Smoked Pork Shoulder - This recipe and method produces a juicy, tender, perfectly smoked pork butt/shoulder EVERY TIME!

Smoked Pork Shoulder Recipe

Smoked Pork Shoulder Fork Tender Every Time

One of the easiest and most delicious meals you can prepare is a good smoked pork shoulder. I have prepared countless smoked pork butts but every time I pull one off the grill/smoker it’s like Christmas and I am 8 years old.

If you want to impress your friends, have them over for some of the best-smoked BBQ they have ever had.

What’s The Trick?

There isn’t really one but perhaps you have never done this before and it’s a game changer.

The trick is to keep the meat moist while it slowly cooks all day. The best way to do that is to either inject the butt or to brine it.

We usually brine, and you can find an explanation as well as an easy brine recipe here.

In a few words, the meat remains moist while cooking and once done you get the awesome bark and meat that falls apart in your fingers! So, let’s get to it.

Give our Strawberry Shortcake a try for dessert!

Smoked Pork Shoulder Video

Let’s Do This!

So, let’s say I am wanting to fall face first into a plate of pulled pork at 4 pm on Saturday, this is what I am going to do:

Thursday night I will put my pork shoulder in the brine. Also known as pork butt or Boston Butt. Any grocery store should have them, I like to get a couple at a time.

Friday, after about 18-24 hours I am going to pull out the meat from the brine and let it rest for a couple of hours.

In a small bowl combine the dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, paprika, celery salt, cayenne pepper, dry mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and black pepper.

The meat will drain some excess brine. I will pat it relatively dry, apply a liberal amount of mustard all over, and apply the dry rub and wrap it up overnight.

The mustard allows the dry rub to adhere better, and the vinegar helps in the cooking process. Some people like to spritz it with apple juice or apple cider vinegar but I don’t find that necessary.


I will also place my wood chips into some water overnight. We smoke with Hickory. You can buy all sorts of wood for smoking from Lowes, Home Depot, or Amazon if you don’t want to get out. Since I put my wood directly on charcoal, I soak it overnight.

After much trial, I have found that using chunks of the unsoaked wood works much better. You want that smoke to start smoking, not waiting until the water evaporates.

Each chunk usually takes about 45 minutes before needing to add more. You just need to keep an eye out and when the smoke stops, toss another chunk in. Pecan or hickory wood is the best to use for this.

Try our street tacos recipe or our stuffed bell pepper recipe!

Smoked Pork Shoulder - pork butt rubbed in dry rub, wrapped in plastic wrap, and placed on baking sheet

The typical 8 pound pork shoulder needs to go for about 12 hours. So I am up at 3:30 am and starting my charcoal.

I want my smoker/grill to be between 225-250 when I put my meat on. It usually takes me about that long to get the temperature regulated.

For those that have just a smoker, this might take you less time. Those with a Weber type grill, you can do the same as well, just put your meat on to the side, smoking it indirectly.

Before placing it on, you may want to add additional rub. Place the meat on the grill, fat side up.

I will smoke the meat for 6 hours. During this time you want to watch your temps, you may need to add more wood or fuel for your fire but do your best to maintain 225-250.

Smoked Pork Shoulder on the grill

After 6 hours of cook time, I pull the meat and wrap it in craft paper (a tip from my brother-in-law).

Some people want to use foil but the paper allows for some moisture to escape so it won’t end up stewing in its own juices.

Smoked Pork Shoulder wrapped in butcher paper on the grill

In the 11th hour, I usually insert my meat thermometer. You can put yours in whenever. What you’re looking for is an internal temp of 192-195 degrees. In the 11th hour for me, I am usually right at 190.

When the meat is done, pull it off and let it rest for a bit. You will be tempted to tear it apart right there, but it’s really hot, I wouldn’t recommend it.

You may also need to defend the meat from your wife who can strike like a cobra at the smoked ends of the meat. Watch out for that as well.

Smoked Pork Shoulder with the bone easily pulled out laying on top

After about 20 minutes to 30 minutes place the meat it some sort of rectangular pan because the juice will run.

Grab hold of that shoulder bone and watch it slide out. It will still be hot but it will come apart with some meat claws or forks. When it’s cooled down, your fingers work just as well.

Smoked pulled pork HEAVEN! Now all you have to do is decide how to eat this. Personally, I like to toss it on a bun with some pickles and some chow chow. My wife likes adding a touch of barbecue sauce and eating it without the bun.

Feel free to use any bbq sauce you like because it’s all good each and every way!

Enjoy, and happy BBQing!

Try our amazing Smoked Chicken Wings!

