Smoking a juicy, flavorful pork shoulder doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, the easier the better when it comes to achieving smoky BBQ nirvana. This straightforward smoked pork shoulder recipe keeps things deliciously simple with just a few basic ingredients and low-maintenance steps. But the payoff? An unbelievable display of low-and-slow smoked meat perfection.

Get ready to sink your teeth into the most succulent, incredibly tender pulled pork that will make you question everything you thought you knew about true barbecue. We’re talking fall-apart, mouth-wateringly juicy pork absolutely packed with sweet, smoky, crispy-edged flavors so insanely delicious, you won’t even need sauce (but you’ll definitely want it anyway because, well, it’s BBQ!).

Why This Recipe Is a Game-Changer

  • Foolproof Execution – Follow basic instructions for perfect pulled pork every time.
  • Budget Bites – An inexpensive pork shoulder transforms into BBQ gold.
  • Flavor Bomb – A mind-blowing sweet, smoky, savory taste explosion.
  • Versatility King – Use this smoky pulled pork for sandwiches, tacos, nachos, pizzas, and more (check out all the leftover pulled pork recipe ideas)
  • Crowd Pleaser – This simple recipe makes enough to feed a ravenous crowd.
Ingredients for Smoked Pork Shoulder / Pork Butt

What You’ll Need

  • A Bone-in or Boneless Pork shoulder or butt – Either boneless or bone-in.
  • Kosher salt 
  • Sweet dry rub – Your favorite or use my pork rub recipe with smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin, brown sugar, oregano, black pepper and celery seeds.
  • Wood Chunks or Pellets – Apple, cherry, or pecan are my preferred wood type for smoking pork.
  • Jump down to see the tools & special equipment I use.

Jump to the full recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

How to Smoke a Pork Shoulder or Pork Butt

Follow these simple steps to achieve smoked pork shoulder perfection. Beginning the prep a day in advance allows those sweet-spicy seasonings to penetrate deeply, yielding unbelievably juicy and flavorful results. Let’s get smoking!

  1. Trim and Score. Trim excess fat on pork shoulder (if needed), leaving a 1/4-inch fat cap. Score the cap in a diamond pattern, being careful not to slice into the meat. This allows seasonings to penetrate better and render that fat beautifully.
  2. Apply Your Flavor Ammo. Lavish that pork shoulder with a gratuitous amount of kosher salt and our sweet, spicy dry rub. Don’t be shy here – this is what’s gonna build that crazy flavorful bark.
    For the most flavor, let it hang out uncovered in the fridge for 24 hours to let that salt penetrate deep into the meat.
  3. Prep the Smoker. About an hour before go-time, get your smoker preheated to 250°F (± 25° F). Have your thermometer probes at the ready too so you can cook to temp rather than by time.
  4. Smoke That Beauty. Once your smoker is preheated, carefully transfer the seasoned pork shoulder to the grates. Close the lid and let the low and slow smoke work its magic. There’s no need to peak if you are remotely monitoring the temperature.

Pro Tip: Embrace the Stall. Don’t panic if the internal temperature gets stuck hovering around 160°F for a while (even a few hours) – this is the notorious “stall” period and it’s totally normal. You can power through by wrapping in foil or butcher paper if you need to speed it up. Otherwise, just ride it out patiently with another cold beverage.

  1. Pull That Porker. When the pork finally hits 195-205°F in its thickest part (203°F internal is what I go for), carefully remove it from the smoker. Wrap it up tightly in foil or butcher paper to rest for at least 1 hour, or up to 4 hours. You can place it in a cooler so it stays hot. This crucial rest lets those juices incorporate.
  2. Shredding Ceremony. After resting, unwrap your smoked pork prize. You can use pork-pulling claws or just go caveman with a couple of forks or even just your hands with nitrile gloves on to shred it, working against the grain. If desired, mix in some of your favorite BBQ sauce at this point. Then it’s chow time!

And that’s all it takes to create smoked pulled pork mastery. This pork shoulder is so incredibly delicious and tender, you might just shed (or shred) a happy tear. Your friends and family will go crazy over this insanely flavorful, fall-apart pulled pork. After mastering this recipe, you’ll be the undisputed Pitmaster of the neighborhood!

Smoked Pork Shoulder - pulled pork on sheet pan

Be sure to check out the sous vide pork shoulder recipe and other ways to make pulled pork.

How Long to Smoke a Pork Shoulder?

The cook time for a boneless pork shoulder is around 80 to 90 minutes per pound in a 250° F smoker. A 4-pound pork shoulder will take approximately 6 hours. A 9-pound pork shoulder will take approximately 13 1/2 hours. A bone-in pork butt will take slightly longer than a boneless cut.

