With a burst of smoky flavor and all the right spices, Traeger Smoked Pulled Pork is classic barbecue that puts typical crockpot versions to shame, and a simple recipe that rivals the best restaurant-quality meal. Smoking the pork low and slow for hours makes for wonderfully seasoned, tender and juicy pulled pork that is absolutely perfect every time! Smoked Pulled Pork is a favorite at our house all year around, and a crowd favorite for backyard barbecues and celebrations!
ABOUT THE MEAT: PORK BUTT or PORK SHOULDER?
Most smoked pulled pork recipes call for a bone-in pork shoulder, sometimes also called pork butt or Boston butt roast. These are all the exact same cut of pork, and none of them actually come from the butt end of the pig – but from the upper part of the shoulder.
Make sure to buy a moist, bright red pork shoulder with nice marbling throughout the meat. I recommend bone-in pork shoulder for enhanced flavor and meat that will be moister after smoking, as boneless creates loose pockets or pieces that don’t cook as evenly. I typically plan on ½ pound of pork (uncooked) for each person.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO SMOKE PULLED PORK?
Smoked Pulled Pork requires two major things – time and patience! Pork butt contains tight muscles and connective fibers, which need to cook low and slow to break down and tenderize. Smoking the meat in a wood pellet grill, at a low temperature over an extended period of time, causes those tissues to break down, tenderize and creates super succulent smoked pork – so moist and flavorful that it almost melts in your mouth!
With your smoker running steady at 225 degrees F, you can typically plan on about 90 minutes per pound of pork for the initial smoke. The entire cooking process from initial smoke thru final smoking can take anywhere from 15-20 hours, depending on the consistency of heat in your smoker and the size of your pork shoulder, but note that every cut of meat is a little bit different, so plan ahead for variations in cook times. Some smoked pork butts finish early, and some take longer!
SPRITZ FOR THE BEST BARK:
Smoking pork butt allows it to develop a really amazing exterior seasoned crust called “bark”. For those not familiar with the world of barbecue, this outer coating may appear burned, but to those in the know, that dark caramelized bark is absolutely coveted and the best part of the meat!
Spritzing your pork butt during the initial smoke period will help build a deep red smoke ring and the BEST dark flavorful bark on your meat. If your smoker tends to dry out your meat, spritzing will help keep the meat moist as well. For the best pulled pork, I mix 4 parts of apple cider to 1 part apple cider vinegar in a food-safe spray bottle, spritzing every hour during the first smoke. Spray just until the meat is moist all over – it doesn’t need to be totally saturated or dripping. Apple juice, beer, root beer and cherry cola also work well for spritzing!
SHOULD I WRAP MY PORK?
A lot of pitmasters choose to wrap their smoked pork butt in butcher paper or foil for the final smoking. Once your pork reaches 165 degrees, I recommend wrapping it in peach butcher paper, which will help retain flavor and moisture as the pork continues to cook while allowing the pork to continue absorbing smoke flavor. You can find peach butcher paper online at HeyGrillHey.com or Amazon.
If you don’t have peach butcher paper available, some cooks wrap in aluminum foil, which will retain flavor and moisture, but will soften the bark and won’t allow any more smoke to penetrate the meat.
If you prefer a crusty bark, you can also decide not to wrap your pork at all – but your pork will lose moisture over time. Whichever method you prefer, the choice is totally up to you!
Return the wrapped pork to the smoker, place in the middle of the grill and continue smoking!
LOOKING FOR MORE GREAT TRAEGER RECIPES?
1 8-10 lb. bone-in pork shoulder roast (aka pork butt)
½ cup yellow mustard
¼ cup Barbecue Sweet Rub
2 cups hard apple cider (or apple juice or beer)
½ cup apple cider vinegar
BARBECUE SWEET RUB:
¼ cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground mustard
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (add more for an extra flavor kick)
Barbecue Sauce (your favorite flavor!)
HOW I MAKE THIS:
YIELD: 16-20 servings (allow ½ pound of uncooked meat for each person)
Original recipe published June 2019; revised and reposted June 2022.
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