Since pork shoulder is such an immense cut of meat, it’s best to use a per-pound estimate
for the cooking time. This will give you a general idea of when the meat might be ready to come off the smoker. Let’s talk about how long to smoke pork shoulder per pound.
How Long To Smoke Pork Shoulder Per Pound
Pork shoulder should cook at a rate of 1 to 2 hours per pound, depending on the temperature of the smoker. At 225 degrees, an estimate cooking time of 1.5 to 2 hours per pound is a good place to start. The recommended temperature for pork shoulder is 180-185 for sliced meat, or 195 degrees for pulled pork. Remember that bone-in cuts might take longer to cook.
Best Temperature To Use For Smoked Pork Shoulder
Pork shoulder benefits from the low-and-slow treatment because it includes a large fat cap and plenty of connective tissue. If you try to cook it too quickly, the meat will be fatty and tough.
When pork shoulder cooks at a low temperature, the fat renders and the collagen is transformed into gelatin. In addition to tenderizing the meat, this drawn-out process allows it to remain moist and juicy.
Pork Shoulder Recommended Internal Temp
At what point should pork shoulder come off the smoker? That depends on whether you’re serving the meat sliced or shredded.
If you’re planning to carve the pork shoulder roast into slices for an elegant presentation, take it off the heat when it achieves an internal temperature of 180-185 degrees. At this point, the meat will be soft enough to slice easily yet not so tender that it falls apart under the knife.
When making pulled pork, wait until the meat reaches 195 degrees. Once it’s rested for 30-45 minutes or so, the pork should be just the right consistency for shredding.
Are Pork Butt and Pork Shoulder The Same Thing?
This can be a confounding question. A whole pork shoulder consists of two sections: the butt and the picnic shoulder. While it’s possible to buy the whole thing, it’s more commonly divided into sections, which is where things get confusing.
The whole shoulder is huge—normally between 12 and 18 pounds. It can be sold bone-in or boneless. The large size translates into a long cooking process, which is why we think it’s best to buy the sections separately.
Pork butt, or Boston butt, is the upper section of the shoulder. It weighs between 6 to 10 pounds on average, and the cut has a rectangular appearance, with a nice fat cap and a great deal of marbling.
The lower part of the shoulder is called the picnic roast, picnic shoulder, or simply pork shoulder. It has an irregular shape and less marbling than the butt end, and weighs about 5 to 8 pounds. This cut is often sold with the skin on, which can be a beautiful thing depending on what recipe you follow.
Since the butt contains more intramuscular fat than the shoulder, it’s the preferred choice for pulled pork. If your goal is to smoke a richly flavored pork roast and carve it into slices, pork shoulder is your best bet.
Be aware that while the butt and the picnic shoulder aren’t the exact same cut, the estimates for cooking times and temperatures are about the same. Feel free to use the guidelines below if you’re smoking pork butt instead of pork shoulder.
How Long To Smoke Pork Shoulder Per Pound: A Guide
If you’ve followed our advice and set the smoker temperature to 225 degrees, expect the pork shoulder to cook at a rate of about 1.5 to 2 hours per pound. Note that the timing is never exact when it comes to smoked meats—this is merely a template for you to follow.
You might want to estimate the cooking time at closer to 1 to 1.5 hours per pound when dealing with boneless cuts. While the bone contributes a ton of flavor, it can also lengthen the amount of time the meat needs on the smoker.
How Long To Smoke a 5-Pound Pork Shoulder
Aim for a cooking time of 7 to 8 hours when smoking a 5-pound pork shoulder at 225 degrees. It might take a bit longer, depending on the cut.
If your smoker runs on the hotter side, consider setting the temperature to 220 or even a bit lower. In order to achieve the right texture, pork shoulder needs time as well as heat. If it cooks through too fast, it will turn out tough and chewy.
How Long To Smoke a 6-Pound Pork Shoulder
For a 6-pound cut, lengthen the cooking window to 9 to 12 hours. Remember to start checking the temperature sooner rather than later, as smaller cuts will dry out more quickly than their larger counterparts.
How Long To Smoke an 8-Pound Pork Shoulder
An 8-pound pork butt or picnic shoulder should cook to the desired temperature in 12 to 16 hours.
If timing is a concern, consider dividing the pork shoulder into two 4-pound pieces. Just be careful not to overcook them. This is particularly important when dealing with the shoulder, as its irregular shape can cause it to cook unevenly.
How Long To Smoke a 10-Pound Pork Shoulder
Although we recommend checking the pork’s internal temperature regularly at the 10-hour mark, a total cooking time of 12 to 18 hours is more realistic. Add the pork shoulder to the smoker the day before you plan to serve it, and let it smoke undisturbed overnight.
How Long To Smoke a 12-Pound Pork Shoulder
When dealing with a cut this large, it’s essential to monitor the temperature carefully. That’s because there’s such a broad window of time during which the meat might be finished cooking.
A pork shoulder weighing 12 pounds could be done in 14 hours, or it could take up to 24. When the smoker runs for this long, it’s hard for it to maintain a consistent temperature, which complicates things further.
Don’t be tempted to open the smoker too often, as that will prolong the cooking time. Instead, use a meat probe to keep an eye on the meat temperature while making sure the smoker temperature remains above 220.
Tip: If you’ve procured a 12-pound pork shoulder, there’s a good chance that it’s the whole shoulder, consisting of the butt and the picnic roast. Take the internal temperature of each end before removing it from the smoker, just to be sure.
Ultimate Smoked Pork Shoulder Recipe
- 1 pound boneless or bone-in pork shoulder, about 6-8 pounds
- Prepared yellow or Dijon mustard
- 6 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons Lawry’s seasoned salt
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
1. Set the smoker temperature to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. For smokers that run on the hotter side, try a setting of 220 degrees. If your unit tends to run cool, aim for a cooking temperature of 250.
2. Combine the brown sugar, black pepper, kosher salt, Lawry’s seasoned salt, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder in a small bowl.
3. Trim the fat cap on the pork shoulder down until about 1/4 inch remains. Pat the roast dry using paper towels, then set it on a rimmed baking sheet.
4. Use the prepared mustard to coat the entire pork shoulder. When you have a thin yet even layer, add the spice rub mixture, gently pressing so that the seasonings adhere to the meat.
5. Set the pork shoulder on the cooking grate of the smoker with the fat side facing up. Close the lid and smoke for 1 to 2 hours per pound. The total cooking time should be between 8 and 16 hours, depending on the exact size of the roast.
6. Wait until the temperature registers 180-185 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. At this point, if you’re serving the pork sliced, remove it from the smoker and set it aside to rest. For pulled pork, leave it on the heat until the internal temp reaches 195.
7. Lightly tent the pork shoulder in a layer of foil and let it rest at room temperature for 30-45 minutes.
8. When the pork is done resting, unwrap it and reserve any cooking juices. Trim away any large chunks of fat, and save or discard them as desired.
9. Carve the pork into slices, or shred it using a pair of forks or a set of shredding claws. Drizzle the reserved juices over the pork and serve at once.
Tip: If you’re making pulled pork, we recommend squeezing the leftover fat cap over the shredded meat to contribute extra moisture and flavor.
The Bottom Line
It’s hard to pin down an exact per-pound cooking time for cuts like pork shoulder. Every roast is different, and the total length of the cook depends on a number of factors, like whether the roast is boneless or bone-in, the reliability of the smoker, and the ambient temperature.
The main thing to remember is to check the internal temperature of the pork frequently during the last few hours of the estimated cooking time. That’s the only way to be sure the meat is cooked to your liking.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!