Pulled Pork 190 vs 205: Everything You Need to Know

Are you a fan of tender and succulent pulled pork? If so, you’ve probably come across the debate surrounding the ideal cooking temperature: 190 degrees vs 205 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The choice between these two temperatures can significantly impact the texture, flavor, and overall deliciousness of your pulled pork. But how do you determine which temperature is right for you?

According to a survey conducted by BBQ enthusiasts, 60% of respondents prefer cooking their pulled pork at 190 degrees, while 40% swear by the magic of 205 degrees.

These figures highlight the significance of choosing the right pulled pork temperature chart and the divided opinions among avid pitmasters and home cooks alike.

In this article, we will delve into the sizzling topic of “pulled pork 190 vs 205,” providing you with valuable insights and guidance to help you make an informed decision.

What is Pulled Pork?

Before diving into the temperature debate, let’s clarify what pulled pork is all about. Pulled pork is a mouthwatering dish that has become a staple in barbecue and Southern cuisine.

It is a slow-cooked meat dish typically made from pork shoulder or pork butt, which are known for their rich flavor and tenderness. 

Pulled Pork

The cooking process involves smoking or slow-roasting the pork for an extended period until it becomes incredibly tender, making it easy to “pull” or shred into small, flavorful pieces. To create pulled pork, the pork shoulder or butt is seasoned with a blend of spices and then cooked low and slow over indirect heat.

This slow-cooking method allows the meat to become incredibly tender and develop a smoky and savory flavor. The result is juicy, succulent, and flavorful pork that can be served in various ways.

Once the pork is cooked to perfection, it is traditionally shredded or pulled apart using forks or claws, hence the name “pulled pork.”

The tender meat is then typically served on a bun or alongside coleslaw, barbecue sauce, or other accompaniments. Pulled pork is versatile and can be used in sandwiches, tacos, sliders, or as a delicious topping for pizzas and loaded fries.

The Role of Temperature in Cooking Pulled Pork

Temperature plays a crucial role in achieving the perfect pulled pork. Cooking meat at the right temperature ensures that collagen breaks down, resulting in tender and flavorful meat.

In the case of pulled pork, two popular cooking temperatures are often discussed: 190°F and 205°F. Let’s explore each temperature’s characteristics and the effects they have on the final product.

190°F: Low and Slow Cooking

At 190°F, the low and slow cooking method takes center stage. This temperature range allows the pork to cook gradually over an extended period, usually around 12 to 16 hours. Cooking pulled pork at 190°F has its advantages. 

190°F Low and Slow Cooking

Firstly, the slow cooking process breaks down the tough connective tissues, resulting in tender meat that practically falls apart. Secondly, the longer cooking time allows flavors to develop and infuse the meat thoroughly. The result is a juicy, moist, and deeply flavorful pulled pork.

To achieve great results with low and slow cooking, it’s essential to ensure a consistent temperature throughout the cooking process. Invest in a reliable meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature and maintain it at a steady 190°F.

Additionally, using a flavorful dry rub and adding a wood chip or chunk of your choice to the smoker enhances the smoky essence of the meat.

205°F: Crispy and Succulent Pulled Pork

On the other end of the temperature spectrum, we have 205°F, which offers a different cooking experience. Cooking pulled pork at 205°F results in a shorter cooking time, typically around 8 to 12 hours. The higher temperature allows for a faster breakdown of collagen and renders out excess fat, resulting in a crisper exterior and succulent, juicy meat.

205°F Crispy and Succulent Pulled Pork

The advantage of cooking pulled pork at 205°F is the creation of a flavorful bark—a caramelized, crispy outer layer that adds texture and enhances the overall taste. The higher temperature also leads to slightly drier meat compared to the low and slow method, but it still retains incredible tenderness.

To achieve crispy and succulent pulled pork at 205°F, focus on proper temperature control. Maintain a stable cooking temperature throughout the process, ensuring the pork reaches an internal temperature of 205°F. This allows the meat to develop a beautiful bark while remaining tender and flavorful on the inside.

Key Differences between 190°F and 205°F

Now that we’ve explored the characteristics of both temperatures, let’s compare them to help you make an informed decision. Cooking pulled pork at 190°F results in exceptionally tender meat with a more moist and succulent texture.

The longer Pulled pork cooking time allows for the development of complex flavors, making each bite a delightful experience. On the other hand, cooking pulled pork at 205°F yields a crisper exterior and slightly drier meat while still maintaining impressive tenderness.

When choosing between the two temperatures, consider factors such as cooking time, texture preferences, and the level of caramelization desired in the final product.

It’s worth noting that personal taste often plays a significant role in the decision-making process, and experimenting with both temperatures is a great way to find your preferred cooking method.

Factors Affecting Cooking Temperature

While 190°F and 205°F are popular cooking temperatures for pulled pork, it’s important to remember that various factors can influence the ideal cooking temperature for your specific circumstances.

Factors such as the type of meat used, the cooking equipment and method employed, and time considerations all come into play.

The type of meat you select for your pulled pork can impact the cooking temperature.

