Ever wished for a foolproof recipe that guarantees tender, flavorful meat every time? You’ve landed in the right place. This easy Smoked Pork Shoulder recipe is not only delicious but also perfect for festive holidays, family BBQs, or a simple weekend dinner. With just a few ingredients and some patience, you can bring restaurant-quality smoked pork to your table. Let’s dive into the magic!
❤️ Why You Will Love This Pulled Pork Recipe
Full of Robust Flavors
There’s something simply magical about smoked dishes, isn’t there? The blend of spices in the dry rub, combined with the smoke flavor from the apple wood chips, makes this smoked pork shoulder an explosion of taste. Whether you’re a seasoned pitmaster or a newbie to the world of smoking meats, you’ll adore the layers of flavors this recipe brings to your plate.
Though we’ve provided a solid foundation with our simple ingredients and methods, one of the best things about this smoked pork shoulder recipe is its adaptability. Want to add a touch of heat? Throw in some chili flakes or a dash of cayenne pepper to the dry rub. If you’re all about that sweet and savory combo, a sprinkle of brown sugar can elevate the taste even further. This smoked pork butt recipe is truly a canvas for your culinary creativity.
Perfect for Leftovers
If, by some miracle, you have leftover pulled pork (because let’s be honest, it’s hard to resist the best pulled pork you’ve ever tasted), you’re in for a treat! From pulled pork sandwiches drizzled with your favorite bbq sauce to tender pork tacos topped with fresh salsa, the possibilities for leftovers are endless. And we’ll dive into some scrumptious leftover ideas later on.
An Ultimate Crowd-Pleaser
Ever been stressed about what dish to make for a gathering? Worry no more. This tender pulled pork is an absolute crowd-pleaser. Serve it during holiday feasts, birthday parties (we made it for our son’s 1st birthday!), or a casual BBQ night with friends, and you’re sure to receive rave reviews. Plus, the enticing aroma of meat smoking is bound to draw people to your backyard.
Lastly, for those following specific diets, smoked pork can be a delectable addition. Lean pork cuts, like the shoulder, are rich in essential vitamins and minerals. When paired with the right sides, it can fit seamlessly into keto, paleo, or whole30 meal plans, ensuring you’re not compromising on taste while keeping health in check.
🗝️ Key Ingredients & Substitutions
Alright, let’s chat ingredients! Every dish has its stars and supporting actors, and for our smoked pork shoulder, it’s the blend of simple, wholesome ingredients that makes it sing.
Pork Shoulder with Bone (or Bone-In Pork Butt)
The bone in the pork shoulder aids in even cooking and imparts a richer flavor to the meat. It also ensures the meat remains tender and juicy throughout the smoking process. If you can’t find a bone-in pork shoulder, a boneless one will work; just ensure to adjust your cooking times.
This aromatic mixture of sea salt, ground black pepper, onion granules, garlic granules, and sumac gives our pork its distinct, robust flavor. The sumac adds a tangy, lemony twist which complements the smoky flavors beautifully. If sumac is hard to come by, a bit of lemon zest can be a good substitute. Don’t be tempted to use garlic powder or onion powder. The granule size (for all ingredients) are important so that the spice rub can be equally mixed together.
Olive oil acts as the glue for our dry rub. It ensures the spices adhere well to the pork, giving us that delicious crust once smoked. If you’re out of olive oil, any neutral oil like canola or sunflower will do the trick.
Apple Cider Vinegar Spray
The apple cider vinegar (ACV) combined with water works as a fantastic meat tenderizer during the smoking process. It also adds an extra layer of tanginess to the pork, and kind of washes off any extra smoke to keep the flavor just right. If you’re not a fan of ACV, apple juice, orange juice, or a mix of water and lemon juice can be an excellent alternative.
In cooking, sometimes we need to improvise, especially when an ingredient is missing or someone has a dietary restriction. Luckily, this recipe is versatile, and there’s always room for a little culinary creativity.
🥣 How to Make Smoked Pork Shoulder (How to Smoke a Pork Butt)
Preparing the Smoker
The journey to delicious smoked pork begins with setting up your smoker. If you’re using an egg-shaped smoker, like our Weber Smoky Mountain, the process is pretty straightforward. You’ll start by separating it into three parts: the lid, the main chamber, and the bottom. Load up your charcoal chimney, and get the fire started. Place unlit charcoal into the charcoal chamber, high on the sides around the diameter, and hollow in the middle. When it turns white, add your hot charcoal to the middle. Place a piece of your chosen smoking wood on top (apple or whiskey oak are fantastic choices) and let the aroma begin.
