The best smoked pulled pork is done low & slow. This tender & juicy pork shoulder (pork butt) is an easy recipe that takes patience but pays off in the end. If you have never smoked a pork shoulder or butt, do not be intimidated. It is easy to prep and get it in the smoker. Then you let the heat do the rest. The hardest part is waiting hours to enjoy the final product. This is a great pulled pork recipe for beginners thanks to its simplicity and foolproof method.
Perfectly seasoned pork that is cooked for hours over a low temperature in your coal, wood, electric, or pellet smoker is one of my favorite dinners. There is nothing like fork-tender, smoky, salty, & savory pulled pork. It is fantastic as a sandwich, main dish, or compliment to your favorite salad, pizza, or baked potato. So get out your smoker, invite some friends over, and try out this pulled pork recipe.
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Though most people will associate barbecue with summer meals, this pulled pork is so good you will want to enjoy it any time of year. This pulled pork recipe is cooked in the smoker and comes out far more superior than any shoulder done in the slow cooker or oven. There is something about the wood smoke that adds so much flavor to the meat. It just cannot be replicated any other way, not even with liquid smoke.
If you have never smoked meats before and you have a new smoker, this is a good recipe to start with. The hardest part about this recipe is timing it so it is ready when you want to eat it. Everything outlined here today will be based on a bone-in or boneless 5-6 pound pork shoulder/butt.
If you love this recipe and find it easy, you will also love my recipe for Smoked Beef Short Ribs. It has the same smoking method & takes a few fewer hours to smoke. As with this recipe, it also has fork-tender meat with a wonderfully seasoned crust.
- Best Pork for Pulled Pork
- How Many Hours to Smoke Pulled Pork
- Smoke the Pork on the Grate
- Wrap the Pork for the Final Step in Smoking
- How to Tell When Pulled Pork is Ready
- Best Store-Bought Sauces for Pulled Pork
- How To Serve up Pulled Pork
- Top tip
- Smoked Pulled Pork Shoulder (pork butt)
This easy recipe for smoked pulled pork calls for a few quality ingredients. I like to start with a 5-6 pound bone-in pork shoulder or pork butt. This size is large enough to feed our family of 5 and have plenty of leftovers. When serving pulled pork, you want about ⅓ - ½ pounds of meat per person. It makes enough to feed about 10-12 people.
Then a combination of my favorite seasonings and spices comes into play. Making sure there is plenty of salt, pepper, brown sugar, and other spices on the outside of the meat, ensures you have the best tasting pulled pork.
Best Pork for Pulled Pork
For pulled pork, you want a cut that will cook low and slow and withstands the smoking process. The best cut of meat for pulled pork is a pork shoulder or pork butt (aka Boston butt). Both technically come from the shoulder of the pig. The pork butt is not from the hind area, it is from the higher part of the shoulder, or forearm, of the pig. The pork shoulder is the lower part.
Both the pork shoulder and the pork butt are tough fatty cuts of meat. They render that fat slowly when smoking. Smoking also slowly breaks down the meat for a tender juicy outcome. That is what makes these the ideal parts of the pig for your smoker and your favorite pulled pork sandwiches.
I am using a bone-in pork butt from BUTCHER BOX. I love their pork products since they taste amazing and come out juicy and tender. This is because they only sell Heritage Breed Pork, which is raised without traditional, sustainable farming methods. It yields juicy pink-hued pork that cannot be compared to conventional crossbred pigs.
For the best pork, you cannot go wrong with Butcher Box. You can pick up all your cuts and when you want them to arrive at your doorstep. I have a combination box subscription where I can mix and match grass-fed beef, heritage breed pork, organic chicken, and seafood each month - I LOVE IT! I also have the FREE ground beef for life deal. So what is there not to love!
- 5-6# bone-in pork butt
- Kinder's Brown Sugar Rub
- Kinder's Buttery Steakhouse Rub
- Kinder's Butcher's All-Purpose Seasoning
See the recipe card for quantities.
How Many Hours to Smoke Pulled Pork
It takes about 7-9 hours total from start to finish. This includes the time it takes to get the smoker up to temperature to the final pulling of the pork roast and taking that first bite. Here is how long it takes to smoke a pork shoulder/butt to make pulled pork:
- Prep & Get the Smoker to Temperature + Bring Pork to Room Temperature (1 hour)
- Season & Smoke the Pork on the Smoker Grate (4-5 hours)
- Smoke the Pork in a Foil Wrapped Pan (1-2 hours)
- Let Rest before Pulling the Pork into Shreds (1 hour)
- TOTAL = 7 - 9 hours
Begin by preparing the pork roast so it is ready for all the flavorful seasonings. Bring the pork butt to room temperature, which usually takes about an hour. This is best to do while your smoker is warming up and getting ready with the hot coals and wood.
I like to use a combination of the 3 seasoning blends below to get a crust on the pulled pork that is unbelievable. A 5-pound bone-in pork shoulder/butt roast will take a lot of seasoning. So do not be shy. Liberally, sprinkle on the seasonings and then press with your hands to get all that flavor to stick.
