Smoked Pulled Pork Shoulder

5 from 7 votes

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Today’s recipe for smoked pulled pork is phenomenally flavorful, incredibly juicy, and always a crowd-pleaser. All you need to make the magic happen is a nice pork shoulder, a handful of simple spices, a smoker, and a bit of patience.

closeup: black gloved hands pulling smoked pork butt

Whether you have a big crowd to feed or simply want to be the coolest cook at your next family barbecue, this smoked pulled pork recipe is your winning ticket. This smoked pulled pork recipe will feed anywhere from 12- 18 people, making it perfect for potlucks and large family gatherings. 

Oh, and did I mention how amazing your backyard is going to smell!? The sweet, savory, and smoky aroma of slow-cooked meat is enough to bring the whole neighborhood knocking. Luckily, there is plenty of this heavenly dish to go around. Just be sure to share the recipe too! 

closeup: pulling pork with black gloved hands

Smoked pulled pork is great with classic favorites like Cowboy Baked Beans, Spicy Cilantro SlawClassic Potato Salad, or Street Corn

I also love enjoying it on top of a pile of Roasted Mashed Potatoes or in these lovely Pulled Pork Sliders. The possibilities are endless!

overhead: sweet pork dry rub spices in bowls

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Pork Shoulder – Make sure you pick a cut of meat with the bone-in and plenty of marbling. Boston butt is my preferred cut. 
  • Juice – Apple or orange juice infuse the meat with bright, fruity acidity while gently tenderizing. 
  • Sweet Dry Rub – Brown sugar, salt, garlic, onion, paprika, cayenne, black pepper, and chili powder enliven the smoked pulled pork with a spicy-sweet, pungent zestiness.

Tip From Kevin

Spices in a Pork Dry Rub

My spice rub consists of simple pantry spices, including brown sugar, garlic and onion powders, kosher salt, black pepper, paprika, cayenne, and chili powder. For the amounts, refer to my sweet pork dry rub on the recipe card below.

closeup: dry rubbed pork shoulder on wood cutting board

How to Make Smoked Pulled Pork

  1. Make the Spice Blend. Add the spice blend ingredients to a bowl and mix to combine. If you plan on doing the marinade injection, take out 2 tablespoons and set aside. Also, reserve ½ cup to use after the pork has been smoked and pulled. 
  2. Prepare the Pork. Dry the pork shoulder off using paper towels. Trim the fat until it is down to ¼ inch thick. Look for any purple or red spots and trim those away as well. 
  3. Rub & Refrigerate. Rub the spice blend on the pork shoulder, making sure to season all sides. Put the meat in a covered container or wrap it with plastic wrap. Transfer to the refrigerator and allow it to marinate for at least 8 hours.
  4. Bring to Room Temperature. Take the shoulder out of the refrigerator an hour before you plan to smoke it. Unwrap it and let it come to room temperature. This is the time to mix together the marinade injection and inject the pork all over, if you choose to do so.
  5. Prepare the Smoker. Prepare the pellet or wood chips in your smoker and preheat it to 225 degrees F. Make sure the grill rack is clean, then place the pork shoulder directly on it. 
process shots show steps for smoking pork butt
  1. Smoke & Spritz. Smoke the meat for 4 hours, then spritz the entire shoulder with apple juice. Continue smoking and spritzing the meat every 30 minutes until it has an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. 
  2. Remove, Wrap & Return. Take the meat out of the smoker. Wrap it in a double layer of aluminum foil or butcher paper, then return it to the smoker. Continue smoking to 190 degrees F if you plan to slice, or 205 degrees F if you plan to pull.
  3. Cover & Rest. Line an empty cooler with a clean towel and carefully transfer the wrapped pork shoulder there. Close the cover and let the wrapped pork rest for an hour. 
  4. Shred the Pork. Remove the pork from the cooler, unwrap it, and transfer to a tray or baking sheet. The meat should be fall-off-the-bone tender at this point, making it easy to remove the pork bone and discard it. Shred the pork using BBQ claws or gloves. 
  5. Season & Serve. To your liking, liberally season the cooked pork with the remaining ½ cup of sweet pork dry rub. Feel free to add more apple juice and/or your favorite BBQ sauce as desired.
extreme closeup: sheet pan of smoked pork butt

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best cut of pork for smoked pulled pork?

Pork shoulder is the ideal cut of pork for making smoked pulled pork. It is a dense, muscular cut from the front portion of the pig that has the perfect amount of marbling for slow-cooked, fall-off-the-bone tender meat. 

At the supermarket or butcher shop, you might find this cut labeled as pork shoulder, picnic, Boston butt, or pork butt. And, contrary to popular belief, none of these cuts include the hog’s derriere! 

I usually go with the Boston butt, but any of these cuts will work beautifully. Just make sure you pick a fresh-looking piece of pork with the bone-in and plenty of visible marbling.

How many minutes per pound to smoke pulled pork?

The general rule of thumb for making smoked pulled pork at 225 degrees F is 90 minutes per pound of meat. However, every cut of meat and every smoker has slight variations, so always keep an eye on the prize and use your best judgment.

For a 10-pound Boston butt, you should plan on letting your pork smoke for 10-15 hours total. I usually recruit a friend to take a shift and help!

Can you overcook pulled pork on a smoker?

