This smoked pork shoulder recipe is first rubbed with a delicious dry rub and then smoked for 7-8 hours. To elevate the flavor, we use an apple juice spritz that is just out of this world.
The Best Smoked Pork Shoulder
This delicious pork shoulder has a sweet and savory smokey flavor and an unreal tenderness after you let it rest and shred it.
We love to smoke pork shoulder because it is cooked low and slow, leaving you with shredded pork that you can use in so many different ways.
Plus, we used a yummy apple juice spritz to add even more flavor during the smoking time!
tipis for Smoked pork shoulder before starting
There are a few things you want to think about before starting the process of making a smoked pork shoulder.
Call ahead to your local grocery store meat counter or butcher to see if they have a 7-lb. bone-in pork shoulder. They can be hard to come by on the spot.
Make sure you have enough pellets or wood chips for the smoker. We use a Traeger smoker for smoking recipes and usually use their signature blend for pellets. If you are using wood chips, the best wood for smoking pork is usually hickory, but cherry or oak will give it a unique taste.
Give your smoker or grill time to heat up.
Since you have your smoker on, consider throwing
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What is pork shoulder?
A pork shoulder comes from the shoulder of a pig. It typically has more fat than a pork loin, which makes it great for slow roasting or smoking.
A pork shoulder and a pork butt can both be used for this recipe. Both cuts of meat come from the shoulder. The main difference is that a pork butt has more fat and the pork shoulder has more muscle.
In this pork shoulder recipe, we’re using a 6-7lb. bone-in pork shoulder.
Other names for pork shoulder
- pork butt
- picnic shoulder
- picnic roast
- Boston butt
What You Need
Pork shoulder: this recipe uses a bone-in 7-lb. pork shoulder. We recommend using a bone-in shoulder for smoking because it offers a bit more flavor and fat.
Dry rub: the spices for this smoked pork shoulder are a mix of sweet, savory, and salty. Make sure that you don’t skimp on the salt. The salt tenderizes the meat and enhances all of the delicious flavors of the pork and other dry rub ingredients. Try our dry rub for pork!
Pellets or wood chips: though pellets and wood chips are not an ingredients, we feature them because the last thing you want to do is run out of extra pellets or wood chips part way through the smoking time.
How long does it take to smoke a pork shoulder?
A 7 lb. pork should take around 7-8 hours on the smoker. Time may vary by the size of pork shoulder you use, what type of smoker you use, etc. Just be sure to keep an eye on the internal temperature of the pork shoulder.
What temp is smoked pork shoulder done?
The internal temp of pork shoulder is 195-205ºF. Remove the pork from the smoker and let it rest for 20-30 minutes before shredding.
Can you over smoke pork shoulder?
Yes, you can over smoke a pork shoulder. Be sure to monitor the internal temperature of the pork shoulder so the pork does not dry out.
Can you freeze smoked pork shoulder?
Yes, you can freeze smoked pork shoulder. Shred the smoked pork shoulder and let it cool. Place the shredded pork shoulder in a freezer-safe bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
How do I use smoked pork shoulder?
After you have shredded or sliced the pork shoulder you can use the pork in a smoked pulled pork sandwich, a wrap, in tacos, on nachos, or whatever you can think of.
How to Make Smoked Pork Shoulder
- Preheat and prepare the smoker. Prepare your pellet smoker, wood chip smoker, or charcoal grills. Clean the grates and preheat the smoker to 250ºF.
- Dry rub the pork shoulder. Mix together all the dry rub ingredients and massage the dry rub all over the pork shoulder. Let the pork sit in the dry rub for 30 minutes or more. for extra flavor and tenderness.
- Smoke the pork. Place the pork on the smoker and smoke the pork for 7-8 hours. Prepare the apple cider spritz and spray the pork shoulder every hour or two to keep the pork tender and moist.
- Let the pork rest. Once the pork has reached an internal temperature of 190-205ºF remove the pork from the smoker and let it rest for 30 minutes.
- Enjoy. Shred the pork and enjoy it at a BBQ or all week.
Try not to open the smoker too many times. If you open the smoker too many times throughout the smoking process, it will let out heat and will take longer to come to temperature.
Have extra pellets on hand. Speaking from experience, be sure you check your pellet levels and wood chip levels multiple times throughout the cooking time. If the pellets run out or wood chips are low, the temperature will lower.
Charcoal Grill Directions
If you do not have a smoker you can still use a charcoal grill to smoke this pork shoulder.
- Place soaked wood chips in a foil pan and cover it with aluminum foil. Poke holes in the top of the tin foil and place the wood chips under the grates of your grill in the back corner.
- Turn the grill on high and close the grill.
- When smoke appears, add the pork shoulder to the grill. Continue to add soaked wood chips to the aluminum pan so it continues to smoke. Adjust the heat of your grill based on the temperature gauge.
- Nachos: swap the ground beef in these nachos for shredded smoked pork shoulder.
- Tacos: eat them similar to our carnitas tacos and top them with sour cream, minced onion, and cilantro.
- With veggies: make steamed broccoli or roasted sweet potatoes.
- In a bowl: serve this shredded pork alongside roasted potatoes, quinoa, and hummus.
Let the pork cool completely before placing it in an airtight container and place it in the refrigerator for up to 5-7 days.
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Smoked Pork Shoulder
Apple Juice Spritz
- We used the Signature Traeger pellets feel free to use whatever pellets you’d like..
- Add the salt, brown sugar, garlic powder, paprika, chili powder, mustard powder, and black pepper in a bowl. Mix until combined.
- Sprinkle half of the dry rub over the pork shoulder and massage the rub into the meat. Flip the pork over and sprinkle the rest of the dry rub on top of the rest of the pork and massage the dry rub into the meat. Be sure the whole pork shoulder is coated.
- Wrap the pork shoulder in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight for best results.
- Preheat the smoker to 250ºF and add your smoking pellets or smoking chips to the smoker. We used the Signature Traeger Blend pellets. prepare the apple juice spritz. Pour the apple juice, bourbon maple syrup, and apple cider vinegar into a small spray bottle and shake it until combined. Set aside.
- When the smoker is preheated, place the pork shoulder on the smoker and cook for 7-8 hours. Spritz the whole pork shoulder with the apple juice spritz every hour or hour and a half to keep it from drying out.
- When the pork shoulder has been on the smoker for 6 hours, lower the temperature to 200ºF.
- When the internal temperature of the pork reaches 195ºF-205ºF the pork is done.
- Remove the pork from the smoker and let the meat rest for 20-30 minutes before slicing or shredding.
- Serve on it’s own, on tacos, on buns, or in a burrito bowl.
Tips & Notes
- Timing for how long to cook the pork shoulder varies by smoker and by how large your pork shoulder is.
- Feel free to add your favorite spices to the dry rub for this pork shoulder.
- You can use whatever type of pellets or wood chips that you’d like for this recipe.
- You will need around 20-lb. pellets for this recipe.
Photography: photos taken in this post are by Ashley McGlaughlin from The Edible Perspective.