Due to the size of the amount of meat used in this dish, the cooking time for pork shoulder should be estimated on a per-pound basis rather than an overall time for all sizes of this cut.
In this article, we will tell you how to smoke pork shoulders of a variety of sizes, from smaller cuts weighing a light five pounds to the heavier ones that can get up to twelve pounds in weight.
We have also added a quick and easy pork shoulder recipe at the end of this article, so you can test out your smoking skills.
Here is everything you need to know about smoking a pork shoulder.
Smoking Pork Shoulder
Pork shoulder should be cooked at a rate of one to two hours per pound of pork shoulder, depending on the temperature of the smoker.
To estimate cooking time, it is fair to use a 1.5-to-2-hour per pound of pork estimate at 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
When you cook pork shoulder, the internal temperature should always stay around 195 degrees if you are making pulled pork, and at a slightly cooler temperature of 185 degrees if you are going to be slicing the pork after cooking.
It’s important to note that if your meat still has the bone in it, this cut will take a bit longer to cook than a cut with the bone removed.
Temperature fluctuations can be the death of any smoked meat, so you must keep the temperature in your smoker consistent throughout the smoking process.
It is recommended that the temperature of the smoker be set at 225 degrees for cooking pork shoulder.
This temperature is ideal for smoking any kind of pig cut, including pork loin, ribs, and pork butt.
It is also a standard temperature to smoke other meats at, so you may be able to smoke a wide variety of foods in one go using this setting.
Because of the qualities of pork shoulder, which has loads of connective tissue as well as a fatty cap, the low-and-slow cooking method is ideal for preparing this cut of meat.
You mustn’t accidentally overcook the meat though, as this can make the pork too chewy and oily to eat.
Cooking pork shoulder at a low temperature allows the fat to render and the collagen to be converted into gelatin, both of which are wonderful when eaten.
In addition to tenderizing the meat, the longer cooking time allows the meat to keep its moisture and exquisite texture while not drying out under the heat.
The Internal Temp
When should you take the pork shoulder out of the smoker and when should you leave it in there longer? What you should do depends on whether you’re shedding or slicing the meat once it is fully cooked.
When making pulled pork, the meat should be at least 195 degrees Fahrenheit internally before you remove it from the smoker.
After it has been left to rest for around 30 to 45 minutes, the pork should be of the proper consistency for shredding.
The pork shoulder roast should be taken off of the burner when it reaches an internal temperature of 180-185 degrees. This will allow you to chop it into slices for a beautiful presentation.
When the meat is at this stage, it should be soft enough to slice easily but not so delicate that it falls apart when the knife is run through it.
Smoking Pork Per Pound Guide
Following our guidelines above and setting the smoker temperature to 225 degrees, the pork will cook at around 1 1/2 – 2 hours for every pound of meat.
It is important to remember when it comes to smoked meats the timing is never exact.
Rather, this is only a guideline for you to follow while preparing your meat as all cuts will be slightly different, and so there may be variations in the timings.
If you get yourself a boneless piece of pork, the cooking time per pound will be slightly shorter at 1 – 1 1/2 hours per pound.
While the bone imparts a great deal of flavor to the meat, it can also lengthen the amount of time the meat has to be cooked on the grill or in the smoker.
Here is how long to cook your pork depending on its weight.
5 Pound Shoulder
It’s best to cook a 5-pound shoulder at 225 degrees for 7 – 8 hours altogether. It may take a bit longer due to the type of cut.
For smokers that run hot, decreasing the temperature to 220 degrees or even a few degrees lower than this may be a good idea.
Pork shoulder must be cooked for an extended period of time at a high temperature to get the correct texture. However, too much cooking time will result in a harsh and chewy texture because of the rapid heat exposure.
6 Pound Shoulder
If you’re cooking a 6-pound piece of meat, you should plan on 9 – 12 hours of cooking time.
While cooking smaller cuts of meat, you should start checking the internal temp pretty soon after you begin cooking.
This is because smaller 5-6 pound cuts tend to dry out much faster than bigger ones. If this happens, you cannot reverse it and the meat might be ruined.
8 Pound Shoulder
A roasting time of 12 – 16 hours is recommended for an 8-pound shoulder to get the proper internal temperature.
Try chopping the pork shoulder into two 4-pound portions if you’re afraid about running out of time before the meal is finished. Always keep an eye on them though to avoid overcooking them.
