking juices, juice, or beer. It makes the reheated pulled pork juicy and flavorful

Learn How to Shred Your Pulled Pork

You have three options when it comes to shredding your pork :

  • Your Fingers Tongs. Otherwise known as your hands. If you decide to use this method, make sure the meat has cooled down enough.
  • Forks. This is a simple method, in which you don’t need any fancy tools. Grabs two forks, put the into the meat and pull in opposite directions.
  • You can also use bear meat claws to shred your pulled pork. These can really save you some serious time. It’s a lot easier to use and clean.
    Especially when compared to forks. Hold the pair of bear claws in your hands (like you would with grips) and pierce your piece of pork.

    Rip the meat and shred it up until the meat frays and you’re left with nicely pulled pork. 

Prefer to Use a Slow Cooker?

We don’t always have the luxury of using the smoker. Sometimes using the slow cooker is more convenient when making pulled pork.

To make pulled pork in the slow cooker. set the temperature to low and cook for 7-8 hours. If you cook on high cook for 3 -4 hours.

Once finished remove the pork roast from the slow cooker and shred it.

Leftovers are the best! Even better than the main meal!

Want to Know the Best Way to Use Up Pulled Pork?

Leftovers are the best! Even better than the main meal!

If you have some leftover pulled pork (lucky you!) try;

Our toasted cheese pulled pork sandwich! It’s gooey, cheesy, and delicious!

Loaded pulled pork nachos

Just remember it’s a slow process over a long period of time but worth the effort! Also make sure to leave the picnic roast in the smoker at least until the thermometer reads 195℉, and never cook it past 205℉.

Happy Smoking


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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