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This is my pork shoulder recipe from bringing home a pork shoulder to preparing it with my very own original my very own original rub recipe to smoking it up delicious. Now you must understand that an actual pork shoulder is very big and most of us usually only smoke a pork butt or a pork picnic roast which is the two parts of an actual pork shoulder.

I Prefer the bone in pork butt which normally runs about 8 pounds or so. They say the meat is sweeter when it cooks with the bone in and I happen to agree.

When I get ready to do my favorite pork shoulder recipe which is basically a nice pork butt rubbed down real good with my own proprietary rub recipe and smoked with a good dose of oak and some apricot or peach or some other fruit wood, I like to find a piece of meat that has lots of good fat marbling.

This keeps the meat moist in the smoker and guarantees some excellent flavor.

Apply the Rub with Mustard

I always rub the pork shoulder down with a light layer of French’s yellow mustard to help the rub to stick better throughout the smoke and apply about 1/2 to 3/4 cups of my rub to the outside of the meat being careful to massage it into every nick and cranny.

Note: the mustard will lose its flavor during the smoking and will only leave a nice brown crust so you need not worry that your pork will taste like mustard.. it won’t.

Smoke the Pork Shoulder

Prepare the smoker as you normally would to maintain a 225°F in the smoker and lay the pork shoulder right on the grate for the long smoke.

How Long Does it Take?

Pork shoulders will require about 12-14 hours in the smoker. If you are using propane, electric or charcoal then you can stop smoking it when it reaches about 140 degrees since it should be suitably smoked at that point.. feel free to keep smoking if you are a seasoned smoker and know how to do it without oversmoking the meat.

I have a buddy who only leaves the shoulder in the smoker until it reaches the 140°F mark and then wraps it in heavy duty foil and finishes it off in the oven for convenience. And that is fine if you need the convenience.

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I am big on doing the entire cook time in the smoker but I understand the need for convenience sometimes.

205 Degrees.. Not a Moment Sooner

When the pork shoulder reaches about 205 degrees, pull it from the smoker and bring it into the house for a resting period. I like to let it rest for 45 minutes or better before I pull it to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.

Pull the Pork

I then use two forks to pull the meat apart into chunks.. be sure and add in the brown bark for added flavor and it makes the finished product look really good.. I have to say that because I have seen folks discard the outside bark thinking it is burnt or something. It is the best part.

This pork shoulder recipe is a winner and will get you rave reviews every time.

To make sandwiches I have a page that tells exactly how to do it Carolina style.. Click here to check it out

Need a digital meat thermometer? For an inexpensive, single probe meat thermometer, I recommend the Taylor .. get it here. I also recommend the Maverick ET-733 if you are looking for a dual probe, remote thermometer that will keep you informed of the temperature of both smoker and meat with a range of up to 300 feet.

My Big Mistake

Update: “My big mistake with a pork shoulder“.. read how my big mistake turned out to be the best pork shoulder recipe I have ever tasted and I tell you exactly how I did it so you can.. err.. repeat my mistake.

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About the Author

Long time Industrial Engineer turned self-proclaimed fire poker, pitmaster and smoke whisperer and loving every minute of it!

55 Comments on this article. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Shaun March 5, 2016 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    Rubbing with yellow mustard and honey mustard is a beautiful thing. I recommend trying rubbing it down with a horseradish mustard gives it An incredible flavor (i don’t even like horseradish or mustard…)

  2. Diane February 1, 2016 at 9:56 am - Reply

    I purchased your rub recipe a few years ago and downloaded on my ipad. I no longer have that ipad, do I need to repurchase the recipe or do you keep a record by email address?

    • Jeff Phillips February 1, 2016 at 10:36 pm - Reply

      Diane, I just sent them to you via email. Check your spam or junk folder if you don’t see them right away.

  3. George November 9, 2015 at 10:33 am - Reply

    I’m a newbie with the green egg and tried to smoke a 9 lb pork shoulder last night at 225 degrees for 12 hours. All was well when I went to bed and it had been smoking for 6 hours. However got up this morning and the egg was stone cold and the pork not finished. What did I do wrong? Thanks

    • Jack M. May 26, 2016 at 10:25 am - Reply

      Your bottom vent could have been closed or became closed not allowing enough air into the smoker.

  4. Chibearz September 17, 2015 at 11:24 pm - Reply

    Cooking 8lb’er over open fire this weekend. Plan to keep it indirect with a deep aluminum plan over the top to capture some heat/ distribute evenly. Any suggestions- quickly???

