Smoked Pork Shoulder Recipe

Smoked pork shoulder is a great meal you can have on a hot afternoon with your favorite drink. Later on, at night, you can shred it and eat it with pasta or mashed potatoes. The leftovers can be sandwich filling for your breakfast. This is how diverse this cut of pork is.

For the best results, you should know how to smoke pork shoulder. It is a straightforward cooking experience, with a smoker being the primary requirement. The good thing about smoking meats is that you have the freedom to improvise where necessary.

We will show you how to smoke pork shoulder to give you a fantastic dish.

Picking Pork Shoulder


The first step in preparing any meat dish is selecting the cut. The pork shoulder comprises the front shoulder and the leg. It is a tough part of the hog, and at times, you may find it labeled as a pork butt. Check our article for further understanding of the difference between pork butt and pork shoulder, and which is the best.

There is a slight difference between pork shoulder and butt as they come from the same part of the hog. The shoulder is less fatty. Here is more info to know about this meat cut.

When selecting the meat for smoking, ensure that it is fresh. Visuals will help you in this situation. Fresh pork has a reddish-pink appearance with a mild scent. If there is a sign of paleness and dark spots, then the meat is not fresh.

You can go for boneless or bone-in pork, depending on your preference. The bone is an excellent ingredient for making broth, which you may use in other recipes.

The entire shoulder can weigh around 8-pounds. This is enough to smoke, eat some and store the leftovers for future consumption. Optionally, you may go for a lesser cut. It all depends on your preference.

Skinning the Shoulder

Does it matter whether you put your hand on your skin before you light up? This is a common concern among those who wish to cook with pig. Before placing meat in the smoker, it is best to remove any superfluous skin and fat. It’s crucial for the brisk cooking and taste absorption of meat.

Optionally, you may leave the skin as its breakdown gives the meat an edge of sweetness. However, try and remove excess fat. The butcher can help with this if you do not have the right skills.

Preparing the Pork Shoulder for Smoking

In smoking meat, the preparation process is the lengthiest. Here, you have to be keen on the pork cut to have the best savor when ready.

If you have time, you can marinate the shoulder.

Marinating the Pork Shoulder

Marinating the pork shoulder will make it tender, as well as infuse some tang to it. There are several pork marinades to try out, where you can let your creativity play. You can use vinegar, salt, pepper, chilies, garlic, and ginger for a basic marinade.

Bring the shoulder to rest in the marinade and put it in the freezer. For the best results, let it rest overnight. However, if you are in a hurry, you may marinate it for up to 3-hours. Do not pour away the marinade, as you may use it to make sauce or gravy.

Marinade injection is an option to consider, though it is typical for pork butt and ham. If you inject the marinade, you should give it ample time to infuse into the pork’s tissues for an excellent relish.

Can You Brine Pork Shoulder?

When you talk about marinating meat, a thing that may come to your mind is brining. It involves soaking the meat in brine and some spices for some time. The result is juicier and tender pork.

If you decide to brine the shoulder, you need kosher salt, brown sugar, and water. You can add other ingredients like onions and garlic for a taste boost. Put all the ingredients in a Ziploc bag, together with the pork. Let it soak for at least 12 hours.

Adding Rub to The Pork Shoulder

Many people do not see the need to use marinade or brine and rub. The notion is that both of them serve the same purpose. You can do both if you want a more diverse taste. For instance, if you used a fruity marinade, like an orange juice base, you can use a spicy rub.

If you used a spicy marinade, you might go fruity on the rub to enhance a tangy smack. To create the rub, mix salt, pepper, and chili. This is a dry rub. Apply the rub on the pork shoulder in a massaging manner on both sides.

For a wet rub, add olive oil or mayonnaise. It helps the rub stick on the meat’s surface. There are prepackaged rubs to opt for if you want to avoid the hassles of preparing your own pork rub. You can try out the Kosmos Q killer bee barbecue rub. It is a ready-to-use rub, which you may also use for beef or poultry.

