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


  • 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


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!



  • 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


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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  1. I would put something in there about the stall for newbies, and emphasize that unless you’ve got a picnic shoulder, you absolutely need to start the night before which is FINE, since pulled pork reheats on the smoker so well. The first time I did a shoulder I actually had a temp reduction during it and I was like what the what? But I was using a recipe just like yours. It would have been nice to know you can stall out for many hours.

  2. 5 stars
    Hello I am hosting a party this weekend. we are expecting about 60 people. I am going to make 4 pork shoulders and can only fit 2 at a time on my smoker so i will need to reheat them later. how would you suggest I reheat them for the party. we have made it many times before and love it but have not found a way to reheat.

    1. I would use an oven if possible. Keep 2 warm while preparing two. What you present also has a lot of variables to consider.

    2. Hi Megan! Your party might have already happened before I had a chance to reply (just got back from vacation), so I hope it turned out great. As Frank mentioned, the oven would be great for holding or reheating.
      The size of the shoulders is a big factor for how long they will take. Another option is to do two in the smoker and two in the oven. Of course the smoked ones will have more smoke flavor, but in the oven will still be really good.
      You can also smoke the first two ahead of time, shred them and then chill in the fridge. Closer to the time to eat, you can heat the pulled pork up in large skillets or in the oven.

    3. When I have to cook a potluck for work I have to smoke 4 pork shoulders for the entire Warehouse.
      I will cook two of them the weekend before,shred them and keep them in all it’s juices. Then I would put it in the freezer and defrost it when I need.
      The I will cook the other 2 the next weekend and when I shred those two I mixed both batches together. Put them in the oven to heat everything up when it’s time to eat

  3. I was wondering what different steps,if any, to smoking 2 butts at the same time? I really enjoyed your tips and excited for more learning…

    1. Really the same process. Here are a few tips for smoking two butts at the same time (which I do almost every time):
      – give them enough space between each other.
      – The cook time will likely increase a bit depending on your smoker, so be prepared for that (and it’s not a big deal).
      – Put a thermometer probe in each butt, since they will likely cook at different rates. One might take a lot longer than the other.
      That’s it. Everything else should be the same.

  4. 5 stars
    Hi Justin! I did my first shoulder butt between yesterday and today based on your expertise. I found your info to be very informative, and the end product was drool-worthy!! I did use my own rub recipe as I had already had some prepped, but adding the celery seed was a game changer! Thank you for that tip! Cheers to great food!!

    1. Watch the thermometer after you place it IN the meat. I use the many time listings as time to start watching the thermometer. It works every time … even during winter months.

      Happy Smokin’