This Smoked Pork Shoulder recipe captures the perfect blend of tender meat, smoky flavor, and succulent texture, making it a must-try for barbecue enthusiasts and meat lovers alike. When it comes to pork recipes, this is one that every barbecue enthusiast should master and then put their own twist on. 

Overhead shot of table with smoked pulled pork, buns, slaw and mac and cheese.

In this recipe:

Are you looking for a classic smoked pulled pork recipe? 

We got you. This easy recipe with simple ingredients will make juicy pulled pork with a perfect smoke ring. It can be tweaked with your favorite spice rub and flavor combinations. The long cook allows the slow process of the muscle fibers and fat to render for meat that falls apart with tender bites. 

There’s something magical about slow-smoking a pork shoulder until it’s incredibly tender, infused with smoky goodness, and oozing with flavor. From Carolina Pulled Pork to Sweet Smoked Maple Pulled Pork, you can’t go wrong with this smoked pork butt recipe. This is the best smoked pulled pork, perfect for sandwiches, carnitas, mac and cheese filling, a topping for baked potatoes, and more. 

A pork shoulder rubbed with spices ready to be placed in the smoker.

The Cut: What Is Pork Shoulder?

Pork shoulder, also known as pork butt or Boston butt, depending on how it’s cut, is a cut of meat from the upper front leg of the pig. It’s prized for its rich marbling, a good amount of intramuscular fat, and the presence of connective tissue that, when slow-cooked, transforms into tender, flavorful gelatin. 

This cut is renowned for making the best pulled pork due to its fantastic flavor and succulent texture, achieved through a “low and slow” cooking process, often involving smoking over several hours. Pork shoulder is a flavorful and well-marbled meat that, with patience and the right cooking technique, is ideal for mouthwatering shredded pork dishes, perfect for sandwiches, tacos, or savoring on its own.

Smoked Pork Shoulder Ingredients

This recipe is for a classic charcoal grill. If you have a pellet grill, see our recipe for Traeger smoked pork butt.

  • Pork shoulder – We use bone-in pork shoulder. If using a boneless pork butt, adjust the cooking time. 
  • Ancho pepper – you can find this ground in the spice aisle at your local grocery store.
  • Granulated garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Brown sugar
  • Kosher Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • Pineapple juice for spritzing – we like the citrus of pineapple juice, but a vinegar-based mop is a great alternative for a classic barbecue flavor. 
  • Barbecue sauce – Your favorite BBQ sauce works. We’re not biased at all, but we think our homemade BBQ sauce is the best. 
  • Maple syrup
Shredded Smoked Pork a cleaver and a fork on a beautifully grained cutting board.

How to Make Smoked Pork Butt

Prep the Pork Shoulder

  • Remove the pork from the package and pat it dry with paper towels. 
  • In a bowl, combine ancho pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, brown sugar, salt, and black pepper for your dry rub.
  • Generously coat the pork with the spice mix and let it sit for about 15 minutes. This will allow the meat to sweat and the rub to stick to the surface without any additional binder. Continue to let the pork butt sit at room temperature for 45 minutes while you preheat the grill. 

Prep the Grill and Smoke the Pork

  • Preheat your grill for indirect heat, building a 2-zone fire. Do this by arranging lit coals to one side of the grill. Place a foil pan under the cooler side with a little water or beer to help create a moist atmosphere. If using wood chunks, add them while the grill is preheating. Clean and oil the grill grate and close the lid, adjusting the air vents to allow the grill to come to 225 degrees to 250 degrees F. Make sure the smoke is clean before adding the meat. 
  • When the grill is ready, place pork shoulder on the smoker over the cool side of the grill and close the lid. Smoke for 4 to 5 hours, until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, adding fuel as needed to maintain an even consistent heat. 
  • After the first 2 hours, use a spray bottle to spritz it with pineapple juice or apple cider vinegar every 30 minutes to keep it moist throughout the smoking process.  
  • Meanwhile, mix barbecue sauce and maple syrup in a separate bowl. When the pork reaches 203°F, carefully remove it from the grill grates. Transfer it to an aluminum foil pan and brush the BBQ sauce mixture. Wrap the pork
  • Cover the pork with aluminum foil and return the pan to the smoker for an additional 3 to 4 hours or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 203- 205 degrees F.
  • Let the meat rest for 20 to 30 minutes before shredding with forks or meat claws. It’ll be super tender and easy to pull apart. Enjoy your delicious smoked pulled pork! 

