As a rule, you should smoke pork shoulder at a low temperature. This is a fatty cut with a great deal of collagen, so it needs time in addition to heat in order to yield the best results.
Is 300 degrees low enough? What if you were to ramp up the temperature to 350 degrees? Would that ruin the texture of the meat? In our guide, we’ll talk about how long to smoke pork shoulder at 300 and 350 degrees, and whether it’s worth it to do so.
How Long To Smoke Pork Shoulder at 300 & 350 Degrees Fahrenheit
Pork shoulder and pork butt should cook at a rate of about 60 minutes per pound when the smoker temperature is set to 300 degrees. At 350 degrees, the meat should be done sooner—taking 30-45 minutes per pound to cook through—but the fat and connective tissue might not break down completely.
Pork Butt vs. Pork Shoulder: Does It Make A Difference?
In terms of cooking time, not really. You can use the same per-pound cooking template for both pork shoulder and pork butt.
That said, the two cuts do have slight differences that are worth noting. In most recipes, they can be used interchangeably, but there are defining qualities that might make one a better choice than the other.
The whole pork shoulder weighs about 12-18 pounds, which makes for an enormous cut of meat. To make it more manageable, it’s usually sold in two subsections: the butt and the shoulder.
Both of these terms can be misleading. You might think that pork butt, which is also called “Boston butt,” would be located in the rear of the animal. In fact, this section is taken from the upper part of the foreleg, right behind the head.
Pork shoulder might be labeled as a “picnic shoulder” or “picnic roast.” The cut is located below the butt and stretches down the length of the foreleg, toward the hock. As such, it resembles the actual shoulder somewhat less than the section that’s called the butt.
While pork butt has a mostly uniform rectangular shape and a ton of marbling, the picnic shoulder has an irregular appearance, with a visible fat cap but little intramuscular fat. It may be sold with the skin on or off.
Pork butt is a popular choice for pulled pork, but it’s fine to substitute pork shoulder for this dish if that’s all you can find. On the other hand, if a recipe calls for crispy skin, a skin-on pork shoulder is your best bet.
How Much Does Pork Shoulder Weigh?
Since you’ll base the estimated cooking time on the size of the cut, you should first know how much the average pork shoulder weighs.
A picnic shoulder usually weighs between 6 to 9 pounds, but they can weigh as little as 4 pounds and up to 10—perhaps even more. The same rules apply to pork butt, although an average weight of 5 to 8 pounds is more common with this cut.
Because these cuts are so large, you should plan on a long cooking time even if you set the temperature to 300 or 350 degrees. You might be able to take shortcuts with certain dishes—it’s even possible to grill pork ribs quickly—but pork shoulder won’t have the right texture if it cooks too fast.
What’s The Best Temperature To Use For Smoked Pork Shoulder?
When pork shoulder or pork butt are on the menu, we try to set the smoker temperature to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. This is high enough to avoid any food safety issues, yet low enough to tenderize the meat.
At this temperature, cooking times of 1.5 to 2 hours per pound aren’t uncommon. Some cuts might cook through in as little as 1 hour per pound, but 1.5 hours is a more realistic template. That’s one of the reasons why some chefs choose to ramp up the heat to 300 or 350 degrees.
At What Temperature Is Pork Shoulder Done?
Our preferred target temp for pork shoulder and pork butt is 195-205 degrees. At 195, the meat is tender enough to shred, but when it climbs into the 205-210 range, the job gets that much easier. The pork will continue to cook as it rests, especially with cuts this size, so removing it from the heat at the 195-205 mark is preferable.
One caveat: If you prefer to slice your smoked pork shoulder, take it off the smoker when it reaches 185 degrees. At this point, the fat has rendered and the connective tissue has broken down, but the meat shouldn’t be so soft that it falls apart when you cut into it.
How Long To Smoke Pork Shoulder at 300 Degrees
Plan on a cooking time of at least 1 hour per pound when setting the smoker to 300 degrees. An 8-pound pork butt or shoulder should be done in 8 to 10 hours. If you have a time constraint, consider splitting the roast into two smaller halves.
- 1 pork shoulder or pork butt weighing 7 to 8 pounds
- Prepared yellow or Dijon mustard
For the Seasoning Rub:
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
*Note: This rub recipe will make more than you need for this amount of pork. Set the rest aside and store it in a cool, dry place.
1. Make the seasoning rub by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl or a zip-top bag.
2. Trim the pork roast, if desired, and remove the skin if necessary. Pat the meat dry with paper towels.
3. Measure out 1 cup of seasoning rub. Coat the pork all over with a thin layer of mustard, then add the rub, pressing gently to make sure the spices adhere.
4. Cover the meat lightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour, or overnight.
5. Set the smoker temperature to 300 degrees. If your unit tends to run low, or if it’s especially cold or windy outside, consider ramping up the temp to 310-315.
6. When the smoker is ready, take the pork out of the fridge and remove the wrapper.
7. Add the pork roast to the smoker and close the lid. Smoke for 7 to 8 hours, or until the meat has cooked to 195 degrees (or 185 if you prefer to slice the meat).
Tip: If you opt to wrap the meat in foil to help speed things along, take it off the heat when it reaches 150 degrees. After you wrap it and return it to the smoker, check the internal temperature regularly to avoid overcooking the meat.
8. When the pork has reached the optimum temperature, take it off the smoker and tent it with foil. Let the meat rest for 30-45 minutes before serving.
How Long To Smoke Pork Shoulder at 350 Degrees
To move things along even faster, crank up the smoker to 350 degrees. We don’t recommend cooking pork shoulder or pork butt at temperatures higher than this, as the meat will reach the target temp before the fat and collagen have broken down.
At 350 degrees, the pork shoulder should cook at a rate of 30-45 minutes per pound. That means an 8-pound cut should be done in 4 to 6 hours.
Again, if you’re in a hurry, you can save time by dividing the roast in two. If you have two 4-pound roasts instead of one 8-pounder, the meat could be ready to eat in 2 to 3 hours. Bear in mind, however, that you might have to deal with a lot more fat and gristle if you opt to go this route. That means your total yield could be lower than you thought.
To prepare a pork shoulder at 350 degrees, follow the same recipe listed above, increasing the cooking temperature and decreasing the estimated cooking time accordingly.
Tips: If you’ve left the skin on the pork shoulder, consider boosting the smoker temp to 500 degrees when the meat has reached the desired temperature. Continue to smoke the pork, rotating it every few minutes, until the skin is puffed and crisp, about 15-20 minutes in all.
The Bottom Line
300 degrees isn’t too hot for smoked pork shoulder, but 350 might be pushing things a little too far. Whenever possible, choose a temperature range of 225 to 300 Fahrenheit when smoking pork butt or shoulder. As a reward for your patience, you’ll have more meat to work with, and your shredding or slicing tasks will be easier.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!