Pulled pork is a beloved dish that requires patience, skill, and a whole lot of love to get just right.
One of the biggest debates among pitmasters and pork enthusiasts is what temperature to cook the meat to in order to achieve that perfect “pull-apart” consistency. Some swear by cooking it to 195 degrees Fahrenheit, while others argue that 175 degrees Fahrenheit is enough.
So, is 175 enough for pulled pork?
In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of cooking pulled pork to different temperatures and help you decide which one is right for you.
Get ready to dig in!
Is 175 Enough For Pulled Pork?
When it comes to cooking pulled pork, there are a lot of different opinions on what temperature to cook it to. Some people believe that cooking the meat to 195 degrees Fahrenheit is the only way to achieve that perfect “pull-apart” consistency, while others argue that 175 degrees Fahrenheit is enough.
So, is 175 enough for pulled pork?
The answer is yes, but with a few caveats.
Cooking the meat to 175 degrees Fahrenheit will still break down much of the collagen and connective fibers, leaving some structure to hold the meat together for slicing. This means that you can still achieve a tender and flavorful pulled pork with a little bit of firmness to it.
However, cooking the meat to only 175 degrees Fahrenheit may not be enough for some people’s taste preferences. Some may find the meat too firm or not as tender as they would like.
It’s important to note that cooking pulled pork is not an exact science and can vary depending on factors such as the size of the meat, the cooking method, and personal preference. It’s always a good idea to use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meat and adjust accordingly.
The Science Behind Cooking Pulled Pork
Cooking pulled pork involves breaking down the collagen and connective tissue in the meat to achieve that tender, “fall-apart” consistency. The collagen in the meat needs to be cooked for a long time before breaking down, which is why it’s important to choose the right cut of meat. Neck and shoulder cuts are considered to be the best cuts for cooking pulled pork because they are rich in connective tissue.
Contrary to popular belief, pulled pork does not require an expensive cut of meat. In fact, a less expensive cut with a high fat content is ideal for keeping the meat tender and moist during the long cooking process. To prevent the meat from becoming too dry, it’s recommended to choose one large cut of meat instead of two smaller pieces. This reduces the amount of meat surface exposed to the heat, which is the part most prone to dryness, while preserving the moisture within.
Cooking pulled pork involves a delicate balance between achieving doneness and developing flavor. Flavors form mostly at higher temperatures due to the Maillard reaction, where the amino acids in foods react with reducing sugars to form the characteristic brown cooked color of foods. This is why it’s important to start by browning your chosen piece of pork on a high heat before cooking it at a low temperature for a long time.
One of the challenges in cooking pulled pork is the “stall,” where there is a plateau in internal temperatures near the end of cooking. This occurs due to evaporative cooling and can be frustrating for many cooks. While some believe that collagen is responsible for the stall, recent research suggests that this is not entirely accurate. Collagen only accounts for about one-fourth of the total protein in pork shoulder, and there just isn’t enough collagen in the meat to cause such a significant stall.
The Debate: 195 Vs 175 Degrees Fahrenheit
One of the main debates when it comes to cooking pulled pork is whether to cook it to 195 degrees Fahrenheit or 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Some people swear by the higher temperature, claiming that it is the only way to achieve that perfect “fall-off-the-bone” consistency.
However, others argue that cooking the meat to 175 degrees Fahrenheit is enough to achieve a tender and flavorful pulled pork. They argue that cooking the meat to 195 degrees Fahrenheit may actually dry out the meat and make it less flavorful.
There are also some who believe that cooking the meat to 160 degrees Fahrenheit is enough, as long as it has been cooked for a long enough time to break down the collagen and connective fibers.
Ultimately, the decision of what temperature to cook pulled pork to comes down to personal preference. Some people may prefer a firmer texture, while others may prefer a more tender and juicy consistency. It’s important to experiment with different temperatures and cooking methods to find what works best for you.
Cooking To 175 Degrees Fahrenheit: Pros And Cons
Cooking pulled pork to 175 degrees Fahrenheit has its pros and cons. Here are some of them:
– The meat will still be tender and flavorful.
– The meat will have some structure to hold it together for slicing.