Setting up the Smoker

As the rub settles on the pork shoulder, you set up the smoker. Most smokers are easy to light up, mainly the propane and electric types. Before preheating the smoker, put some wood in the wood chip tray. In the water pan, you can set the marinade.

Your Choice of Wood

Smoking pork requires specific wood types for flavoring. Various kinds of woods can improve the taste of pork shoulder. There are mild flavors like cherry, apple, and pear, which give a fruity taste. These varieties can help mask spiciness.

There are the stronger types, such as hickory and mesquite. They are compatible with meats and will enhance the spiciness of the shoulder cut.

You may also use blends if you want a diversified tang. If you used a sweet and sour marinade or rub, the mixture will complement it.  Weber apple wood chips are a suitable option if you want a sweet and savory pork shoulder.

Putting Pork in the Smoker


After the smoker gets to the right heat of around 220-225 degrees Fahrenheit, you can introduce the shoulder. Set it correctly on the racks and close the smoker. Keep tabs on the temperature to be sure if the pork is ready.

Smoking will take around 2-3 hours to complete. You have to check the progress once in a while and maybe replenish the wood chips. Also, turn the meat for even cooking. You can use a meat thermometer to check on its doneness.

Habor 022 meat thermometer is an ideal measuring gadget for monitoring the pork’s temperature.

Related: How Long to Smoke Pork Shoulder at 275 Fahrenheit

Serving your Pork Shoulder


Once done, you can remove the shoulder from the cooker and let it rest for around five minutes. You can then cut it into slices of your preferred thickness and serve. Below are some serving tips to follow to enjoy the smoked pork.

  • Make Some Dressing

The dressing works like sauce giving the meat another dimension in taste. Similar to the marinade, your creativity should take charge. Grind some garlic clove and ginger using a pestle and mortar as you add other ingredients like fresh chilies.

As a consistent paste starts to form, bring in some plain yogurt and continue mixing until it is thick. You may throw in some coriander leaves to complete the dressing. Lemon juice will contribute to its tanginess.

  • Make Braising Liquid or Gravy from the Marinade

There are many ways to recycle the marinade instead of discarding it. Boil the mixture and add other ingredients like cooking wine and starch to make it thicker. The result is gravy or braising liquid that you can eat with your smoked pork shoulder.

  • Using Mop Sauce

When smoking, the pork shoulder should be moist for it to be tender. Mop sauce comes in handy to maintain the moistness of the meat. As its name implies, you apply the sauce as if you are mopping it.

Mopping sauce is very thin and will complement the crust. There are many sauce types to use, the common one being a mixture of tomato juice and vinegar. You may also add orange juice, lime juice, and beer. The thing to keep in mind is that it should be thin.

Use a mop or a brush to dab the sauce. It is best if you do this every 20-minutes for desirable results.

Smoked Pork Shoulder Recipes to Try

You may think that food preparation ends once smoking the shoulder is complete. Not at all; you still have the freedom to try out other recipes.

One of the recipes to consider is pork shoulder stew. You will use the shoulder to make stew, which will have a unique smoky, woody, and earthy feeling. Add some baked beans to the stew and eat it with brown bread or buns.

You can pull the smoked shoulder and use the meat as a sandwich filling. You may go for toasted bread or tortillas to make a taco. Add guacamole and a fried egg to complete the sandwich.

The pulled shoulder is suitable for meat salads. Combine the meat with chopped onions, tomatoes, and avocado. Garnish with lemon juice and mayonnaise. When you pull the pork, do not discard the bones. Boil them to make some bone broth that you can have with bread accompanying the meat salad.

Closing Thoughts

Smoking pork shoulder can be an intense process, but if correctly done, you will be proud of the results. This cooking process is like an art. You let your creativity come to play, especially when dealing with the flavors.

You may sample the different recipes to come up with the best dish. Always pay attention to the temperature and time to be certain that the shoulder is well cooked.

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