How Long to Smoke a Pork Shoulder at 250: A Matter of Time

November 2, 2022

At 250 degrees, the pork shoulder will cook at a rate of 90 minutes per pound of meat.

Although I am a big believer in tracking internal temperature, I realized the importance of having a rough timeline with smoked pork shoulder. This is why I timed several of my cooks and did some meat math.

In this post I will outline how long to smoke a pork shoulder at 250 degrees and show you tips for maintaining a consistent temperature throughout. Let's get started!

How Long to Smoke a Pork Shoulder at 250

How Long Does It Take to Smoke Pork Shoulder at 250 F Per Pound?

The question - how long to smoke a pork shoulder at 250 F - is pretty vague as the weight of the pork shoulder isn't mentioned.

Your first order of business should be to figure out how long it takes to cook one pound of pork shoulder at 250 degrees F.

vegetables and smoked pork

On average, pork shoulder can cook at a rate of 90 minutes per pound.

Bear in mind that this is just an estimate. There are a number of factors surrounding the smoking process. As such, it may take you more or less time to cook a pound of pork shoulder.

Based on this information you can now estimate:

How Long Does It Take to Smoke a 5lb Pork Shoulder at 250 Degrees?

At 250 degrees, rate of cooking = 1lb x 90 minutes

Thus, a 5lb pork shoulder will cook at:

5 x 90 = 450 minutes or 7.5 hours

Paying Attention to Internal Temperature

Yes, it is important to know how long to smoke a pork shoulder at 250 degrees. However, remember that you can't put all your faith in time.

As I mentioned, we can only come up with estimates.

This is why you should use time as a guideline to know when to check the smoked pork shoulder for doneness.

To be completely certain that the pork shoulder is actually cooked to perfection, it is important to check the internal temperature. A smoked pork shoulder is considered done at 145 degrees F.

How Long Does It Take to Smoke a Pork Butt at 250 Degrees?

Pork butt and pork shoulder are often used interchangeably. Therefore, you may be wondering at the rate at which smoked pork butt can cook.

Well, pork butt cooks at the same rate as pork shoulder at 250 F.

Regardless of whether you are smoking pork shoulder or pork butt, each pound will cook at 90 minutes per pound.

Should I Smoke a Pork Shoulder at 225 or 250 Degrees?

It actually doesn't matter too much whether you cook smoked pork shoulder at 225 or 250 degrees as the rate of the cooking process is more or less the same.

I would suggest keeping a closer eye on the internal temperature at 250 degrees as it may cook a little faster.

A Guide to Smoking Pork Shoulder at 250 Degrees

Here are some guidelines to follow when making slow cooked pork shoulder temperature:

Pay Attention to Weather Conditions

Yes, the weather can have an impact on the temperature inside your cooking chamber. In turn, this can have an affect on the rate at which your pork shoulder will cook.

On hotter days, the cooking chamber is going to heat up in no time at all. In fact, it is possible that it will shoot past what you have set on the temperature dial.

raw pork and some herbs

Due to this, you need to keep a close watch on the cooking chamber temp and lower the setting if necessary.

With cold temps, you have the opposite problem. The trick here is to ensure that the smoker temp remains high enough so that the meat will cook at the proper rate.

During windy days, find a place to store the smoker so that it is partially blocked from the wind. Never keep a smoker in an enclosed area, though, it has to be in an open air space.

Set Up Direct and Indirect Heating Zones

If you are using a charcoal smoker or an electric smoker, then you will have to set up two zone.

One will be where there is direct heat. On a charcoal smoker, this will be the area where the coals will be piled up on. On an electric smoker, this zone is where the burners are on.

The indirect heat area is where there are no coals or the burner is turned off. This is where the pork shoulder will be placed.

Use a Hood Thermometer

Some smokers are already equipped with a hood thermometer. If I were you, though, I wouldn't trust these. They are often cheapest part of the smoker.

Instead, get yourself a good quality hood thermometer that you can attach to the outside or inside of the cooking chamber.

This makes it easier to know the accurate smoker temperature. You will also be able to take note of any fluctuations during the cook.

Ensuring that your cooking chamber remains at a stable temperature means that your smoked pork shoulder will cook at a consistent rate too.

Use the Vents to Your Advantage

Most charcoal smokers have vents - make sure to understand how these work so that you can maintain the smoker temp.

The wider the vents are open, the more air is let in. This fans the flames, causing the temperature to rise. Close the vents or lower them and the temperature inside the cooking chamber will go down as well.

Be Aware of the Stall

If you are cooking a whole pork shoulder or a larger cut, then there is a risk of a stall. This is when the internal temperature of the pork shoulder remains at one point for several hours.

This typically happens between 150 and 170 degrees F.

To overcome the stall, you need to wrap the smoked pork shoulder in either aluminum foil or butcher paper. Then, return it back to the smoker.

It is important to keep close track of the cooking process to know exactly when you should wrap the meat.

Tips for Making the Best Pulled Pork

One of the main reasons for smoking pork shoulder is to make pulled pork - pulled pork sandwiches - in particular. If you want to prepare the most lip smacking dish, here are the tips to follow:

Consider Bone In Pork Shoulder

I know that boneless pork shoulder is far easier to deal with. It also cooks up faster too.