Smoke the Pork on the Grate
Prep your smoker with coals & wood if this is the kind you have. Hickory, pecan, or apple woods are our personal favorites for smoking pork. This recipe will work with electric and pellet smokers too. The timing may be different so make sure you check the meat regularly with an instant-read thermometer or have a standard meat thermometer placed in the pork as I do.
Once the smoker has reached a temperature between 225-250°, it is time to get smoking. To the top grate of your smoker, place the seasoned pork shoulder roast. Place the lid on top and let the magic begin.
Over the next few hours, periodically check to make sure your smoker is maintaining the optimal temperature. Throughout the entire pulled pork smoking process, the temperature should be between 225-250°. That will be your main job for the rest of the cooking process.
Unlike other pulled pork recipes, this easy method does not call for spritzing it with apple cider vinegar or other liquids for moisture. It will be plenty juicy and tender thanks to the wrapping method near the end of the cooking process.
A bone-in pork shoulder or pork butt that is between 5-6 pounds, should take about 4-5 hours. You want the smoked pork roast to reach an internal temperature of 160°. At this point, it is ready to wrap up for the final step of smoking.
The pulled pork is about ⅔ done cooking at this stage. It should have a hard crust or bark on the outside. This ensures the roast is sealed up and all those meat juices inside will stay trapped. But that bark has all that flavor and texture. That bark is also known as pulled pork heaven.
Wrap the Pork for the Final Step in Smoking
Once the roast is 160°, it is time to wrap it up for the final hours of smoking. You may ask, why am I wrapping this up? Don't I want this to get all that smoke and be exposed to the grate? The main reasons to wrap your pulled pork when smoking includes:
- Wrapping the pork roast keeps the meat from getting too much smoke flavor. Since pork shoulder takes hours and hours to cook, all that smoke exposure can really overpower the meat.
- Smoking a pork roast part of the time in a pan and wrapped also keeps it moist. All the juices escape the meat into the smoker for the first part of cooking. But for the final stage, sealing all those juices in a pan that is covered in foil ensures the meat does not dry out.
- Finally, wrapping pulled pork while it cooks helps it continue to cook and not stall. Around 150-170° smoked meat tends to hit a plateau and not continue to rise in internal temperature but wrapping it ensures it continues to cook.
You can skip this step and continue to cook on the grate alone. For instance, if you are going to be gone for a few hours, you may miss the stall and the time for when it is best to wrap. But I find the wrapping method turns out superior, so give it a try.
Place the pork butt in a disposable foil pan. Add the roast and seal with foil. Place it back in your smoker for the final hours of smoking. I know you are anxious but that homemade pulled pork is almost ready!
How to Tell When Pulled Pork is Ready
The smoked pork shoulder will be ready for making pulled pork when the internal temperature reaches 200-205°. Once it is in this range, pull it from the smoker. Do not remove the foil or move the meat from the pan. Let it rest covered in the foil pan for about an hour.
Once it has rested, it is time to start shredding the roast. Peel back the foil and see that lovely roast with dark smokey bark. There should be pork juices in the pan from the glorious fat that has rendered off. Do NOT pour this out! You want all that flavor and juice.
Begin pulling the pork apart right in that foil pan. I love Meat Claws for shredding pork or beef. If you do not have one, you can use two forks or sets of tongs to hold and pull the pork apart into shreds. I like to try and get as many pieces to have a bit of the bark and some of the inside juicy meat. Make them large bite-sized but not too small so that the bites are not hearty & satisfying.
Best Store-Bought Sauces for Pulled Pork
To sauce or not to sauce is a personal preference. For those of you that love it dripping with sauce for an amazing messy sandwich, these sauces are for you. They all have great texture, flavor, and aroma, plus they are found in most stores.
Be ready to sauce up this smoked pulled pork with some of the best store-bought barbecue sauces.
- Family Favorite - Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce, it is mild with great flavor & it's thick and rich.
- Spicy - Stubb's Spicy BBQ Sauce, for a spicy kick to your pulled pork sandwich with some heat thanks to habanero, black pepper, and garlic.
- Carolina style (vinegar & mustard-based) - Trader Joe's Carolina Gold, this is my absolute favorite for pulled pork. It is tart, tangy, sweet, mildly spiced, & bold.
- Kansas City style - Bull's Eye Original, for that classic tomato-based thick bbq sauce with a smoky peppery flavor, this one has it all.
- Thin & Sweet - Bone Suckin Sauce, if you want something thinner and just as sweet as it is sour and tangy, this sauce is for you.
My pulled pork sandwich is dripping with Trader Joe's Carolina Gold barbecue sauce.
Hint: As the heat continues in the smoker and after you have removed the pan, is the best time to clean your grate. Let the smoker cook off any remaining remnants for at least 10 minutes, then clean it. I like to use this HEAVY DUTY BRISTLE-FREE BRUSH for cleaning the grill.