Seasoning the Pork
Here is where the magic happens! Line your Water Pan with aluminum foil and position it in the smoker. Lay your pork shoulder onto the grill and get ready to infuse it with flavors.
First, rub olive oil all over, ensuring every nook and cranny is covered. Next, generously apply your aromatic dry rub.
Make sure the fat side is at the top, your meat thermometers are in place (one in the thickest part of the meat, another outside the meat to measure the general temperature).
The final thing to do before placing the lid is to fill the water pan almost to the top with water. Make sure the vent is fully open, and you’re all set for the next phase.
Smoking and Spraying
With your smoker hot and ready, place your pork shoulder inside and let the smoky transformation begin. Every hour, you’ll add a chunk of wood to keep that smokey ambiance going until all 5 chunks have been added. At the 6-hour mark, it’s time to introduce your ACV spray bottle. Spray every 30 minutes or so for 2 hours. This tangy mixture will not only enhance the flavors but also ensure your meat remains moist and succulent. Once your meat reaches a certain temperature (typically 160-170°F), it might stall but don’t fret.
This is where our Texas Crutch comes into play. Spray it liberally with the rest of your acv spray, wrap your meat in foil, and let your oven take over. Place the wrapped meat on a rack in the middle of the oven with a baking tray underneath. Fill the tray with water, and cook for around 3 hours.
When the internal temperature of the meat reaches 195°F, it’s ready! Note: Although 160°F is safe to eat, the connective tissue needs a little longer for that fall-apart goodness!
Rest and Portion
The final few hours of cooking are crucial. After letting it smoke and then simmer in the oven, giving the meat ample time to rest post-cooking is essential. This allows all the juices to redistribute, ensuring each bite is as tender and juicy as the last. Once rested, remove the bone, portion it out, and store or serve as desired.
Voila! You’ve just mastered the art of smoking a pork shoulder.
The Art of Shredding: Making Perfect Pulled Pork
Alright, BBQ enthusiasts! You’ve meticulously smoked your pork shoulder, and it’s rested to perfection. Now comes the fun part – shredding that beauty to create mouthwatering pulled pork. If you’ve never done this before, or you’re just looking to up your shredding game, here’s a little guide to help you out.
The Right Tools Make All the Difference
- Good Ol’ Hands: Sometimes, the best tools are right at the end of your arms! Using clean hands, simply pull apart the meat. It should be tender enough that it easily comes apart. This method also allows you to feel and discard any fatty or less desirable bits.
- Forks: If you’re not a fan of the hands-on approach, grab a pair of forks. Place the meat in a large bowl or on a cutting board, and use the forks to pull and shred the meat apart. This method gives you a bit more control and precision.
- Meat Claws: These are especially great if you’re shredding a large amount. They’re like an extension of your hands but with super shredding powers. Simply grip the meat and pull apart. Plus, using them makes you feel a bit like a BBQ superhero!
Tips for Perfect Pulled Pork
- Only Shred What You Need: Although it’s tempting (and fun) to just shred it all up, it’s best to shred what you need as you go and store the rest in its solid, unshredded glory. This will keep the juices locked right into where they need to be for next time.
- Shred While Warm: It’s easier to shred the pork when it’s still warm. If it cools down too much, you might find it a bit more challenging to pull apart.
- Follow the Grain: Look for the natural grain or fibers of the meat and shred in the direction they run. This makes the process smoother and gives you those lovely long strands of meat.
- Keep the Juices: If you find there are a lot of juices after shredding, don’t throw them away! Mix the shredded pork back into those juices. It adds extra flavor and ensures that your pulled pork stays moist.
- Flavor Boost: Once shredded, feel free to mix in a bit of your favorite BBQ sauce or even some of the dry rub you used. This can amplify the flavors and give your pulled pork an extra kick.
There you have it, dear readers! With these tips and tricks, you’re well on your way to creating pulled pork that’ll have folks coming back for seconds… and thirds! Remember, it’s all about the love and care you put into the process.
