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quattro

Pulled Pork in the Oven: Techniques & Tips

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So I bought a beautiful 5lb Boston Butt roast his past weekend wanting to make pulled pork for Sunday dinner for my fiance since she loves it. I've never tried making pulled pork before in a BBQ or oven.

I was following a recipe that called for ~7 hours of cooking time @ 225F that said to cook until the internal temperature hit 165.

I cooked the roast for over 8 hours to get it to that temperture basting it with a mixture of white/cider vinegar, sugar and red pepper flakes every 45 minutes to "keep it moist". After it hit 165 degrees, I let it sit for 20 minutes.

Results? Terrible! My "pulled pork" turned into "sliced pork"...it was dry and tough and in my estimation, pretty much inedible (my fiance slogged through and ate her portion telling me she liked it even though I'm sure she was lying).

Well, I was certainly pretty upset mostly at wasting such a nice cut of meat. Any tips on what I did wrong? Should I be cooking longer/shorter at higher/lower temperature?


Edited by quattro (log)

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So I bought a beautiful 5lb Boston Butt roast his past weekend wanting to make pulled pork for Sunday dinner for my fiance since she loves it.  I've never tried making pulled pork before in a BBQ or oven.

I was following a recipe that called for ~7 hours of cooking time @ 225F that said to cook until the internal temperature hit 165. 

I cooked the roast for over 8 hours to get it to that temperture basting it with a mixture of white/cider vinegar, sugar and red pepper flakes every 45 minutes to "keep it moist".  After it hit 165 degrees, I let it sit for 20 minutes.

Results?  Terrible!  My "pulled pork" turned into "sliced pork"...it was dry and tough and in my estimation, pretty much inedible (my fiance slogged through and ate her portion telling me she liked it even though I'm sure she was lying).

Well, I was certainly pretty upset mostly at wasting such a nice cut of meat.  Any tips on what I did wrong?  Should I be cooking longer/shorter at higher/lower temperature?

165 degrees is much too low for pulled pork; you should be shooting for 190-200.

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Toss the rest into a crockpot with some of your sauce and enjoy leftovers.

Best eaten on bun with good coleslaw...im my humble opinion

tracey


The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

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Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

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So I bought a beautiful 5lb Boston Butt roast his past weekend wanting to make pulled pork for Sunday dinner for my fiance since she loves it.  I've never tried making pulled pork before in a BBQ or oven.

I was following a recipe that called for ~7 hours of cooking time @ 225F that said to cook until the internal temperature hit 165. 

I cooked the roast for over 8 hours to get it to that temperture basting it with a mixture of white/cider vinegar, sugar and red pepper flakes every 45 minutes to "keep it moist".  After it hit 165 degrees, I let it sit for 20 minutes.

Results?  Terrible!  My "pulled pork" turned into "sliced pork"...it was dry and tough and in my estimation, pretty much inedible (my fiance slogged through and ate her portion telling me she liked it even though I'm sure she was lying).

Well, I was certainly pretty upset mostly at wasting such a nice cut of meat.  Any tips on what I did wrong?  Should I be cooking longer/shorter at higher/lower temperature?

I'm not sure what exactly you're after, but braising might be an option if you're not smoking. There might be a greater margin of error there and it would certainly help on the moisture front. If you're looking for a crusty exterior this is not the way to go of course but if you want juicy shredded pork on a bun it might be an easier option. As others have noted, 165 is too low and it looks like you need a bit more time.


nunc est bibendum...

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The problem wasn't the internal temp...the problem was that you simply didn't cook it long enough. In order for the meat to become tender, the collagen has to break down and convert to gelatin. This is what gives you the fork tender effect.

I would think that 8 hours would be enough time, but your results speak for themselves. Slow roasting is a great way to cook pork...I bet that it just didn't cook long enough. There is no need to braise or anything like that (unless you want to) because the heat from the oven should be fine at breaking down the collagen.

My advice would be to just cook it longer--ignore internal temps, ignore recipe "times," and just cook it until you can easily pull off pieces of meat with a couple of forks.

