Most people believe that taking pork above 160°F internal temperature is necessary because undercooked pork has historically been a source of trichinosis, and this minimal temperature was required to destroy it.

This is no longer the case, thanks to developments in contemporary pork production, so the USDA has reduced the safe temperature for pork to 145°F.

This is fantastic news! Pork is still a touch pink at 145°F, but it’s a lot more juicy, supple and enjoyable to eat!

Many people maintain that 160°F is safer, and after many years of cooking at this temperature, I genuinely prefer it. I suppose the decision is yours?

The smoker temperature is a steady 225 – 250°F across all pork cuts, just like it is with beef, although the finished meat temperature and duration can vary from cut to cut. 

Temperatures and times for smoking pork

Whole hog

The ideal way to treat a whole hog is to smoke it until it reaches 200 degrees Fahrenheit, then shred it and serve it like pulled pork.

Now for the smoking time: 7 minutes per pound, with a range of 4 to 18 hours. I realize it sounds excessively hazy. However, a whole hog can be anything from a 20-pound suckling pig to a 150-pound entire hog, which will take dramatically different times.

So, to get a ballpark estimate of time, take the weight in pounds and multiply it by 7 minutes. Regardless of size, no whole pig will ever take less than 4 hours to cook. As an estimate, consider the fastest time of 7 minutes per pound or 4 hours.

This means that a pig weighing 35 pounds or less will be ready in about 4 hours, a 50-pound pig would take 5.5 to 6.5 hours, and a 150-pound pig will take 17 to 18 hours.

  • Servings: Allow 1.5–2 pounds of raw weight per person
  • Total smoking duration: 8–18 hours
  • Per pound smoking time: 10 minutes
  • Finished internal temperature: 205°F
  • Rest time after smoking: 1 hour

Butt, shoulder

Pork Butt smoking time or Pork shoulder smoking time (Pork Butt is the upper shoulder) normally takes around 1 hour for every pound of meat. Thus, the optimal size is 12 pounds, which means the meat smoking time is more or less 12 hours. Make sure your pork shoulder has thawed for at least a few hours before you smoke it. Put it on your table and begin by sprinkling your favorite rub all over the piece of meat. We normally recommend BBQ rub, but you can use any rub you like.

Make sure to remove any excess fat from the meat as well. As with most large slabs of meat, it is best to adopt the low and slow method, which involves keeping the smoker temperature about 225 – 250°F.

After you’ve tried all of the approaches mentioned above, all you have to do is keep an eye on your meat thermometer. When the beef reaches 160 – 165 °F, remove it and wrap it in aluminum foil before returning it to the oven until it reaches 190 – 195°F.

  • Servings: 1 pound raw weight per person
  • Total smoking time: variable
  • Smoking time per pound: 1.5 hours per pound
  • Finished internal temperature: 205°F
  • Rest time after smoking: 1 hour

Belly

Many recipes call for cooking the pork belly to 165°F or thereabouts. However, I find that the meat, particularly the fat, is far from soft at this point, which is why I recommend increasing the temperature somewhat.

At 185°F+, the fat begins to render and melt, resulting in the juiciest slice of pork you can get from a hog.

So I was hoping you could take my word for it and smoke the belly until it reaches temperatures above 195°F. Probe it for tenderness at this point; it’s done when a toothpick placed into it meets no resistance all around.

I also recommend removing the rind/skin, unless you want to grill or pour over screaming hot oil when it’s done, to get crispy crackling. Otherwise, it will be rubbery, chewy, and unappealing after smoking slowly and slowly.

  • Servings: 1/2 to 3/4 pound raw weight per person
  • Total smoking time: 5 – 7 hours
  • Per pound smoking time: 1 hour
  • Finished internal temperature: 140°F
  • Rest after smoking: 15 minutes 

Baby back ribs

Baby back ribs generally take around 5 hours to cook, but you may surely speed up the process. Some people may have mentioned how competition-style ribs differ from regular “at home” ribs. Competition-style ribs aren’t as “well done” as ribs cooked at home because one of the criteria is that the judges should see a bite mark when they bite into the rib.

  • Servings: 14 to 1/2 rack per person
  • Total smoking time: 5–6 hours
  • Per pound smoking duration: 1 hour
  • Finished internal temperature: 180°F
  • Rest time after smoking: 10 minutes

Spare ribs

They should be easily detached from the bone but not ‘falling off the bone.’ You’re still looking for some ‘bite’ there.

The Bend Test – Pick up your ribs in the middle with tongs. Lift gently, and if the meat begins to crack or break away from the bone, they’re probably done.

The Toothpick Test is inserting a skewer or toothpick between the bones of the meat. It should go in with little to no resistance. Just make sure to check in more than one place.

