Smoked Pork Shoulder Recipe

David Dial | Spiced Blog

Smoked Pork Shoulder should be in every griller and smoker's repertoire. Easier than you think, and sure to please a whole mess o' people.

Smoked Pork Shoulder Photo

Is there anything better than spending a warm spring or summer day hanging out in the backyard? On any given weekend, you can probably find me outside in the garden admiring the current crop of veggies and fruit.

Am I the only one that stalks my garden this time of the year? I go out there nearly every day to see what has popped up overnight! Of course, I almost always have the smoker going on the weekends, too.

I seriously love using the smoker, and our summer dinner almost always features some sort of smoked meat or veggie. One of my all-time favorites is this smoked pork shoulder.

Sure, it takes a long time to smoke the pork shoulder, but it’s a pretty minimal amount of actual work. And the reward is well worth the time spent!

As a Southern boy, I was raised on the deliciousness that is a pulled pork sandwich. In fact, pulled pork is probably one of my top 3 favorite summer meals… it’s that good!

I know there are plenty of recipes out there for making pulled pork in a slow cooker. That’s fine in the winter. But when the weather is nice, it’s time to make the real thing!

Smoked Pork Shoulder Picture

Load up a smoker with some lump charcoal and wood chunks. Put the pork shoulder on there and sit back and relax while that bad boy slowly cooks for almost the entire day. Warning: by mid-afternoon, your stomach will be growling thanks to the delicious smells wafting in off of the smoker!

If you’re a bit wary of using a smoker and cooking something for upwards of 8-10 hours, don’t worry! I was a bit intrigued the first time I did it, too. Since then, I’ve made this smoked pork shoulder many, many times. Here are a couple of tips I’ve picked up along the way:

David's Top Tips for Smoking Pork Shoulder:

  • This is the ultimate form of “low and slow.” Load the smoker with charcoal and wood the day before so that it’s all ready to go the next morning. That way you can get started as soon as possible the next day. And once you put that pork shoulder on, don’t open the smoker again until it’s done!
  • Use lump charcoal instead of briquettes and wood chunks instead of wood chips. These forms burn longer and more efficiently, so chances are you won’t even need to add more charcoal throughout the day. Plus, lump charcoal is made from actual wood instead of compressed sawdust!
  • Use a probe-style meat thermometer. If you don’t have one, go get one! You just insert the thermometer into the center of the meat before putting it on the smoker. Then all you have to do is watch the temperature to know when it’s done. You don’t want to be opening the smoker every hour to check the temperature with a traditional meat thermometer! Also, pork shoulders have a large bone that runs about half-way through one portion of the cut. Make sure the tip of the probe isn’t touching this bone or you will end up with an incorrect temperature reading.
  • Operating a smoker is more like driving a boat than a car. Your goal is stay between 225°F-240°F. If the temperature starts to fall, open up the air vents slightly. Likewise, if the temperature starts to climb too high, adjust it by closing the vents ever so slightly.
  • Don’t be alarmed when the temperature of the meat doesn’t rise at a steady rate. You’ll notice that the temperature on the thermometer will climb relatively quickly over the first couple of hours. You might even think…wow, this Smoked Pork Shoulder is going to be done soon. Don’t get too excited. The temperature climb will level out about half-way through the smoke for a couple of hours. That’s normal. It will take 1-1.5 hours per pound to fully cook a pork shoulder.
  • Resist the urge to dig into the Smoked Pork Shoulder as soon as it comes off of the smoker. Wrap that bad boy up in 2 layers of aluminum foil and let it rest in a cooler for 1-2 hours. I know this is absolute torture, but this allows the meat to reabsorb all of those delicious juices. If you cut into it right away, you will lose this flavor! You just spent hours cooking it…what’s another hour or two at the end?
  • Making real Smoked Pork Shoulder takes a long time. It’s not much work, but it takes time. Because of the time it takes to make this Smoked Pork Shoulder, I often start it early in the morning, and I also smoke it the day before I want to eat it. That way you aren’t stressing out about whether it will be ready for dinner. (Hint: Unless you want to start the smoker in the middle of the night, then don’t plan on making this the same day that Grandma is showing up for dinner at 4:00pm!)

Finally, use two forks to shred the pork shoulder once it has rested. Then store this pulled pork in a couple of large sandwich bags. Pulled pork actually freezes very well, too. I often smoke 2 pork shoulders (at the same time) in the mid-Fall, and then I just pack away all of the meat for delicious smoked meals in the middle of the winter. A tasty Pulled Pork Sandwich in the middle of January helps you forget about all of the snow outside… at least for a few minutes!

Now that you've got the smoked meats bug, try David's smoked ribs recipe and smoked beef brisket recipe too. 

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Smoked Pork Shoulder Recipe

    16 Servings


  • 5-7 pounds Pork Shoulder, also called Pork Butt or Boston Butt
  • hickory wood chips or chunks
  • Lump Charcoal
Spice Rub:
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Red Chili Powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon Onion Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Dry Mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cumin


  1. Remove pork shoulder from the refrigerator to allow it to begin to come to room temperature.
  2. Load the smoker or grill with the lump charcoal and wood chunks. Light the charcoal and adjust air valves on the smoker until you achieve a steady temperature between 225°F-240°F. (Note: this will likely take about 30 minutes, so plan accordingly!)
  3. Meanwhile, combine all of the spices for the Rub in a small bowl; mix until well combined.
  4. Rub all sides of the pork shoulder with the Rub.
  5. Insert the probe thermometer into the center of the pork. (Note: Make sure probe is not touching bone as that will yield an incorrect temperature.)
  6. Place pork shoulder on the grill and close lid. (Note: Do not open lid again unless you need more charcoal. Lump charcoal is recommended here as it burns longer than charcoal briquettes.)
  7. Occasionally check the temperature of the grill. If the temperature has moved outside of the 225°F-240°F range, then adjust air vents as necessary.
  8. Once the pork shoulder reaches an internal temperature of 190°F-195°F, remove it from the grill and wrap it in aluminum foil. Place pork shoulder in a cooler to rest for 1-2 hours. (This is an important step as it allows the pork to reabsorb the juices.)
  9. Using a carving knife and two forks, shred the pork into smaller pieces.


  • Pork shoulder is also called pork butt or Boston butt.
  • Your cook time could be anywhere from 7-10 hours, depending on the size of your pork shoulder.


Cooking Method:
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Related Recipes:
Pork Recipes, Smoked Recipes, Sandwich Recipes, Barbecue Recipes, Dinner Recipes
Recipe Yields:
4 pounds
Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Total Time:
Related Post:
Author: David Dial
Recipe Yields: 4 pounds
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 600 minutes
Total Time: 630 minutes

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size 1/4 pound per person
Servings Per Recipe 16

Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 141
Calories 271

% Daily Value*
Total Fat 18g
  Saturated Fat 6g
Sodium 162mg
Total Carbohydrate 1g
  Dietary Fiber 0g
  Sugars 0g
Protein 25g

* Percent Daily Value are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
** Nutrition Facts are estimated based on ingredients and data provided by Fat Secret. Please consult a doctor if you have special dietary needs.
David Dial

About David

David is bringing up the guy quotient here on Food Fanatic, representing all things Grilling in a big way. On his own site, Spiced, David covers every kind of culinary adventure.

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