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Even if you are smoking at some point it is best to wrap the whole thing in several layers of foil. I smoke mine until it hits the saturation point for smoke (a couple of hours) and then wrap it and continue on the grill or in the oven. Comes out much more tender than if left naked. Your times seem okay, but something was amiss. I always count on an hour per pound and add one for vague smoker temps or weather conditions. Another reason I often rely on the oven to finish.

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The problem wasn't the internal temp...the problem was that you simply didn't cook it long enough. In order for the meat to become tender, the collagen has to break down and convert to gelatin.

I think it's a combination of both temperature and time -- at least that's what my experience tells me and what McGee seems to suggest:

t takes a temperature of around 140F/60C to agitate the muscle molecules enough to break the weak bonds of the triple helix. The orderly structure of the collagen fibers then collapses and the fibers shrink, thus squeezing juices from the muscle fibers. Some of the juices bathe the fibers, and single genatin molecules or small aggregates may disperse into the juice. The higher the meat temperature goes, the more gelatin becomes dispersed.

I never pull until the internal temp has hit well above 190F -- but I agree with Qwerty (and Dave the Cook, who told me this first) that it's best not to go by temp but by feel:

My advice would be to just cook it longer--ignore internal temps, ignore recipe "times," and just cook it until you can easily pull off pieces of meat with a couple of forks.

This has the added benefit of requiring you to taste it more often.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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From my experience (Which isn't much, but I've made good pork roast/pulled pork in the oven) and from what I've read and tried this is what I do.

Rub meat with dry rub and let sit however long you wish. Roast meat uncovered in roasting pan in 250 degree oven for approximately 1 hour per pound. (Just gives you a starting point.) Place roast fat side up so it will self-baste. You know it's done when you can turn the bone in the roast. If the bone wont freely turn, it's not melt-in-your-mouth tender yet. Won't shred. Internal temp should be about 200F. Take out of oven, let rest about 15 minutes and then shred.

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ya know i made "Pernil" not to long ago... Much like turkey i dont think pulled pork really gets to much out of 10 HOURS!! that and i hate to waste gas like that. How i did mine was 350 for about 3-4 hours, but first you want to crank that mother, up to 500 to "ovensear" the the outside so it gets crispy like it should sealing in the juiciness. Then turning it down to 350 to finish. it should be fork tender... so when you can stick a fork in it smoothly and pull it out without any resistance, its done.

Oh and also cover it in foil!! after it sears of course.


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I often make pulled pork in the oven. Be sure to start with a shoulder or butt, NOT a loin. You can rub it if you wish - I do - but it's not essential. I put a good splash of apple cider vinegar in a Dutch oven, put the pork in, cover tightly, then roast low and slow until it's at least 190°. If I have time I do it overnight at 225°, but I've also had good results around 300° for about 6 hours. Pull and mix with sauce.

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Thank you all for the great replies.

I'll be sure to try this again and I'm sure my results will be better the second time around.

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We sure do love our pork roasts here at eGullet... there are approximately 243,863,347 ways to cook one, but the key to getting the texture you are looking for is getting the collagen to break down. As mentioned above, this is a combination of time and temperature. How much time depends on the temperature you are at, and you can spend a lifetime experimenting with different means to achieve that end. As far as I am concerned, the simplest way is a probe thermometer with a temperature alarm. I generally set the alarm to 200 degrees F: overkill, but there are not really any ill effects, and you are guaranteed melt-in-your-mouth tender, juicy, well-rendered pork. You can use nearly any oven temperature you like as long as you have the butt in a dutch oven or wrapped in foil: they all work great. This is one instance where it really is tough to screw it up as long as you get that collagen rendered, and the surest way to guarantee that is to get that internal temp up HIGH. And to taste it...


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Well since temp was mentioned above

All numbers are degrees

120 is Rare

125 Medium Rare

130 Medium

135 Medium Well

140 Well


**********************************************

I may be in the gutter, but I am still staring at the stars.

**********************************************

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Well since temp was mentioned above

All numbers are degrees

120 is Rare

125 Medium Rare

130 Medium

135 Medium Well

140 Well

Those numbers are only really meaningful for things like steaks, chops, and pot-roast-like things. A pork shoulder is a whole different kind of beast: when we're talking about pulled pork, even "Well Done" by the USDA's standards is nowhere near "properly cooked" -- you have to get the thing hot enough to melt out the connective tissue. I don't have McGee handly right now, but we're definitely talking about temperatures in the 180+ deg F range for the cooking times we're talking about here. I think it is possible to go the Sous Vide route and do more like 160 deg F for 48 hours, but even that is well above "well done."