Different cuts, such as Pork shoulder doneness or butt, may require slight adjustments in cooking times and temperatures. It’s best to follow specific recipes or consult with experienced pitmasters for guidance.

Grilled Pork

The cooking equipment and method you use also affect the cooking temperature. Whether you’re using a smoker, grill, or oven, ensure you have accurate temperature control and monitor it closely. Additionally, factors like ambient temperature, humidity, and altitude can influence cooking times and temperature requirements.

Lastly, consider time as a crucial aspect of your cooking journey. While low and slow cooking at 190°F demands more patience, the higher temperature of 205°F reduces the overall cooking time. Take into account your schedule, the occasion, and the preferences of those you’re serving to choose the most suitable cooking temperature.

Personal Preference and Experimentation

In the realm of pulled pork, personal preference reigns supreme. Each individual has unique taste buds and desires, making experimentation an enjoyable part of the cooking process.

It’s highly recommended to try both 190°F and 205°F cooking temperatures to understand the differences and discover which style resonates with your palate.

By exploring both temperature options, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of how temperature influences the taste and texture of pulled pork. Embrace the journey of experimentation, and you’ll become a skilled pitmaster with your signature pulled pork recipe.

Tips for Cooking Perfect Pulled Pork

Regardless of the temperature you choose, there are essential tips to keep in mind for cooking perfect pulled pork. Let’s delve into the key considerations to elevate your pulled pork game:

  1. Meat Selection and Preparation

Choose a well-marbled cut such as pork shoulder or butt, as these cuts are ideal for pulled pork. Before cooking, trim excess fat and silver skin for even cooking and better smoke penetration. Pat the meat dry and allow it to reach room temperature before placing it in the smoker or grill.

Marble Cut Pork
  1. Rubs and Seasonings

Apply a generous amount of dry rub or seasoning blend to enhance the flavor of your pulled pork. Combinations of salt, sugar, paprika, garlic powder, chili powder, and other spices work wonders. Massage the rub into the meat and let it rest for at least an hour or overnight in the refrigerator for maximum flavor absorption.

  1. Smoking and Wood Selection

If using a smoker, choose the right wood to impart the desired smoky flavor. Popular options include hickory, apple, cherry, or a combination of different woods.

Experiment with different wood combinations to find the one that suits your taste preferences best. Maintain consistent smoke throughout the cooking process to infuse the meat with rich smokiness.

Temperature Monitoring and Maintenance

Invest in a reliable meat thermometer to accurately monitor the internal temperature of the pork. This ensures the meat reaches the desired temp the best results.

Maintain a steady cooking temperature throughout the process, making necessary adjustments to the heat source or airflow to maintain the ideal conditions.

Recipes and Techniques for Pulled Pork

Now that you’re equipped with essential tips, let’s explore two delicious recipes—one for classic pulled pork cooked at 190°F and another for crispy pulled pork cooked at 205°F.

These recipes will serve as a starting point for your culinary adventures, allowing you to customize and refine them according to your preferences.

Classic Pulled Pork Recipe (190°F)


  • 1 pork shoulder (around 8-10 pounds)
  • Dry rub of your choice
  • Wood chips or chunks for smoking


  • Preheat your smoker to 190°F.
  • Dry the pork shoulder by gently pressing it with paper towels.
  • Apply a generous amount of dry rub all over the meat, massaging it into the surface.
  • Place the pork shoulder in the smoker, close the lid, and maintain a steady temperature of 190°F.
  • Add wood chips or chunks to the smoker for a smoky flavor.
  • Roast the pork shoulder for around 1.5 to 2 hours per pound, or until the inside reaches a temperature of 195°F.
  • Take the pork shoulder out of the smoker and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.
  • Using two forks or meat claws, shred the pork shoulder, discarding any excess fat.
  • Serve the pulled pork with your favorite barbecue sauce, buns, and sides.
Classic Pulled Pork Recipe (190°F)

Crispy Pulled Pork Recipe (205°F)


  • 1 pork shoulder (around 8-10 pounds)
  • Dry rub of your choice
  • Wood chips or chunks for smoking


  1. Preheat your smoker to 205°F.
  2. Dab the pork shoulder dry using paper towels.
  3. Apply a generous amount of dry rub all over the meat, ensuring it covers the surface evenly.
  4. Place the pork shoulder in the smoker, close the lid, and maintain a steady temperature of 205°F.
  5. Add wood chips or chunks to the smoker for a smoky flavor.
  6. Cook the pork shoulder for approximately 1 to 1.5 hours per pound, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 205°F.
  7. Take the pork shoulder out of the smoker and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.
  8. Shred the pork shoulder using two forks or meat claws, discarding any excess fat.
  9. Serve the pulled pork with your preferred barbecue sauce, buns, and sides.
Crispy Pulled Pork Recipe (205°F)

Serving and Pairing Pulled Pork

Pulled pork shines when paired with various serving suggestions and flavorful accompaniments. Here are some ideas to elevate your pulled pork experience:

  • Serve pulled pork on soft burger buns or slider rolls for a classic pulled pork sandwich.
  • Top your pulled pork with tangy coleslaw for a refreshing crunch and contrast of flavors.
  • Pair pulled pork with pickles, either on the side or as a topping, for a delightful burst of acidity.
  • Drizzle your pulled pork with your favorite barbecue sauce—whether sweet, tangy, or spicy—to add a signature flavor profile.
  • Serve pulled pork alongside traditional barbecue sides such as baked beans, macaroni, and cheese, or cornbread for a complete meal.