Smoked Pork Shoulder Close Up

Top Tips for Success

  • Plan ahead and start early: Low and slow smokes usually take much longer than you expect. The simple solution is to start early (you can even start smoking it the night before).
  • Use a high-quality meat thermometer to cook by temperature, not time. Every cook is different so letting the internal temp guide you is key.
  • Keep that smoker lid closed! Every time you lift the lid, you’re losing precious heat and smoke. Resist peeking as much as you can.
  • Cook it Faster – If you do need to speed things up, you can wrap the pork once it hits 165°F or bump the smoker temp up to 275°F.
  • Finish it in the oven – If you run out of fuel for your smoker, or need to speed up the process, you can wrap and finish cooking the pork shoulder in a 275 to 300° F oven and it will turn out great.
  • Allow for a long rest – at least 1 hour but 2 to 3 is better. Letting those juices redistribute makes the pulled pork incredibly moist and flavorful. You can hold it in a cooler for many hours as long as the internal temp of the meat remains above 140° F.
pulled pork sandwiches on butcher paper horizontal

Serving Suggestions

Pile that glorious smoked pulled pork high on a buttery bun with fresh slaw, pickles and a zesty sauce for an epic sandwich. Use it for overstuffed BBQ tacos or cheesy smoked pork nachos. Or keep it simple by serving it protein-style over a salad or a rice bowl, inside a baked potato or mac and cheese. The smoky, sweet, savory flavor plays so nicely with:

And if you love pulled pork, you just have to give BBQ pulled chicken a try!

Storing & Reheating Instructions

This smoked pulled pork is amazing as leftover for days! Before storing, let any leftovers cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for 3-4 days.

For longer storage, the shredded meat freezes incredibly well. Portion it out into sealable freezer bags, squeeze out any excess air (or vacuum seal it), and freeze for up to 6 months.

To reheat, try:

  • Skillet method for crispy bits: Add shredded pork to a hot skillet over medium heat and heat until crisped up and warmed through.
  • Simmer with sauce: Add pulled pork and your favorite BBQ sauce to a pot and simmer until heated through.
  • In the smoker or the oven in a pan until it reaches 140°
  • Sous vide right from frozen: Add the vacuum-sealed frozen bag of pork right into a 140°F water bath and warm for 1 hour.

Tools & Special Equipment Used

It’s hard not to mention the gear when it comes to smoking meat. The most important tool? A top-notch remote probe thermometer to monitor that internal temp so you nail the perfect pull every time… Check out all my most recommended smoker accessories

Smoked Pork Shoulder - pulled pork on sheet pan horizontal

Crazy Delicious Smoked Pork Shoulder

With just a few simple steps, you'll create an unbelievably juicy, fall-off-the-bone smoked pork shoulder packed with insane smoky flavors – it's so ridiculously delicious, you won't even need sauce.
4.51 from 67 votes
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 hours
Resting Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 11 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 16
Calories: 228kcal

Ingredients

  • 6 to 10 lb Pork Shoulder or Boston Butt
  • 3 tbsp Diamond Kosher Salt

Dry Rub

  • 1/8 cup Smoked Paprika
  • 2 tbsp Packed Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Dark Chili Powder
  • 1 tbsp Cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 tbsp Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp Celery Seeds

Instructions

Prep the Pork Shoulder

  • Trim off excess fat using a sharp knife. Score the fat side with a 1" crosshatch pattern, being careful not to slice into the flesh.
  • Make the dry rub by combing all the dry rub ingredients in a shaker or small bowl. 
  • Season the entire pork shoulder with about 2 tablespoons (1 teaspoon of Diamond kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp Morton Kosher salt) per pound of meat and sprinkle a liberal amount of the rub all over the pork. Refrigerate uncovered for 12 to 24 hours if possible.

Smoke the Pork Shoulder

  • Remove the pork shoulder from the refrigerator at least 1 hour prior to cooking it. Insert a remote probe thermometer into the thickest part.
  • Setup the smoker according to the manufacturer's instructions for indirect heat cooking and bring the temperature up to 250° F.
  • Place the pork in the smoker on the grate and smoke for about 90 minutes per pound, or until the internal temperature reaches 195-205° F. Continuously monitor the temperature with a probe thermometer

Rest and Shred

  • Remove the pork shoulder from the smoker and wrap it tightly with aluminum foil or butcher paper and place it in an insulated cooler to rest for at least 1 hour, or up to 4 hour. 
  • Shred the pork using or a large fork or BBQ meat forks, pulling across the strands to maintain the texture. Optionally combine with BBQ sauce. Serve and enjoy!

