Slow cooked pork cooking conundrum
May 23, 2014 8:17 AM   Subscribe

I've got a 9lb / 4kg pork leg which was set to cook at 225F /110C for around 14 hours (based on guidelines of 1.5 - 2 hours per pound). I discovered the temperature was wrong and now I'm not sure the best way to recover the situation.

4 hours after putting it in the oven I saw that the oven was set to 320F / 160C. I'm not sure when it was changed (or how, but that's another story). The internal temperature of the meat shows 190F / 90C, in other words it is already cooked through.
I've reduced the temperature back to 225F /110C, but I'm not sure of the best way to proceed.

If I take it out of the oven now, I'm worried the fat will not have broken down, and it will be chewy.
If I leave it in for another several hours I'm worried it will dry out.

I'm planning to warm it on the grill/crisp the outside tomorrow before serving, if that affects the decision.

What would you do?
posted by Gomez_in_the_South to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Knock the heat down, pour some beer over the roast, and cover it with foil, then let it go for another couple hours. I assume that you want it to be fork-tender--just keep testing it until that happens. I've done pork butts at 325 for many (6-9) hours, and while it's probably not as juicy as one roasted at a lower temp, they've always been pretty tasty.
posted by MeghanC at 8:27 AM on May 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you haven't already, wrap it in foil to reduce further moisture loss and allow you to collect the juices. You'll probably need to shorten the overall cooking time. After you get to about 8 hours of total cooking time start checking the meat for tenderness every hour or so.

Slice the meat thinner than you might otherwise and serve with the collected juices.
posted by jedicus at 8:28 AM on May 23, 2014

Best answer: Every pork shoulder I've cooked to 190F has been falling-apart tender - that is by all accounts, the perfect temp for a cut of pork with a lot of fat and connective tissue. There is no way for you to tell if yours has done the same (though I can't imagine why it wouldn't) without checking it. So poke at it and taste it!
posted by rtha at 8:28 AM on May 23, 2014

On lack of preview: DO NOT cook it further without actually tasting it and poking it. That way lies madness and potentially dry pork.
posted by rtha at 8:29 AM on May 23, 2014

By all means taste it now if you want, but I would be surprised if it were falling-apart tender after only four hours of total cooking time. Collagen breakdown takes a long time.
posted by jedicus at 8:32 AM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I should've added, it's been covered in foil since the beginning (and still is). The idea was to cook it so that it is very tender on the inside, and then get the outside nice and crispy over the coals tomorrow.

I'll go do some more prodding shortly, and report back.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 8:36 AM on May 23, 2014

Another option is to get one of these plastic bags and add some moisture in there (beer, wine, coca-cola), or to move the whole thing to a crock pot (if you have one large enough).

Should be fine.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:39 AM on May 23, 2014

Best answer: If it's already at 190F I'd probably pull it out, keep it wrapped in foil and let it coast/cool for a while, then pull it apart, removing any un-rendered fat pieces.

If you keep cooking you're going to end up with leather. It's better to have some fat that doesn't render and you remove by hand than to keep cooking it and dry it out.

Once you pull it apart, if you want to go for an Eastern NC style barbecue (and why wouldn't you?), you can moisten the meat with a vinegar-based sauce. It was basically designed to add moisture back into meat along with flavor, but without being overwhelming like a thick tomato sauce would be.

Sometimes when I smoke a pork butt, I'll separate the meat when pulling it into two portions, the dryer part and the moister parts. The moister parts I'll leave as-is without sauce, while the drier parts will get vinegar sauce while still warm. This also keeps people who aren't crazy about E. NC barbecue sauce (heathens) happy. This is probably a mortal sin if you are serious about barbecue but sometimes compromises must be made.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:53 AM on May 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

I cook fatty cuts of pork all the time at various temps (from 225° to 325°) depending on the time available. Only one thing matters. Fork tenderness.

Stick a fork in it and try to gently turn the fork 90 degrees. If the fork doesn't rotate easily, stick it back in and put the oven to 225°F. It will be fine.

For what it's worth, I've done more than 100 pork shoulders over the years. Some reached fork tender at 190F, some reached it at 210F. Every one seems a bit different. Trust your thermometer up to 190 or so, but ultimately you have to trust the fork.
posted by foggy out there now at 8:56 AM on May 23, 2014

then pull it apart, removing any un-rendered fat pieces.

Oh! Listen, one time I made carnitas, and it mostly looked and acted fine, but I couldnt't have known that right in the middle was a nice bundle of unrendered fat and tissue. So I forked apart everything that was forkable, and then put the unrendered bits in a Dutch oven on the grill and rendered/fried it and as it broke down I added the already-forked bits and holy cow did it turn out beautifully. So try that, if you need to.
posted by rtha at 8:58 AM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I took a sample from the centre and it is pretty tender already (and still very moist). So I poured the juices over and will leave it in for another hour, and I think that should be perfect.

Thanks for all the excellent advice and additional options to consider.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 9:00 AM on May 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: The meat turned out great after all, it shredded easily after heating on the barbeque this afternoon, and was enjoyed in pita bread along with the various dips we had. Cheers again.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 7:34 AM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

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