All cuts of fresh pork -- including Boston pork shoulder -- should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, most bacteria and pathogens are destroyed. While this is a safe temperature, it likely won't cook the meat enough to make it tender.
Pork Shoulder 101
Boston pork shoulder is often the first choice for barbecued pulled pork. It's readily available, inexpensive and simple to cook. This cut comes from high on the shoulder of the pig and contains a lot of connective tissue, which makes for a tough cut of meat. If you cook a pork shoulder just to 145 F, it's likely to be tough and chewy. Continue cooking it, though, to 160 F or even 180 F, and the connective tissue melts, creating a juicy, delicious texture.
Anyway You Slice It
To serve Boston pork shoulder in neat slices, you can cook it to 145 F, but to shred it, cook it to 160 F or higher. At this higher temperature, the meat almost falls apart, making your job of shredding it much simpler. Allow the pork roast to cool for at least 30 minutes before pulling it apart with forks or tongs.
Heat It Up
To cook a Boston pork shoulder, your best option is usually long, slow cooking. Using this method, you can cook the meat to high temperatures without drying it out. In the oven, cook Boston pork roast in a roasting pan at 200 F for seven hours, or until it's fork tender. Cook a Boston pork roast in a slow cooker set on low for six to eight hours, depending on the size of the roast. In both cases, add some liquid, cook the meat with a little apple juice or white wine to preserve moistness. Keep the lid on the slow cooker and cover the roast in the oven with foil if it seems to be drying too much.
Cooking a pork shoulder to 145 F helps ensure safety, but what you do before you cook the roast also makes a difference. Start by buying a fresh Boston pork roast that's firm and pink. Avoid packages that seem slimy or have excess fluid. Boston pork shoulder may also be called Boston butt, but the cut is the same. Refrigerate the pork roast at 40 F and cook it within three to five days.
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- Meat: A Kitchen Education; James Peterson
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Fresh Pork From Farm to Table
- Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook; Beth Hensperger, et al.
Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of MarmaladeMom.org, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."