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How long can you let pork shoulder rest?

When cooking pork shoulder, also known as pork butt, it’s important to let it rest before slicing and serving. But how long should you let pork shoulder rest? Here’s a quick overview of resting times for pork shoulder.

Why Should You Let Pork Shoulder Rest?

Letting roasted or smoked pork shoulder rest after cooking serves a few purposes:

  • It allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. As the meat rests, the juices that were driven toward the center during cooking have a chance to redistribute evenly.
  • It gives the meat a chance to firm up slightly. The juices have loosened the muscle fibers during cooking. Letting it rest allows the structure to regain some of its firmness so the meat will hold together better for slicing.
  • It makes slicing easier with less juice loss. Without a resting period, sliced meat would expel more juices.

So resting is an important step to ensure moist, sliceable pork shoulder with great flavor.

How Long Should You Let Pork Shoulder Rest?

For whole bone-in pork shoulders, industry recommendations typically range from 20 minutes to 1 hour of resting time. Here are some more specific resting time guidelines:

  • Smaller cuts of pork shoulder up to 5 pounds: Rest for 20-30 minutes
  • Medium cuts of pork shoulder 5-8 pounds: Rest for 30-45 minutes
  • Large cuts over 8 pounds: Rest for 45 minutes to 1 hour

The most commonly recommended resting time is about 45 minutes for average sized pork shoulders. This gives the meat enough time to redistribute juices and firm up.

Factors That Affect Pork Shoulder Resting Time

There are a few factors that can impact just how long you should let pork shoulder rest after cooking.

Size of the Pork Shoulder

Larger cuts of meat need more resting time. A big 10-12 pound pork shoulder benefits from resting for a full hour before slicing into it. Smaller 3-4 pound shoulders only need around 30 minutes.

Cooking Method

The cooking method impacts resting time as well. Pork shoulders that are cooked low and slow for hours, like barbecue smoked pork butt, need a longer rest than pork shoulders quickly roasted at high heat. Slow barbecued pork shoulders should rest for 45-60 minutes. High-heat roasted pork can rest for 30 minutes.

Serving Temperature

If you want the pork shoulder to be served hot right after slicing, let it rest at the higher end of the recommended times. For pork that you are okay serving warm or at room temperature, you can get away with slightly shorter resting times.

Using a Cooler or Insulated Bag

You can maintain the heat in a pork shoulder for extra long resting times by wrapping it in towels and placing it a cooler, Cambro container, or insulated bag. This keeps it piping hot for up to 2 hours.

Steps for Letting Pork Shoulder Rest

Resting pork shoulder is easy. Follow these simple steps:

  1. When the pork shoulder is fully cooked, remove it from the heat source.
  2. Lightly tent it with foil to prevent cooling too quickly.
  3. Let it sit undisturbed for the recommended time based on size.
  4. The meat will reabsorb juices during this time.
  5. After resting, transfer to a cutting board and slice as desired.

Should You Wrap Pork Shoulder While Resting?

Lightly tenting pork shoulder with foil while it rests can help retain heat. But you don’t want to wrap it too tightly, as that can cause moisture to build up around the meat and make the exterior soggy.

The best method is to tent it very loosely with foil or place it in a Cambro container, leaving the lid slightly ajar. This keeps it warm but allows some steam to escape.

Can You Rest Pork Shoulder in a Cooler?

Yes, you can rest pork shoulder in a cooler. This is a great way to keep it piping hot for serving even after long resting times of an hour or more.

To rest pork shoulder in a cooler, preheat the empty cooler with hot water for 15 minutes. Dry it out. Then place the cooked pork shoulder wrapped in towels in the cooler and close the lid. The insulated cooler will keep it warm for up to 2 hours.

Can You Let Pork Shoulder Rest Too Long?

It is possible to let pork shoulder rest for too long. After 2-3 hours, it can cool down too much, losing its heat and juiciness.

The meat also starts to firm up too much after several hours. This can cause the texture to become tough.

For best results, try to keep the resting time under 2 hours, and under 1 hour if possible. Use a cooler or insulated bag to maintain temperature if holding for longer periods.

Signs Pork Shoulder Has Rested Too Long

Here are a few signs that pork shoulder has rested for too long:

  • The meat has cooled significantly and is no longer warm.
  • It has firmed up so much that slicing is difficult.
  • Juices have leaked out onto the cutting board.
  • The texture becomes tough after cooking.

If you notice any of these issues after prolonged resting, try reheating the sliced meat in the oven or microwave before serving to improve texture.


For best results, pork shoulder should be allowed to rest after roasting or smoking. A good rule of thumb is to let pork rest for about 45 minutes. Smaller cuts under 5 pounds need only 20-30 minutes, while larger cuts over 8 pounds can go for a full hour. Resting allows juices to redistribute, firms up the meat, and makes slicing easier. Use a loose foil tent or insulated cooler to keep the pork shoulder hot during extended resting times. Resting for more than 2-3 hours can cause the meat to cool and toughen too much. With the proper resting time, your pork shoulder will be juicy, flavorful and perfectly sliceable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is resting pork shoulder important?

Resting pork shoulder is important as it allows the juices to redistribute evenly throughout the meat after cooking. It also gives the proteins time to firm back up for better slicing, and results in less juice loss when carving.

Should you rest pork shoulder in foil?

It’s best to let pork shoulder rest uncovered or loosely tented in foil. Wrapping it too tightly in foil can cause moisture buildup on the exterior. A loose tent of foil helps retain some heat but allows steam to escape.

How can you keep pork shoulder hot while resting?

To keep pork shoulder piping hot during long resting times, you can place the wrapped meat into an insulated cooler, Cambro container, or insulated bag. The insulation will retain heat for 1-2 hours.

What happens if you don’t let pork shoulder rest?

If pork shoulder isn’t allowed to rest, the juices won’t have time to redistribute evenly in the meat. The texture may be loose and wet. And carved slices will expel more juices, resulting in dryer pork.

Can you over rest pork shoulder?

Yes, it is possible to let pork shoulder rest for too long. After 2-3 hours, it can cool down too much and the texture becomes tough from the meat fibers firming up excessively. Ideal resting time is under 1 hour.

Key Takeaways

  • Letting pork shoulder rest after cooking allows juices to redistribute and the meat to firm up.
  • A good resting time for most pork shoulders is about 45 minutes.
  • Smaller cuts under 5 pounds need only 20-30 minutes of rest.
  • Larger cuts over 8 pounds can rest for up to 1 hour.
  • Insulated coolers help keep pork shoulder warm during longer resting periods.
  • Resting for over 2 hours can cause the meat to cool down and toughen.