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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At 160 it may be cooked, but it ain't done. When I first started cooking pork butts and I asked how long to cook it I was told cook it till its done. Chris linked to the butt thread which will give you more information than maybe you care to find including some from me.

However you cook it, werever you cook it, you need to go, long and slow. When that collagen breaks down, you have reached El Dorado. I go for 190 or the pull test. Either works for me. Don't give up hope. You can achieve the pork nirvana we all know and love. The best part about this is once you get it started, you need do nothing. Drinking beer is a popular thing to do when cooking pork butt. Howver, I have done many things while it cooks away for hour on end.

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Pulled pork doesn't have to be butt or shoulder. I lined the bottom of a hotel pan with onion, garlic and fresh herbs, added a little liquid (very little) and filled the pan with pork hocks. I sealed the pan tight and let them go in a 170f oven for about 12 hours then pulled them. Flavorful and very tender. It was a test run for an app I'm doing for a dinner I'm catering next week.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Chris H is right, and McGee agrees. In the post above, I point out that McGee gives 140F as the minimum temp for collagen breakdown.

Strictly speaking, I believe McGee is not quite correct about this. Or, rather, he may be saying that 140F/60C is the minimum temperature for efficient breakdown of collagen into gelatin. As those of us who practice LT/LT sous vice cookery know, collagen begins to dissolve into gelatin at around 122F/50C to 130F/54C and collagenase is active down to 130F/54C. These reactions simply take a lot longer at these lower temperatures. This is why, for example, one can cook collagen-rich meats at 54.5C for 48 hours and both convert the collagen to gelatin and maintain a medium-rare texture.

FWIW, I take exception to SeanDirty's temperature chart, which is a bit on the low side. I would suggest it's something more like:

Very rare: 45–50C

Rare: 50–55C

Medium rare: 55–60C

Medium: 60–65C

Medium well: 65–70C

Well done: >70C

Certainly, cooking SV at 55 seems to just hit the boundary between rare and medium rare (aka, "medium rare on the rare side").

As for cooking something like a pork butt, the comments as to time-versus-temperature are spot on. Unlike wih a naturally tender meat, it is not enough to cook a collagen-rich meat to temperature. No matter what temperature is used, the meat must be held at the target temperature for a sufficient length of time to convert a sufficient amount of the collagen to gelatin. As noted, this reaction is considerably hastened as at higher temperatures, but there is a trade off in moisture loss, etc. It is up to each individual cook to make a final determination as to what combination of time and temperature to use.


Edited by slkinsey (log)

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Chris H is right, and McGee agrees. In the post above, I point out that McGee gives 140F as the minimum temp for collagen breakdown.

Strictly speaking, I believe McGee is not quite correct about this. Or, rather, he may be saying that 140F/60C is the minimum temperature for efficient breakdown of collagen into gelatin. As those of us who practice LT/LT sous vice cookery know, collagen begins to dissolve into gelatin at around 122F/50C to 130F/54C and collagenase is active down to 130F/54C. These reactions simply take a lot longer at these lower temperatures. This is why, for example, one can cook collagen-rich meats at 54.5C for 48 hours and both convert the collagen to gelatin and maintain a medium-rare texture.

FWIW, I take exception to SeanDirty's temperature chart, which is a bit on the low side. I would suggest it's something more like:

Very rare: 45–50C

Rare: 50–55C

Medium rare: 55–60C

Medium: 60–65C

Medium well: 65–70C

Well done: >70C

Certainly, cooking SV at 55 seems to just hit the boundary between rare and medium rare (aka, "medium rare on the rare side").

As for cooking something like a pork butt, the comments as to time-versus-temperature are spot on. Unlike wih a naturally tender meat, it is not enough to cook a collagen-rich meat to temperature. No matter what temperature is used, the meat must be held at the target temperature for a sufficient length of time to convert a sufficient amount of the collagen to gelatin. As noted, this reaction is considerably hastened as at higher temperatures, but there is a trade off in moisture loss, etc. It is up to each individual cook to make a final determination as to what combination of time and temperature to use.