  5. Ron Baker September 6, 2015 at 11:50 am - Reply

    Just ordered your book,

  6. Dennis June 16, 2015 at 9:23 am - Reply

    I’m planning on cooking a pork shoulder and brisket on my pellet smoker at the same time. If I put them both on at the same time, and wait for my internal temp of the pork shoulder to reach 200 degrees, will the brisket also have the same internal temp? I’d like to avoid that if I can, because I usually cover my brisket in a foil pan with a broth to moisten it up for the final few hours of cooking. My briskets usually cook for about 24 hours, using the 1.5 hrs per pound method. The 8 lb pork shoulder should take 12 hours.

  7. Justin O June 10, 2015 at 7:27 am - Reply

    Is it possible to salt and rub the Pork shoulder for too long?? I have time to take care of it Wednesday night, but will not be smoking until Saturday at like 3 am!

    Here’s the premise of my smoke, my friends and I are doing a sandwich competition and I figured its a good idea to make a pulled pork cuban. I have done this recipe by Jeff Mauro in the crockpot and it is amazing. But this time I plan on doing the same thing in the smoker.

    I plan on making a rub/marinade with these ingredients and I just purchased orange wood:

    2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    1 tablespoon kosher salt
    2 teaspoons ground cumin
    2 teaspoons dried oregano
    1 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
    Juice of 1 lime (2 tablespoons)
    Juice of 1 orange (2 tablespoons)

    Thoughts??

  8. Chris June 7, 2015 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    I have a kettle grill and use the snake method. The temp stays 225 to 250. I use applewood chunks and get it to go for 10 to 12 hours. Hope to get a smoker soon. Still learning a lot and getting better.

  9. Allen June 1, 2015 at 10:37 pm - Reply

    I have a Char-griller charcoal grill that I’ve smoked ribs and pork loin on for years. I use Apple wood hunks and charcoal. In two weeks I’ll be smoking my first shoulder butt. I’m good at maintaining temp (225) and not over smoking, plan on injecting and doing a rub the day before. It’s 7 1/2 lbs. plan on wrapping in foil after 150 dregrees, then glazing at 190 and cooking for another hour at a higher temp. Never did something like this on this grill. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thanks!!!

    • Doug Weaver June 3, 2015 at 4:57 pm - Reply

      Please let me know how it turns out. I have a charcoal grill with two sides divided by a metal, removal wall, which I could probably use. I do use my electric Master Built smoker for all my meat right now.

  10. D. Polatty April 24, 2015 at 7:47 pm - Reply

    I did a 10 Lb. Shoulder Butt roast today, By the way , THANK YOU JEFF,
    Done on a Smokey M. propane. I prepared it with Jeff’s Rub. Put it on the smoker at 7:50 am. Thinking It was Going to take 14 hours + … Was not the case. Stayed at 225 to 250 for 9 hours . hickory for first two hours , Apple for
    four more hours.. Took it off at 200 degrees.. covered with Tin foil, let sit on counter for 1.5 hours… pulled it/ chunked it, It has a great taste and not over smoked, according to the 15 people that enjoyed it…
    Thank you ,Again{ Jeff } For your time !!!!!!!!!!

    • Jeff Phillips April 27, 2015 at 10:43 pm - Reply

      I am really glad this turned out great for you! You might check your smoker temperature with a tested thermometer to make sure it is reading correctly. When I start having things getting done too fast or too slow, that can be a sign that the built in smoker thermometer is 20-30°F off.

      • D. Polatty April 28, 2015 at 7:13 pm - Reply

        I was curious also , so i checked with my other digital .. And it read the same . So it was good
        enough for me ..
        And I also bought your RUB & SAUCE recipes back when { 2003 or 2004 }
        I have NOT run out of the rub , ever.. It gets low , Time to make another batch..
        The sauce is THE Best , Just , How long will it last in the fridge , with leftover sauce??????
        THANK YOU , JEFF……………………..

  11. Kym April 17, 2015 at 10:09 am - Reply

    I put my pork shoulder on the smoker at 10pm last night. I’m estimating it will be done around 9 or 10am this morning. I’d like to wrap it in foil and let stay on the warm smoker cycle until about 4pm. Any problems over smoking it or drying it out?

    • Doug Weaver April 23, 2015 at 12:42 am - Reply

      I wouldn’t leave it on that long. I don’t think it would still be juicy cooking that long. Now I have had to cook some for 18 hours. If you haven’t reached the 200 degree mark it will work. What type smoker do you have? I have an electric Masterbuilt smoker.

  12. James January 17, 2015 at 10:50 pm - Reply

    I just purchased a Great Smokey Mountain series electric smoker, it’s the 32 inch model. I have always smoked on a offset wood burning pit and tried the electric for the first time today. It must be because of it being new but I did a 8lb butt and it turned out tough. Pulled it at 200 deg rested it for an hour. Been doing this a long time and never had one tough. Any insite on this would be helpful. Thanks

    • Doug Weaver February 3, 2015 at 9:38 am - Reply

      I had a Bradley smoker for 4 yrs, before it got destroyed by the ice storm last year. Now I have a Masterbuilt electric smoker. I have had juicy boston butts with both electric smokers. It might be the meat you used.

