7lb Bone in Pork Shoulder. Smoke and SV

Sorry if this is a repeat topic.

When smoking a Pork butt on my smoker, I usually pull the meat at 198 internal and it’s perfect and moist. However, I’m reading that most people SV butts for pulled pork at 165 internal.

Today, I’m experimenting with a combination smoke and SV. I putt the butt on the smoker and plan remove when it reaches 150. Then, I will SV it at 165 for 18-24 hours

My question is - why/is a pork shoulder done at approximately 200° on my smoker yet it is done on the sous vide 165? I’m concerned that only SVing at 165 will not produce the desired result for pulled pork. Should I SV at a higher temp?

I realize the bark on the shoulder may not be perfect after the 18 to 24 hour bath, but I need the flavor will be good

Any suggestions or tips would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks in advance!

The shoulder is “done” (in the sense that it is fully cooked) in your smoker well before it hits 200°F. But it won’t have the tenderness desired, because it won’t have had enough cooking time until it reaches that temperature. With SV you take the shoulder to the “done” temperature and hold it there for as long as it takes to achieve the desired level of tenderness. Because the meat is in a sealed bag rather than hot air you can cook it for as long as needed without drying the meat out.

I’ve made pulled pork several times using both traditional long-term smoking and using SV in combination with a much shorter (only 3-4 hours) post-SV smoke, and I can say without reservation that the latter consistently produces a superior result.

But honestly, if you plan on smoking it first for long enough to hit an internal temp of 150F then you may as well just finish it in the smoker. I don’t see much point in bothering with SV at that point.

The higher the temperature the faster connective tissues break down. To break down the same amount of that connective tissue at a lower temp like 165 you need to leave it in for many more hours, thus the 18 to 24 hour cook. What you are getting with the sous vide is the same breakdown of connective tissues (thus tender meat!) but without having the meat itself cooked to that “high” temperature. I defer to chefnoir or Ember to provide a more complete explanation, but I think this is the answer in brief.
I’m looking forward to hearing how your pork butt comes out!

Thank you for taking the time to respond! I was under the impression that smoking first would produce a superior smoke flavor. I am about 2.5 hours into the smoke with an internal temperature of 120. Maybe I should remove it now and start the sous vide.

The next time, I will definitely try the method you suggest. Do you SV first at 165 for 18 to 24 hours or at a lower temp so as to not over cook when you smoke it for 3-4 hours?


Thank you for the explanation. That was very helpful.

I’ve heard that claim repeatedly but have not found it to be true, nor is there any good reason to expect it to be.

165°F for 24 hours followed by 3 hours in the smoker at 300° with a more intense level of smoke than normal to compensate for the shorter time. The result is plenty of smoke flavor, a passable bark (though you’ll never get one equal to what you get from a traditional smoke) and the most tender, moist pulled pork you can imagine.

I’m anxious to try your method and I haven’t even finished the first cook. :slight_smile: All the best!

Doesn’t matter if you smoke first or smoke second. The flavour is much the same. Smoking second offers a food safety aspect. You don’t have to smoke to such high temperatures, because the meat has already been cooked to pasteurisation at a lower temperature in the sous vide. Plus there’s not that frustrating stall in temperature climb.

Did smoked beef ribs and smoked lamb leg today. Both had been sous vide first. Smoky flavour on both items was great (smoke sticks to cold damp items, so always chill the meat post sous vide) after only 4 hours gasping in the smoker.

Check out the channel Sous Vide Everything on YouTube. They’ve done smoking + SV combos before.