Video

Notes

  • This recipe will work for both small and large pork shoulders. Larger roasts will just take longer. 
  • Important: If your dry rub already contains salt, then be cautious about adding too much more. If it’s not in the rub, then it should be added separately.
  • Applying salt and a dry rub ahead of time is optional, but highly recommended. If you can’t season the day before, season it at least 1 hour before.
  • Apple or Cherry wood is best for smoking pork. Use 3 to 4 wood chunks for a charcoal smoker.
  • Cook time: Approximately 90 minutes per pound at 250° F

Nutrition

Calories: 228kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 39g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 102mg | Sodium: 974mg | Potassium: 671mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 193IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 26mg | Iron: 2mg
4.51 from 67 votes (33 ratings without comment)

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110 Comments

  1. I got a double pack of shoulder roasts from Costco. If I were to smoke both at the same time, how much extra time would you expect them to take?

    1. It depends on your smoker, but it could take 1 to 3 hours longer to have both in there. I recently smoked two butts from Costco and had probe thermometers in each. Interestingly, one took over an hour longer to reach the target finish temp than the other. Could be the makeup/size/shape of the meat, fat content, the smoker, etc. So it’s a good idea to get a probe in each one as they will likely cook at different rates and you want each to be perfect. 🙂

      1. Perfect. Thanks! I’ll have them both with a probe and will just plan for them to be done slightly separately.

  2. 5 stars
    Confused by this:

    “Use 1 teaspoon of Diamond kosher salt per pound or ½ teaspoon of Morton kosher salt per pound of pork shoulder.”

    Why half the amount of Morton? Kosher salt is kosher salt.

  3. 5 stars
    Wow! The author was right when he said you won’t need sauce. I made this as my first meal on my new smoker and even with figuring out a new unit, it turned out absolutely amazing. I was able to grab the bone and pull it right out with zero effort. It was actually difficult to pick up off the grill because it wanted to fall apart. I will be making this again

    1. Sounds like it came out fantastic! Thanks for the great feedback and great job on your first smoke in the new machine. Keep up the great work. 🙂

  4. 5 stars
    First time smoking a 7.5 pound pork butt, at 225 F using a pellet unit. Took 13 hours to reach 192 F internal temp plus a one hour rest time. Came out moist and tender, thank you for the recipe. Finished at 3:30 AM This morning

    1. 5 stars
      Pellet grill is equal to a crock pot, anyone can do it. Takes a lot more dedication to do it on a wood/charcoal smoker.

  5. 5 stars
    This recipe is the first one I ever tried with my CharGriller Akorn 2 years ago and it is the same one I’ve used ever since. I’ve smoked pork butt with this exact rub since. I like to use hickory and cherry wood when I smoke pork butt. Every time I make this everyone raves about how good it is. Thanks.

  6. 5 stars
    This was the first recipe I tried on this site and it turned out absolutely amazing.

    I used a 6lb Boston Butt just so I did not have to trim it. I made the rub that was suggested here and followed the recipe. Since I had a larger than recommended cut of meat it took a little longer for the internal temp to reach 195. I ended up bagging up 1/4lb portions and sharing with friends and family. They all want more.

    I used a PittBoss 3-series electric upright smoker.

    1. I’m sure your friends loved you for sharing. When I wrote this recipe it was for the smaller portion listed. But pretty much ever since, I smoke a full size shoulder that is usually 12 pounds or more, which take a heck of a long time. Usually in there for 15 hours, but then there is more to share with friends. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your comment with us, Doug!

  7. 5 stars
    Hey Justin,

    LOVE this recipe. Smoked pork shoulder is always worth the wait.

    BBQin’ and smoking meat will always hold a special place in my heart!

    (Photos are on point too!)

    Stay awesome,

    Devan from Braised & Deglazed

  8. 5 stars
    Awesome recipe! I did this on my Weber kettle with a 5 lb bone-in Boston butt and it turned out fantastic. The recipe calls for boneless but I prefer bone-in and it didn’t seem to affect the cook time too much from what I could tell. The meat stalled at about 160-170 degrees so for time purposes I wrapped it in foil for the last hour or so and that was able to get me past the stall a little more quickly and get up to 200. I put the meat on at 9am and took off at 5pm so that was 8 total hours of smoke for me. I had been hoping for more like 6-7 hours as the recipe calls for but each piece of meat is different and my Weber probably doesn’t hold the heat as well as an Egg which is what the recipe calls for so maybe that was on me. I didn’t let it sit for too long at all (maybe 15-20 minutes) just cus I had hungry guests to feed and didn’t want to wait a whole hour. The meat still pulled really easily and tasted fantastic so it wasn’t a problem for me. For the dry rub, I cut the cumin in half because I think it can be overpowering and I added a tbsp of garlic powder because that is a must have for me. I also put the dry rub on the night before and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Flavor/bark turned out awesome. Thanks for some of the best damn pulled pork I’ve ever had!

  9. 5 stars
    I stumbled across your method and have stuck by it every time I smoke a pork butt. I use my own seasoning / marinade for a Cuban style pork butt I make and it comes out PERFECT. I use a vertical propane smoker with apple wood chips. Thanks for sharing!

