So you want to know the best internal temperature for pulled pork? That’s an important question. And I have the answer.
Making pulled pork is actually pretty easy. You don’t need any fancy smokers or grill to make a great one. I’m about to show you how to make it the best way with the perfect internal temperature right in your kitchen at home.
My Pulled Pork Adventures
I’ve been making pulled pork for a long time. I started off making it at our restaurant, Boston Burger Company, where we put it on burgers and our famous mac and cheese. It became so popular that we started shipping our mac and cheese with pulled pork all over the United States.
That recipe is great. It has our secret dry rub and we cook it in the oven for a long period of time with some apple juice in the bottom of the pan. After that we slap in on a burger and drizzle it with some homemade bbq sauce.
My favorite barbecue sauce is the honey bbq we make at Boston Burger Company.
I wish I kept track of how many pounds of pulled pork I’ve made over the years.
I also make another type of pulled pork at Mortadella Head. This pulled pork recipe has an Italian spin.
I took a trip to Italy a few years ago to find the best porchetta around. While I was there a light bulb went off in my head. What if I took the information I learned from the best porchetta maker in Italy and tried to make a pulled pork?
Boom…Mortadella Head’s “pulled porchetta” was born.
We did our best to replicate the spice mixture we learned from Vito Bernabei in Marino, Italy. We took our Boston Burger Company method of cooking the pulled pork. We switched out our usual spice rub for the Italian version.
We came up with what lots of people call the best pulled pork recipe they’ve ever tasted.
What Cut of Meat Should You Use for Pulled Pork
When you make pulled pork, you want to get a cut of meat that has enough fat and connective tissue to withstand a long time in the oven at a low temperature. That’s what is going to give you a nice and juicy finished product.
You don’t want to use a pork loin or any cut of pork that doesn’t have a lot of fat. Those cuts of meat are better if you’re making a pork roast cooked at higher temperatures with less cook time.
Here are some cuts of pork that work great for making pulled pork that you should be able to find in grocery stores near you.
Boston Butt: This cut of meat is from the shoulder of the pig. You will also hear it being called simply pork butt. It is also called a pork shoulder in some instances. It usually has a fat cap attached to it when you buy it. It got its name due to the way this type of cut was transported from New England many years ago.
Pork Shoulder: This is the top portion of the front leg of the hog according to the National Pork board. It has enough fat to make a great pulled pork when cooked at a lower temperature.
Picnic Shoulder: The picnic shoulder cut is from the upper front part of the leg and the bottom of the shoulder. The muscle fibers in this piece of meat get a good workout from walking around so it takes some time to break down the muscle fibers. A long, slow cook will be worth the wait.
Now go to the store and get yourself a fatty cut of pork!
How to Prepare Your Pulled Pork
Prepping your meat is really important when making a good pulled pork. If you take a little time at the beginning and follow these steps, you will get the best results.
These instructions are based on how I make pulled pork at Mortadella Head. And they will be the same for you if you make it at home.
Take your meat out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature. You don’t want to start cooking a cold piece of meat. It will take longer to get it to the correct temperature in the oven if you take it from the fridge and put it in the oven right away.
Now get some paper towels and pat your meat dry. At this point I take a little bit of olive oil and massage the pork. After many tests, I think the olive oil adds some nice flavor and a slight crust on the outside of the pork.
Now get your dry rub and completely cover the pork. Work it into the meat until you have a nice coating all the way around.
Place the rubbed pork into a roasting pan fat side down.
Add some chicken stock and white wine to the bottom of the pan. You want the liquid to be about an inch high as a basic rule of thumb. This liquid at the low cooking temperature will add to the flavor and moisture level of the pork.
Cooking pulled pork on a gas grill or in a smoker is great. You’ll get the smoke flavor that some people love. If you know what you’re doing you’ll get juicy meat. But if you don’t know what you’re doing it’s easy to mess up.
It also takes a lot of babysitting. Who wants to stand by the grill all with a spray bottle the entire time? I’m busy. I have other things to cook.
In my opinion, the oven method will give you beautiful, flavorful meat without all of the hassle.
How to Cook Your Pulled Pork
Now preheat your oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. In my experience, this is the ideal temperature for making a perfect pulled pork in the oven.
The key to this method is slow cooking with a longer overall cooking time. The beauty is that you can step away and do something else while your pork does its thing in the oven all day.
All you really need is the patience to wait for the ideal internal temperature of the pork.
Cover the pan with aluminum foil and put it on the bottom rack of the oven. As the meat cooks all of the flavors from the dry rub will combine with the pork and the steam created from the wine and broth.
Let it cook for approximately 4 hours and then remove the foil.
Put it back into the oven for another hour and let the top get brown.
This cooking process calls for a lower temperature for a long period of time.
So how do you know when the meat is done? Get a meat thermometer and stick it in the pork. When it reaches 200 degrees it’s ready to become pulled pork. That is the best internal temperature of the meat.
You could eat it at a lower temperature, but the magic number is between 200 and 205 degrees. This is the best temperature for pulling the pork apart.
Take it out of the oven and let the pork rest. Just like when you cook a steak, you should let any meat rest so you don’t lose the juices by cutting into it too early. Resting for about 20 minutes will allow all of the juices to absorb back into the muscle fibers of the meat creating a much juicier and more flavorful final product.
After the meat is rested, you can start pulling it apart. You can use your hands if it’s cool enough to touch. I like using forks to get it shredded nice and small. If you come across any large pieces of fat, just throw them away.
Make sure you save the liquid in the bottom of the pan. Hold your pulled pork in that liquid for the best flavor. If you’re making sandwiches, serve the juice on the side for dunking!
What to Do with Your Italian Pulled Pork
I get really excited when I talk about this perfect pulled pork, so I could go on for days about what to serve with it. Here are a few things I love serving with my Italian pulled pork.
Broccoli rabe: Saute it or roast it with olive oil and garlic. The bitterness of the vegetable goes perfectly with the richness of the pork.
Vinegar Peppers: Buy a good jar of vinegar peppers or make your own. The acid from the vinegar and the sweetness of the pepper is great together.
Tomato sauce: Sometimes if I have leftover pulled pork I will add it to a simple tomato sauce and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Serve it with some pappardelle and grated Romano cheese for an easy weeknight meal.
Sandwich: Put it in a nice crusty roll with sharp provolone cheese, peppers and onions. Don’t forget to dip it in the juice!