All ribs are different, and some may be ready at 190°F while others require temperatures above 200°F. I know; it’s vexing. Begin bending and probing at 190F and check every 15 minutes until they feel done according to the two tests above. 

  • Smoker temperature: 225-240°F
  • Cooking time: 6 hours
  • Safe Finished Meat Temperature: 145°F
  • Chef Recommended Finish Temperature: 195°F 

Loin

Pork loin has a propensity to dry out, so keep your smoker truly low and slow, and cook it to 145F and no more than a degree over.

  • Servings: Allow around 3/4 pound of raw weight per person.
  • Total smoking time: 3 – 5 hours.
  • Per pound smoking time: 30 – 45 minutes.
  • Finished internal temperature: 145°F.

Tenderloin

Pork tenderloin and pork loin are not the same cut, should be cooked differently, and cannot be substituted.

Pork tenderloin is a much smaller cut that comes from a whole separate muscle in the animal. It’s also leaner, more delicate, and dare I say that when compared to most pork chops, it lacks flavor.

So I advocate going all out with a wet brine or marinate, some dry rub, and a brief sear after smoking. To allow for some extra grilling, stop smoking before your goal temperature.

  • Cook Time: 2 Hours
  • Smoker Temperature: 225-240°F
  • Safe Finished Meat Temperature: 145°F
  • Chef Recommended Finish Temperature: 145°F

Ham

Ham is a lovely cut that you can flavor in various ways with your choice of brine ingredients, injections, glazes, and more. It’s terrific when warm, great when cold and nice as the main course of a meal or sliced for a daily sandwich.

Wrapping your ham after the first two hours or so of smoking can help keep the moisture in, resulting in a much more tender and juicy ham.

  • Smoker temperature: 225 – 250°F
  • Finished internal temperature: 145°F
  • Time required: 3 – 5 hours

Smoked pork shoulder vs. Smoked pork butt

Most smoked pork butt recipes call for a bone-in pork shoulder, often known as a Boston butt roast or a pork butt. These are all labels for the same piece of pork.

None of them come from the pig’s buttocks (which can be perplexing) but rather from the upper region of the shoulder. The pork butt, also known as the pork shoulder, includes numerous overlapping and hardworking muscle groups held together by strong connective tissue.

Because of the tight tissue, this cut is ideal for smoking. It would be difficult to slice and serve a hog shoulder roast that was not cooked low and slow enough to break down the tight muscles and connective fibers. You’d end up chewing for an extended period and not getting anywhere.

By slowly cooking the meat over a wood fire for an extended period, those tissues begin to break down, tenderize, and create magnificent strands of highly juicy smoked pork shoulder.

What wood chips should you use to smoke pork?

When smoking pork, I prefer to use either cherry wood chips or apples. The apple and cherry are both delicious, with delicate fruity subtleties. In the charcoal smoker, I normally make a mixture of those and mesquite lump charcoal. Pecan chips are too rich and overbearing for pork.

How do you take a temperature reading?

To check the temperature, you’ll probably need to invest in a nice digital meat thermometer. The ThermoPro thermometer is highly recommended. It contains two probes, one for piercing the pork and the other for piercing the grill on your smoker. The beauty of this thermometer is that you can set maximum and minimum alarms so that you are notified when the temperature of your smoker drops/rises and when your meat is done. A digital thermometer is more accurate than a smoker’s gauge, which gives you a “guesstimate” of the ambient temperature within your smoker.

Keep in mind that this is only a general guide. Other things that can influence how your meat cooks in the smoker include:

  • The thickness of the flesh
  • Whether or not the meat has been deboned
  • The amount of fat in the meat
  • The temperature outside and how well insulated the smoker is.
  • The type of smoker
  • The usage of wood charcoal and the type of wood used influence the flavor of the meat.
  • Whether or not the meat was brought to room temperature. 

How can you know when your smoked pork butt is done?

Pork butt should be cooked until it achieves an internal temperature of at least 195°F, although many prefer it to be cooked until it reaches 203°F.

  • An average estimate for cooking time for pork butt is 2 hours per pound of pork.
  • From start to finish, an 8lb pork butt can take up to 16 hours.

How can you know when your ribs are done?

Ribs are safe to eat at 145°F, but they aren’t normally considered done until the fat and collagen have melted and become soft, which happens around 190-203°F.

  • A complete slab of baby back ribs will take 4-5 hours to cook, while a slab of spare ribs would take 6-7 hours.
  • Properly cooked bbq ribs should not break apart.
  • The best indicator of a properly cooked slab of ribs is when it begins to crack on the surface when gently tapped with a pair of BBQ tongs.