Learning how to smoke pulled pork in a pellet smoker is so easy, just about anyone can do it. It just takes a lot of time and patience. It’s one of the meats that takes the longest to smoke but reaps the best benefits from the barbeque world as well. Sit back and stick to our procedure, and everything will be just fine.
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Supplies you will need
You are going to want to make sure you have everything you need before you start smoking your Pork shoulder. The last thing you want is to run out of something or not have it during the cooking process.
Pork Shoulder or Pork Butt- any pork shoulder product between 4 and 10 pounds in weight but we like large 8 pounders for parties and leftovers.
Pellet Smoker- make sure you have a smoker that you are comfortable using to start. You will be able to smoke the pork shoulder in any smoker as long as you are applying indirect heat and a pellet smoker is great for that.
Fuel Source- make sure you have plenty of fuel before starting the smoking process. You don’t want to run out of wood, pellets, charcoal, or propane during the smoking process. We recommend you use a mix of hickory and apple wood to get that perfect barbeque blend of rich flavors and fruitiness.
Thermometer- the best type of thermometer to use when pork shoulder is going to be an instant-read thermometer. But the best way to tell if it is done is by pulling the shoulder bone out clean after cooking.
A bucket of water- This is not necessary, but it is always wise to have a bucket of water around in case of an accident or fire. It is also handy to have when your smoker flares up inside and you need to reduce the flames.
Cuts of Pork to use for Pulled Pork
There are only three cuts of pork you should use to make pulled pork, and they both come from the same area of the pig.
Pork Shoulder- this cut comes from the front legs of the pig and has a large Y-shaped shoulder bone in the middle of the cut. They can weigh anywhere from 4 to 12pounds depending on the size.
Pork Butt- this cut is from the upper part of the shoulder that contains the bone within it.
Picnic Cut- this cut is from the shoulder. It is the smaller lower part of the shoulder without the bone. This cut will take less time to smoke since it has no bone.
Classic Pulled Pork Dry Rub Recipe
Of course, you could use a marinade for your pork shoulder but it will work best with a good solid rubdown from a sweet blend of spices and sugars.
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup paprika
- 2 tbs. Black pepper
- 2 tbsp. Chili powder
- 2 tbsp. Garlic powder
- 1 tbsp. Onion powder
- 3 tsp. Kosher salt
- ½ tsp. Cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp. Dry mustard
- 1 tsp. coriander
In a large bowl, mix all ingredients well. Rub the dry rub on the pork shoulder making sure to get in all the crevasses and rub a healthy amount over all surfaces of the pork.
Classic Kansas City Barbeque Sauce Recipe
When it comes to pulled pork, the best sauce to use is great barbeque sauce. The is some confusion over which style is the best, vinegar or ketchup-based. But where we are from, ketchup-based reigns supreme.
- 2 cups ketchup
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup molasses
- 2 tsp. Liquid smoke
- 2 tsp. Black pepper
- 2 tsp. Kosher salt
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 tbsp. Olive oil
- 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
- 2 tsp. Garlic powder
In a large saucepot, sauté the onion in the olive oil until they are soft and translucent. Then add all the remaining ingredients and mix well. Allow the sauce to get just hot enough to pour smoothly. Then place the sauce in a blender or food processor and blend until all the onions have smoothed out in the sauce. Place the sauce in the fridge and allow it to cool down or eat while still warm. You can mix the sauce with the pulled pork to make sandwiches or use it as a dipping sauce.
Type Wood Pellets to Choose
There are many different types of wood to choose from and each type will add a different flavor profile to your pork. Wood pellets are offered in a wide range of different wood types, so you are bound to find something you will like. We have heard the best mix of wood to use when smoking pork is hickory and apple.
But it is best to go with combinations of wood that will emphasize or complement your meat the best. Maple and fruit woods are going to elevate the natural sweetness and flavors of the pork shoulder in the end.
Hickory- many people like to think that hickory is the best wood to choose from when smoking pork because of its rich flavor and subtle barbeque notes. This wood will not be too overpowering or underwhelming as well.
Fruit (cherry, apple, peach)- these types of wood will, of course, add fruity flavors to your pork. They will also be very subtle and at times underwhelming which works very well with poultry and fish.
Mesquite- This wood will be the strongest of them all in terms of smoke density and flavor. It can be very easy to overpower your pork with smoke flavor when using mesquite. In other words, a little bit goes a long way.
Maple- this wood will add a lot of sweetness to the pork without a lot of the smoky flavor.
Oak- this type of wood is one of the more common woods to use when smoking meats, but it doesn’t work too well with poultry as it can be a very thick and dense smoke like mesquite.
The Smoking Process in a Pellet Smoker
Load the pellet smoker up with pellets completely. Then turn it on and preheat the smoker to 250 degrees. Once the smoker has come up to temperature, place the pork shoulder or pork butt on the grate, fat side up if there is a fat cap. Make sure the pork has been coated in the dry rub before placing it in the smoker.
Close up the smoker and maintain a temperature of 250-275 degrees for at least 6 hours. Once that time has been reached, begin to start probing for temperatures. You want to reach an internal temperature of at least 195 degrees for pulled pork. The average size pork shoulder should be 8 pounds and will take about 12 hours for it to become fully cooked.
The best way to tell if the pork shoulder is done is by trying to remove the shoulder bone. If the bone comes out easily and clean, then the pork is done. If it is still in there good and tight or some ligament is still stuck to the bone, then you need to close up the smoker and continue to smoke it until the bone comes out clean.
Once the pork shoulder has finished smoking, remove it from the smoker and transfer it to a sheet pan. Allow the pork shoulder to rest for at least 20 minutes before shredding or serving it.
The pork should fall apart with the touch of a hand or fork. This will make it easy to shred or pull the pork apart by hand. There is no way you should need a knife for this task. Combine the shredded pork with some leftover rub and barbeque sauce and serve!
We hope you now understand how to smoke pulled pork in a pellet smoker. Pork shoulder is one of our favorite meats to smoke in a pellet smoker simply because it’s so easy and tastes great. If you follow our foolproof process, then there should be no room for error. Now, let’s get smokin’!