Girl Carnivore Expert Recipe Tips

  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of the cut of pork reaches the desired 203 degrees F for the pork to pull with ease. The probe will slide in and out easily and the meat will pull apart without resistance. 
  • Let the pork shoulder come to room temperature before smoking to ensure even cooking. 
  • The cooking time will vary. When smoking meat, it’s most important to cook to temp, not time. Meaning the internal temperature of the meat is perfect.
  • Not sure what wood to use? We love a robust hickory when it comes to smoking large cuts of pork. Check out our guide on smoking wood for the best flavor pairings. 
  • You can make tender pulled pork in an electric smoker. Use the same method as directed in the recipe card, placing the pork shoulder over the water pan on a lower grill grate. Be sure to replace your woodchips every 30 to 45 minutes for the best results.
Close up of the handle of a knife in a pile of pulled pork.

What to Serve With This Smoked Pork Shoulder Recipe

Serve up your pulled pork with some buns and make some pulled pork sandwiches! Pair it with a huge spread of Smoked Potato Salad, Smoked Baked Beans, and Smoked Mac and Cheese to go on the side!

Leftovers & Reheating

Store leftover pork in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. Freeze for 3-6 months. 

​To reheat:

  1. If you’ve stored the smoked pork in the freezer, transfer it to the refrigerator and let it thaw overnight.
  2. When reheating, go for low and slow methods. Smoked pork shoulder should be reheated gently to avoid drying it out. You can use an oven set to a low temperature or a slow cooker for this purpose.
  3. To keep the meat juicy, consider adding a bit of liquid, like apple juice, to the pan or slow cooker. This helps maintain moisture and adds extra flavor.
  4. When reheating in the oven, cover the smoked pork with aluminum foil to keep the moisture in. In a slow cooker, the lid will do the trick.
  5. To ensure it’s heated through, use a meat thermometer. You’ll want the internal temperature to reach around 145 degrees F.

Not sure what to do with leftover pulled pork? Make some BBQ Eggs Benedict, Pulled Pork Cheese Dogs, Pulled Pork Enchiladas or quesadillas, top nachos, or Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese!

Smoked pulled pork piled into a sandwich with slaw on a red check napkin.

MORE SMOKED PORK RECIPES

If juicy, smoky meat is your jam, then give this Smoked Pork Shoulder recipe a go! Perfect for large crowds, parties, BBQs, etc.!

Have you tried this recipe? Do us a favor and rate the recipe card with the  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ and drop a comment to help out the next reader.

Overhead shot of fork and clever on cutting board with pulled pork all around.

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Classic Smoked Pork Shoulder (for pulled pork)

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 7 hours 30 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes
Total: 8 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 16
Simple Ancho Smoked Pork | Kita Roberts GirlCarnivore.com
Fall-apart tender smoked pulled pork that's incredibly moist and packed with irresistible smoky flavor thanks to the easy low-and-slow smoking method. Shred and pile onto sandwiches, tacos, and more for the best homemade BBQ ever!

Ingredients  

  • 5 to 7 lbs pork shoulder bone-in
  • 1/2 tsp ancho pepper
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 8 oz pineapple juice for spritzing
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup

Instructions 

PREP THE PORK SHOULDER

  • Remove the pork from the package and pat it dry with paper towels.
  • In a bowl, combine ancho pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, brown sugar, salt, and black pepper for your dry rub.
  • Generously coat the pork with the spice mix and let it sit for about 15 minutes. This will allow the meat to sweat and the rub to stick to the surface without additional binder.
  • Continue to let the pork butt sit at room temperature for 45 minutes while you preheat the grill.

