Pulled Pork - Complete Disaster

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Fire Starter
Original poster
Apr 10, 2007
Great White North
I intended to make pulled pork for a family get-together today. Unfortunately, it didn't work - and I don't know why. Maybe someone here can offer some suggestions?

I had two pork shoulders (picnic, bone-in), each weighing about 4 3/4 pounds. I put the rub on the night before and, figuring 1.5 hours per pound, put them in the smoker at 10am at 225 F, figuring they'd take a little over 7 hours and be ready between 5 and 6 pm.

Once they reached 165 F, I wrapped them in foil and kept them in the smoker until they reached 205 F, figuring I'd let them rest in an insulated cooler for an hour before I pulled them.

Well, 11 hours later and they still haven't reached 205 F. I know they reach a plateau and sit there for a while, but I never thought they'd take 11+ hours to get to temperature.

I'm using the MES, and the temperature was a pretty constant 225 F the whole time. Everything I've read says 1.5 hours per pound. The only variables I can think of: I'm doing two hunks of meat (both the same weight), and the MES says you don't need to pre-heat - so they went in when the unit was turned on. Even so, I can't believe something that should take just over 7 hours would take 11+ (not including time spent resting in the insulated cooler).

I have to admit, I'm feeling mighty discouraged right now. I've done pulled pork on my Weber gas grill (at a higher temperature) and it's been successful. Now I'm wondering if it's worth doing in the smoker at 225 F.

Anyone have any ideas/suggestions/advice?

Discouraged low'n'slow...
Does your smoker have a temperature gauge built in or do you have one sitting inside the smoker, such as probe? Maybe it's not reading the right temerature? It seems you did everything to prepare properly, I've come to realize that low and slow cooking is to temperature and not time. Some butts I've done have plateaued for 4 hours or more. I've never had a successful cook when i've figured the weight to time ratio. It's done when it's done. It just seems that it's the nature of the beast. Don't get discouraged, and chalk this one up to experience for the next time.
I do my pork at 220-225 and have good luck with it.But I know when I was using a smaller smoker and put 2 pieces in with bones in it took significantly longer.Did you verify the your cooker temp was really 225?I just seasoned a new homebuilt smoker and it has a high buck thermometer that was way off when I checked it it was reading 220 when the temp was actually closer to 240.And this was a $50+ thermometer.Once I calibrated it with the boiling water it fell in line with my other gauges.I am sure you will get good input from the others but I would make sure the temperature really is what your instuments are saying it is.
When I'm doing largish butts or shoulders it always seems to take 11-13 hours to get them to temp. That's the way it is if you wanna go low'n'slow. I did 2 butts last night, started at 4pm, I didn't pull them off the 'griller until 5:30am this morning. Cooked all night between 250 and 200. Sure was a might tasty lunch.

ditto to what billyq said, every piece u smoke is gonna be different...
I did a 10# brisket friday nite in 7 1/2 hrs and it WAS done, fastest iv'e ever seen, yet my 7# shoulder took 13 hrs. u just never know
that's half the fun of it!!!
Low N Slow -

Don't get discouraged.

I've had shoulders and butts get stuck so long after watching the sun rise I put them in the oven set it for a few hours and went to bed! It happens somtimes - usually at the worst time. It helps to set them out to warm a hout or so before smoking them.

Your next one may not even get stuck - who knows?

They do seem to like alot of company. I never had a stuck butt or shoulder when the smoker is full - only when there's one or two pieces in there.

Hang in there hon the next time it'll work perfect you'll see!

Big Hugs!
How did it taste? That is how I measure a good smoke.

When I do brisket, butts, or any other "big hunk-a-meat" I do it the day before(or night before). I also think that reheated brisket/pulled pork tastes better after it has been in fridge and cooled below 40*.

Everyone and every piece of meat seams to be different.

Hang in there, if everyone could do it perfect everytime then there wouldn't be comps/web sites etc. You don't see many forums on make'n a glass of ice water.

Keep your head up.
Thanks, everyone. Glad to know my experience isn't unique.