Storage & Reheating Instructions
Refrigerating Your Smoked Pork Shoulder
If you’ve managed to resist gobbling down all that succulent smoked pork shoulder and find yourself with leftovers (kudos to your restraint!), refrigeration is your best bet. Once the meat has been portioned and cooled to room temperature, transfer it into airtight containers or resealable plastic bags. Properly stored, your smoked pork can last in the fridge for up to 4 days. Remember, always reheat only what you plan to consume to maintain its juiciness.
Refrigerating leftover pulled pork
Similarly, if you’ve already shredded pork, store leftover pulled pork in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Freezing for Longer Storage
For longer-term storage, consider freezing your smoked pork or pulled pork. First, portion your meat into meal-sized amounts. This not only makes it easier to thaw and reheat later but also ensures that the meat retains its flavor and moisture. Wrap the portions in aluminum foil and then place them in resealable freezer bags. Be sure to press out as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn. Label your bags with the date, and your smoked pulled pork butt or shoulder can be enjoyed up to 3 months later!
Reheating Like a Pro
What’s the best way to bring back that just-cooked juiciness when reheating? Well, I’ve got a foolproof method that ensures your delicious meat stays tender and flavorful, and it doesn’t involve a microwave!
Cast Iron Magic
Enter the trusty cast iron pan – a kitchen staple and your new best friend for reheating. Here’s what I usually do:
- Shred the Pork: Heat your cast iron pan on the stove over medium heat. Once it’s warmed, add your pork and shred your leftover pork as it heats. This not only allows for quicker and even reheating but also helps to soak up all those flavors once again. Waiting until it’s a little warm makes it easier to pull apart. I pull it apart with my hands first and then with two forks as it gets hotter.
- A Little Moisture Goes a Long Way: Add a splash of water or apple juice to your pulled pork. The liquid will steam up, ensuring that the pork remains moist and doesn’t dry out. We didn’t use the whole plastic cup pictured here – just a splash.
- Stir and Serve: Continuously stir and shred your pork as it heats to ensure even reheating and to prevent any sticking. Once it’s heated through (which won’t take long at all!), you’re ready to serve.
Back to the Oven
You can also warm your pork in a preheated oven at 325°F (163°C) in an aluminum pan or baking tray until it’s heated through, and then shred it. For frozen portions, it’s best to thaw them in the fridge overnight before reheating. Remember to add a splash of apple juice, water, or broth when reheating to keep the meat moist and flavorful.
For more reheating methods, check out 8 Best Ways To Reheat Pulled Pork.
Quick Bites and Creativity
One of the joys of leftover smoked pulled pork is how versatile it can be. From pulled pork sandwiches to tantalizing tacos, the possibilities are endless. If you’re in a hurry, simply shred some pork, add your favorite BBQ sauce, and microwave it for a quick and satisfying meal.
🪄 Recipe Notes & Tips
Choosing the Right Wood
While I mentioned apple and whiskey oak as great wood options for smoking, don’t be afraid to experiment with others like cherry or maple. Each type imparts a unique flavor profile, so feel free to switch things up. However, I’d recommend avoiding stronger woods like mesquite for this recipe, as they can overpower the delicate flavors of your smoked pulled pork. If you’re looking for an in-depth analysis of wood for smoking, check out my post on The Best Wood For Smoking Pork.
The Art of the Dry Rub
Applying a dry rub to smoked pulled pork butt might seem straightforward, but there’s a little more to it than just slapping it on. Always ensure your pork shoulder is evenly coated, pressing the rub into the meat to make sure it sticks. And if you ever find yourself with leftover rub, store it in an airtight container; it’s perfect for future smokes or even as a seasoning for other dishes!
Patience is Key
Remember, smoking is a slow and steady process. While it might be tempting to frequently check on your pork or crank up the temperature to speed things up, resist the urge. Constantly opening the smoker can lead to temperature fluctuations, affecting the cooking process. Trust in the process, and remember: good things come to those who wait!
Handling Temperature Stalls
It’s common for the meat’s temperature to plateau or “stall” during smoking. This can be a bit disheartening for first-timers, but it’s a natural part of the process. The Texas Crutch method, where you wrap the meat in foil and move it to the oven, is a tried and true technique to push past this stall. Just remember to keep an eye on your meat thermometer and trust that delicious, tender smoked pork is on its way.
🍽️ What to Serve with Smoked Pork Shoulder
Classic Southern Sides
Your succulent smoked pork shoulder deserves to be paired with equally delicious sides. Think classic Southern fare like coleslaw, potato salad, french fries, sweet potato fries (with ranch to dip), or baked beans. These traditional dishes complement the rich, smoky flavor of the pork, creating a harmonious meal that’s sure to satisfy.
