The Perfect Internal Temperature for Pulled Pork

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

But you can just as easily make pulled pork out of boneless pork leg or a center-cut pork loin roast too.

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

However, there is one thing you need to do to properly nail the pulled pork. You have to get the internal temperature just right during the smoking process.

If you’re looking for that perfect shred, then you want to aim for 195℉. 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 Cut Should You Use For Pulled Pork?

The pork butt or shoulder (also known as the ‘Picnic Shoulder’) are the best cuts of meat tp 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 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. 

Pork butt is also an excellent choice 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. And since this pork butt should always be cooked on low heat for a long period of time, it’s guaranteed that the final pulled pork will be juicy and tender. Perfect for putting it 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 slice it 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.

What Should the Pulled Pork Internal Temp Be?

Don’t pull your pork from the smoker until it at least hit the 180-degree-mark on the meat thermometer. In fact, the general rule of thumb is to wait at least until the internal temp reads about 195℉. Because this is when the connective tissue will have completed broken down into juicy gelatin!

if you find your meat stalls at 146°F you may need to wrap your pork butt. The optimal temperatures that you want to strive for will sit between 200℉ to 202℉.

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

9 Steps to The Perfect Pulled Pork

Here’s our easy and helpful step-by-step guide 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 on gas grills, then you’re want to set it to low to medium heat and set it up for indrect cooking. Pick the wood chips you want to use, we suggest a mild wood for pulled pork.
  3. Next, place the pork shoulder in the smoker. You’ll also want to insert it in the food thermometer to monitor the temperature.
  4. The meat will begins 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. 
  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
  6. Once you pork hit 190°F – 202°F you can take your pork from the smoker. This should take around 2 hours per pound.
  7. Let the pork shoulder 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 store it with either the cooking juices, juice or beer. It make the reheated pulled pork juicy and flavourful

Learn How to Shred Your Pulled Pork


You have three options:

  • Your Fingers Tongs. Otherwsie known as your hands. If you deicde to use this method, make sure the meat has cooled down enough.
  • Forks. This is a simple method, inwhich you dont 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. 

Just remember! Leave the pork in the smoker at least until the thermometer reads 195℉, and never cook it past 205℉.

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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