The Best Internal Temperature for Pulled Pork (Shred With Ease)

We have all had delicious pulled pork at BBQ restaurants, but learning how to cook it at home is rewarding and will ensure you can whip up tasty meals.

I think that pork butt (also called Boston butt) and pork shoulder are the best cuts of meat to use for pulled pork; they both have a lot of connective tissue. When cooked low and slow, this connective tissue melts and gives you that mouth in the melting texture.

But to ensure the connective tissue melts, you have to reach the right internal temperature in the pork before you remove it from the grill. Otherwise, it will be impossible to shred your pork, meaning no pulled pork for anyone.

The temperature you should pull pork reach before you pull it from the smoker is 195-205°F. That temperature range will ensure your pork will be ready to shred.

What Should Pulled Pork Internal Temperature Reach?

The pulled pork’s internal temperature should be 195°F – 203°F before you remove it from the grill. However, I like to wait until the internal temperature of the pork is 200°F. During the carryover cooking, the temperature will continue to rise around 4°F- 10°F, which means that once it has rested, it will hit the optimal temperature of 203°F-208°F.

Once you hit that number, the connective tissue will completely break down into juicy gelatin, making it easier to shred.

Make sure you are monitoring the temperature of the pork. I suggest investing in a meat thermometer to get the most accurate readings. You can also do the poke test. Poke the meat a little bit with a fork, and if it feels soft, tender, and begins to ‘fall apart’, then that’s how you know that you’re on the right track.

Steps to Making 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 and trimming off the extra fat.
  2. Preheat your smoker to 225℉. If using a gas grill, set it to low to medium heat and up for indirect cooking.  Set up a water pan underneath to keep the meat moist.
    Pick the wood chips you want to use. We suggest mild wood for pulled pork, giving it a smoky flavor. Rub the pork with a spice rub.
  3. Once you have reached the cooking temperature, place the pork in the smoker fat side up. You’ll also want to insert the food thermometer to monitor the internal temperature.
  4. Cook the pork until it reaches 165°F -175°F. I recommend wrapping the pork in a double layer of aluminum foil or butcher’s paper and returning it to the smoker.
  5. Continue cooking and check the instant-read thermometer. Once your pork reaches 195°F—203°F, you can remove it from the smoker.
  6. Let the pork rest under aluminum foil for at least half an hour. Unwrap the pork and remove the bone if there is one. Place the pork in a container with all the cooking juices to ensure you keep the juices.
  7. Once the pork is cool enough to handle, shred it using your fingers, forks, or bear claws. I have a whole section below on shredding pork.
  8. If you have leftovers, make sure you either make pork belly ends or leftover pulled pork tacos. Otherwise, store it in either cooking juices, juice, or beer. It makes the reheated pulled pork juicy and flavorful.

Shredding Your Pulled Pork

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

  • Your Fingers Tongs. Otherwise known as your hands. If you use this method, ensure the meat has cooled down enough.
  • Forks. This is a simple method that doesn’t require fancy tools. He grabs two forks, puts them into the meat, and pulls them in opposite directions.
  • Bear Claws.
    You can also use bear meat claws to shred your pulled pork. These can save you some serious time. They’re a lot easier and cleaner to use than forks. Hold the bear claws (like you would with grips) and shred the pork.

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 must 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 30 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.

At What Temperature Does Pork Butt Stall?

You’ll find that the internal temperature of pork butt will quickly rise, then it can stall between 145°F – 175°F. The stall happens because the meat is contracting and pushing moisture to the surface of the meat.

This moisture then evaporates, cooling the smoker’s surface and ambient temperatures. If you find your pork stalls, I recommend wrapping your pork butt.

What Else Can You Do With This Cut?

Cuts of meat with 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, slider, or tacos.

You are not limited to making pulled pork from picnic shoulder. You can also make burnt ends, slice them into pork strips, or bake for a pork roast.

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 from the slow cooker and shred it.

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

Pulled pork flatbreads

Pulled Pork cakes

Remember it’s a slow process over a long period, but it’s worth the effort! Also, leave the pork in the smoker until the thermometer reads 195℉, and never cook it past 205℉.

Smoke On!


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

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 recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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