Smoked meat needs bbq sauce! My Sugar-Free BBQ Sauce also uses sumac and complements this recipe beautifully, and my Stout BBQ Sauce has a little something special to it. We also love to smother a bit of garlic mayo and hot sauce (or spicy mayo) on our buns. Extra indulgent!
Elevate with Fresh Salads
If you’re leaning towards a lighter accompaniment, a crisp and refreshing salad can be a perfect choice. A tangy apple slaw, Pickled Beet Salad, or a simple green salad drizzled with apple cider vinegar dressing can add a fresh contrast to the deep flavors of the smoked meat. Plus, salads can be a great way to introduce a bit of crunch to your meal.
Bring on the Carbs
Let’s face it: sometimes, there’s nothing like a good carb to complete a meal. Think soft, fluffy dinner rolls perfect for creating mini pulled pork sliders. Or how about some creamy mac ‘n’ cheese, which pairs beautifully with smoked pork? And, of course, don’t forget cornbread—a staple when it comes to BBQ feasts.
Drinks to Pair
To wash down your delectable meal, consider serving cold, crisp beverages that can refresh the palate. Classic sweet tea, lemonade, or sumac-ade are always winners. For those looking for something a bit stronger, a light beer or even a cider can be a fantastic match for the smoky, rich flavors of the pork.
Pulled Pork Everything
We love smoking pork because it leaves us with so much food, and it can be enjoyed in many ways! Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Pulled Pork Tacos, Loaded Pulled Pork Nachos, and even Pulled Pork Salad Bowls for a healthy twist!
🤷♀️ Smoked Pork Shoulder vs. Smoked Pork Butt: What’s the Difference?
If you’ve ever found yourself wandering the meat aisles or browsing through BBQ recipes, you’ve likely come across both “smoked pork shoulder” and “smoked pork butt.” And if you’re anything like me when I first started my cooking journey, you might’ve thought, “Wait, isn’t the butt…well, the rear?” Well, let’s clear up this delicious mystery together!
Names Can Be Deceiving
First things first: pork butt isn’t from the rear of the pig. Surprised? I was too! The name is a bit of a misnomer. Pork butt is actually from the upper portion of the shoulder, while the lower part closer to the leg is called pork shoulder (also sometimes called “picnic shoulder”). The naming confusion dates back to colonial times when butchers would pack the pork into barrels called “butts” for storage and transport. Hence, “Boston Butt” became a popular term for this cut of meat.
Texture and Fat Content
Both cuts are wonderfully flavorful and perfect for slow cooking methods like smoking, but they do have some differences:
- Pork Butt: This cut has more fat marbled throughout, making it ideal for recipes that require a longer cook time, like pulled pork. The extra fat ensures the meat remains tender and juicy, even after hours of cooking.
- Pork Shoulder: While still a flavorful cut, the pork shoulder has a bit less fat. It’s still great for smoking, but it might not be as forgiving if overcooked. This cut often comes with the skin on, which can be left for certain recipes or removed based on personal preference.
❓ Frequently Asked Questions
Absolutely! While this recipe focuses on pork shoulder, the smoking technique can also be applied to cuts like brisket or ribs. Just be sure to adjust your cooking time and temperature accordingly.
While sumac adds a unique tangy flavor, you can omit it or substitute it with a touch of lemon zest for a similar tang.
Brining can help tenderize and moisten the meat, but this recipe doesn’t call for it. If you’ve had success with brining pork shoulders in the past, feel free to do so!
This can happen if the meat is overcooked, the temperature fluctuates too much during smoking, or if there isn’t enough moisture in the smoker. Make sure to maintain a steady temperature and keep that water pan full!
Yes, you can use a regular grill, but you’ll need to set it up for indirect grilling and maintain a consistent low temperature. Using wood chips can help infuse that smoky flavor.
Stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place, the dry rub can last for up to 6 months.
That’s all, folks! If you have any more questions or want to share your smoked pork shoulder experiences, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or get in touch. Happy smoking!
