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How to Smoke Pork Shoulder

If you aren’t willing to get your hands dirty, stop right now. If you can’t invest several hours of your time then I suggest you go to the store and buy pre-made pulled pork. Don’t read this article. Save yourself some time and eat shitty pulled pork from the store.

In the event that you want a challenge, you have a smoker, you don’t mind destroying your kitchen, and you don’t mind man handling a 10 lb piece of meat, continue reading.

I’m not an expert in any way, this is how I do it. There are never leftovers.

Day 1 – Brine
Day 2 – Rub
Day 3 – Smoke

Selecting a Pork Butt

The first thing that you will need is a piece of pork. Many people think that pork butt comes from the rear end of the hog. It does not. It comes from the front shoulder of the hog. The pork shoulder consists of two pieces, the upper portion of the shoulder which is called the butt and the lower portion which is called the picnic.

I typically use the pork butt. It is sold bone-in and boneless. A lot of times you will see different names for pork butt at the grocery store. Some of these names include: Boston butt, Boston roast, Boston shoulder roast, and shoulder butt.

If you want to save time, I would recommend purchasing a boneless pork butt. Most of the exterior fat has been trimmed off of the boneless pork butt. If you were to get bone in, you would have to do a lot of the trimming yourself. Also, boneless butts cook faster because they have less weight than the bone-in butts.

If you buy the bone-in pork butt that is fine, just remember, you will have to trim the excess fat from the butt. The rub doesn’t stick to a thick layer of fat as well as it does to the lean meat. Also, the smoke will not penetrate the external fat. You will also have to allow for extra cooking time because of the large bone in the butt.


Remove your pork but from its packaging and trim any excess fat. When you are done, your pork butt should look similar to the picture above.

I like to brine my pork butt. Brining is a process similar to marinating in which the meat is soaked in brine before cooking. Follow my Basic Brine Recipe for smoking meat and let your pork butt soak in the brine over night. You may need to double and even triple the brine recipe to cover your pork butt depending on the size of your pork butt. Be sure to place your brine in a large container which allows for the pork butt to be fully submerged.


Remove your pork butt from the brine and pat dry. You will notice that the pork is no longer a red/pink color. It is now a gray/brown color. That is ok. The meat has absorbed the brine.

Pat your pork butt dry with a paper towel. Lay down two sheets of Saran Wrap. Make the sheets long enough to completely wrap the entire pork butt. Place your pork butt in the middle of the Saran Wrap.

Completely cover your pork but with a layer of French’s Classic Yellow Mustard. Sounds weird right? It is ok, you will not taste the mustard at all after the pork butt has smoked. The mustard will help the rub stick to the pork. Generously cover the entire pork butt with a dry rub of your choice.

Creating your own rub can produce great results. However, if it is your first time smoking and you are beginner, you may want to buy a rub from the grocery store. Spice companies like McCormick have invested lots of money in developing well balanced spice mixtures. Trying to recreate something that has already been done well as a beginner may produce a bad product. Once you are comfortable with smoking and what flavor profile you prefer, try making your own rub. I often use McCormick Pork Dry Rub because it is readily available in most grocery stores. A dry rub that is sometimes hard to find at the grocery store is Sticky Fingers Dry Rub.

Apply this rub generously covering the entire pork butt. Fold the Saran Wrap tightly covering the entire pork butt. Make sure there are no gaps that expose the meat. Put your pork butt in the fridge overnight to let the rub absorb into the meat.


If you have gotten this far, I would assume that you have a smoker. If you do not, I cannot refund you the time you spent reading this article. I may suggest getting a smoker ASAP, that way you at least didn’t lose 10 minutes of your life.

Depending on your smoker, instructions for getting it fired up may vary. Do what you must to get your smoker going. I am using the Master Forge Vertical Smoker.

This smoker will burn at a steady temp between 200 – 225 degrees. Some people like to cook hot and fast, while others use the low and slow method. I’m a low and slow kinda guy. You will need to smoke your pork but about 1 hour per pound or until your pork butt reaches an internal temperature of 190 degrees Fahrenheit. A 10 lb pork butt will need to smoke approximately 10 hours assuming that your smoker holds a 200 – 225 degree temperature.

During the smoking process you will want to baste your pork butt. I typically baste with a squirt bottle filled with 1/2 cup apple juice, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, and 1/4 cup vegetable oil. Occasionally open your smoker and spray the pork butt. You may want to turn your pork but over a few times during the cooking period.

Remove the meat when it reaches 190 degrees Fahrenheit and wrap tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Store the wrapped butts until ready to pull and serve.

2 thoughts on “How to Smoke Pork Shoulder

  1. I don’t think that leaving the meat to soak in brine overnight is a good idea. Used to achieve amazing results just moisturizing the meat in brine before smoking. Same taste, less time-consuming.

    1. Agree to disagree. In the words of Alton Brown from the Food Network

      Add Boston butt making sure it is completely submerged in brine, cover, and let sit in refrigerator for a minimum of 8 hours. 12 hours is ideal

      Pulled Pork Recipe : Alton Brown : Food Network

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