  13. Greg B. December 11, 2014 at 8:40 am - Reply

    Do any of you brine the butt before smoking? I brine almost everything anymore. It just comes out so moist and tender!

    • Doug Weaver December 13, 2014 at 7:59 pm - Reply

      You can brine it if you like or inject it. I just apply a great rub and let it sit over night. The pork is always moist and delicious.

  14. william October 5, 2014 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    good conversations. my issue is that i prefer left over pulled pork to be at room temperature. how long do you think that i could leave left over pork shoulder at room temp before having to refrigerate it. thanks

    • Doug Weaver October 7, 2014 at 9:04 am - Reply

      I smoke a Boston Butt for Christmas and Thanksgiving. We leave it out for a couple of hours without any problem.

  15. Tyler July 19, 2014 at 5:13 pm - Reply

    Just wondering why 200 degrees is optimal?

    • Doug Weaver July 20, 2014 at 7:06 pm - Reply

      That is when the pork shoulder will fall apart when you pull it.

  16. Tom Smith July 11, 2014 at 7:15 am - Reply

    I’m going to smoke 5 butts @ about 7.5 lbs each how much extra time should I give it?
    I’m using a propane smoker so I should have no problem holding 200-225 deg.

    • Doug Weaver July 14, 2014 at 3:07 pm - Reply

      Normal cooking time for that size is about 15 hrs. You will need to rotate the butts to get even cooking. I cooked two and I didn’t rotate them and one took over 20 hours. Keep a thermometor in one and rotate it through out the cooking time to ensure each one is heating the same.

  17. Ron July 11, 2014 at 12:06 am - Reply

    As this will be my first experience smoking two 8 LB butts, is 12 hours enough time or does it need to be longer? Thanks In advance–Ron

  18. Dave Haberman July 7, 2014 at 3:44 pm - Reply

    How long do you need to do the rub ahead of smoking, hours, over night?

    Thanks

    • Jeff Phillips July 7, 2014 at 11:56 pm - Reply

      Do it the night before if you have the time, if not, just put it on right before and it will be just fine.

      • Dave July 8, 2014 at 11:41 am - Reply

        Great, thanks!!!

        • Doug Weaver July 9, 2014 at 10:29 am - Reply

          You are welcome. Let me know how it turns out. Love BBQ

          • Dave July 14, 2014 at 5:53 am -

            Best Pulled pork I ever heard!!! Ended up doing the Bourbon pulled pork!!!!

          • Doug Weaver July 14, 2014 at 10:20 am -

            Great to hear it turned out great. Never had the bourbon butt but I am so I would like it.

    • Doug Weaver July 8, 2014 at 10:09 am - Reply

      I always do it over night, to get the greatest penetration of seasoning in the meat. You can do it for a couple of hours and be ok.

  19. michael June 15, 2014 at 10:26 am - Reply

    Jeff, i started with a 7 pound boneless pork butt, and due to time constraints, I cut it in half and wrapped both pieces in foil. They look like two large chocolate kisses. I cut the pork in half, in theory of cutting the smoke time in half. I pealed open the top of the foil to let smoke in. Plan on closing the foil for the last 2 of the 4 hour projected smoke……Will this do the trick?
    Vertical wood smoker, using pecan. 250/275 degrees

  20. Jaime June 13, 2014 at 8:04 am - Reply

    Hello Jeff, I am from México and live in Guadalajara, Jalisco, México, i am breeding European Wild Boar, and I already smoked a whole boar with your rub recepy, and let me tell You, it was exquisite!!! Delicious.
    The boar meat is very flavor and tender, try it !!
    Thanks

    • Rodger February 25, 2015 at 2:40 pm - Reply

      Where can one in the US get boar meat? I have always wanted to try it…

  21. Jason June 12, 2014 at 10:39 pm - Reply

    I am doing the pork butt on Father’s Day. Should I do the mustard and rub the night before or before it goes on the smoker?
    Thanks

    Jason

  22. bill chavis May 25, 2014 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    I don’t have a smoker ,only an oven. what to do ?

    • James June 11, 2014 at 9:22 pm - Reply

      Buy a smoker!

    • Doug Weaver June 11, 2014 at 9:50 pm - Reply

      You can use a crock pot if you don’t have a smoker. Just add seasoning to the butt and place in the crock pot, if you want to add BBQ Sauce you can. It should cook all day on low.