– Cooking to 175 degrees Fahrenheit can save time and energy compared to cooking to a higher temperature.
– Some people may find the meat too firm or not as tender as they would like.
– Cooking to 175 degrees Fahrenheit may not fully break down all of the collagen and connective fibers, resulting in a less “pull-apart” consistency.
– Achieving a perfect texture at 175 degrees Fahrenheit can be more difficult and requires careful monitoring of the cooking process.
Cooking To 195 Degrees Fahrenheit: Pros And Cons
If you want to achieve that melt-in-your-mouth texture for your pulled pork, cooking it to 195 degrees Fahrenheit is the way to go. At this temperature, the meat will be incredibly tender and easy to shred apart, making it perfect for sandwiches or other dishes that require a softer texture.
However, there are some potential downsides to cooking pulled pork to such a high temperature. For one, the longer cooking time required to reach 195 degrees Fahrenheit may result in a drier piece of meat. Additionally, if the meat is overcooked, it can become mushy and lose its flavor.
Another consideration is that cooking pulled pork to 195 degrees Fahrenheit may not be necessary for all cuts of meat. Some cuts, such as pork loin or tenderloin, can become dry and tough if cooked to such a high temperature. In these cases, it may be better to cook the meat to a lower temperature and slice it thinly instead of pulling it apart.
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to cook pulled pork to 195 degrees Fahrenheit comes down to personal preference. If you prefer a softer texture with more flavor, then cooking the meat to this temperature may be worth the extra effort. However, if you prefer a firmer texture or are working with a cut of meat that doesn’t require such high temperatures, then cooking it to 175 degrees Fahrenheit may be sufficient.
Tips For Achieving Perfectly Pulled Pork
If you want to achieve perfectly pulled pork, there are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind:
1. Choose the right cut of meat: A boneless pork shoulder is the best option for pulled pork. It has the right amount of fat to make the meat tender and juicy.
2. Brine the meat: Before cooking, rinse the pork shoulder and place it in a large container with a brine solution. Let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours to enhance the flavor and moisture of the meat.
3. Use a dry rub: Sprinkle a dry rub onto the surface of the shoulder and massage it in such that it adheres to the surface. This will add flavor and create a nice crust on the meat.
4. Cook low and slow: The key to achieving perfectly pulled pork is to cook it low and slow. The cookery team recommends cooking your meat for two hours per kilogram on a super-low heat, around 140C, or gas mark 2-3. This will break down the collagen and connective fibers in the meat, resulting in a tender and flavorful dish.
5. Monitor the temperature: Use a digital thermometer with an alarm function to monitor the temperature throughout cooking. Insert the probe thermometer into the center or thickest part of the shoulder, but not touching the bone. Do not remove from the oven until the center of the shoulder reaches 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
6. Let it rest: When the shoulder has reached 200 degrees Fahrenheit, shut off the oven and let it cool for a couple of hours before removing from the oven. If the bottom of the pan is dry, cover it with foil to retain internal moisture of the meat during the cooling period. When the temperature drops to 170 degrees Fahrenheit or slightly lower, remove from oven. Place on a large, clean work surface such as a cutting board, and remove any excess fat on top. Allow it to rest for a day in the fridge before reheating so that it can “relax and soak up the juices and flavor.”
By following these tips, you can achieve perfectly pulled pork that is tender, juicy, and full of flavor.
Final Verdict: Which Temperature Is Best For You?
Ultimately, the best temperature for pulled pork will depend on your personal preference and the texture you want to achieve. If you prefer a firmer texture that is still tender and juicy, cooking the meat to 175 degrees Fahrenheit may be enough for you. However, if you want that melt-in-your-mouth consistency and easy shredding, it’s recommended to cook the meat to at least 195 degrees Fahrenheit, with some sources suggesting 205-210 degrees Fahrenheit as the ideal temperature.
It’s important to keep in mind that cooking pulled pork is a slow and low process, and the meat will continue to cook even after it’s removed from the heat source. Letting the meat rest for at least 30 minutes before shredding will allow the juices to redistribute and result in a more tender and moist final product.
Investing in an in-oven digital meat thermometer can also be a helpful tool in monitoring the internal temperature of the meat without having to open the oven door.