Smoked Pork Butt is so tender and full of flavor! Learn all the tips for smoking pork shoulder low and slow to achieve perfect, melt-in-your-mouth meat every time!
Smoked Pork Butt
Smoked pork butt recipes are always a hit, and this is one of my favorites!
It makes quite a bit of meat, so once you’re done with dinner, you can easily use the leftovers in your favorite sandwiches or as a topper for potatoes.
This is also the perfect pork recipe for potluck dinners or even barbecues.
And, by changing up the barbecue sauce or the dry rub that you use, you can customize the flavor to almost any meal!
Pork Shoulder vs. Pork Butt
Both pork shoulder and pork butt come from the shoulder of the pig. The butt comes from higher on the foreleg than the shoulder.
They are both relatively tough and fatty, so they are typically cooked by roasting, stewing, or smoking.
In the end, the cuts are slightly different. Pork shoulder has less marbling and is often sold with the skin on, requiring a bit more prep work. Pork butt is also typically larger.
I have used the butt portion in this recipe, but you could substitute the shoulder if that’s what you have. They’ll both cook the same way and turn out tender and full of flavor!
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Add some extra flavor. I’ve spritzed smoked pork shoulder with pineapple juice to keep the meat moist.
But, you can also add a bit of bourbon to the juice for a nice flavor combination.
- Change up the sauce. If you would prefer not to make your own barbecue sauce, you can use your favorite bottled variety.
Or, you may want to try my Jack Daniel’s Double Kick Barbecue Sauce for a different flavor.
- Low-carb option: Many smoked pork butt recipes use traditional sugar or brown sugar.
But, if you are hoping to cut the carbs, you can easily use a sugar substitute instead.
Tips for Smoking Pork Shoulder
- Trim the fat. It’s okay to leave a thin layer in some places, but you want to remove any large sections of fat cap.
- Apply the rub or seasoning well. Sprinkle it evenly over the surface, then massage it into the meat for best results.
- Improve the flavor with wood chips. We prefer Mesquite for smoked pork butt recipes, but go with your favorite!
- Always use a meat thermometer. Insert the probe into the thickest part of the meat, then pull it off the smoker when it reaches 190 to 195°F.
- Test for doneness rather than cooking by time. The size and shape of the meat, as well as the model of your smoker, will affect the overall time it takes to cook.
Ensure your smoked pork butt is cooked through by checking the internal temp.
When serving smoked pork shoulder, you can’t go wrong with any of your favorite cookout side dishes.
Smoked Pork Shoulder FAQ
When smoking pork shoulder, I believe that the meat comes out much more moist when you wrap it in aluminum foil toward the end of the cooking time.
But, this is something that many pitmasters disagree on — especially when using pork shoulder vs. pork butt.
If you would prefer not to use foil when you make smoked pork shoulder, you can skip this step and see how it turns out. If it’s too dry, just use the foil next time you make it.
Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 4 days. Just be sure to store them in an airtight container.
You can freeze shredded smoked pork butt if you think that you won’t finish this all in time. But, you want to make sure that you don’t reheat it more than once.
Reheat leftovers in the oven at 250°F until warmed through. Add leftover drippings or some broth for moisture, and cover the pan with foil.
With love, from our simple kitchen to yours.
Other Smoker Recipes
Smoked Pork Butt (Pork Shoulder)
- 8 pounds pork shoulder bone-in or pork butt
- 3 cups pineapple juice
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup kosher salt (really important, do not use the fine salt)
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon onion flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
To make the rub
- In a mason jar, combine all spices together. Put the lid on and shake the living tar our of it.
- Keep leftovers in an airtight container. If you live in a humid climate: put a small cracker in the mix. It prevents from caking (forming clumps).
Night before the cook
- The night before unpack your pork.
- With a paper towel, tap dry
- Sprinkle the rub on all surfaces. *NOTE* Make sure to rub so the seasoning stick to it.
- Transfer to a clean large plate or a baking sheet that will fit in your fridge. Wrap with plastic. Put in the fridge overnight.
- Because we are smoking tomorrow with MESQUITE, I soak some of the mesquite wood chips into water overnight. We are using a Large Green Egg for this recipe; it is an 18 inch grill and we soak about 3 to 4 pieces 3×2 inches.
Morning of cook
- Prepare the barbecue (indirect heat method) with charcoal and 2 large dry pieces of mesquite (or whatever smoking wood you want, 4 x 3 inches). I placed them at 10 and 2 o’clock (12 o’clock being the back side of the Egg). The soaked wood hunks will go on once the fire is established, 15 to 20 minutes. For the Big Green Egg we have the ConvEGGtor with feet up. If you want to save some time in the morning, you can prep your charcoal the night before, just wait until the morning to put the soaked wood hunks.
- Time to light the BBQ and heat up to 200-degree F.
- Cook at this temp for 2 hours (this is when we get the best smoke but not too much so doesn’t over power the taste of the meat)
- Once you reach the temperature put your pork shoulder in the middle of the grille (fat side up) and close for 4 hours. (NO PEEKING). This first 4 hours are crucial for the smoking process. This is when we get the best smoke but not too much so it doesn’t overpower the taste of the meat.
- Your patience has paid off, it’s time to moisten with pineapple juice. If you have a spray bottle just spray the juice on it. If you don’t pour some juice in a bowl and gently mop it on.You will repeat this step every hour until the cook is complete.*NOTE* If you are brushing the pineapple juice on, some of the rub may fall off, no worries, just add more.
- At the 5-hour mark, increase your temperature to 250°F, which is also a great time to check the temperature of the meat. Ours was 160°F, this will vary with different BBQ and size of the meat.
- At the 9-hour mark, you will see a crack forming on the fat cap. This is a sign you are getting close.
- At the 10-hour mark, we had that dark chocolate, red color and the temperature was 185°F.
- Once it reaches a nice amber, deep color, you are getting very close.
- At the 12-hour mark, we took it off the grill. It was 195°F and felt like jello.
- Place the pork on a large plate or jelly roll pan, cover with aluminum foil and let it rest for at least 45 minutes.
- Before shredding, remove the bone.
- With 2 forks or the barbecue claws, have fun shredding and don’t forget to taste the fruit of your labor!
- Serve with your favorite barbecue sauce.
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.
Originally published March 2021, updated and republished June 2023
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