posted March 15, 2021
Simple Smoked Pulled Pork Butt (Smoked Pork Shoulder)
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. With only 3 ingredients, you’re looking at some good, classic BBQ with plenty of flavor.
Smoked Pulled Pork
This process for smoked pulled pork is a delicious way to cook pork butt. It’s a relatively easy process that requires a bit of time, some simple ingredients, and a trusty smoker.
This post is the perfect guide for your first pulled pork. Make sure to read it to the end (lots of good info here) as well as scroll below to the printable recipe card to take in all the pork knowledge so you’ll be fully ready to take on this delicious beast.
The reason I call this smoked pulled pork butt “simple” is because of how little effort it 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 need to make this recipe a success is a good pork shoulder, my famous homemade sweet BBQ rub, good smoke, and plenty of time.
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.
Ingredients for Smoked Pulled Pork
Here’s all you’ll need to grab to make your simple smoked pulled pork butt:
- 8-10 pound bone-in pork shoulder roast (or Boston butt)
- 2-3 Tablespoons yellow mustard
- 1/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon Signature Sweet Rub, divided use (this rub can be made using my recipe for the Best Sweet Rub, or you can purchase it pre-made from Patio Provisions)
Bam. That’s it. Three ingredients are all that stand between you and some sweet, sweet, smoked pulled pork.
How to Smoke a Pork Butt
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. Here’s how to do it:
- Preheat. Get your favorite smoker running steady at 225 degrees F. My favorite woods for making smoked pulled pork is either hickory or apple (or a combination of the two). Both are mild enough to complement the pork without overwhelming you with smoke.
- Slather in mustard. Grab some nitrile gloves and liberally coat the pork shoulder with mustard.
- Season. Season on all sides with my signature sweet BBQ rub. This rub is a cornerstone of Hey Grill Hey made from a brown sugar base seasoned with smoked paprika, onion, garlic, and a little cayenne.
- Smoke. Once the pork has been prepped, place it directly on the grill grates of the smoker (preferably fat side up). Close the lid, and smoke for 15-20 hours, or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 195-201 degrees F.
- Rest, shred and serve. Once your pork has reached temperature, remove it from the smoker, and wrap it tightly in aluminum foil. Allow the roast to rest for at least an hour.
- Shred and serve. Once your pork has had time to rest, grab some forks or my awesome Hey Grill Hey shredder claws and go to town. Remove the bone and discard any fat or gristle. Serve as-is or on a bun with some Homemade Coleslaw for a delicious pulled pork sandwich.
How Long to Smoke a Pork Butt
With your smoker running steady at 225 degrees F, you 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. Quick note! Every cut of meat is a little bit different, so plan ahead for variations in cook time! 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 instant read probe thermometer to keep track of the internal temperature of the meat, and for this one reason. You’ll notice a pattern emerge as you start to smoke pork butts more frequently. 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!
How to Freeze Smoked Pulled Pork
If you’re like me, you often have a hankering for pulled pork when you only have your small family to feed. If you find yourself in this predicament, simply freeze the leftovers!
- Get your pork cooled to room temperature or colder before putting in the freezer bag. Hot pulled pork will steam and form moisture crystals in the bag. It also seems to result in mushy pulled pork when reheating.
- Shred the pork before freezing. This will allow you to flatten your bags before adding them to the freezer, saving space and getting your pork frozen faster (which means better tasting meat when it is reheated).
- Use freezer-safe bags. Freeze the pork in either gallon sized zip top bags or a vacuum sealed bag that is freezer rated. This helps preserve freshness and cut down on freezer burn. It is also crucial during the reheating process.
- Remove excess air in the bag. Whether you use a food saver or just a regular zip top freezer bag, remove as much air as possible. This will help your meat last longer frozen.
- Use it or lose it. Frozen pulled pork will last 6 weeks in a fridge/freezer combo, or up to 6 months in a deep freeze if the air has been sufficiently removed. Write the name and date on your freezer bags so you can keep track.
How to Reheat Smoked Pulled Pork
Ready to reheat that pork you have ready in the freezer? Here are some ways to get your pork tasting just as good as the day it came off the smoker.
- Defrost first for crispy pork. Pop your frozen pork into the fridge to defrost for 24 hours before heating through. Next, add some cooking fat, like avocado oil, to your cast iron skillet and add your shredded pork, flipping the pulled pork pieces every 2-3 minutes, until cooked through. I use this method most often for pulled pork tacos or burritos.
- Simmer from frozen for freshest flavor. If you want your reheated pork to taste as good as the day you made it, a slow simmer in water is the way to go. Make sure your freezer bags are sealed tightly, so no water gets in the bag. Bring a large pot of water up to just barely a simmer (don’t boil!) and slide your frozen bag of pulled pork into the pot. If your pulled pork bag is about 1 inch thick, you’ll need to let it simmer in the water for about 25-30 minutes.
- Smoke it some more! I’ve also used the smoker to reheat frozen pork. Defrost the package enough to remove the meat. Place the pulled pork in a disposable aluminum pan, pour about 1/4 cup of apple juice into the pan with the pork, and place it into a preheated 225 degree F smoker. Close the lid lid smoke for about 2 hours, breaking apart and stirring the pork every 30 minutes or so, until it is fully reheated.
More Smoked Pulled Pork Recipes
Hooray! You’ve mastered this simple pulled pork recipe! Ready to get a little fancy and try some other flavors and techniques? Try my other tasty recipes below! Each one is unique and simply bursting with flavor.
Smoked Pulled Pork Butt/Shoulder Recipe
Simple Smoked Pulled Pork Butt/ Shoulder
- Preheat the smoker. Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees F for indirect smoking. I recommend hickory or apple for this recipe.
- Prep the meat. 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 pork butt in mustard. Slather the entire exterior of the pork shoulder with the yellow mustard.
- Season with Sweet Rub. 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.
- Smoke the pork butt. 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.
- Wrap and rest the meat. Remove the pork shoulder from the smoker and wrap tightly in foil. Allow the roast to rest for at least an hour before shredding.
- Shred and serve. 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!
**This post was originally published in September 2017. We recently updated it with more information and helpful tips. The recipe remains the same.
BBQ Must Haves
Join the Grill Squad
The Grill Squad is our exclusive membership program that will transform bland cookouts into booming barbecues that you'll remember for a lifetime. The technique and skills you learn will bring your backyard cookouts to a new level. For the cost of a full brisket, you'll get annual access to an exclusive BBQ community, Pitmaster Classes, discounts, and much much more!