Fire up those smokers and get ready to enjoy a perfect smoked pulled pork recipe that has the ultimate bark with an amazing BBQ rub.
Similar to my obsession with Corned Beef Hash, I pretty much only eat pulled pork whenever I go to a BBQ restaurant. I don’t even know what it is about smoked pork, but golly is it delicious. Pork shoulder has plenty of fat on it to make this smoked pulled pork loaded with flavor. Just like I always say, fat equals flavor.
Smoking a pork shoulder obviously requires you to have a smoker and plenty of time to smoke it. I would suggest setting aside at least 10 hours of your day to properly prepare and smoke a pork shoulder.
CHEF NOTES: I am using a pellet smoker for this recipe, however, please feel free to use a regular charcoal grill or even a digital smoker to create this recipe.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PORK BUTT AND A PORK SHOULDER
More often than not pork shoulders seem to win the popularity contest in the grocery stores. It’s not that pork butts aren’t available it just seems that pork shoulders are more common. While the pork shoulder and pork butt come from the same part of the big, there are a few differences.
A pork butt is meatier and has more marbling than the pork shoulder. The pork butt sits a little higher as well towards the back area while the shoulder is further down on that same cut of meat towards the top of the leg. Together these two cuts of meat are commonly known as the butt shoulder. The bottom part of the shoulder and into the leg is known as the picnic shoulder, which maybe you’ve heard before.
CHEF NOTES: Both the pork butt and shoulder are on the tougher side and require long cooking times to tenderize it, such as smoking or braising. In addition, by the looks of it, my cut of meat in this recipe video looks like a cross between the butt and the shoulder.
BEST WOOD FOR SMOKING PORK
When it comes to selecting wood for smoking pork, you should immediately think of fruit. Pork and fruit go fantastic together. In addition, the wood used for smoking will depend upon where in the US you live. Texas is often known for pecan or oak while hickory is identified with Memphis BBQ.
- Alder Wood
- Cherry Wood
- Apple Wood
- Peach Wood
- Maple Wood
- Mesquite Wood
CHEF NOTE: While these woods are great for smoking pork, don’t let this list confine you. If you love smoking with a wood that is not on this list than I encourage you to use it when making this pork shoulder recipe.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO SMOKE A PORK SHOULDER
A few things will depend on how long it takes to smoke a pork shoulder, the most important being the weight of the pork shoulder and the temperature with what you smoke it at. A basic rule of thumb but in no way is it an exact guide, is 90 minutes of smoking time per pound at 225° to 250°. Another way is to use a thermometer the entire time for indications on when your pork may be done.
- Remove the pork from the smoker once it reaches an internal temperature of 165°.
- Wrap the pork shoulder in foil and return it to the smoker and cook until it reaches an internal temperature of in between 200° and 205°.
- Rest in the foil at room temperature before serving.
CHEF TIPS: It’s important to look for signs when pork is done. Make sure the top of the pork skin has split before wrapping in foil. Remember to let it rest at room temp for 30-45 minutes before pulling.
WHAT DO YOU SPRAY ON PORK SHOULDER WHEN SMOKING
I like to personally use a combination of apple juice, apple cider vinegar and water to spray onto the pork shoulder. This process is also known as spritzing. Since I use more of a savory rub, I like the subtle hint of sweetness from the apple juice. Spritzing is mainly used to keep the pork moist, but because there is already so much fat on the pork shoulder you may not be able to tell the difference in flavor in the end. The measuring combination of my spritzer is:
- 1 cup apple juice
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup water
CHEF NOTE: The vinegar in the spritzer will also help to tenderize the meat, since you know fat, acid, salt heat makes for the best tasting food.
SHOULD I WRAP MY PORK SHOULDER
It is always encouraged to wrap your pork shoulder at some point in the smoking process. Many BBQ pit masters believe that you should wrap it in foil once the pork hits an internal temperature of 165°. Wrapping pork helps to further elevate the internal temperature of the pork and also helps to tenderize it by steaming it. This process also assists in breaking down the fat and collagen to make the meat more tender and juicier.
CHEF TIPS: Be sure to double wrap the pork because a lot of juices will be trying to come out of it while smoking.
PORK SHOULDER RESTING PERIOD
I’ve always learned ever since my days in the culinary school that it is incredibly important to let meat rest before cutting into it or serving it. During this resting time, the juices soak back into the pork bringing about a lot more flavor and tenderness to it. This process can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes.
WHAT IS BARK
Bark is the crust that forms on the outer surface of the meat you are smoking. Smoke particles stick to the outside seasoning and begin to make a firm outside edge that appears to be dark red and black in color. This crust is coveted and acts almost as a caramelized outside of the meat bringing about a ton of flavor to your meat. Think of it as a candied outside crust.
SMOKED PORK SHOULDER DRY RUB RECIPE
I’m a little bit of an outsider when it comes to rubbing my pork shoulder with a dry rub. I don’t believe you should rub it and let it sit for a long period of time. My reasoning is because all rubs have salt in it and salt draws out moisture. Moisture is what keeps meat tender, juicy and flavorful. If you’ve ever rubbed a piece of meat and let it sit until morning, you’ll notice quite a bit of water in the bottom of the pan. Right or wrong, that’s my belief based on my cooking background and knowledge.
