This smoked pulled pork recipe makes the juiciest, most tender smoky pulled pork, so easy to make, perfect for tacos, sandwiches and more. My favorite!
I love love LOVE my smoker. I often snatch up several pounds of meat at a time and smoke it all up on a lazy Sunday afternoon, then prep and freeze the meat to use for months to come. We enjoy smoking briskets, ribs, turkey breasts, hams, sausages, you name it.
But one of my absolute favorite meats to smoke is good old pork shoulder. Yes! Smoked Pulled Pork is the best.
Pork shoulder is one of the easiest proteins to prepare. It is so hugely flavorful and filled with delicious fat, it just falls apart so easily when you cook it nice and low and slow.
Low and Slow is Key for the Best Smoked Pulled Pork
Low and slow is the key here for good fall-apart pulled pork, where you can stick in a couple forks and shred the meat as easily as shredding through cotton candy.
As flavorful as pulled pork is, it's even BETTER with a nice level of smoke on it. And that JUICINESS. Come on! I can't get enough of it.
Pulled pork is often juicy simply because of the fat content, but the way I've been making it lately guarantees a high level of that juiciness, and also seasoning.
Smoke the Meat, then Braise it.
Smoking it first gets that smoky flavor, but the final braise gives it that additional juiciness we're after.
You just can't go wrong with this method. It's the only way I prefer to make it any more.
Let's talk about how to make smoked pulled pork, shall we?
How to Make Smoked Pulled Pork - the Easy Way
Step 1: Smoke the Pork
First, get yourself a good cut of pork shoulder (aka Pork Butt). Bone in or boneless. This works either way. Bone-in will result in more flavor and juiciness.
Season the Pork. Rub the pork shoulder down with a bit of olive oil and your preferred seasoning blend. You can also use yellow mustard to rub down the pork, which is a popular method.
Smoke the pork shoulder at 225 degrees F. for 4 hours, adding wood chips into your smoker at regular enough intervals to give it a nice smoke. I set mine onto a piece of aluminum foil to catch the drippings.
I've seen many recipes that will wrap the pork shoulder in aluminum foil to help the process along. Since we're moving it later to the slow cooker, there is no need to wrap it.
I often smoke for the first hour, then again at the 3 hour mark, but feel free to smoke it the entire 4 hours with enough wood.
The wood used is your choice.
Be sure to keep some moisture in your smoker pan. Beer is good, as is apple cider vinegar or apple juice, but even water will work. You can also add some apple cider vinegar or apple juice to a spray bottle and spritz the pork a few times during smoking.
After 4 hours of smoking, it's time for the braise. At the 4 hour mark, you'll easily have enough smoke penetration with the pork, so there is no benefit to continual smoking.
Of course you can leave the pork shoulder in the smoker on low heat and continue to cook until it done. Figure 2 hours of cook time per pound of pork, until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 195 degrees F. This is where the tough tissues breaks down.
However, moving the meat to the slow cooker to braise gives you more control and you can add in more flavorings for a superior, juicier finish every time.
Step 2: Braise the Pork (Slow Cooker/Crock Pot or Instant Pot)
After 4 hours, remove it from the smoker and transfer the pork shoulder to a large pot or slow cooker. Add 1 bottle of flavorful beer (I typically use a wheat beer or an IPA that I enjoy drinking) or chicken stock, along with extra seasonings, if preferred.
The seasonings are optional here. I like the additional flavor. The goal here is not to cover the pork shoulder with liquid, but just give enough liquid to braise it nice and slow.
Slow cook the pork shoulder on low, covered, another 4 hours, or until the pork pulls apart easily with forks. Discard any excess fat.
BOOM! Done! This pulled pork is so tender, it's ridiculous, and SO FULL of SMOKE FLAVOR. I love it.
You now have super juicy, highly flavorful smoked pulled pork - aka smoked pork butt.
Serve it however you'd like! Bust out your favorite bbq sauce, like this Carolina Vinegar BBQ Sauce. Essential!
Recipe Notes & Tips
Best Seasonings for Pulled Pork
I make this recipe often and vary up the seasonings quite a bit, pretty much each time I cook it, just sort of randomly tossing in seasonings and ingredients based on what I have on hand and what I'm in the mood for.
One of my favorite blends for pork shoulder is garlic, ancho powder, morita powder, chipotle powder, salt and a bit of oil. Use it as a dry rub or general seasoning.
You can use your preferred seasonings to spice up the pork. Use your favorite BBQ rub, and add in a bit of brown sugar for color and a touch of sweetness, if you desire. A good Cajun blend is always nice, or use your favorite Southwest seasonings.
Multiple Rounds of Seasonings
I like to do three rounds of seasoning with this method of making pulled pork. I rub down the pork shoulder first before smoking it, then add more to the slow cooker during the braise. The third round of seasoning comes with the final serving. If I'm making tacos or sandwiches, like this awesome Cuban sandwich, I will heat the pork in a pan with some oil and some extra seasonings. It comes out so AWESOME this way.
How Much Pulled Pork?
My 6 pound pork shoulder gave me just under 3 pounds of finished pulled pork, so plan accordingly. If you're throwing a large party, you may need a couple pork shoulders.
Good thing they're quite inexpensive.
Is it Pork Shoulder? Or Pork Butt?
With pulled pork, most recipes list pork shoulder to start with. Bone-in is preferable for overall flavor and juiciness. However, you may also wee either pork butt or Boston Butt.
All three of these names refer to the same cut of pork. They are interchangeable. Confusing? I agree.
The pork shoulder (aka pork butt or Boston butt) comes from the upper part of the pig's shoulder, not the butt end of the pig. Because the shoulder is a hard working muscle, low and slow cooking best for it, as it helps to break down all that tough connective tissue.
Low and slow over wood smoke will guarantee a tender, succulent cut of meat and is ideal for making super delicious and juicy pulled pork.
That's it, my friends! Let me know how it turns out for you. I hope you enjoy your juicy smoked pulled pork!
Try This Recipe, Too!
Try Some of My Other Popular Pulled Pork Recipes
- Pressure Cooker Pulled Pork
- Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork Tacos)
- Pulled Pork Tortas
- Ancho BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich on Texas Toast
- Pernil (Puerto Rican Roast Pork)
If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you'll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don't forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I'll be sure to share! Thanks! -- Mike H.
No-Fail Smoked Pulled Pork Recipe
- 6 pounds pork shoulder
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4-5 tablespoons of your favorite seasoning blend
- Salt to taste
- 12 ounces beer or chicken stock
- Rub the pork shoulder down with olive oil and half of your preferred seasoning blend.
- Smoke the pork shoulder at 225 degrees F. for 4 hours, adding wood chips into your smoker at regular enough intervals to give it a nice smoke. The wood used is your choice.
- Be sure to keep some moisture in your smoker pan. Beer is good, as is apple cider vinegar, but even water will work.
- After 4 hours, transfer the pork shoulder to a large pot or slow cooker. Add 1 bottle of flavorful beer (I typically use a wheat beer or an IPA that I enjoy drinking) or chicken stock, along with the extra seasonings.
- Slow cook the pork shoulder on low, covered, another 4 hours, or until the pork pulls apart easily with forks.