    1. 5 stars
      HELP! I made this for tonight and it didn’t turn out. I followed your recipe, I had a 6lb boneless pork shoulder and it was on the smoker from 1130am to 730pm and never got past 156 degrees! I know you said it would stall but it was already on 8hrs and was at around 150 degrees for a long time too. Did I just not have it on long enough? I’m new to smoking meats and this is my first smoker (pellets). Not sure if that just takes longer? The flavor was wonderful just tough 🙁

      1. Hi Jennifer. I’m here to help. It sounds to me like it was just a long “stall” which can really mess with you. It needed to just keep going and would start to rise probably after a little longer. What was your smoker’s temperature? And was it consistent?

  10. I’m using wood chips instead of chunks. Would you add them for the whole cooking time or just the first 4 hours?

    1. Hey Brian. No adjustment needed for a pellet smoker except for the obvious of using pellets vs chips/chunks. I hope it turns out great.

    2. This took much longer than 90 minutes per pound at 250 degrees. I am using a brand new Rec Tec Smoker grill. I put a 2 lb Boneless Pork shoulder roast on at 12:15 PM. At 4:40 PM the internal temp still was only 177 degrees.

  11. I’ve been looking for a straight shredding fork like the one you use. Are they still available and where? Thanks!

    1. Hi Frank, are you referring to the shredding fork I used in the recipe video? If so, the funny thing is that is actually an ice chipper which turns out to be the perfect tool for shredding pork. Here’s an amazon link to the one I have https://amzn.to/2YQaIif and another version with a different handle that looks like it might be nicer https://amzn.to/31zDDsE (affiliate links). I always like a good multi-use tool. 🙂

  12. Tried this recipe on a 9 hour cook with 4.5 of smoke. Came out incredibly well and flavorful. Super easy recipe to follow, and although I was concerned with the cumin…it was an incredible flavor and was super tender. Thanks for the best pulled pork my family has ever had!

      1. It should stay really moist on its own, but I will usually keep it covered with aluminum foil. You can of course also mix in your favorite bbq sauce for pulled pork sandwiches, but I have always found that not necessary with how good this smoked pork shoulder comes out every time.

      2. 5 stars
        The fat and juices coagulate (sp?), they are still there, they are just hardened into the meat, soon as you re-heat it the juices and fat will re-liquify. Try heating some up in a sautee pan with orange juice, it will caramelize it.

  13. 5 stars
    Thank you for this recipe! It came out perfect, muah! Even though I had to triple the recipe for a big family. I cook this almost every week for my husband and son! We love it! I usually serve it with some potatoes and asparagus.

    1. So so glad to hear it, Donda! Love that you triple it. Your husband and son sure are lucky. I have been using this method for years now and now smoke about 20 pounds of pork shoulder at a time so I have plenty to give away.

    1. Hi Ang,
      That’s a really small piece of butt, but it will still work. I’d go with a lower temperature at 225 degrees F and let it cook until the internal temp gets to 195 degrees F. The time will be a lot less, but it’s really about the internal temp and not the time.
      I hope it came out great.
      Cheers,
      Justin

  14. 5 stars
    Great recipe! The apple chips give it a great smoke flavor throughout the meet. Im on my third shoulder and love the way it comes out. Thanks for sharing!

  15. 5 stars
    This recipe is the absolute best!!! Seriously, just follow it as written and you’ll be addicted to smoked pork. I’ve made this recipe probably six times and never tried anything else. I used to be a beef ribeye guy, but this changed all that. It’s so moist that you can heat up leftovers two or three times and it’ll still knock your socks off. Give it a try and you won’t regret it.

    1. Hey Gordon! Thank you so much. That is so wonderful to hear. I have to say that I totally agree with you. Every time I smoke a pork shoulder, I am just amazed by how good it is, how many meals you can get out of it and how much you can share. Happy smoking!
      Justin

      1. Hey Sean,
        I add about 4 to 5 large wood “chunks” which will last for several hours. What type of smoker and fuel are you using?

  16. 5 stars
    Using this recipe once again. I also use their coleslaw recipe and both turn out fantastic. The meat comes out very moist and tender with a great smoke flavor. The coleslaw is on point. I also cook for 2 of my elderly neighbors and got nothing but rave reviews. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

  17. How is this the day after? Due to timing of our guests, I have to make this the day before we eat it (or else start smoking at 2am). So how does it work to eat it the day after I smoke it? Should I keep it whole, then shred it before we eat it? Thanks

    1. Hey Gary! It’s so good the day after. It’s easier to shred when it is still warm. You can then crisp it up in a hot skillet or slowly warm it in a low oven or slow cooker. I hope it came out great.