To get that amazing fall-apart tender pork shoulder, you need to smoke it patiently for many hours at 250°F, low and slow. The bark will start to form on the outside of your pork all those long hours will start to pay off.
Just how long is many hours, you ask? If you want to know how long to smoke pork shoulder at 250°F, you’ll find all the answers in this post. But as a general guideline, you can expect it to take approximately 90 minutes per pound to smoke a pork shoulder in a 250° F smoker.
» You might also like these Smoked Pulled Pork Tacos.
We’ll explore how long it will take to achieve perfectly cooked pork shoulder or butt with a smoky flavor that will have your taste buds dancing. We’ll cover everything you need to know, from preparation to monitoring the pellets, to when you might want to wrap the pork to avoid the stall.
If you’re embarking on your first attempt to smoke pork shoulder, you’re going to be wondering how long it’s going to take. Do you need to set up a tent and sleep next to the smoker? The answer is not a definitive number of hours, because cooking time is determined by a lot of factors.
How Long to Smoke Pork Shoulder at 250°F?
Smoking pork shoulder at 250°F is a popular temperature for a few reasons. First, it’s a low and slow cooking method that allows the pork shoulder to cook evenly and absorb the smoky flavor without drying out.
Second, 250°F is a safe temperature for cooking pork, ensuring that the meat is fully cooked and safe to eat. Cooking at a higher temperature can cause the outside of the meat to cook too quickly, while the inside remains undercooked, resulting in dry and tough pork.
Finally, cooking at a consistent temperature like 250°F allows you to have more control over the cooking process, ensuring that the pork shoulder is cooked evenly and thoroughly.
You might be wondering why not 225°F. We stand behind cooking things like brisket and chicken at 225°F and will sometimes use that temperature for pork as well. There’s no definitive reason to choose 250 over 225. Smoking at 225 will take longer and might result in slightly more tender meat, but at 250 will be faster, use less pellets, and the outcome is only negligibly different.
How Long Should You Smoke Pork Shoulder at 250°F?
At this temperature, a pork shoulder will take around 90 minutes per pound to cook. This will allow you to calculate the smoke time needed for the size of pork shoulder you’ve acquired.
Other factors come into play here, including the size and thickness, the type of smoker utilized, and the desired level of doneness. Other things that might affect the cooking time are wind, temperature, and how often you open the door of the smoker.
As a rough rule of thumb, allow about 1.5-2 hours of cooking time per pound of pork shoulder. So for a 4-pound pork shoulder, it would take approximately 6 to 8 hours to smoke it at 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, keep in mind that this is merely a preliminary estimate, and the real cook time will vary depending on the conditions listed above.
This is a game of patience, so you’re going to need to be prepared to spend the entire day smoking the pork shoulder. It will also require quite a bit of pellets to keep the smoker stoked, so be sure to check your supply before you start.
- Smoker – I use a Z Grills 700 series smoker for most of my smoking, though I also have a Traeger grill. You can use whatever smoker you have – they all work the same.
- Wood pellets – There are many types of pellets available. If you’ve already got pellets in your smoker, use whatever you have. I really like Hickory pellets for chicken.
- Meat thermometer – Many smokers have a thermometer built in, but if yours doesn’t, get an instant-read thermometer. I love this Thermapen.
What Pellets to Use for the Smoker?
You’ll also need pellets for your smoker, if you’ve got a pellet grill like we do. Pellets come in many different types that you can choose from. I like to use hickory wood, or cherry wood pellets for mine. They also have a bourbon wood pellet that’s very good. My friend Todd swears by the Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey pellets.
Once you find the best wood for smoking pulled pork, it will totally change the game.
Pork Shoulder Cooking Process
The cooking process for pork shoulder is divided into three phases: the initial smoking period, the wrapping period, and the final cooking period.
The first step of the cook is the smoking stage, which normally lasts 6 to 8 hours. The pork shoulder is exposed to smoke and heat during this step, which begins to break down the connective tissue and fat. During this stage, the internal temperature of the pork will progressively rise to around 160 to 170°F.