Nevertheless, the bone can add quite a bit when it comes to flavor. It is also great for maintaining the moisture in the meat. As such, this is something that you should consider giving a try.

smoked pork and wedges

Trim the Excess Fat

Fat plays an important role when smoking meat. It offers up insulation and can also make the pork shoulder taste better.

Here's the thing, though, if the fat cap is too thick, then the heat can't penetrate through to the meat. This can extend the cook time quite a bit. You're pulled pork isn't going to taste as good either.

Consider Brining or Injecting the Pork Shoulder

When smoking the pork shoulder for an extended period of time, there is always a risk of the meat drying out. To overcome this issue, you can choose to dry brine your meat or to inject it with a marinade.

For dry brining all you need is some kosher salt. Sprinkle it on and refrigerate overnight.

If you don't want to make preparations ahead of time, then injecting is the way to go. Most people prefer a marinade made up of apple cider vinegar, apple juice, and water. However, you are free to choose your own.

Keep the Dry Rub Simple

Personally, I have always preferred a simple pork shoulder recipe. This is especially true in the case of pulled pork where you will be adding in barbecue sauce later on.

My go-to recipe involves brown sugar, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, and black pepper.

Use the Right Wood

When smoking pork, you have to be careful not to overpower the natural flavors of the meat. See, pork tends to have a pretty mild flavor. As such, if you choose something that is too strong, then all you will be able to taste is the smoke flavor. It may even end up being bitter in some cases.

If you want something very mild, apple and cherry are your best choices. If you like a smokier taste, then you can't go wrong with oak.

Now, you can get away with choosing something stronger like hickory. If you do this, though, I would urge you to only use a handful of the wood and to make sure that there is plenty of apple or cherry to balance things out.

In case you are smoking a smaller cut instead of a larger one, I would choose a milder wood.

Go Low and Slow

With smoked pulled pork, it is all about going low and slow. This is why you should never set the temperature above 250 degrees F.

If you do, you risk drying the meat out. You may also not be giving the meat enough time to break down and become more tender.

Place the Pork Shoulder with the Fat Side Facing Towards the Heat Source

You may often heard people argue whether the pork shoulder should be placed fat side up or down.

Turns out that this argument isn't really necessary. You have to place the pork shoulder so that the fat cap is facing the direction of the heat source.

This way, the fat is able to take the brunt of the heat. The rest of the meat is cooked at a slower rate and is less prone to drying out. Thus, you keep your pork shoulder moist.

Smoke the Pork Shoulder for Longer

As I mentioned earlier, pork shoulder is considered done at 145 F. When making shredded pork, though, you need to cook it for longer.

This ensures that the tissues have softened up and are practically falling off the bone. Not only does this offer a far better texture but it also makes it easier to pull the meat apart.

meat on the bbq grill

It is a good idea to cook the pork shoulder until the internal temperature reaches 190 to 195 degrees F.

Make sure to take it out at this point, though. Even when removed from heat, the internal temperature of the pork shoulder will continue to rise. It can go up by as much as 10 degrees in some cases.

Taking it out at the right point will prevent the meat from overcooking and becoming a soggy mess.

Let the Pork Shoulder Rest

As the pork shoulder cooks, liquid is squeezed out of the tissues. Once the pork has had time to cool down, though, the picnic shoulder is able to reabsorb this moisture right back. This produces a more tender end result.

This is why it is so important for you to let your pork shoulder rest. Do this for at least 30 minutes before cutting into the meat and you are sure to notice the results.

Shred the Pork Shoulder Carefully

When pulling apart the cooked pork shoulder, it is all about getting the right texture. This means that while you should have fairly thready meat, you shouldn't pull apart the meat so extensively that it becomes mushy.

Bear claws or a shredding tool will get this job done best. Dinner forks have been found to be just as useful but often require quite a bit more elbow grease.

While you can use a handheld mixer to break up the meat more easily, do be careful. This machine is pretty powerful and you can turn the meat to mush if you don't do this slowly.

Use Homemade BBQ Sauce

You are absolutely free to use your favorite BBQ sauce for the shredded pork. However, you have to agree that most commercially available sauces aren't that great.

They tend to be too sweet or have an odd aftertaste. Considering how much hard work you have put into making your pork shoulder, it would stand to reason that you topped it off with the very best sauce.

Now, I know that making your own sauce can seem intimidating but this isn't the case at all! All you need are a few ingredients such as brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, and seasonings - ingredients who may already have.

Trust me - it really will make all the difference.

Related Reading

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How Long Does It Take to Cook Pork at 250 Degrees?

It can take around 90 minutes to cook a single pound of pork shoulder.

2. How Long Does It Take to Smoke a 8lb Pork Shoulder at 225?

It takes about the same amount of time to cook pork shoulder at 225 as it does as 250. As such, it can take around 12 hours to smoke a cut of this size.

Wrapping It Up

If you were curious about how long to smoke a pork shoulder at 250 degrees, you now have your answer! This should make it easier for you to keep track of how your smoked pork shoulder is coming along. In turn, you will be able to tell just when to wrap the meat and take it out of the smoker too!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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