I am a follower of several social media groups dedicated to barbecue, smoking, grilling, etc. The most common question that pops up in the comments section is “time and temperature, please?”. I will attempt to give the most concise answer as is possible to one such question. How long to cook pork shoulder at 300 degrees Fahrenheit?
All veterans of slow cooking agree on the same time when slow cooking meat,” it’s done when it’s done”. A pork shoulder cooked at 300 degrees Fahrenheit will take between 4 and 8 hours depending on several factors. The most important thing is that the pork reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature ensures that all food borne bacteria found with the pork is destroyed and also the collagen and connective tissues within the shoulder are surely rendered resulting in the most tender product possible.
If a recipe states that a cook time ranges from 6-8 hours then it’s best to plan for a longer cook time especially when expecting guests. It’s much easier to keep the shoulder warm than to rush and ruin dinner.
Yes and no. No two cuts of meat behave the same even when they come from the same animal. Anyone that has ever cooked an entire, chicken, turkey, or hog will tell you the key to success is even cooking. You can make the cooking time more efficient by bringing the pork shoulder to room temperature before cooking along with preheating your cooking device. Placing a cold shoulder into the cooker works as well as giving the “cold shoulder” to your significant other. A room temperature shoulder will heat more evenly and, subsequently, cook more efficiently. A soak in brine 24hrs before the cook will add moisture that will help conduct heat and assist in cooking the shoulder from the inside out.
There are methods of cooking such as braising and 3-2-1 that claim to be faster but they simply introduce the pork to a liquid that more efficiently redistributes heat to maximize the cook. An internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit is still necessary.
A quality probe thermometer is a must for anyone who wants to cook, especially with low-and-slow methods. Probe thermometers have become quite affordable and come in a variety of styles such as wireless and Bluetooth, which sends information directly to your phone, tablet, or another connected device. These thermometers work with grills, smokers, and ovens and will provide instant insight as to what is happening to the meat during the cooking process.
Also, websites, cookbooks, or favorite TV chefs will comment about fat melting during a cook. Fat DOES NOT melt. Fat will render, soften, and release moisture that will braise meat internally but it will not melt. A thick fat cap is usually found on a pork shoulder under a layer of skin and this will act as an insulator. This cap is best placed between meat and the heat source (or towards convection) to prevent unevenly cooking the shoulder.
Everyone has an opinion about how things should be cooked, which wood is best, which smoker/oven/grill is best, which sauce is best…etc. Someone will inevitably criticize any method chosen to cook a pork shoulder. Ignore them and make food in a way that satisfies everyone. Just get that internal temperature to 160 degrees Fahrenheit and the rest is subjective.