  23. Ken K December 24, 2013 at 12:14 am - Reply

    I am doing my first shoulder for pulled pork.  How often do I need to check the water tray over the 10-12 hours.  I think that opening the smoker to check the water level will extend the cook time due to the heat loss.  I live in Minnesota, -1F right now…

    Any info will be of great help.

     

    Thanks, 

     

    Ken 

    • James June 11, 2014 at 9:26 pm - Reply

      Depending on your smokers set up I tend to check mine every 2 hours or a little sooner. Another way to tell is the smoke will change in smell, like burnt grease. Well in fact that’s exactly what it is, your water ran out and you are now burning the drippings. Take note of when this happens and you will know when to check. One more hint, add a second water tray on the bottom rack using an appropriately sized chaffing tray, this will usually double your time between checks.

    • Doug Weaver June 11, 2014 at 9:52 pm - Reply

      I agree with James. When you add water make sure it is hot water, boiling if possible.

  24. Jann August 4, 2013 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    We love your detailed instructions – thank you!  A question about the Pork Butt recipe.  We use a Bradley Smoker and one thing we notice is we are unable to get a smoke ring on the Pork Butt.  Is that because of the Bradley Smoker smoke process or is it harder to get a smoke ring on a Pork Butt (as compared to brisket, for example).

    • Doug Weaver May 14, 2014 at 11:20 pm - Reply

      I use to have a Bradley before we had an ice storm and the top of a pine tree snapped of and crushed it. I never had a problem getting a smoke ring when I smoked the Boston Butt. I always smoked the entire cooking process, 12 -15 hours. it never was oversmoked. Just keep trying it. The butts always came out juicey.

  25. Brandon July 11, 2013 at 8:12 pm - Reply

    Jeff, I'm going to smoke 2 Boston butts this weekend. The problem is that I have to smoke them the day before because of my work schedule. My question is, how should I heat it up the next day and keep it from drying out? 

    Please help me out. 

    Thanks

  26. JACKIE June 6, 2013 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    How many do you feel one would feed if we use it as sandwiches? I have a count of about 12-15ppl. You think one 8lb will do?

    • Jeff Phillips June 6, 2013 at 5:34 pm - Reply

      With an 8 lb pork butt, you can expect it to yield about 60% of it’s original weight or about 4.8 lbs of useable meat. If you make sandwiches using 1/3 lb (approximately 5 oz) of meat on each one, it will be enough for about 14-15 sandwiches.

      I assume you will want folks to be able to have more than 1 sandwich so I would go with 2 pork butts.

      There’s nothing worse than running out of food when you have hungry guests. If you have extra, you can always send home doggie bags or you can freeze it and use it later;-)

  27. Joe May 14, 2013 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    Jeff,

     

    I have made many of your recipies before and I always seemed to "read over" the mustard on the meat. Well I tried it on my bone-in butt this past weekend and I wanted to say that WOW! it makes a difference. I used to prepare my meat the night before or even 24 hours prior and let sit with just rub directly on the meat, covered in the refrigerator until I was ready to place it on the smoker. This time I forgot to rub it the night before and when I got up I needed to get it quickly rubbed as the chimney was getting the coals ready. I am sold on mustard now prior to rubbing. I make a mean rub but this was a little pull of heaven. Since there are alot of things that I changed maybe it was not the mustard completely but I will always let my meat sit out to almost room temp and use mustard before rubbing and putting it on the smoker. Next Brisket Nachos…

  28. greg April 12, 2013 at 1:14 pm - Reply

    How do I obtain your rub in Canada?

  29. Brandon April 10, 2013 at 5:36 pm - Reply

    Should the meat thermometer be placed in the meat before you start cooking it or just when you think it’s about done? My concern is that it won’t read correctly if its inside the grill while its hot.

    Thanks

    • Jeff Phillips April 10, 2013 at 6:21 pm - Reply

      It depends on what themometer you are using. I use a remote thermometer such as the Maverick ET-732 on many occasions and it has a probe attached to a long braided metal cable. This can stay in the meat while it cooks and is able to handle smoker temperatures easily.

      With this type of thermometer, I usually place the probe in the meat from the start on things that do not require long cook times such as chicken, steaks, etc.

      On brisket and pork butt, I can easily wait about 4 hours before inserting the probe since I know that it will take much longer than that to finish.

      For a 3 second reading, you might like the Super-fast Thermapen and then you don’t have to mess with the probes and the wires. Just depends on your cooking style.

      Many of the other plastic thermometer are not designed to be left in and I recommend you read the instructions that came with the unit before subjecting it to high temperatures.

      • Brandon April 10, 2013 at 8:16 pm - Reply

        My thermometer is built into my smoker. It gives a digital read out on the remote and the panel of the grill. With that said I guess it's fine to just leave it in from start to finish. The instruction didn't really speak much about the themometer. Thanks for the help. 

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