PREP THE GRILL

  • Preheat your grill for indirect heat, building a 2-zone fire. Do this by arranging lit coals to one side of the grill.
  • Place a foil pan under the cooler side with a little water or beer to help create a moist atmosphere.
  • If using wood chunks, add them while the grill is preheating.
  • Clean and oil the grill grate and close the lid, adjusting the air vents to allow the grill to come to 225 – 250 degrees F. Make sure the smoke is clean before adding the meat.

Smoked the Pork

  • When the grill is ready, place pork shoulder on the smoker over the cool side of the grill and close the lid.
  • Smoke for 4 to 5 hours, until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, adding fuel as needed to maintain an even consistent heat.
  • After the first 2 hours, use a spray bottle to spritz it with pineapple juice or apple cider vinegar every 30 minutes to keep it moist throughout the smoking process.

Wrap the Smoked Pork

  • Meanwhile, mix barbecue sauce and maple syrup in a separate bowl.
  • When the pork reaches 203°F, carefully remove it from the grill grates.
  • Transfer the smoked pork shoulder to an aluminum foil pan and brush the BBQ sauce mixture.
  • Cover the pork with aluminum foil and return the pan to the smoker for an additional 3 to 4 hours or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 203- 205 degrees F.

Shred to make pulled pork

  • Let the meat rest for 20 to 30 minutes before shredding with forks or meat claws.
  • Serve as desired

Notes

  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of the cut of pork reaches the desired 203 degrees F for the pork to pull with ease. The probe will slide in and out easily and the meat will pull apart without resistance. 
  • Let the pork shoulder come to room temperature before smoking to ensure even cooking. 
  • The cooking time will vary. When smoking meat, it’s most important to cook to temp, not time. Meaning the internal temperature of the meat is perfect.
  • Not sure what wood to use? We love a robust hickory when it comes to smoking large cuts of pork. Check out our guide on smoking wood for the best flavor pairings. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 203kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 58mg | Sodium: 688mg | Potassium: 387mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin A: 87IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 34mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, barbeque
Author: Kita Roberts

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Recipe FAQs

WHAT TYPE OF WOOD CHIPS SHOULD I USE IN THE SMOKER?

Sweet woods like apple wood, maple wood, and pecan wood are great options for smoked pork!

WHERE CAN I BUY A PORK BUTT?

You can find pork butt at your local grocery store in the fresh meat department or at your local butcher. If you want even more options, check out our where to buy meat online guide. 

​DO I HAVE TO TRIM THE FAT CAP BEFORE SMOKING THE PORK BUTT?

If your fat cap is over 1/4″ thick, you may want to trim it back with a sharp knife. Otherwise, scoring it is also an option, but you may want to remove any remaining fat before serving.

How long to smoke pork shoulder?

You will hear experianed pitmasters say cook to temp, not time. This means to cook as long as it takes to reach the internal temp for when the meat will shred apart easily for pulled pork. For smoked pork shoulders, it should take around 7 to 9 hours in a smoker set to 225 to 250 degrees. This means cooking the pork long past the USDA recommended 145 degrees F, until the pork shoulder reaches 203 – 205 degrees for a classic smoked pork recipe.

Simple Ancho Smoked Pork | Kita Roberts GirlCarnivore.com

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Well, Hey, Y’all.

Kita is a multi-talented individual, boasting numerous accomplishments such as being an award-winning recipe developer, world-traveled professional photographer, and journalist. As the lead creative force behind Girl Carnivore®, she is widely recognized as an authority on all things meat.

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5 from 1 vote (1 rating without comment)

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Comments

  1. I’m a bit confused. Is this a slow cooker or smoker recipe? Step 3 instructs to put the pork in a slow cooker. While in step 5 the instructions say to put the pork BACK into the smoker. Am I missing something?