How to Make Tender and Juicy Pulled Pork

Completed Recipe with Additional Options

Pulled pork is an extremely versatile and delicious dish that many people shy away from, thinking that it must be difficult to prepare. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth, simply follow this recipe and you will have enough tender and juicy pulled pork to feed the whole family for a week!

While this dish takes up to ten hours to complete, you will only need less than a half hour to get everything ready. Simply trim your meat, apply your favorite dry rub, and forget about it for a few hours. This pulled pork recipe includes a sweet and savory barbecue sauce that is simple to make, and will go over a few of the many ways that you can enjoy this delicious pulled pork.

Tender and Juicy Pulled Pork Recipe

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 15 minutes
Servings 20


  • 1 8-10 pound bone-in pork shoulder
  • 2 Tbsp yellow mustard

Dry Rub

  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 ½ Tbsp paprika
  • 1 ½ Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes

Sweet Barbecue Sauce (optional)

  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1 ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • ½ cup water

Spray mixture (optional)

  • ¼ cup apple juice
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar


  1. Preheat your smoker to 250°F. Trim any excess fat from the surface of the pork shoulder.

  2. Prepare the dry rub by combining brown sugar, paprika, salt, black pepper, chili powder, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl.

  3. Apply a thin coating of yellow mustard to the entire pork shoulder and cover evenly with the dry rub.

  4. Place the pork shoulder on a mid-level rack in your smoker and let it cook for five hours.

  5. Combine a small amount of equal parts apple juice and apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle.

  6. Remove the pork shoulder from the smoker and spray it with the apple juice mixture before wrapping it tightly in aluminum foil. Once wrapped place it back into the smoker to cook for another two to three hours.

  7. During the final hours of cooking, prepare a sweet barbecue sauce by combining ketchup, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, salt, black pepper, chili powder, and water in a medium saucepan. 

  8. Heat the mixture over low heat for around 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

  9. Once the internal temperature of your pork shoulder reaches 190°F, remove from the smoker and let it rest for 30 minutes.

  10. Shred the pork with forks, tongs, or gloved hands and enjoy!

Step One – Trim the Excess Fat

Pork Shoulder Fat Cap Pork Shoulder 

Before we go any further into this recipe, let’s talk about the piece of meat that we will be looking for. Common names like “pork butt” or “Boston butt” can be quite misleading, as this cut of meat actually comes from the shoulder of a pig. It is easily distinguishable by its large fat cap and singular shoulder blade bone. The first step when making pulled pork is deciding what you want to do with all of the fat. Many people prefer to trim the majority of this excess fat off, as it won’t render out completely and makes a good amount of the rub go to waste. Personally, I like the flavor that this fat adds to the end products, so I opted to keep it. If you decide to remove the fat, try to take off as much as possible without removing any of the flesh underneath.

Step Two – Prepare and Apply the Dry Rub

Dry Rub

As with any meat that you plan on smoking, a well rounded dry rub will add a lot of depth to your meat. The dry rub that we will be using is quite simple and can be altered to fit your personal taste. In a small bowl, mix together your brown sugar, salt, pepper, paprika, chili powder, and red chili flakes. Use a dedicated spice grinder to make this task even easier! It is sometimes helpful to use your hands in order to break apart any stubborn clumps of sugar. Once your rub is all mixed together, it is time to prepare your pork shoulder. In order to let the rub properly stick to the meat, we will lather a thin coating of yellow mustard across the entire exterior of the pork butt. This mustard will not add any flavor, and can be replaced with any type of cooking oil. Now liberally apply an even coating of the dry rub, making sure that it covers every inch of the meat.

Step Three – Smoke the Pork Shoulder for Five Hours at 250°F

Dry Rub Applied to the Meat 

Set your smoker up with your favorite choice of wood chips, some that I would recommend would be hickory, cherry, and mesquite. Once it has been brought up to around 250°F you can add your pork shoulder and simply let it smoke for five hours. Of course you should monitor the temperature, keeping it anywhere from 225-275°F.

Step Four – Remove and Wrap the Pork Shoulder


After Sprayed with Apple Juice Before Sprayed and Wrapped 

Pork Shoulder Wrapped

An important (yet controversial) step when smoking a pork shoulder is to wrap the meat once its internal temperature reaches 160°F. Once the meat reaches this temperature it will begin to ‘sweat’ its juices, effectively cooling the meat down. This will prolong the cooking time by up to four hours! Because of this, we will be wrapping our pork shoulder with plenty of aluminum foil, making sure to seal each edge tightly in order to keep those wonderful juices inside. But before you do so, we are going to lightly brush or spray on a mixture of half apple juice and apple cider vinegar. It doesn’t take much, but adding this mixture will help the pork shoulder to retain its moisture during the final stretch of cooking. Now place the wrapped meat back into your smoker and continue cooking for another two to three hours, using a meat thermometer to determine when it reaches an internal temperature of 190°F.

Step Four – Prepare the Barbecue Sauce

BBQ Sauce Cooking

Now this is where you can really play around with this recipe. You can add a vinegar-based sauce, a sweeter barbecue sauce, or even just mix the natural drippings back into the meat once it’s shredded. If you have a favorite brand of barbecue sauce, feel free to skip this step completely. In a saucepan combine the brown sugar, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, salt, pepper, chili powder, and water. Cook this mixture over a very low heat, making sure to stir constantly to keep the sugar from burning. It should take around ten to twenty minutes for this sauce to reach its desired consistency, and can then be taken off of the heat and rested.

Step Five – Remove the Pork Shoulder and Shred it

Pork Shoulder Finished Cooking

After Shredding 

After a few hours of wrapped cooking, check on your pork shoulder to see if it is ready. A good indicator is if the blade bone pulls away from the meat with ease. Once you have determined that the meat has finished cooking, it is time for the most difficult step of this entire recipe, letting your meat rest! By now your entire house will be filled with the aroma of heavenly smoked meat, but you must let the pork shoulder rest for at least thirty minutes in order to keep it from drying out. After the longest half hour of your life, transfer the meat to a large bowl or tray so that you can easily shred it. I find that using two forks or even gloved hands works perfectly. Now that the pork shoulder has been converted into thin strands of meat, you can mix in the drippings and barbecue sauces until it is all evenly coated.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

You won’t really appreciate just how much meat this dish provides until you have it all shredded, but I can assure you that you could easily cater a small party or even feed a family for an entire week! This pulled pork goes great on a bun, and you can even get creative, adding it to your nachos and quesadillas.

Another way to prepare this recipe with similar results is to use a slow cooker rather than a smoker. While the pork will lose some of the smoky flavor, it can be finished much sooner and is a completely hands-free recipe. However you decide to cook it, this pulled pork is a family favorite and is the perfect dish to impress your backyard BBQ guests.