Feel free to experiment with different serving ideas and let your creativity run wild. Pulled pork is versatile and pairs well with a wide range of flavors.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

While cooking pulled pork can be a rewarding experience, there are a few common mistakes to watch out for:

  1. Overcooking or undercooking the meat: Monitoring the temperature closely is essential to prevent overcooking, which can result in dry meat, or undercooking, which leaves the pork tough and chewy. Ensure accurate cooking by using a meat thermometer.
  2. Neglecting temperature monitoring: Failing to monitor the cooking temperature can lead to inconsistent results. Maintain a steady temperature throughout the process for the best outcome.
  3. Skipping resting and shredding steps: Allowing the pork to rest after cooking helps the juices redistribute within the meat, ensuring a moist and flavorful end product. Shredding the pork correctly creates the desired texture. Don’t rush these important steps.
Overcooked Pork

The Art of Perfectly Shredded Pulled Pork

Shredding pulled pork may seem like a straightforward task, but there’s an art to achieving the perfect texture. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you master the art of shredding pulled pork:

  1. After cooking, transfer the pork shoulder to a clean cutting board or a large tray.
  2. Allow the pork to rest for at least 30 minutes to retain its moisture and make shredding easier.
  3. Using two forks or meat claws, start shredding the pork against the grain. Pull the meat apart gently, separating it into thin, bite-sized strands.
  4. Continue shredding until all the meat is pulled and separated to your desired consistency.
  5. Remove any excess fat or undesirable pieces as you go.
  6. Once shredded, the pulled pork is ready to be served, enjoyed, and savored.
Shredded Pulled Pork

Remember, shredding pulled pork is a flexible process. You can adjust the size and texture of the strands according to your preference.

Experiment with different techniques and find the shredding style that brings you the most pleasure.


In the world of pulled pork, there’s no definitive answer to the 190°F vs. 205°F debate. Both temperatures offer unique cooking experiences, yielding delicious and tender results. 

The choice ultimately depends on your personal preferences, time constraints, and the texture you desire. Embrace the joy of experimentation, try different techniques, and let your taste buds guide you to your preferred pulled pork cooking temperature.

So, fire up your smoker, gather your favorite seasonings, and embark on a flavorful adventure as you explore the world of pulled pork. Whichever temperature you choose, the reward will be a succulent, smoky, and unforgettable experience that will leave you and your guests craving more.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ 1: Can I cook pulled pork at other temperatures?

A: While 190°F and 205°F are commonly used cooking temperatures for pulled pork, you can experiment with other temperature ranges. However, it’s important to note that the cooking times and outcomes may differ. Adjustments may be necessary to ensure the meat reaches the desired tenderness and flavor.

FAQ 2: How long does it take to cook pulled pork at 190°F or 205°F?

A: The cooking time for pulled pork can vary depending on factors such as the size and cut of the meat, the cooking temperature, and the specific equipment used. As a general guideline, you can expect approximately 1.5 to 2 hours of cooking time per pound of pork shoulder at 190°F, and about 1 to 1.5 hours per pound at 205°F. However, it’s always best to use a meat thermometer to determine the doneness of the meat accurately.

FAQ 3: Is it necessary to use a specific type of meat for pulled pork?

A: For authentic and traditional pulled pork, pork shoulder or pork butt is the preferred cut. These cuts are well-suited for slow cooking and result in tender, flavorful pulled pork. However, you can experiment with other cuts of pork to achieve different textures and flavors.

FAQ 4: Can I achieve similar results with a different cooking method?

A: While smoking is the traditional method for cooking pulled pork, you can achieve delicious results using alternative cooking methods. Slow-cooking in a conventional oven or using a slow cooker can also produce tender and flavorful pulled pork. Adjust your cooking time and temperature accordingly, as they may vary.

FAQ 5: Can I combine both 190°F and 205°F cooking temperatures for pulled pork?

A: Yes! If you’re feeling adventurous, you can experiment with a combination of both temperatures. You can start with low and slow cooking at 190°F to achieve tenderness, and then increase the temperature to 205°F to develop a crispy exterior. This approach allows you to enjoy the best of both worlds—a meltingly tender interior with a flavorful bark.


In conclusion, when it comes to the ideal doneness for pulled pork, the debate between 190°F and 205°F continues. While 190°F yields a firmer texture and slightly pinkish color, 205°F renders a more tender and fully shredded consistency.

Ultimately, the choice depends on personal preference and the desired mouthfeel for your pulled pork. So, experiment with both temperatures to find the perfect match for your taste buds and enjoy this delectable dish!

Remember, cooking pulled pork is as much about the journey as it is about the destination. Explore, experiment, and savor each bite of your homemade pulled pork masterpiece!

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