When it’s done right, slow-cooked pork shoulder is an amazing thing. It’s not a difficult skill to master, but there are certain rules you have to follow. Let’s find out how long to smoke pork shoulder at 225 degrees for meat that’s tender and moist throughout.
How Long To Smoke Pork Shoulder at 225 Degrees
Plan on smoking pork shoulder for at least 60 to 90 minutes per pound. For example, if the cut weighs 8 pounds, it will take 8 to 12 hours to cook to the target temperature. The same is true of pork butt, which has similar qualities but a few distinguishing characteristics of its own.
Pork Shoulder vs. Pork Butt
In this guide, we’ll talk about how long to smoke pork shoulder and pork butt at 225 degrees. Although these cuts can be swapped for one another in most recipes, they’re not exactly the same.
A whole pork shoulder, which typically weighs from 12 to 18 pounds, is made up of two smaller sections. The pork butt, or Boston butt, can be found just behind the animal’s head. The shoulder, which is sometimes called the picnic shoulder or picnic roast, is located below it, in the central portion of the foreleg.
Both of these cuts are suitable for making pulled pork, but the butt is more popular for this dish. Its rectangular form makes it easy to handle, and it contains a decent amount of marbling, which keeps the meat moist as it cooks.
Pork shoulder doesn’t have as much marbling as pork butt, but the fat cap contributes plenty of moisture and flavor to the meat. It’s slightly triangular in shape, and the cut is usually sold with the skin on, both of which are characteristics that help to distinguish it from the butt.
When the butt and shoulder are sold separately, each will usually weigh between 4 to 10 pounds. Pay close attention to the weight, because this is how you’ll determine the total cooking time.
How Long To Smoke Pork Shoulder at 225
In our opinion, 225 degrees is the ideal temperature when making smoked pork shoulder. Over time, the low heat will dissolve the fat and connective tissue, resulting in meat that’s tender enough to shred with a fork.
At 225 degrees, the pork shoulder should cook at a rate of 60 to 90 minutes per pound. Bear in mind, however, that this is more of an estimate than an exact formula, as every cut of meat is different.
The total cooking time will also depend on the reliability of your smoker’s temperature. If the temp tends to skew high, the meat could cook through more quickly. If it’s cold or windy outside, or if your smoker has a hard time maintaining the set minimum temperature, it will prolong the cooking time.
How Long To Smoke Pork Butt at 225
Since pork butt and pork shoulder share many characteristics, the same rules apply here. Cooking times of 60-90 minutes per pound are common with this cut. If you’ve purchased an 8-pound pork butt, you can expect it to take 8 to 12 hours to cook at 225 degrees.
How To Tell When Pork Shoulder Is Done
Because these cuts are so large, it’s impossible to gauge doneness based on sight alone. The only way to be sure they’re cooked to the correct temperature is to use a calibrated meat thermometer.
Insert the thermometer’s probe into the thickest portion of the pork shoulder. Be careful not to touch any bone or cartilage, as these can give you a false reading. When the temperature registers 165 degrees, the meat can be taken off the smoker. At this point, it should be tender enough for you to carve into thin slices.
When making pulled pork, you’ll want to let the meat cook for much longer than that. In order to be tender enough to shred, pork needs to cook to an internal temp of 195 degrees. Our recommendation would be to leave it on the smoker until it hits the 200-205 degree mark.
Don’t forget to let the pork shoulder rest after you take it off the heat. 30 minutes is the preferred resting time, but you can hold the meat at room temperature for up to 2 hours if necessary. If you need more time, consider keeping the pork in a faux Cambro until you’re ready to serve it.
When smoking pork shoulder or pork butt, one of your goals is to create a dark mahogany crust on the exterior of the cut. This crust is called “bark,” and it’s one of the hallmarks of authentic barbecue.
Bark forms when particles of smoke cling to the seasoning and harden to create a crisp outer shell. It may range in color from deep red to black, and contributes a powerful dose of smoke flavor. When you shred the pork, the contrast between the crunchy bark and the tender meat is delectable.
Should You Wrap The Pork Shoulder In Foil During The Smoke?
Wrapping a cut of meat in foil partway through the smoking process is known as the “Texas crutch.” That’s because the foil speeds up the cooking time by trapping heat and steam inside. Unfortunately, it also may soften the bark, which is why many pitmasters remove the foil for the last hour or so.
If you want to use the Texas crutch, take the meat off the smoker when the internal temperature hits the 150-degree mark. Wrap the pork shoulder tightly in a double layer of foil. Alternatively, you can use butcher paper, which forms a more permeable barrier and therefore yields flavorful results.
After returning the pork to the smoker, watch the thermometer carefully to ensure that the meat doesn’t overcook. When it gets within 10-15 degrees of the target temperature, remove the wrapper for the remainder of the cooking time.
Should You Spritz Pork Shoulder?
“Spritzing” refers to the act of spraying the smoked meat with liquid as it cooks, thereby contributing flavor and moisture. The spritzing liquid may consist of apple juice, apple cider vinegar, chicken stock or broth, or a mixture.
Although spritzing has its fans, we’re not huge proponents of this step. The pork contains enough fat to remain moist on its own, and the low cooking temperature should prevent it from drying out, provided you remove it from the heat before it overcooks. What’s more, every time you lift the lid to spritz the meat, you let out heat and smoke.
Best Wood To Use For Smoked Pork Shoulder
If you have a pellet smoker, or if you’re planning on using wood chips, you can experiment with different types of wood to complement the pork. Since the shoulder and butt have virtually identical flavor profiles, these suggestions would work with either cut.
Cherry wood is light and fruity, with a reddish color that can imbue smoked meats with a rosy hue. Apple is another natural choice, as plenty of pork recipes call for some type of apple accompaniment. The sweet notes of maple wood pair nicely with smoked meats and will cut the fatty richness of the pork.
Hickory has a bolder taste, but these cuts are robust enough to stand up to it. In Memphis, Tennessee, where barbecue is practically a religion, most pitmasters rely on hickory to give their smoked meats that distinctive flavor.
For more intense flavor, consider adding some mesquite to the mix. Because this wood can impart a bitter taste when it’s overused, we would recommend blending a small amount of mesquite with one of the milder choices listed above.
The Bottom Line
225 degrees is our preferred temperature for smoked pork shoulder and pork butt.
When you’re dealing with tougher cuts of meat like these, time is as important as the target temperature. If the meat cooks too quickly, the fat won’t render out, and the overall texture will be off. Setting the smoker to 225 and cooking the meat for at least 1 hour per pound can help you avoid this fate.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!