How to Smoke Pork Shoulder on a Kettle Grill

by Ben Niemann

The Pork Shoulder (or Boston Butt) is one of the most incredible cuts of meat in the animal kingdom. Here is a simple guide featuring an age-old method for cooking a BBQ delicacy.


  • Pork Shoulder
  • BBQ Rub
  • Apple Juice
  • Instructions

    Step 1

    Let the pork rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes before you do anything. See the cup of coffee? We're going low and slow today, so we need to get started early.

    Step 2

    Two things to look for when picking out a pork shoulder are "bone-in" and a nice fat cap. The bone helps develop deep flavors and the fat will render and keep the meat moist and tender while cooking.

    Step 3

    Get yourself a good rub. I use my own secret pork rub, but you can find tons of styles of rubs out there. Or... if you know your spices and blends, try to develop a rub of your own.

    Step 4

    Cover every inch of your pork with rub. And then, as the name implies, rub it in.

    Step 5

    Seriously, every inch. Now, let the pork sit for another half hour so the rub can set in. You can cover it with plastic wrap or aluminum foil to keep it safe.

    Step 6

    If you're going to use wood chips, soak them for about an hour. I like to set the pork and the chips next to each other so they can go ahead and get to know each other before we marry their flavors.

    Step 7

    On a kettle grill, you have to be creative to get good, indirect heat. I do this by placing a baking pan (a little larger than the pork shoulder) in the middle with the coals all the way around it.

    Step 8

    Once the coals have ashed over, put about an inch of apple juice in the pan and drop your chips on the coals (shake off as much water as possible). I got a few chips in the juice, but it won't hurt.

    Step 9

    It's important to note here that the perfect smoking temp is around 250 F. You'll probably not be able to keep it there the ENTIRE time, but try to keep your grill within a 225-275 range if you can.

    Step 10

    Place the pork shoulder over the baking pan with the fat cap up. As it cooks, the fat will begin to render and will seep ever so slightly into the meat, keeping it moist and tender.

    Step 11

    Now close the lid and walk away. Don't open your grill, except to refresh the coals, for at least 6 hours.

    Step 12

    Here's a mini guide: When I refresh my coals, I'm going to use a smoke packet instead of placing wood chips back on the fresh coals. Lay out some aluminum foil...

    Step 13

    Place a handful or two of wood chips in the center...

    Step 14

    Wrap up the sides...

    Step 15

    Then wrap up the ends.

    Step 16

    Flip it over and poke a few pencil-sized holes in the top.

    Step 17

    And there you have it.

    Step 18

    When you place this over hot coals, the wood will slowly smoke out and help give your meat more flavor.

    Step 19

    Ok, we've made it 6 hours. Now you can check the meat. You want the internal temp to be around 185 F. This guy is ready to go inside. Be careful removing it from the grill. It will be very hot!

    Step 20

    See how the meat has pulled away, leaving the bone exposed? That's a very good sign that things are super tender. Good things have been going on in this grill. :)

    Step 21

    I use these bear claws to handle the meat off the grill. Plus, they are handy when it comes time to break down the pork before I hand-pull the rest.

    Step 22

    Let the meat sit for 30-45 minutes before you do anything else. And don't worry, it will stay plenty hot. During this time, the juices will settle back into the meat, keeping it tender and moist.

    Step 23

    Finally, after letting the meat rest, we can tear it open. I wish you could smell my kitchen at this point. That delicious BBQ smell just penetrates everything (and that is a very good thing!).

    Step 24

    Ok, this is just showing off, but if you cooked it right, the bone will just pull out clean. Careful, it's hot!

    Step 25

    Now the fun part, using your hands, pull all the pork apart down to small pieces. This is where it gets the name "pulled pork."

    Step 26

    When you pull the pork, use the whole shoulder, even the fat. You didn't come looking for pulled pork for health reasons, and besides, it's going to incorporate juiciness into the rest of the meat.

    Step 27

    Oh yeah, I almost forgot... That pink line at the top of the meat is called the smoke ring. It means that the smoke has been soaking up into the meat. Lots of flavor right there boys and girls!

    Step 28

    Have you ever seen a more beautiful sandwich? I used a dab of my BBQ sauce, but trust me, it is totally optional. The meat is plenty delicious on its own. Grab a beer and some chips and enjoy!

    Step 29

    Thanks for reading, make sure you check out my other guides. Leave a comment and tell me what you're going to do with your 6 hours. I mowed my yard, watched some football, and cleaned up the house.