How To Serve up Pulled Pork
There are so many ways to enjoy pulled pork. Whether you have a hearty appetite and want a huge pulled pork sandwich or you are on a keto diet, pulled pork is a great meal option. Make it a great complete meal with any of the side dish recommendations I share for What to Serve with Pulled Pork.
Here are some tasty ideas on how to enjoy pulled pork for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or as leftovers.
- On a bun
- Plated with Side Dishes
- In tacos, quesadillas, burritos, or on nachos
- Sealed up to make egg rolls or empanadas
- As a topping for baked russet, sweet potatoes, or fries
- To make a hearty salad
- Make a scramble, eggs benedict, or breakfast hash
- Add to soups or chili
- Top a pizza
This simple recipe does not call for many ingredients or techniques. You can make a few changes to personalize it and make the flavors a bit more your own. As you become your own pitmaster, try one of these great recipe changes to personalize your pulled pork recipe.
- Spicy - add chili pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, and/or additional garlic powder to the spice rub.
- Mustard - If you like the tang of mustard (I DO!) slather your favorite yellow mustard all over the roast first and then add the dry rub ingredients.
- Asian Flavors - Marinate the roast overnight in teriyaki sauce or another Asian-inspired marinade to add flavor before adding the dry rubs.
For smoked pulled pork, you need a smoker. We have a Weber smoker that uses charcoal and our favorite woods. We know others that have Traeger pellet smokers and electric smokers and we all love how the pork roast turns out. You cannot go wrong with any of these smokers. These are some of the best smokers you can buy with different price points and my favorite accessories.
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Pulled pork leftovers store well in the refrigerator. Place in an air-tight container and it will last in the refrigerator for up 3-5 days.
You can freeze cooked pulled pork too. It freezes well if sealed in an air-tight container and can last for up to 3 months in the freezer. To defrost frozen pulled pork, place the container in the refrigerator until thawed. Use within 2 days.
If you love a good pulled pork sandwich, the bun can make or break it. Pick a thick hearty bun and toast it. It really allowed the bread to hold up to the pile of saucy pulled pork. It may still get messy but it will not be soggy! And if you like coleslaw on your pulled pork sandwich, toasting that bun is even more important.
Smoked Pulled Pork Shoulder (pork butt)
- 1 5-6# Bone-in Pork Shoulder/Butt (boneless can be used but cooking time may be a bit less overall)
- Kinder's Buttery Steakhouse Rub
- Kinder's Brown Sugar Rub
- Kinder's All-Purpose Seasoning
- Prepare your coal/wood, electric, or pellet smoker at this time. It typically takes about an hour to bring it up to the ideal temperature. You want the smoker to be steady between 225-250° for smoking pulled pork.During that hour you also want to have the meat seasoned. So while the coals are heating up, immediately prep the meat.
- You want the meat at room temperature before placing it in the smoker. Now is the time to season it and get it out of the refrigerator. Liberally, sprinkle on the seasonings. You want a thick layer of the spice rub combinations. Press with your hands to get all that flavor to stick. (see above for a variation with a mustard layer before the seasonings)
- Once the smoker has reached a temperature between 225-250°, it is time to get smoking. To the top grate of your smoker, place the seasoned pork shoulder roast. Place the lid on top and let the magic begin.
- Over the next few hours, periodically check to make sure your smoker is maintaining the optimal temperature. Throughout the entire pulled pork smoking process, the temperature should be between 225-250°. (add coals/wood or open/close the vents to maintain the temperature)
- Around the 4-5 hour mark, the pork shoulder should be getting close to the next step. You want the smoked pork roast to reach an internal temperature of 160°. The pulled pork is about ⅔ done cooking at this stage. It should have a hard crust or bark on the outside. At this point, it is ready to wrap up for the final step of smoking.
- Place the pork butt in a disposable foil pan. Add the roast and seal with foil. Place it back in your smoker for the final hours of smoking. Again, make sure to maintain the smoker at a temperature between 225-250°.
- The smoked pork shoulder will be ready for making pulled pork when the internal temperature reaches 200-205°. This may take another 1-2 hours. Once it is in this range, pull it from the smoker. Do not remove the foil or move the meat from the pan. Let it rest covered in the foil pan for about an hour.
- Once it has rested, it is time to start shredding the roast. Peel back the foil and see that lovely roast with dark smokey bark. Do NOT pour out the juices that are in the pan! You want all that flavor and juice.Using meat claws, 2 forks, or 2 sets of tongs, shred up the pork into large bite-sized chunks. You want good hearty bites and not minced pieces that are too small to hold up with sauce or in a bun.
- Add your favorite bbq sauce (recommendations above). Add to a toasted bun or plate with your favorite sides. Enjoy!
- Pulled pork leftovers store well in the refrigerator. Place in an air-tight container and it will last in the refrigerator for up 3-5 days.
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 29.1g||37%|
|Saturated Fat 10.7g||53%|
|Total Carbohydrate 1.1g||1%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||0%|
|Total Sugars 0.1g|
|Vitamin D 0mcg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.|