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 it. 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

Smoked Pork Shoulder

  • Quick Glance
  • (9)
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • 22 H
  • Serves 8 to 10
4.9/5 - 9 reviews
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Special Equipment: Smoker


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  • For the dry rub
  • For the pork shoulder


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. Originally published April 23, 2017.

Print RecipeBuy the Field Peas to Foie Gras cookbook

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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 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 does not 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 left over for sandwiches. We served it in true barbecue fashion with baked beans, potato salad, and coleslaw.


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  1. 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. 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. 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.

    2. 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..

  3. Great recipe. I happened to find a shoulder on sale at .99$ a lb. I literally looked for a recipe while in the meat aisle. Found yours, it sounded and looked beautiful. So I bought a 9-lb one.

    I usually take a recipe and automatically change it to what I think would be better. But this time, I used your rub (instead of buying one). I didn’t use a mop and wrap it like I considered doing at the 9-hour point. I used the rub, wrapped, and refrigerated for 8 hrs. Smoked for about 12 hrs. It turned out great. I will definitely be doing more this summer. Think I’ll be investing in one of the blue tooth thermometers tho. Lol

    Thanks for sharing and I’ll be looking at some of your other recipes.


  4. Yup, take that puppy off, wrap in foil, rest in an ice chest will remain hot for hours. Like I really left one overnight and was warm in the morning. Best way to rest and serve. Be blessed 🙏

  5. My 10lb shoulder hit 190F internal temp after 9 hours @225F, when I was allotting for at least 13 hours. What would you recommend to do in this situation? Hold it at 190F for a few more hours, or take it out and let it rest?

    Does holding the pork for an extended time at an internal temp of 180-190F make the pork more likely to dry out/become tough? Or will it break down more collagen/connective tissue?

    A probable explanation on why this happened, I used my kitchen oven with the pork shoulder in a dutch oven, lid closed. I know my oven temperature was accurate since I use a redundant thermometer. Enough liquid came out of the shoulder that it was 70% submersed. I’m assuming the difference in air and liquid heat transfer properties is the main reason for a faster cook.

    1. Kristine, is the pork tender? Is it easily pulled apart? If so, you’re ready to go. If not, it can go longer. Low and slow is what helps the collagen break down. I agree: I think the small closed space of the Dutch oven, no ventilation, and the accumulation of liquid quickened the cooking.

      1. The middle was still a little tough so I turned the oven off but left the shoulder in, dutch oven and all. The center remained stable at 190F for another 2 hours, and then pulled apart beautifully! Dinner was a huge hit! Thanks so much for great recipes and your feedback.

  6. Ok..i am new to not have a smoker..but hate to cook outdoors! I am such a New Yorker!! even having a home and outdoors for 40 years ..loll…my question…can i cook this in an indoor smoker..i do not have one, but thinking about the Demeyere smoker…
    So for someone new to smoking, am i making a mistake cooking inside..or should i start with this more simple method, and jump into an inexpensive outdoor model and then when more confident …go big or go home~ LOL any help or advice appreciated!

    1. Peg, I lived in tiny apartments with galley kitchens on the East Coast for nearly 25 years so I understand your hesitation. I started smoking with a Cameron’s Stovetop Smoker. I found that it worked amazingly with anything I could fit in it. For items such as a pork shoulder, which are sort of bulky, I simply used several sheets of heavy-duty foil to fashion my own top to the smoker, being certain to overlap the edges of the sheets of foil and to crimp it underneath the edge of the smoker to keep as much of the smoke as possible inside. You can buy small shreds of any variety wood you like to use with your indoor smoker. I was enthralled with it. The only trick is that even though you don’t see smoke coming out of the smoker, it does impart a smokiness to your home. But then, I was in tiny rental kitchens without ventilation. If you have a proper kitchen with an amazing exhaust fan and a window, you may not encounter this to the degree I did.

      And so in response to your query, I guess what I’m trying to say is it depends on the type of person you are. I know I felt more comfortable starting small and getting comfortable with it that way. And that gives you more time not just to play around with smoking different things and seeing if you really like it, but it also gives you time to learn what you like to smoke, which in turn makes it easier to decide which type of large smoker you’d like to invest in, as there are a zillion kinds. But again, keep in mind, ventilation is huge here. I would be at the gym and smell smoke and wonder, oh my gosh, is the gym on fire? And then I would remember I smoked a pork shoulder the night before and I would sniff my just-laundered t-shirt from a couple days before and realize the smoke had infiltrated it.

      Good luck!

      1. Hi Renee,
        Thank you so much for your prompt and helpful answer!! Per your advice and support, I will embark on a smoking adventure! BTW, i lived in homes with a backyard, but NEVER cooked outdoors. My husband manned the grill, and i was never seen in the backyard! outdoor cooking is not something i have a passion for! ‘
        But i like this indoor stovetop smoking idea that you advocate!! Again, THANK YOU!

        1. You’re so very welcome, peg! I wonder, because I keep thinking about the smoke permeating your house, if your grill is one of those that has electric burners on it? If so, you could use that as your stovetop to escape the smoke. Otherwise, yes, I do think it’s a little more like dipping one’s toes in the water to test the temperature. Looking forward to hearing how your smoking adventure goes!

          1. Renee, my husband would not know how to use an electric burner! Only kidding, but no, our grill does not have that option. I do have a fairly powerful vent over our range, so i am thinking this will prevent the smell permeating the house! Will keep you abreast, you are so kind!

            1. oh one more funny, after so many fights with overdone meat on the grill, we barely grill anymore, We sous vide, and then sear for a minute or two!! no more fights, no outdoors!

  7. So I came across this recipe last night and just happened to have a 7 -pound pork shoulder on my block. I rubbed it around 8pm, wrapped in plastic, and took it out at 4am. Hit the rec tec at 5am at 225°. Although it still looked plenty juicy I got nervous and foil wrapped it at 7.5 hours with a tiny bit of apple juice. Continued 1.5 hours, removed foil, and gave it another 30-45 mins. Amazing… thanks so much for the recipe! Will be doing this again for sure ;)

  8. I do a smoked Boston Butt at least twice a year. ALWAYS apply the rub and let it permeate overnight. In the morning, I put it in my gas grill set low (225) with wood chips over a low flame on the other side of the grill from the meat and slow smoke it for 4 hours. Then I bring it inside and put in roaster with foil cover and continue to cook it another 3 to 4 hours until it falls off the bone. Then I put roaster with foil still on in big paper bag and close it and let rest for an hour. It always comes out perfect and I can’t tell the difference from smoking it all day on the grill like I used to. This takes way less work.

  9. It sounds like heaven but ¡lo siento! no tengo un smoker. Got any instructions for approximating this on the BBQ?

    1. Rainey, I’m in the same situation as you. This recipe includes instructions for how to jury-rig a grill into a smoker and you can easily use this approach for this pork shoulder. You’ll need to be certain to keep the interior temperature as consistent as possible. Good luck and kindly let us know how it goes!

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