My Simple Smoked Pulled Pork Butt (AKA Smoked Pork Shoulder) is a go-to any time I am looking to feed a hungry crowd and don’t want too much fuss.
Smoked Pork Butt vs. Smoked Pork Shoulder
Most smoked pork butt recipes call for a bone-in pork shoulder, sometimes also labeled a Boston butt roast or a pork butt. All of these labels are for the exact same cut of pork. None of them actually come from the butt end of the pig (which can definitely be confusing), but from the upper part of the shoulder. The pork butt, or pork shoulder, has many overlapping and hard working muscle groups that are bound together with tight connective tissue.
That tight tissue makes this cut particularly well suited for smoking. It would be very difficult to simply slice and serve a pork shoulder roast that wasn’t cooked low and slow to break down those tight muscles and connective fibers. You’d end up chewing for a long time and not getting anywhere. By using the low and slow process of cooking the meat over a wood fire for a long time, those tissues begins to break down, tenderize, and create amazing strands of super succulent smoked pork shoulder.
How to Smoke a Pork Butt
The reason I call this smoked pulled pork butt “simple” is because of how little effort it really takes. This recipe doesn’t require any fancy injections, tools, spritzing concoctions, or wrapping to have it come out absolutely perfect every. single. time. All you really need is a good pork shoulder, my famous homemade sweet BBQ rub, good smoke and plenty of time. Once the meat is on the smoker, all you need to do is grab a cool drink and kick your feet up.
This simple smoked pulled pork shoulder is made using old school BBQ techniques and flavors to give you super authentic and extra tasty pulled pork. After seasoning liberally with my BBQ rub, which is a brown sugar base seasoned with smoked paprika, onion, garlic, and a little cayenne, the pork shoulder is set into a smoker with an indirect heat source and plenty of thin blue wood smoke. My favorite woods for making smoked pulled pork has got to be either hickory or apple (or a combination of the two), both are mild enough to complement the pork without overwhelming you with smoke.
How Long to Smoke a Pork Butt
I shoot to maintain my smoker temperature at 225 degrees F and can typically plan about 2 hours of cook time per pound of pork. For example, an 8 pound pork shoulder will take about 16 hours from start to finish. Every cut of meat is a little bit different though, so if you want real control over how your meat is cooking. I’ve had some 8 pound smoked pork butts finish in 12 hours and some 10 pound smoked pork butts take 20 hours to finish.
I recommend a good thermometer (I love an instant read probe thermometer) to keep track of the internal temperature of the meat. You’ll notice a pattern emerge as you start to smoke pork butts more frequently. You will notice your meat rises in temperature up to about 145 degrees F pretty quickly, then the cooking process will slow dramatically and take hours to increase in temperature from 145 degrees F to 165 degrees F. This phase is called the “Stall” and is completely normal. Don’t panic, just let everything keep cooking and eventually the temperature will start to rise again.
A lot of pitmasters choose to wrap their smoked pork butt in foil or butcher paper at this point to help shorten the process and push their meat through this stall period (you can see how I utilize this technique HERE). For this simple smoked pork butt recipe, I did not wrap at all. Instead, I let the smoke continue to work on the pork shoulder and it helped to develop a really amazing exterior crust on the outside of the meat called “bark.” For those not familiar with the world of BBQ, this outer coating may appear burned, but to those in the know, that dark caramelized bark is absolutely coveted!
The tight connective tissues in your smoked pork shoulder start to break down at 195 degrees F internal temperature. If you like a little more texture to your pork, it’s time to pull it off the smoker! If you want it to be even more fall apart and melt in your mouth tender, you can wait until the internal temperature reaches 201 degrees F. Then all you need to do is let is rest for an hour or so while you prep your favorite side dishes and you’re all set! I like to let my smoked pork butts rest in a covered aluminum pan inside of an insulated cooler, covered with towels. This helps retain the heat and the moisture in the smoked pork shoulder while it rests.
Smoked Pork Shoulder Video
Smoked Pulled Pork Butt/Shoulder Recipe
Simple Smoked Pulled Pork Butt/ Shoulder
- Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees F for indirect smoking.
- Remove your roast from the packaging and wipe it down on all sides with paper towels, cleaning off any small bone fragments or extra liquid on the exterior.
- Slather the entire exterior of the pork shoulder with the yellow mustard.
- Season your pork roast on all sides, top and bottom, with the Homemade BBQ Sweet Rub. Don't worry about rubbing the seasoning into the meat, just be sure it is liberally coated all over.
- Place your seasoned roast on the smoker fat side up, preferably in the middle of the grate avoiding any direct hot spots.
- Close the lid and smoke the pork until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 195 degrees F. You can cook to 201 degrees F if you like softer pork. This process can take anywhere between 15-20 hours, depending on the consistency of heat in your smoker and the size of your pork shoulder.
- Remove the pork shoulder from the smoker and wrap tightly in foil. Allow the roast to rest for at least an hour before shredding.
- Pull apart the shoulder, discarding any chunks of fat or gristle. Sprinkle the roast with an additional tablespoon or so of the Homemade Sweet BBQ Rub. Serve and enjoy!