Smoked Pork Shoulder

This smoked pork shoulder, aka pork butt, with its simple and soulful dry rub and foolproof instructions, mean no more standing in line ever again for takeout ‘cue. Here’s how to make it at home.

A whole smoked pork shoulder.

If smoked pork shoulder isn’t the most rewarding thing you can pull off your smoker, we don’t know what is. Yeah, it’s an all-day affair. But it’s not a difficult affair. Toss the pork on the smoker after breakfast and by dinner, you’ll be moaning over rich, tender pulled pork encased in a crispy, smoky crust. Probably with half the neighborhood clamoring at your backyard gate. Thankfully, the recipe makes plenty.–Angie Zoobkoff

WHAT KIND OF WOOD CAN I USE TO SMOKE PORK?

While you can use any available wood chips to smoke your pork shoulder if you have options, here’s what to consider. Wood from fruit trees goes exceptionally well with pork so apple, cherry, peach, or even maple would all be terrific. Some woods are more popular, depending on location. Texas is known for pecan or oak, while hickory is integral to Memphis barbecue.

Smoked Pork Shoulder

A whole smoked pork shoulder.
When slow-smoking a pork shoulder, you should figure 1 1/2 hours per pound of pork. A 10-pound, bone-in pork shoulder takes a long time to cook, but for the majority of that time it is in the smoker. You can get it started right after breakfast and have it ready in time for dinner.
Jennifer Hill Booker

Prep 1 hr 15 mins
Cook 13 hrs
Total 22 hrs 15 mins
Entrees
Southern
8 servings
757 kcal
4.8 / 15 votes
Print RecipeBuy the Field Peas to Foie Gras cookbook

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Equipment

  • Smoker

Ingredients 

For the smoked pork shoulder rub

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground sage
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

For the pork shoulder

Directions
 

Make the dry rub

  • In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients.
  • Rub the spice mixture thoroughly over the pork shoulder. Wrap the pork in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.

Smoke the pork shoulder

  • About 1 hour before smoking the pork, unwrap the pork shoulder and let it rest at room temperature.
  • Heat your smoker to 225°F (105°C). This may require several additions of water-soaked wood to keep the smoke going.
  • When the temperature of the smoker has reached a constant 225°F (105°C), place the pork shoulder, fatty side up, on the rack. Close the lid and adjust the vents so the smoke flows freely throughout the smoker.
  • Cook until the meat is exceptionally and sigh-inducingly tender and reaches an internal temperature of 185° to 195°F (85° to 90°C), somewhere between 10 to 14 hours or about 1 1/2 hours per pound of meat. Let the meat rest for at least 30 minutes.
  • Slice, pull, or chop the pork. Demolish it immediately, doused with Vinegar Barbecue Sauce, if desired.
Print RecipeBuy the Field Peas to Foie Gras cookbook

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Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 757kcal (38%)Carbohydrates: 8g (3%)Protein: 129g (258%)Fat: 20g (31%)Saturated Fat: 6g (38%)Trans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 340mg (113%)Sodium: 1150mg (50%)Potassium: 2239mg (64%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 3g (3%)Vitamin A: 245IU (5%)Vitamin C: 5mg (6%)Calcium: 69mg (7%)Iron: 6mg (33%)

Recipe Testers' Reviews

This smoked pork shoulder recipe is Exhibit A to prove that good things come to those who wait. The flavorful, dark bark on the pork when it comes off the smoker after that 12-hour cooking marathon (low and slow is the way to go!) is so worth the wait.

While the dry spice rub, applied the night before, is fairly standard, with paprika, sugar, cayenne and black peppers, salt, garlic, and onion powder, the addition of sage takes the rub to another plane. We often think of sage in the context of a poultry rub but when added to this pork rub, it adds a certain earthy lemoniness that most every BBQ rub lacks. And that flavor doesn't get lost. Rather, it comes through in spades and makes for a really "wow" moment with every bite.

We served it, yes, with our favorite coleslaw, some mac 'n cheese, and hot sauce. And if you drizzle it with vinegar barbecue sauce, it's really over the top.

This is pretty much a classic dry-rubbed pulled pork recipe. The spices really permeated the meat and the flavors were readily discerned in the cooked meat.

The rub can be made very quickly—assembled and applied in less than 10 minutes, so there is very little hands-on time with this recipe. I refrigerated the rubbed pork roast for 24 hours. I made this smoked pork shoulder with a 4-pound pork shoulder so the smoking time was quite a bit less than stated in the recipe, but it still took 6 hours to be completely done. We used hickory wood in the smoker.

The 4-pound roast served 4 with a little leftover for sandwiches. We served it in true barbecue fashion with baked beans, potato salad, and coleslaw.


Originally published April 23, 2017

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Started mine this morning at 10:00 am and it’s 10:27 pm, a little over 12 hours and still not quite done. Internal temperature is still only 150. Used a charcoal smoker with a variety of damp hardwood chips. It’s looking fantastic so far and can’t wait to taste it. Just wondering why it’s taking so long as it’s only a 4 lb roast, oh wait I’m in Canada lol!
    Thanks for the shares and stay safe

    1. Laughs! That could be it, Doug! Try to maintain the smoker at 225°F and it will get there. Do let us know how it turns out.

  2. 4 stars
    Made this yesterday. Absolutely delicious. We had to smoke it for 15 hours to get internal temp to 185. Bark was awesome. Shoulda started it earlier, was not finished cooking till 3am.. lol.. We used a “large sized Safeway” shoulder, about 8 pounds. Would be considered a small size Costco shoulder.

    1. Thanks, Rob! It definitely can be a long process, but well worth it. You can always try cutting the roast into two smaller ones which will reduce your cooking time.

    1. Kenyatta, are you referring to the crust that forms on the outside of the meat? That occurs as the pork shoulder is being smoked. The smoking process creates a crust on the outside which helps to keep the meat juicy and tender on the inside. No need to put in the oven after. If you’d prefer to cook the pork in the oven instead, try this fantastic recipe. I hope that helps!

    1. Excellent question, Gary. You always want to cook pork shoulder with the fatty side up. This ensures that as the heat melts the fat, it drips down into the meat to keep it moist and also flavor it. I’m adding that clarification to the recipe now. Greatly appreciate you asking the question! Enjoy that pork..

    2. Great question, Gary. You can cook it either way, though most people tend to cook it skin/fat side up so that the fat can baste the meat as it slowly renders.

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