This is especially important when dealing with the shoulder, because its irregular shape may lead it to cook unevenly as a result of the unequal heat distribution caused by this shape.
10 Pound Shoulder
It is recommended that you check the internal temperature of the pork starting from 10 hours into the cooking process, however, a total cooking time of 12 – 18 hours is more realistic in this situation.
You don’t want to be spending all day hoving over the smoker waiting for the meat to be done. Instead of waiting around, install a smoking rack over a roasting pan and let the shoulder smoke overnight.
Starting the day before you want to serve the dish will take a lot of stress out of the cooking process.
12 Pound Shoulder
A shoulder of this size is very difficult to smoke, due to how hard it is to keep an eye on it and to keep track of the temperature.
Completely smoking a shoulder cut of this weight may take as little as 14 hours or as long as 24 hours, depending on how the meat has been cut.
To maintain a constant temperature for such a long amount of time, the smoker must work extra hard, which further complicates the situation.
Keep an eye on the temperature while dealing with a cut of this magnitude. This is because the cut might be done long before 24 hours is up, and you don’t want to overcook it.
But what is the best way to check the temperature?
Opening the smoker every time you want to do a check will let heat escape from the smoker, and this fluctuation in heat might not only make the cooking time even longer but may also make the meat cook unevenly.
Instead, use a meat probe to monitor the temperature of the meat while making sure that the smoker’s temperature stays above 220 degrees.
If you purchase a 12-pound pork shoulder, there is a good chance that you will be purchasing the full shoulder, which will contain the butt as well as the picnic roast, all of which will be fantastic to cook and eat.
Simple measures such as checking the internal temperature of each end before removing the meat from the smoker are recommended to ensure that everything is done properly.
The Ultimate Pork Shoulder Recipe
Do you want to try making pork shoulder at your next BBQ? Here is a simple recipe that you can try out.
In this recipe, we explain how to make the rub for the meat. This option is fully customizable though, and if it does not sound appealing to you, you can swap in any spices that you would prefer.
This recipe works for a small boneless shoulder weight of around 1 pound, or a bone-in shoulder weighing 6-8 pounds.
- The shoulder – 1 pound boneless/6-8 pound bone-in
- Dijon/yellow mustard
- 1/4 – black pepper – grinded
- 6 tablespoons – brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons – garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons – paprika
- 2 tablespoons – seasoned salt
- 1 tablespoon – ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon – kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon – onion powder
1. Preheat Smoker
Set your smoker to a temperature of 225 degrees. If your smoker runs a bit under your temperature setting, then set it to 250 degrees instead. If your smoker always runs hot, set it to a lower temperature of 220 degrees.
2. Make The Rub
Combine all of the ingredients to make the rub into a bowl.
3. Prepare The Meat
Before cooking, you have to cut down the fat cap of the pork. Keep cutting until just a quarter-inch of the cap remains. After this, pat the pork dry with paper towels, then put it on a baking sheet
4. Season The Meat
Starting with your mustard of choice (dijon or yellow), cover the entire shoulder in a thin layer. Get your rub mixture and cover the meat in these spices. Press the spice into the meat.
5. Cook Meat In The Smoker
When putting the shoulder into the smoker, always make sure that the flat side is facing up. Remember that for every pound of meat, you must cook the shoulder for 1-2 hours.
If you are cooking a shoulder with the bone in, you can expect this cut to take a maximum of 18 hours to cook.
6. Remove Shoulder From Heat
Allow for a reading of 180-185 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. If you will be slicing the pork, remove it from the barbecue and set it aside to rest.
Continue cooking the pulled pork until the internal temperature reaches 195 degrees.
7. Rest The Pork
Cover the shoulder in foil. When resting at room temperature, you should leave the shoulder for at least half an hour, or up to 45 minutes.
8. Trim The Meat
After it has cooled, cut away any big pieces of fat. Don’t throw away any of the juices collected either, as you will need them for the next step.
Whether shredding or slicing, now is the time to serve. The juices from the meat that you saved in the [previous step can be used to coat the shoulder here to add even more flavor.
For meats such as pork shoulder, it’s difficult to determine an exact cooking time per pound.
Each roast is unique, and the total cooking time is determined by several variables, including the type of roast, whether it is boneless or bone-in, the smoker’s reliability, and the ambient temperature.
The essential aspect to remember is to monitor the internal temperature of the pork regularly over the final few hours of the cooking period. This is the only way to make sure that the meat is cooked correctly.