When I eventually got around to pulling it - twelve hours after I put it on - it did taste great. Most tender pulled pork I've ever made. The only problem was, I was aiming for dinner at 6pm and the meat wasn't ready until 10pm! My 4 3/4 pd shoulder ended up taking about 2.5 hours per pound, not 1.5. (Thank God I had some chicken breasts standing by. Always have a Plan B!)

I guess the lesson I learn from this is: don't expect to eat the same day you smoke, especially with a larger cut of meat. (Not sure how well that will work out with a turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas, though.)

By the way, I'm using the MES, which has a digital read-out on top of the unit. I checked the probe and it's accurate.
We use a smoke chef at work. I tried what they recomended in the book the first time somthing like 225 for 6 to 8 hours big mistake not only did it take much longer i think 10 or 11 hours but the smoke flavor wasn't there.
After much playing with it we dropped the temp to 200 for 15 hours with a great smoke flavor and a nice thick smoke ring. Bottom line is smoking isn't a science it is a art. the only way to get the results you want is to change the rules somtimes. Good luck and let the good smoke roll =-)
I just got through smoking 8 10lb butts this past weekend and it took them an average of 13 hours @ 225. I started them out on a wood burner for 4 hours and finished them up on an electric for the remainder.

But like everyone said, every smoke is different. Plan for the long smoke and then if things move along faster, you can reheat if need be.
Don't worry Low'n'slow, I made turkey for Christmas 6 days ahead. I froze it, then thaw'd it out in fridge and warmed it up in a roasting pan. I had sliced the breast off the bone before the freeze, had to taste test too.

I've had no problem smoke'n meat then freezing it for a later date. I wrap in foil, then in a zip lock bag(big 2 gal size), push out as much air as you can, then stick in the freezer.

You can still smoke and have it ready for a special dinner, you just gotta practice alot...........and when needed up the temp or keep warm by cover'n w/towels or put in oven, etc.

I know how it feels to have a "perfect" plan that goes to crap FAST. Learn from your experience.

Bottom line is that it tasted good, that is what is great! Most people just need a reason to get together, food is a big one. If the friends/family came just for the food and not to visit............well I'm sure the food was minor compared to the company.

I think you did great!
Just my 2 cents worth ... I did a 6 lb 'rolled' brisket and a 6.5 lb boneless shoulder together yesterday.

The brisket took 12½ hours and the shoulder took a whopping 15½ hours !!!

Start temp was 223º ... average was between 230º and 240º most of the day, pushed it to 265º for the last couple of hours ...

Results ... perfection!

Conclusion ... as others say, start earlier and reheat if necessary.

More like a brick wall! The good news is that it only happens when you have guest over! While I don't always follow my own advice, I am trying to organize my life so that I can have some of the major items taken care of in advance, but it is still hard to do. I am also comtemplating putting a time lock on my smoker to keep me from peeking too much! (maybe just time for me to by a remote meat thermometer)
OH man, been there! Now...if I'm gonna eat my pork or brisket the same day, I'll put the meat on at 3 am.........the kool thing is probably everyone on here has done this very thing so don't feel bad!!
Had my shoulder and brisket on at 5:30 ... brisket after 1 hour rest was served at 7:30 pm ....shoulder wasn't ready until 11:00 pm after everyone had gone home!
Coz raised the right issue ...... the more meat you put in your unit, the longer it takes to reach the desired temparature.

An example.... boiling one cup of water is much faster than boiling one gallon of water.

I also think your MES was cycling on less as the temparature of your meat rises so it is providing less heat since it's taking a temparature of the chamber rather than the meat. Your meat is retaing the heat fooling the heating unit into staying off.

Perhaps the next models will have temparature probes so you can cook to temparature automatically.
Thanks again, folks. Your tales of woe make me feel a whole lot better!

If the weather cooperates tomorrow I might do some more back ribs.
Meanwhile, I can't wait to warm up all that frozen pulled pork!
I Like To Let The Pork Or Any Large Roast Sit Out For A While And Get Closer To Room Temperature Before Putting It In The Smoker Or The Oven. It Seems Like A Common Practice To Me But We All Learn On This Site And I'm Still Lovin It.
Ya see Low, your patience was rewarded. Next time, you'll know. Doing a brisket for tonight, that I started at 6:00 p.m. last night! Just gotta give yourself enough timr.
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