Smoked Pork Shoulder Recipe

Smoked Pork Shoulder (Butt)

Smoked Pork Shoulder – This recipe and method produces a juicy, tender, perfectly smoked pork butt/shoulder EVERY TIME!
4.46 from 24 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Barbeque, Main
Cuisine: American, Barbecue, BBQ, Grilling
Keyword: pork, pork butt, pork shoulder, smoked, summer
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 12 hours
Total Time: 13 hours
Servings: 16
Calories: 218kcal
Author: DSTR


  • 8 Lb Pork Shoulder (Butt)

Memphis Dry Rub (makes .5 cup):

  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder


  • Brine pork shoulder for 18-24 hours
  • Pull pork from brine, allow to rest for app. 1-2 hours
  • Apply a liberal amount of mustard, coating the entire surface of the meat
  • Apply a liberal amount of rub, rubbing or patting it into the meat
  • Wrap and leave overnight
  • Smoke at 225-250 for 6 hours
  • Pull pork from grill, wrap in paper or tin foil. If tinfoil, allow some moisture to escape by not completely sealing it
  • Return to grill, continue to cook for 6 hours at 225-250
  • Using a meat thermometer, remove cooked meat at 193-195 degrees and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before shredding


Prep time is indicated at approximately one hour. This does not include the time to brine the pork if you decide to do that. Please read the entire recipe.


Calories: 218kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 93mg | Sodium: 543mg | Potassium: 515mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 891IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 2mg

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  1. Oh Yeah, Oh Yeah, I want a bite right now, please! I love the recipe and the video! Thanks so much for sharing with us at Full Plate Thursday and have a great weekend!
    Miz Helen5 stars

  2. This looks great!! My son-in-law is the smoker in my family and does a good job too!! Thanks for sharing on My 2 favorite Things on Thursday! Pinned!

  3. Congratulations!
    Your recipe is featured on Full Plate Thursday this week. Enjoy your new Red Plate and have a great weekend!
    Come Back Soon,
    Miz Helen5 stars

  4. I’ve heard such great things about brining meat! Your Smoked Pork Shoulder looks amazing. Love the ingredients in the delicious rub too. Thank you for sharing with us at The Hearth and Soul Hop.5 stars

  5. The absolute best!! I cant say enough for the brine step.. and have tried many different recipes. It is wonderful!! Thanks..

  6. After the initial 6 hour smoke, do you continue adding more wood chunks after you’ve wrapped it, or do you just maintain heat without additional smoke?

  7. Hello there, I have a 4.5 pound boneless pork shoulder – do you have any advice on how long to smoke/cook. Thank you!

    1. Hey Katharine. With a butt that size I would still follow the directions posted in the recipe but I would basically cut the time in half, as well as the ingredients. I would smoke it for three hours then wrap it up and cook for another couple of hours watching the internal temperature, pulling it off when it reaches close to 195 degrees F. Then let it rest before you shred it up. Good luck!

    1. Hey Martha, you could allow it to rest in your fridge, covered or uncovered it really is up to you. What you’re really doing is allowing any excess brine to release from the meat and drain. Personally, I just leave it out, as it will remain cold while it drains, and it’s going to the smoker right after.


  8. No need to respond to my last inquiry. I’ve got my plan. I’m gonna drain the meat place it on a rack on a sheet pan, cover it with with craft paper and chill overnight. I’ll put it in the smoker cold (40 degrees)Start it hot, get a light sear all over while allowing the fire to cool down to 225 – 250 and follow your directions from there. Any ideas about basting? I’m thinking apple cider vinegar, honeyand whiskey infused with rosemary and/or basil.

    1. Hey Martha, I have never seared the meat and then smoked so let me know how that goes. I will say that I am not sure how well the smoke will penetrate the meat wit a sear so watch out for that. The pork will develop a nice bark with just smoking at that temp and really doesn’t need a sear. BUT … if you follow through that way please let us know how it turned out.

      In reference to your earlier post regarding the overnight rest with the mustard and rub: The mustard is used basically to keep the rub on. The rub will continue to work on the butt while resting, breaking down the muscle and making it more tender. Also, the vinegar of the mustard adds to the overall flavor of the meat.

      As far as basting, I do not baste. There have been times where I will hit the pork with apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle every hour or so. I have found that I have not really noticed a difference. If you find that you’re heat is teetering on the high end, it won’t hurt to do that to avoid the meat becoming too dry.