Yes. Even at low temperatures, too much time in the smoker can render your smoked pulled pork tough and dry. Check periodically and make sure its internal temperature does not exceed 210 degrees F.

closeup: pulling pork with black gloved hands

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sheet pan of smoked pulled pork
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close up of black gloved hands pulling smoked pork butt

Smoked Pulled Pork Shoulder

5 from 7 votes
Smoked pulled pork is simple to make and delivers the most tender, succulent meat you have ever tasted! Use it for sliders, tacos, and more.
Servings: 12
Prep: 8 hours 10 minutes
Cook: 15 hours
Resting Time: 1 hour
Total: 1 day 10 minutes


  • 10 lb pork shoulder (Boston Butt)
  • 1/2 cup apple or orange juice

Sweet Pork Dry Rub

Marinade Injection (Optional)

  • 1 cup apple or orange juice
  • 2 tbsp above Sweet Pork Dry Rub


  • In a bowl mix together the spice blend ingredients. Take 2 tablespoons out for the marinade injection (if doing). Reserve another 1/2 cup for later use after pork is pulled. Remaining dry rub is for Step 3.
  • Using paper towels, dry off the pork shoulder. Trim fat cap on pork shoulder down to 1/4-inch thickness, and trim away any visible purple or red spots (those are glands and they will have an undesirable, chewy texture).
  • Rub spice blend on all sides of the pork shoulder. Wrap the pork in plastic wrap, or in a covered container, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
  • An hour before smoking, unwrap the pork shoulder and let it come to room temperature. Mix together the marinade injection mixture (if doing). Inject pork all over with the marinade (optional).
  • Preheat smoker to 225°F. Prep your wood chips or pellets as per manufacturer's instructions.
  • Place the unwrapped meat directly on the clean grill rack of the smoker.
  • After 4 hours, spritz all sides of pork with apple juice. Continue cooking, spritzing the meat every 30 minutes, until the pork internal temp reaches 165°F.
  • Remove meat from smoker and wrap in butcher paper or a double layer of aluminum foil. Place back in smoker and continue smoking it wrapped until it reaches an internal temp of 190°F (for slicing) or 205°F (for pulling).
  • After meat reaches desired internal temperature, transfer wrapped meat from smoker to an EMPTY cooler (lined with a towel to assist with lifting it out) Allow wrapped meat to rest for 1 hour, covered.
  • Lift from cooler, remove paper or foil wrap and discard. Place smoked pork shoulder carefully on a baking sheet or tray. Remove pork bone and discard. The meat should fall apart easily. Use gloves or BBQ claws to pull and shred the pork.
  • Sprinkle liberally with remaining 1/2 cup sweet pork dry rub spices (to your liking). Feel free to add more apple juice or your favorite BBQ sauce.



  1. Substitute with Smoked Paprika for a more smokey flavor.
General Rule
Smoke 90 minutes per pound. After it’s reached an internal temperature of 205°F remove from smoker. Set it, still wrapped, in a cooler to rest for 1 additional hour covered, before pulling the pork.


Calories: 468kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 55g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 185mg | Sodium: 1028mg | Potassium: 1025mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 640IU | Vitamin C: 2.6mg | Calcium: 54mg | Iron: 3.9mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: Main
Cuisine: Southern
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
closeup: pulling pork with black gloved hands


Whether in the kitchen or on the grill, you’ll find me cooking American favorites with a love for BBQ, Mexican and Tex Mex. I’m passionate about making tasty food because life’s too short to be bland!

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  1. 5 stars
    Smoked pork sounds delicious. What happens if I don’t have a “smoker” ? Can’t buy one item (smoker) to cook one dish. Please include optional directions for the rest of us. Thanks, D.

  2. 5 stars
    We did this yesterday and I am sold! Used a very similar spice rub that I already had made up and followed your cooking directions to the letter – amazing results. Best pulled pork we’ve ever done.

  3. 5 stars
    Made this last night and it turned out DEEELICIOUS! I did a 9 lb. The only thing I did differently was that I wrapped mine in red paper rather than foil. I used a combination of apple and Traeger signature blend pellets (which ran out while I was antiquing with a friend – but that was my fault LOL). 

    My husband LOVED it and even commented on how much he liked the rub! !! Thank you Kevin!

    1. Wow, love reading comments like this one Marcy! Thanks for taking the time to come back and let me know!

      1. Kevin, I never receive your videos on my laptop! Are they not allowed in Canada lol??

  4. 5 stars
    This pulled pork looks nothing short of spectacular, Kevin! My mouth was literally watering watching your video! You have me reaalllyyy wanting a smoker!

  5. 5 stars
    Hey Kevin! I love pulled pork! I picked up a 6-1/2 pound pork butt the other day and I’m definitely using this dry rub! I will be baking mine low and slow in the oven so I will use smoked paprrika in the rub. I intend to have some pulled pork sandwiches (with coleslaw on them) loaded baked potatoes and nachos! Happy Memorial Day guys!

    1. Then you’ll really enjoy Monday’s post Dorothy! Have a great Memorial Dy Weekend yourselves. 🙂

  6. 5 stars
    This gets me all excited about warmer summer days. Something to look forward to because I woke up to snow and then rain today. Eeek! This looks delicious, Kevin! So good on all the things, including eating as is!