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Pork won't pull

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

This is my first post, so thanks in advance for your advice and comments. I build a cinder block smoke pit and use hickory and oak to cook my pork. I think I am purchasing the wrong cut of meat but I will listen to all advice and suggestions. I asked the butcher for a 6lb pork shoulder as this was my first time I visually I don't know what to look for to make sure what he gave me was correct. Ok so I put a rub on the meat and wrapped it and let it sit over night in the fridge. I figured six pounds would take about 8 hrs approx. at 250 deg. I started early and got the pit up to temp I then placed the pork on and maintained good temp throughout the day and mopped it every hour or so. After 8hrs the pork was up to 190 deg so I pulled it and let it sit for about an hour. When I went to pull it apart it did not budge I had to cut it into slices and was a little pissed that it did not pull. I accepted it and thought maybe I let it rest too long so I would try again in a few weeks. Well that day arrived today, I followed the same routine but with a 4.5lb "shoulder" instead thinking maybe if I maintain 230-240 for 7 hrs I would maybe get more success and maybe let it rest for 15 min instead. Once the internal temp reached 190 I took it off the heat and the same thing happened it would not pull. I am starting to wonder if the butcher is giving me the wrong cut. It doesn't smell like the pulled pork I have had in the past. My pork has a great smoke smell but the pork just smells almost like bacon. I don't know whats going on please help.

post #2 of 17

I think you are cooking the pork to long.  190 is to high a final temp.  I believe most of us smoke to 160 -165 and then take off the smoker.  Wrap with towels and place in an ice chest for about an hour.  Don't know how fast the meat is getting to temp in your smoker but we want it to kind of linger in that 160 range for a while.  The smoker needs time to break down the connective tissue and fat in the butt.  If you are smoking at 240 - 250 you are doing fine, 8 hours seems about right also, only think I can think is that you are going to to high a final temp and you are getting a dry final product.   Slow it down and take it a bit slower would be my first guess.


Any butcher that doesn't know what a butt is would be out of business in no time, now you MAY not be getting a good cut of meat but when doing a pulled pork you want a bit of fat.  Are you sure your thermometer is in the thickest portion of the butt and not resting on the bone?


post #3 of 17

First welcome to SMF!  If you're intending to pull you're going to have to take it to at least 195* internal temp.  A lot of folks even take it to 205*, but anything above 195* should be fine.  Does the cut you have, have any bones?  Tell your meat cutter that you want a Boston Butt cut which is the upper section of the front shoulder and will include a section of the shoulder blade bone.


The length of time you rest won't make it more difficult to pull, it would actually have just the opposite effect.  When you pull it from the smoker make sure it's wrapped tightly in a double wrap of foil, wrap in a couple towels and put into a dry cooler with some blankets for at least an hour.  This will help retain the internal heat and the temp will actually rise slightly as it continues to cook.




post #4 of 17
Originally Posted by alblancher View Post

I think you are cooking the pork to long.  190 is to high a final temp.  I believe most of us smoke to 160 -165 and then take off the smoker.  

     You'll never be able to pull pork at 160*....you've got to take it to at least 195*.  For slicing you still want to take it to at least 185*-190* minimum.  As least that's been my experience.  A shoulder cut is not going to dry out.

post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks guys, the cut I purchased did not have much fat on the outside and there was no bone. I wish I had the time to try again soon but it probably won't be for a few more weeks. The pork didn't seem to dry it was pretty juicy when I cut it maybe I need a new thermometer the one I have is pretty cheap and maybe not properly placed in the meat. I will try and communicate better with the butcher and try the different resting techniques. Thanks again I will keep you all posted.

post #6 of 17

Test your thermo out in some boiling water (212*) before you're next smoke.  Being inexpensive doesn't necessarily mean it won't serve its purpose.  Ask the meat cutter for a bone in boston butt cut and give it a try next time.    

post #7 of 17

Is there a fat cap on the meat your getting? When it gets to 170* I put it in foil with apple juice and take it to 200*, I've never had a problem pulling it. I also always get it with the bone in.

post #8 of 17

I foil my pork butt at around 165*, then run my internal temp up to 200* or so.  let it rest for a couple hours, and it should pull apart very nicely.


Do you have a SAMS or Costco around?  $1.58/lb at SAMS right now for Boston Butts/Pork Shoulders.


Also, make sure you have a good thermometer that's accurate




No Creosote! A-Maze-N Smokers

post #9 of 17

Exactly what Todd said - foil at 165 - pull at 200-205 and wrap in towels for at least an hour then it will pull easily

post #10 of 17

Tell your Butcher you want a Pork Butt then test that thermo as was suggested then check out this thread http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/forum/thread/57139/basic-pulled-pork-smoke  follow it and it will pull very easy and taste great

post #11 of 17

I do apologize for my post, watching the end of the LSU game.   I should have paid more attention to what I was typing and thought through what I wanted to say a bit better.

post #12 of 17


First off Welcome Pit to SMF. You'll like it here for there are alot of really good folks here that would just love to help you with just about anything to do with smoking. Now there are alot of proven recipes for some amazing things here too. So if you need sign up for the E-Course it's free and it will give you the basics of smoking and some good methods to use also. So the next big thing for you to do is go out and get you something to smoke and if you happen to have any questions just post it here and we will be happy to answer them for you.


Welcome To Your New Addiction

post #13 of 17

I do the same, 170*ish then foil and back in the smoker until it hits 200*-205* wrap it in towels put in cooler for at least an hour, I have even gone 3-4 hours when I had to leave once and it was the best.

post #14 of 17

I will smoke shoulders or butts I like them both, Here's a comparision I did and both were awesome. Hope this helps.



post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone! Good info I will def. use it next time, in a few weeks if not sooner.

post #16 of 17
Originally Posted by Scarbelly View Post

Exactly what Todd said - foil at 165 - pull at 200-205 and wrap in towels for at least an hour then it will pull easily

This is a big OR you can leave the meat unfoiled the whole time and get a nice bark (except for the cooler part) anymore I just let the meat rest in a aluminum pan and cover with foil and pour the juices in a jar and save , they still come out tender and juicey. 

post #17 of 17

Sounds like you got all the tips you needed for the next time, except to say, "It always seems to pull easier, and taste better if you take a couple pictures throughout the process & at the end". I have no idea why, but trust me---it does. I have never steered anyone wrong.




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