  9. This looks amazing! I currently have my roast chilling in the brine! What kind of mustard would you recommend?
    Thanks!5 stars

  10. I’ve made this MULTIPLE times and each time has been a certified winner by everyone! I’ve yet to do the brining, but only bc I keep forgetting to; I’ll have to make a point to do that next time. I actually make a mustard bbq sauce and an onion relish when I make this and they pair about as perfectly as you can imagine! Thank you!!!5 stars

  11. When you say to let it rest for a couple hours after pulling from the brine, where is it resting? In the refrigerator?

  12. Delicious! Better than anything I’ve eaten from a restaurant, even the local smokehouse. I’m about to make my third one. Thank you!!5 stars

  13. You mentioned that you always keep on in the freezer. I’m wondering how you thaw—do you thaw first or thaw in the brine?

    Also, this last one I smoked turned out pretty salty. The only thing I can think is I used more mustard and was maybe too heavy on the rub. But the rub doesn’t have much salt. Or maybe since the only option was boneless, and the store gave me one 4 lb. and one 2 lb., I should have brined way shorter time? Any ideas?

    1. Hey Lara,
      You want to thaw the shoulder (butt) before brining. Also, the brine is for about an 8lb pork shoulder. I am not sure how long you brined but cutting back on the salt for the brine would be a good way to go when the lbs of meat is less. Or less time in the brine.

        1. Wow! Yesterday, I use your brine recipe for a couple smaller pork butts and used your rib recipe, substituting smoked paprika for regular. Also, I rubbed yellow mustard onto the meat before applying the dry rub. I used a charcoal smoker using the indirect method. Stuff was so good, even my father-in-law said it was some of the best pulled pork he’d ever had! Thanks!

  14. In the commentary, you mention vinegar; however, I do not see vinegar anywhere in the recipe. Is this part of the recipe? If so, when is it added and how much?

  15. Hi,

    After Brining for about 24 Hours and leaving it to rest, do I apply the rub and immediately place it in the smoker? In the recipe it is said to leave it again overnight? What is the benefit of letting it sit in the fridge overnight with the rub? Thanks

    1. Hey Francis, this is just another layer of flavors that will be pulled into the meat. The wet brine is to really moisten the meat and break down the muscles and get salt into the meat throughout. The dry brine is to get the flavors of the rub into the meat as well. I have tried doing it all in the wet brine overnight but it wasn’t the same. I have also just done the dry brine and the meat was not as tender. I follow this method when I have time and I am super duper serious. If I was in a pinch, I would probably just apply the dry brine for overnight and make sure I cook it low and slow. Hope this helps!

  16. About to try this for the first time! Excited as this is the inaugural recipe I’ve chosen for my FIRST EVER smoke session! After reading through TONS of stuff (there’s so many recipes, opinions, etc. out there), I landed on yours and felt you were passionate, but laid back. Both traits I admire!
    I’ll keep y’all posted…about to pull from the brine…wish me luck!
    Thanks for all the insight in the recipes and for everyone’s comments that also work as a guide.

    1. That’s awesome! You nailed it too, passionate about good food and ‘que … and laid back 🙂 Let’s us know how it turned out!

  17. I used your brine and rub recipes. WOW!!! It was delicious! My wife and I just stood around the pan of pork as I was shredding it. Eating it until we were stuffed!! Thank you for the recipe and directions!! It’s going into our family recipe book.5 stars

    1. Hey Kevin,
      Man, that’s awesome and I know exactly what you’re talking about. We also have stood around and just ate it while pulling it apart! 🙂

  18. Thanks For Sharing this amazing recipe. My family loved it. I will be sharing this recipe with my friends. Hope the will like it.5 stars

  19. I going to use this recipe for my first smoke on my new Bronco drum smoker. I love the taste of smoked paprika on grilled chicken legs. Is your preference regular paprika or smoked?5 stars

    1. If your preference is smoked paprika I would go with that. We use regular paprika for this recipe because I smoke with hickory which gives me a very aggressive smoke all on its own. I love paprika and all of its versions: smoked, hot, sweet, etc.

  20. This is an easy-to-follow recipe for grill amateurs like me. My pork shoulder came with a heavy fat/skin cover. Do I need to remove it if I want ro brine it or should also work if I leave it?

    1. I will trim excess fat off of my shoulders. Some people don’t, but smoke wont penetrate that fat layer. You want SOME but yeah, lose some of it.

  21. just trying my first one. I leave the fat on to crisp. In this time scale, when to flip on the fat side. Every hour? I also crisp at 320F at the end normally. Comments help please.

    1. Hey Bruce. I actually trim away any excess fat if its more than say, 1/2 inch thick. I smoke mine cap side up. I let that render down and baste the meat. When it is all said and done and I am tearing it apart all that rendered fat gets added / mixed with all the other meat for a glorious, unctuous tray of smoked pork! 🙂

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