The wrapping time is the second step of the cook and lasts around 2 to 3 hours. The pork shoulder or butt is wrapped in butcher paper or foil at this step to help maintain moisture and keep the meat from drying out. This stage is essential because it further tenderizes the meat while also providing flavor.
Ultimately, the decision to wrap a pork roast or not will depend on personal preference and the desired outcome. If you want a thick, flavorful bark and don’t mind a longer cooking time, you may want to avoid wrapping it.
If you want more tender and juicy pork and don’t mind sacrificing some of the bark, you may want to wrap it. Some pitmasters choose to wrap their pork partway through the cooking process, allowing the meat to absorb the smoke flavor for several hours before wrapping it to retain moisture.
The final cooking stage is the final step of the cook and typically lasts 2 to 4 hours. The shoulder is removed from the foil or butcher paper and returned to the smoker at this point to generate a crispy bark. The internal temperature will continue to rise until it reaches the appropriate level of doneness.
What Smokers We Use
Did you know that Traeger created the original wood-pellet grill? The Pro Series 22 is the one most people choose because it’s compact, yet has plenty of space for cooking. You can use any type of wood pellets you like. See the Traeger Series 22 Grill on Amazon.
Things to Consider
There are various things to consider when establishing the cooking time for your pork shoulder, including the weight and thickness of the meat, the type of smoker used, and the desired level of doneness.
Another important consideration when smoking pork shoulder is the type of smoker used. Temperatures in different types of smokers will vary, which might affect cooking time. A charcoal smoker, for example, will have a more steady temperature than a wood-burning smoker, which might fluctuate more significantly.
Finally, when selecting the cooking time, consider the desired level of doneness. Pork can be cooked to a variety of doneness levels, ranging from rare to well-done. The internal temperature of the pork determines its doneness level, with rare being approximately 130 to 135°F and well-done being around 195 to 205°F.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it better to smoke pork shoulder at 225 or 250?
The temperature at which you smoke a pork shoulder doesn’t have to be one or the other, but the more generally accepted temperature for pork is 250°F. This is chosen because it is low enough to allow slow cooking to lock in maximum flavor without robbing the meat of juiciness, but it’s not so low that it allow for unsafe cooking conditions. That’s not to say that smoking at 225°F isn’t also acceptable.
When should I wrap my pork shoulder?
Wrapping a pork shoulder can help retain moisture and prevent the meat from drying out during the cooking process. This can result in a more tender and juicy end result. If you’re going to wrap it, the best time is when the meat reaches around 160-170°F. Leave it wrapped for about 2-3 hours to help get through the long stall.
What is the secret to a tender pork?
The temperature at which you cook the pork is one of the biggest secrets to tender meat. At 250°F, the connective tissue of the meat will break down, rendering some of the intramuscular fat, and forming a tender and juicy texture without drying it out from too high a heat.
Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill
For this recipe, I used my Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill, which is a new offering from the kitchen appliance brand that makes our beloved favorites, the Ninja MaxXL Air Fryer and the Ninja Creami. The Woodfire Grill is a portable outdoor grill with 7 functions: grill, smoke, air fry, bake, roast, broil, and dehydrate.
Why I Like It
- It imparts an amazing amount of woodfire flavor into the food with just 1/2 cup of pellets.
- It’s incredibly fast and efficient.
- It cooks faster and with more smoker flavor than my full-size smoker – by far.
- There’s no guessing, especially with the built-in temperature probe available on the Pro version.
- The food comes out with a perfect crispy or seared exterior that’s both gorgeous and super tasty.
- It’s very portable and can be set up anywhere on a sturdy surface with a power outlet nearby.
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Laura is a passionate home cook and grill enthusiast who has spent years perfecting her culinary skills, with a particular focus on grilling techniques and flavor combinations. Her fascination with the grill, smoke, and the mouthwatering results they produce has led her on an exciting journey to discover the best methods for grilling delicious and unforgettable meals.