I have to agree with Sam - I (and many others on the SV thread) have done a flank steak SV at 55C (131F) for 24 hours - it comes out medium rare and tender like a filet mignon, but a lot more "beefy"... if I did it for 48 hours, it would be falling-apart-fork-tender....

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Sam is quite right about collagen. Part of the confusion is that while collagen begins to contract between 140F/60C and 150F/65C, the soluble collagen begins to unfold/dissolve into gelatin above about 122F/50C to 131F/55C. As for the sarcoplasmic protein enzyme collagenase, it remains active below 140F/60C and can significantly tenderize the meat if held for more than 6 hours. [see sections "Effects of Heat on Meat" and "Tough Meat" in my guide for references.]

I have a great affinity towards pulled pork and make it frequently. I agree with the above comments --- cook it until it feels right. For me (cooking sous vide), that tends to be around 20 hours at 155F/68C or 10 hours at 176F/80C. [both combinations achieve the same effect and were indistinguishable in a blind taste test at a recent dinner party.] Although it probably is not necessary, I usually brine my pork in a flavored 7--10% salt solution for 6--12 hours before cooking --- the 7--10% salt solution allows the pork to absorb up to 20--25% of its weight in brine (Graiver et al., 2006) and produces a very moist pulled pork. I also render my own lard and put a couple tables spoons in the plastic pouch, but that is a discussion for another thread :-).

Edit: Fixed typo.


Edited by DouglasBaldwin (log)

My Guide: A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking, which Harold McGee described as "a wonderful contribution."

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Chris H is right, and McGee agrees. In the post above, I point out that McGee gives 140F as the minimum temp for collagen breakdown.

Strictly speaking, I believe McGee is not quite correct about this. Or, rather, he may be saying that 140F/60C is the minimum temperature for efficient breakdown of collagen into gelatin. As those of us who practice LT/LT sous vice cookery know, collagen begins to dissolve into gelatin at around 122F/50C to 130F/54C and collagenase is active down to 130F/54C. These reactions simply take a lot longer at these lower temperatures. This is why, for example, one can cook collagen-rich meats at 54.5C for 48 hours and both convert the collagen to gelatin and maintain a medium-rare texture.

FWIW, I take exception to SeanDirty's temperature chart, which is a bit on the low side. I would suggest it's something more like:

Very rare: 45–50C

Rare: 50–55C

Medium rare: 55–60C

Medium: 60–65C

Medium well: 65–70C

Well done: >70C

Certainly, cooking SV at 55 seems to just hit the boundary between rare and medium rare (aka, "medium rare on the rare side").

As for cooking something like a pork butt, the comments as to time-versus-temperature are spot on. Unlike wih a naturally tender meat, it is not enough to cook a collagen-rich meat to temperature. No matter what temperature is used, the meat must be held at the target temperature for a sufficient length of time to convert a sufficient amount of the collagen to gelatin. As noted, this reaction is considerably hastened as at higher temperatures, but there is a trade off in moisture loss, etc. It is up to each individual cook to make a final determination as to what combination of time and temperature to use.

Aye mine may seem low but its actually calculating for carryover. As i trained on a roast station some time ago, those were the temps i was thought in which to pull the meat, for example if you were to pull the meat at 120 for rare, it would carry to 125 for the perfect doneness.


**********************************************

I may be in the gutter, but I am still staring at the stars.

**********************************************

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The key, and someone mentioned it above, is making sure that it is COVERED and cooked at a low temperature for a long time. Anything from 200-325 has worked without a problem. I generally wrap a Boston Butt (shoulder) in foil AND put it in a dutch oven with lid. I've had luck pouring a little liquid in the bottom (beer, oj, whatever), but with all the fat, that's not even necessary.

One way to make sure you take plenty of cooking time is to start it right before you go to bed (in which case I keep a very low temperature) and check it when you wake up. House will smell fantastic.

And don't even worry about internal temperatures. If, when you check it, the meat doesn't absolutely fall apart with prodded with a fork, it's not done. It should be very, very easy to pull apart.

RD

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