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Overnight Smoked Pork Shoulder: How To Sleep On It

Those of you who prefer a low-key cooking process should try making overnight smoked pork shoulder. The technique allows the smoke to slowly permeate the meat while you sleep, giving you less to do on the day you plan to serve it. Here’s how to pull it off.

Overnight Smoked Pork Shoulder

When smoking pork shoulder overnight, it’s a good idea to set the smoker to a lower temperature than usual to avoid overcooking. We like to start the smoke at 200 degrees, then raise the temp to our preferred target of 225 after wrapping the pork. The total cooking time should run 10 to 14 hours for an 8-pound pork shoulder.

How Long Does It Take To Smoke Pork Shoulder?

Your total cooking time depends on several factors.

First and foremost, a larger pork shoulder will take longer to cook than a smaller one. This cut usually weighs between 5 and 8 pounds, assuming you’ve chosen the picnic roast and not the whole shoulder (see Shoulder vs. Butt, below).

Pork shoulder may be sold boneless or bone-in. While both are excellent options for the smoker, bone-in cuts will require a longer cooking time.

Also note that if you wrap the meat partway through the cooking process, it will reach the optimum temperature more quickly. That’s why this step is referred to as the “Texas crutch.”

The reliability of your smoker is another factor to consider. If the temperature runs steady throughout the smoke, the total cooking time will be easier to predict. An erratic smoker makes it harder to judge when the meat will be done.

Speaking of which, the smoker temperature plays a critical role in the process. Our recommended temperature for smoked pork shoulder is 225 degrees. Setting the temperature higher or lower will have a significant effect on your total cooking time.

How Long To Smoke Pork Shoulder Per Pound

If you’ve followed our advice and selected a 225-degree cooking environment, the pork should cook for 1.5 to 2 hours per pound. Boneless cuts might run on the lower end of this timeline, taking 1 to 1.5 hours per pound.

You can expect an unwrapped 5-pound pork shoulder to be on the smoker for 7.5 to 10 hours. Obviously, this gives you plenty of time to allow for an overnight cook. If the cut is any bigger, you have even more leeway in terms of time.

One way to prolong the cooking time even further is to set the smoker temperature to 200 degrees. When a large pork shoulder smokes at this low a temperature, it probably won’t even hit “the stall” of 150-160 degrees until it’s been on the heat for 6 to 8 hours.

In How To Make Overnight Smoked Pork Shoulder, below, we start with a smoker temp of 200, then raise it to 225 during the “wrapped” phase. This allows the meat to cook slowly at first while giving you more control over the total cooking time.

Shoulder vs. Butt

Are pork shoulder and pork butt the same thing? The terminology can be confusing. In essence, these are two different cuts—but they’re actually two halves of the same section.

A whole pork shoulder weighs 12 to 18 pounds on average. It’s an enormous cut that’s often divided into two segments. That’s where the terms “shoulder” and butt” come into play.

The lower portion of the whole shoulder is called the “picnic roast,” “picnic shoulder,” or just “pork shoulder.” It may be sold boneless or bone-in, often with the skin still attached.

The upper segment is called the “pork butt” or “Boston butt.” It’s barrel-shaped, with a nice fat cap and an impressive amount of marbling. This is the best cut to use when making pulled pork, but you can use the lower shoulder as well.

Best Internal Temp For Pork Shoulder

If you’re smoking pork shoulder for pulled pork, wait until the internal temp hits 195 degrees. For meat that’s even easier to shred, aim for an internal temp of 200-205 degrees.

Pork shoulder also makes for an impressive presentation if you carve the meat into thin slices. If that’s the way you want to go, it’s best to pull the meat from the smoker when it gets to the 180-185 degree range. Otherwise, it might fall apart when you slice it.

How To Make Overnight Smoked Pork Shoulder

Start with a pork shoulder that runs on the larger side—about 8 pounds. If the cut is smaller, you’ll need to keep a closer eye on the internal temperature during the later stage of the smoke to avoid overcooking.

Your first step is to trim the meat so that the fat cap measures about 1/4 inch thick. Set the trimmings aside for another use.

If you’d like, you can also take this opportunity to remove the skin from the pork shoulder. It’s fine to leave it in place, but for pulled pork, the skin doesn’t really serve any purpose. It will also prevent the seasoning rub from permeating the meat.

Pat the pork dry with paper towels. Apply mustard as a binder, if you’d like, then add the seasoning rub. Plan to use about 1 tablespoon of seasoning for every pound of pork shoulder.

At this point, you can put the pork in the fridge for up to 24 hours, or until you’re ready to smoke it. Take the meat out of the fridge while you wait for the smoker to heat up.

It’s best if you take this next step right before you’re ready to retire for the night. That will give you plenty of hands-off time while you wait for the pork to hit the stall temperature.

Set the smoker to 200 degrees. It shouldn’t take too long for it to reach this temperature. Place the prepared pork in the smoker, as far from the heat source as possible. Close the lid.

After 6 hours, check the internal temperature of the meat by inserting a calibrated instant-read thermometer into the thickest portion of the shoulder. Be careful not to touch any bone, or you won’t get an accurate readout.

If the internal temp is in the 155-175 degree range, it’s time to move on to the next step. Otherwise, close the lid and let the meat continue to cook for 1 to 2 hours longer.

Once the internal temp reaches 155, remove the pork from the smoker and wrap it in a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. You can also use butcher paper, which allows the meat to “breathe” inside the wrapper.

Return the pork shoulder to the heat and raise the smoker temperature to 225 degrees. Continue to cook until the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees. This should take another 4 to 6 hours.

When the pork is done, take it off the smoker and remove the foil wrapper. Set it in an aluminum pan and tent it loosely with another layer of foil. Let rest for at least 1 hour or up to 2 hours before slicing or shredding the meat.

Refrigerate any leftovers within 2 hours. The pork should keep for up to 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.

The Bottom Line

Adding the pork shoulder to the smoker just before bed is a great way to save time on the day you’re planning to serve it. The initial stage of the smoke will last long enough to give the meat a wonderfully crisp bark, and the meat will be tender and flavorful.

Best of luck, and happy grilling!