How To Smoke a Pork Shoulder


I usually try to purchase a pork shoulder that weighs about 8 pounds. I have found that larger shoulders are a little bit harder to smoke because the outer meat will dry out before the inner meat is done if a good mop is not used to keep the shoulder moist.

The night before you are going to smoke the shoulder, apply a thin layer of mustard to the pork shoulder. This will create a paste that the rub will stick to. The next step is to apply a rub. There are many great rub recipes out there, and you can find a few at my website. Below is a rub recipe I use quite often.


3-Tbsp Tony’s or comparable cajun seasoning
4-Tbsp Turbinado brown sugar (this type of sugar will burn at a higher temperature than regular brown sugar)
1/2-Tsp Paprika
1/4-Tsp Cumin
1/4 Tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 Tsp Onion Powder
1/4 Tsp Salt


I usually mix and store all ingredients in an empty seasoning container.

Tips: If you need more, just double the recipe

After you rub the shoulder down with mustard, completely coat the shoulder with the rub. I have found that it helps to pat the rub into the shoulder to make it stick better.

Wrap the shoulder in plastic wrap, and refrigerate over night.

Take the shoulder out of the fridge about 1 hour before you are going to put it on the smoker. This will bring the pork shoulder’s temperature down to room temperature.


When the pit reaches operating temp, I smoke at 225 F, place the shoulder on the pit and let it smoke for about one hour, fat side up.

Next, apply a good mop to the shoulder. Keep the outside of the shoulder moist while smoking by applying the mop about every 45 minutes or so, but be careful not to open the pit too much because the temperature will drop and you will have to cook longer.

Here is a mop recipe:


1 Cup beef broth
1 1/3 cups water
3/4 cup Worchestershire sauce
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup canola oil or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon red pepper


1. Mix all ingredients in a pot, and heat over med/low for 20 minutes.

2. Smoke the shoulder for about 1.5 hours per pound, or until the internal temperature of the thickest portion of the shoulder is between 170-180 F.

I have smoked pork shoulders directly on the pit with no foil for the duration of the smoking time, and I have wrapped them in foil after they have smoked for 6-7 hours. The wrapping method works well because you can control the moisture level of the shoulder if the shoulder is sealed in foil. The mop, and the juices create a very humid environment inside the foil wrapped shoulder, and I think that smoking a shoulder this way produces excellent results.

Leaving the shoulder on the pit for the duration of the smoking time tends to produce a firmer, drier crust on the shoulder, but the internal meat is very good. You will just have to experiment both ways to find out which way you like the most.


My favorite way to eat the shoulder is to make pulled pork sandwiches. Smoked pork shoulders will literally fall apart, and making a pulled pork sandwich is fairly simple. Shred the smoked pork shoulder with a couple of forks to prepare the meat for the sandwich. The sandwich basically consists of two hamburger buns, some good barbeque sauce, the pulled pork, a few onion and pickle slices, and whatever else you think will taste good.

Pulled pork tacos are also very delicious. First, I heat up a couple flour tortillas. Next, I sautee onions and bell peppers, and then I put the pork in the tortilla, along with barbeque sauce and the vegetables.


Aaron Ralston, also known as The Smoker King, is owner of Outdoor Cooking: Barbeque, Sauces, Mops, Rubs at
. You can find more barbeque information and great recipes here.