Pork shoulder, also known as pork butt or Boston butt, is a cut of meat from the upper part of the front leg of the pig. It’s a tough cut with a good deal of connective tissue, which is why it’s often used for slow cooking methods like roasting, braising, or smoking to make pulled pork.
A key part of cooking any larger cut of meat is letting it rest before serving. Letting meat rest allows the juices to redistribute evenly throughout the meat. If you cut into meat right after cooking, the juices will flood out of the meat, leaving it drier.
So how long should you let pork shoulder rest after cooking before digging in? And is there such a thing as letting it rest too long?
Why Let Meat Rest
The purpose of letting roasted or smoked meats rest after cooking is to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.
As meat cooks, the heat causes the muscle fibers to contract and the proteins to squeeze out moisture. This moisture collects in the center of the meat.
If you were to cut into the meat immediately after cooking, all those juices would simply run right out onto the cutting board, leaving the meat drier than it could be.
By letting the meat rest, the proteins start to relax and the moisture redistributes evenly throughout the meat again. This keeps the meat juicier when you go to slice or pull it.
For larger cuts of meat like pork shoulder, a rest allows time for the temperature to even out from the very hot exterior to the cooler center.
How Long to Rest Pork Shoulder
The general recommendation for letting roasted or smoked pork shoulder rest is:
– Rest for 5 minutes per pound
So for a 5 pound pork shoulder, let it rest for about 25 minutes after cooking before pulling or slicing into it.
You can round this timeframe up or down. The most important thing is that you let it rest long enough for the juices to redistribute.
For very large pork shoulders, resting for a full hour isn’t uncommon. The meat will continue to cook carryover cooking during the rest period, so you don’t need to worry about the center being underdone.
Signs Your Pork Shoulder Has Rested Long Enough
Here are some signs your pork shoulder has rested long enough:
– The internal temperature has evened out. Use an instant read thermometer to check the center and outer areas – they should be within 5-10 degrees F of each other.
– The meat has firmed up slightly. When you first take it out of the oven or smoker, it will feel very soft and loose. As it cools, it will firm up a bit.
– Juices have redistributed. There should be no large pockets of juices pooling when you poke it with a knife or fork.
– The meat pulls apart without too much liquid. Try gently pulling on a section with two forks. It should pull apart into moist, tender shreds without a ton of liquid spilling out.
If your pork shoulder meets these criteria after the recommended rest time, it’s ready to serve!
Can You Rest Pork Shoulder Too Long?
While resting is crucial for large cuts of meat, it is possible to let pork shoulder rest too long.
Some signs you may have let it rest too long include:
– The meat has cooled significantly. You want it to cool to a safe temperature for eating, but not down to room temperature. The cooler it gets, the more the juices will thicken.
– The juices become very gelatinous and congealed. This makes it harder for them redistribute into the meat.
– The meat feels stiff. Poking it with a fork, it will have lost that tender, loose, shreddable texture.
– The meat dries out. Without those juices evenly dispersed, it will become drier and tougher.
So while you don’t want to cut into it immediately, you also don’t want the pork shoulder to rest for multiple hours.
Somewhere between 30 minutes up to 1-2 hours max is ideal for most pork shoulders. You want it to rest long enough to evenly redistribute juices, but not so long it cools down completely and dries out.
Keeping Pork Shoulder Warm While Resting
To prevent the issues that come with resting too long, you’ll want to keep that pork shoulder as warm as possible after cooking. Here are some tips:
– Leave it wrapped in foil after cooking. The foil insulation will retain heat.
– Wrap it in a towel. An insulated cooler also helps regulate temperature.
– Place it near (but not directly over) a heat source like your oven, grill burners on warm, or even the sun on a hot day.
– Let it rest in an insulated holding box or Cambro container.
– Keep the meat thermometer probe in during resting. This lets you monitor the internal temp.
The goal is to maintain an internal temp of at least 145°F throughout the resting period. This minimizes cooling and keeps juices loose.
Key Takeaways on Resting Pork Shoulder
– Resting allows juices to redistribute so pork stays moist and tender when serving
– Pork shoulder should rest around 5 minutes per pound after cooking
– Rest for 30 minutes up to 1-2 hours max
– Keep pork warm near a heat source as it rests
– Don’t let pork cool below 145°F before pulling or slicing into it
No one wants dry pulled pork! Be sure to let your cooked pork shoulder rest properly before serving for the best texture and flavor.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should you rest pork shoulder bone side up or down?
It doesn’t make a huge difference whether pork shoulder is rested bone side up or down. The main keys are keeping it loosely covered in foil and resting it for the adequate amount of time. If you cooked it bone side down, you may want to rest it bone side down as well so any accumulated juices can disperse into the meat.
Should pulled pork sit before serving?
Yes, even pulled pork can benefit from a short rest of around 15-30 minutes after shredding and adding any barbecue sauce or other flavorings. Letting it sit allows the flavors to meld together. Cover and keep it warm in an insulated container or slow cooker during this rest.
Should you wrap pork shoulder at stall?
Wrapping pork shoulder once it hits the stall (around 160°F) is recommended. Wrapping in foil will steam the shoulder past the stall quickly. Leaving it unwrapped means the stall may last for hours. Wrapping lets you get past it faster while keeping the meat moist.
Can you keep pork shoulder warm in a cooler?
Yes, a cooler is a great way to let pork shoulder rest while keeping it warm. Wrap the cooked shoulder in foil then towels. Place it in the cooler and close the lid. The insulation will regulate the temperature. Check it periodically and add warm towels if needed.
Should you rest pork before pulling?
Yes, resting pork shoulder before pulling is vital to ensuring tender, juicy meat. Follow the approx. 5 minutes per pound of rest time before pulling pork. Do not skip this rest time or the pork is likely to be dry. Keep it warm as it rests in foil, a cooler, or holding oven.
The Importance of Properly Resting Pork Shoulder
Resting pork shoulder after roasting or smoking allows time for the juices to become evenly dispersed throughout the meat. This keeps the pork tender and moist.
Be sure to let pork rest for around 5 minutes per pound, keeping it warm in foil or a cooler as it rests. Resting for 1-2 hours prevents moisture loss.
While you don’t want to cut into pork too soon, resting too long can lead to cooling that causes the meat to dry out. Maintain an internal temperature above 145°F during the resting period for best results.
Proper resting is crucial for super tender and juicy pulled pork every time!