When it comes to rubbing the pork, I like to do so for 30 minutes before it goes on the smoker. I also prefer a savorier rub on my pork shoulder because I like sweet BBQ sauces and I believe the two make a perfect balance. Here’s what’s in my rub:
- Garlic Granules
- Onion Granules
- Sea Salt
CHEF NOTE: You can also include seasonings such as sugar, brown sugar, chili powder, oregano.
OTHER WAYS TO SEASON PORK – You can also brine pork or inject it with vinegar, juices and seasonings.
HOW TO PREPARE A PORK SHOULDER
Pork shoulders usually come in weights of in between 6 and 9 pounds. Obviously, the weight of the pork shoulder will determine how much time it takes to smoke until it is finished. Don’t freak out if you feel your pork is incredibly fatty because most of it will cook off and help flavor the pork shoulder.
If you want to, you can remove a thin layer of fat from the top of the pork shoulder, but it is not necessary.
HOW TO MAKE SMOKED PULLED PORK
STEP 1: Pre-heat your smoker using your favorite flavored wood to 250°.
STEP 2: Place a metal drip pan underneath the grill grates and fill it up with water.
STEP 3: Make the bbq rub for the pork shoulder and set aside.
STEP 4: Pull out your pork shoulder from the refrigerator and let sit for 30 minutes.
STEP 5: Trim away any access fat that is unwanted.
STEP 6: Rub the pork shoulder down on all sides with yellow or Dijon mustard. CHEF NOTE: You use mustard to help the dry rub stick to the pork as well as assisting in creating good bark. Also, I used Dijon mustard in this recipe.
STEP 7: Coat the pork on all sides with the rub
STEP 8: Place the pork shoulder on the smoker.
STEP 9: After 3 hours of smoking begin spritzing with 15-20 sprays every hour for 3 more hours for a total of 3 separate spritzes before removing it.
STEP 10: Once the pork shoulder reaches an internal temperature of in between 165° and 170°, remove it from the grill.
STEP 11: Add the pork to a double sheet of large foil and spray it again with the spritzer generously.
STEP 12: Wrap the pork well in the foil and return to the grill.
STEP 13: Continue cooking the pork until it reaches an internal temperature of 200° to 205°.
STEP 14: Remove the pork and let it rest in the foil for 30-60 minutes.
STEP 15: Unwrap the pork, remove the bones and any large chunks of fat and shred using forks, tongs or hands.
STEP 16: Serve pulled with your favorite BBQ sauce or on a sandwich.
Thanks to you all so much for checking out this smoked pulled pork recipe. I can’t say it enough that it takes making a bunch of bad BBQ before you start making good BBQ so be patient and have fun and try serving it up alongside or underneath my vinegar based coleslaw recipe.
REHEATING: Add the pulled pork to a large pot with a little bit of beef or chicken stock, cover with foil and cook at 325° for 30 minutes.
STORING AND FREEZING: Store this pulled pork in a plastic container and keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. The pork also freezes well in a plastic container and can be reheated at low temperatures in the oven with a small amount of liquid and covered in foil.
*If you love this smoked pulled pork shoulder recipe then my Smoked St. Louis Style Ribs are a must try, and be sure to drop me a comment below and a rating if you’ve had the chance to make this amazing bread recipe*
Remember to check out the step by step video below!
Smoked Pulled Pork Shoulder Recipe
For the Rub:
- 3 tablespoons sea salt
- 2 tablespoons black pepper
- 2 tablespoon garlic granules
- 2 tablespoon onion granules
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 2 tablespoons cumin
For the Spritzer and Sauce:
- 1 cup apple juice
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
For the Pork:
- 6-9 pound pork shoulder or pork butt fat trimmed
- 4 tablespoons of yellow or Dijon mustard
- Preheat the smoker to 250°. Place a drip pan filled with water under the grill grates.
- Rub: Combine all of the ingredients and set aside.
- Spritzer: Add the apple juice, cider and water to a spray bottle and shake. Set aside.
- Rub the mustard on every side of the pork shoulder creating a thin layer.
- Next, generously season the pork shoulder on all sides with the rub.
- Add the pork shoulder to the smoker over top of the drip pan filled with water and smoke for 3 hours.
- Next, spray the ribs with 15-20 sprays of the spritzer. Repeat this process for the next 3 hours every hour with the same amount of spritzes.
- Once the pork reaches an internal temperature of in between 165° and 170° or the top part of the fat on the bark has split, about 6-7 hours, remove the pork from the smoker.
- Place the pork shoulder on a large sheet of double foil, generously spritz it and wrap it extremely tight by folding over and covering up the pork shoulder.
- 1Place the pork shoulder back on the smoker bone side up and cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 200° to 205°, about 2-4 hours.
- 1Remove the pork shoulder from the smoker and let rest in the foil for 30-60 minutes before removing the bone, large chunks of fat, and pulling it using forks, cloves or tongs.
- 1Serve pork shoulder with BBQ sauce on the side or on a sandwich.
• Be sure to double wrap the pork because a lot of juices will be trying to come out of it while smoking.
• You can also include seasonings in your rub such as sugar, brown sugar, chili powder, oregano.
• You use mustard to help the dry rub stick to the pork as well as assisting in creating good bark. Also, I used Dijon mustard in this recipe.
• The pork shoulder will be completely done when it reaches 200° to 205° and shreds apart with ease.