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Perfect Internal Temperature for Pulled Pork (All Methods)

If you are wondering how to make delicious pulled pork, you probably have many questions. Overcook it, and it will be dry and flavorless. But undercooked, it will be hard to shred. So what is the best internal temperature for pulled pork?

The best internal temperature for pulled pork is 190 to 195 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature goes significantly above that, the pork will be too dry. Significantly lower than that, it will be too chewy and difficult to shred.

Cooking at a lower temperature will ensure that your pork cut is tender and delicious no matter what kind of spice rub or smoke flavor you use to flavor it.

But don’t worry.

In this article, I’ll break down exactly how long it takes to cook pork at different temperatures. I’ll also cover the best types of pork that give you the best pulled pork.

Let’s dive in.

What temperature is pulled pork most tender?

The best cooking temperature for your Boston butt or picnic shoulder is 200 to 225 degrees when you are using a smoker. A slow cooker will ensure the best results for creating flavorful meat. This is a low enough temperature to ensure that the shoulder of the pig is delicious and tender.

This is the best cut of meat to use the smoking process on because of the excess fat that helps to make the connective tissues easy to pull apart. If you cook at a higher temperature, you will unlikely achieve that slow-cooking deliciousness you want.

No matter which of the many ways you prepare these cuts of meat, make sure that the internal temperature of the meat is 190 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit before completing cooking.

If you are cooking with a Crock-Pot, you will not get good tender results without the right amount of liquid in your crock pot.

Not sure how much liquid to use or if you have to use any at all?

Here is a great resource to make sure that you are cooking with the right amount of liquid for your recipe. I cover how much is too much (resulting in bland food) and what foods can get away with no liquid at all.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Is pulled pork done at 180 or 190?

You should not consider your pork recipe complete when the meat reaches this temperature threshold.

You will need to take your meat off the low heat and let it cook for at least one hour more. The meat cooks the rest of the way through slowly, which makes for tender pork.

Using a digital meat thermometer to verify the temperature while you let the pork finish cooking is a good idea. If you have a layer of aluminum foil over the pork, it might speed up the cooling-off process.

The sweet spot for cooking this cut of pork is a personal preference, but you should allow for at least another hour of cooking time before you start shredding the meat.

Can you overcook pulled pork?

Yes. If you decide to cook your pulled pork for a long time or add extra cooking time for tough meat, you could risk making your meat tough and dry.

This might be even worse if you have used a dry rub as your spice mixture for seasonings. Pork rub can be very flavorful, but it can make it tough to break apart the muscle fibers of the meat.

You might be able to save a piece of meat that has been cooked too long by wrapping it in plastic wrap before you shred it. This is the best way to help make roasts with large pieces of fat cook through as well without getting tough.

Resist the urge to use olive oil or something like apple cider vinegar to try and moisturize your overcooked pork. BBQ sauce might be your best bet to make an overcooked pork loin or shoulder more appetizing.

How do you tell if pulled pork is done?

The best way to ensure your pulled pork is done is by using a meat thermometer to check the thickest part of the roast for internal temperature. Make sure it’s around 190 to 195 degrees Fahrenheit.

The bone should be easy to remove from the meat, and you should also be able to shred the roast easily with a fork.

The excess fat on your roast should also be less apparent when your pulled pork is done cooking.

Does pork shoulder need the same internal temperature as pork butt?

Pork butt can be a bigger cut of meat and one with a fat side that you should consider when cooking it.

You will want to ensure that the pork butt gets to the same internal temperature as your pork shoulder, but your cooking time might be much longer. Make sure you shop through the pork butt options at the store to ensure you are not getting a really fatty cut of meat.

Pork shoulder can be a bit leaner than pork butt, but a wide variety of fat content can be found in cuts of pork. Your local options can vary widely as far as fat content. This can impact your cooking time, and you might need to make some allowances for the amount of fat on your meat cuts.

Checking on the internal temperature of your meat as it smokes or cooks will help you know if you need to allow more time or less to complete your roast.

What is the best temperature to cook pork for pulled pork?

If you want to be able to make the most of your pulled pork recipe, you will want to use a cooking temperature of 200 to 250 degrees.

Add some apple juice, some brown sugar, or tomato sauce, and you will end up with a juicier and tender pulled pork product that is easy to separate and shred.

Mixing some black pepper and chili powder with these other ingredients is a great recipe.

Combined with the flavor from the wood chips you are using in your smoker, this recipe makes for delicious pulled pork. You should enjoy a delicious meal that will also create great leftover pulled pork.

To make pulled pork, should I use a Crock-Pot, Instant Pot, oven, or smoker?

You can cook pulled pork using any of these different methods.

The oven is best for pork chops, but you can still cook your pulled pork in the oven if you take the time to heat it slowly and cook it at a low temperature. A gas grill is the most challenging cooking tool for pulled pork as it tends to make the end result a bit dry.

The Crock-Pot and the smoker are ideal for cooking pulled pork.

You might need to use butcher paper or paper towels to soak up excess liquid if you choose to use your Instant Pot. These meat cuts have a fat cap on them, which can lead to a lot of excess oils and grease that you will need to remove when cooking with pressure in the Instant Pot.

If you are going to use an Instant Pot, here is a great guide to getting the right size Instant Pot for your needs.


By now, you have probably realized that you may want to get a smoker to make the pulled pork.

Check out this article to help you to shop for the best budget smoker if you need to save a little money. You will get the most ideal and tender pulled pork when you use a smoker for this cooking process, but you still need to be sure that you allow the meat to cook for at least an hour after reaching the ideal temperature.

The total cooking time for your pulled pork cooking process is just as important as the temperature.

Pulled pork is not hard to make, but you do need to be sure that you have the time to allow it to cook at a low temperature and to be shredded before you serve it to your friends and family.

Always ensure that your pork gets up to 190-195 degrees during the cooking time, and you will be able to create the best pulled pork ever.

Image by Daniel Memmler from Pixabay

Jeff Campbell