😋 More Pork Recipes You Will Love
- Pork Tenderloin with Applesauce
- Air Fryer Pork Loin
- Pork and Sauerkraut
- Chinese Braised Pork
- Homemade Breakfast Sausage Patties
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Smoked Pork Shoulder Recipe
- 1 smoker (I used a Weber Smoky Mountain)
- 1 spray bottle
- 1 large baking tray
- 1 jar
- 7 tablespoons olive oil more or less, as needed
- 19 pounds pork shoulder bone-in + skin removed (or pork butt)
- 5 tablespoons sea salt
- 4 tablespoons ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons garlic granules not powder
- 3 tablespoons onion granules not powder
- 1 tablespoon ground sumac
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar 75ml, see note 1
- 1/3 cup water 75ml
Prepare the smoker:
- These instructions are for an egg shaped smoker like a Weber smoky mountain, but will generally work on most good smokers.
- Separate the smoker into 3 by removing the lid, and then taking the main chamber off of the bottom of the smoker.
- Fill up your charcoal chimney half way with charcoal and place it over lit kindling to get the fire started in there.
- Fill the charcoal chamber with charcoal. Pile the sides of the circle up high leaving the space in the middle a little less full for the lit charcoal to go in.
- Once the coal in the chimney turns white, add it into the middle of the charcoal chamber and place one piece of smoking wood on top. Apple, whiskey oak, cherry, or maple are good choices.
Prepare the pork:
- Line the Water Pan with aluminum foil and place it where it sits in the main smoker chamber.
- Place the grill gates on top, making sure its clean, and then place the pork shoulder on the grill.
- Add all of the spices to a jar and shake it up.
- Rub olive oil liberally all over the pork shoulder, turning it over to get underneath as well.
- Take the dry rub and rub the spices liberally all over the pork shoulder, starting underneath and then flipping it over to rub the top. The fat cap should be at the top when finished.
- Insert a heat-safe internal meat thermometer into the thickest part of the pork shoulder, and also one connected to the grill to read the temperature outside the meat.
- When the charcoal is ready, place the main smoker chamber back onto the lower charcoal chamber.
- Fill the water pan up with water, almost to the top.
- Close the lid and fully open the vent.
- Connect the thermometers to the reader and keep an eye on the temperature.
Smoke the pork:
- Add 1 chunk of wood every hour, until you’ve added 5 total. The meat stays in the smoker for 6 hours, keeping the lid closed.
- After 6 hours, mix the apple cider vinegar and water together in a spray bottle, open the lid, and spray every 30 minutes. Do this for 2 hours.
Texas Crutch + Rest:
- When the meat thermometer reaches 160-170°F, the temperature tends to stall. When it stalls, we do the Texas Crutch: Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F, give it a very generous spray of the rest of the ACV/water solution, remove the thermometer, and wrap it in aluminum foil.
- Re-insert the thermometer, place it on a rack in the middle of the oven, place a large pan underneath, and fill it with water.
- Cook meat for around 3 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 195°F.
- Allow it to rest for a minimum of 2 hours.
- Remove the bone and portion it (Don’t shred!).
- Store the portions in the fridge or freezer and shred on demand.
- Apple cider vinegar: Feel free to substitute apple juice ot lemon juice.
- Wood: Check out my post on The Best Wood For Smoking Pork. I like apple, whiskey oak, maple, and cherry. I’d avoid mesquite as it has a strong flavor which can be overpowering.
- Don’t open the lid: While it might be tempting to frequently check on your pork or crank up the temperature to speed things up, resist the urge. Constantly opening the smoker can lead to temperature fluctuations, affecting the cooking process.
- Storing in the fridge: Once the meat has been portioned and cooled to room temperature, transfer it into airtight containers or resealable plastic bags. Properly stored, your smoked pork can last in the fridge for up to 4 days. Note: any extra juices from cutting the meat should be split between each portion before storing.
- Freezing: First, portion your meat into meal-sized amounts. This not only makes it easier to thaw and reheat later but also ensures that the meat retains its flavor and moisture. Wrap the portions (along with any extra meat juices) in aluminum foil and then place them in resealable freezer bags. Be sure to press out as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn. Label your bags with the date, and your smoked pulled pork butt or shoulder can be enjoyed up to 3 months later!
- Reheating: Reheat in a cast iron skillet (or non-stick) by adding the meat and any juices to the pan over medium heat. Add a splash of water or some apple juice as needed. Shred the meat as it warms up. You can also warm your pork in a preheated oven at 325°F (163°C) in an aluminum pan or baking tray until it’s heated through.