Go Back
+ servings

How to Cook Pork Shoulder

Whether you're looking for how to cook a pork shoulder and make pulled pork in a slow cooker, Dutch oven, or smoker, this is the recipe for you! All instructions are included!
Course Main Course, Main Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword how to cook pork shoulder, pulled pork
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 9 hours
Servings 15
Calories 291kcal
Author Rebecca Lindamood


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable, canola, sunflower, or peanut oil
  • 10 pounds pork shoulder bone-in or boneless
  • 2 onions peeled and sliced into thick slabs
  • 12 cloves garlic peeled and left whole
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups water, broth, orange juice, hard cider, or lager beer


  • stems of fresh cilantro or parsley for flavour and taste
  • other aromatics like toasted dried chile peppers, fresh hot peppers, or spice blends


How to Prepare a Pork Shoulder for Cooking

  • Trim any large sections of fat away from the outside of the shoulder, leaving small amounts and interior fat. Sprinkle the surface with salt and pepper.

How to Cook Pork Shoulder in a Dutch Oven

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  • Place your 5 quart or larger dutch oven over medium high heat. If you’d like to sear the pork shoulder first, you can, but it’s not strictly necessary.
  • To sear the pork, drizzle a tablespoon of oil into the Dutch oven and place it over medium high heat. Add the pork shoulder and brown on all sides.
  • Nestle the sliced onions and garlic around the sides of the pork shoulder, add the liquid, then bring to a simmer. Cover with the lid and carefully transfer the whole thing to the oven.
  • Set the timer for 2 hours when you’ll begin checking it for doneness. The time it takes your pork shoulder to be done cooking will vary wildly based on a variety of factors including the starting weight and whether it is bone-in or boneless.
  • Check the pork shoulder every 30 minutes after the 2 hour timer for doneness. A finished pork shoulder will fall away from the bone or shred easily when prodded with forks.
  • When in doubt, cook for another half an hour. It’s nearly impossible for you to over-cook pork shoulder, particularly when you're checking it every half hour.

How to Cook Pork Shoulder in a Slow Cooker

  • Place the prepared shoulder into a large slow-cooker. A 10 pound shoulder will likely require an 8 quart or larger slow cooker. Smaller pork shoulders can go into smaller slow cookers.
  • Add all remaining ingredients, put the lid in place, and cook on HIGH for 1 hour.
  • Turn the slow-cooker to low, and cook for 7 to 12 hours, or until the meat is fall-apart tender.

How to Cook Pork Shoulder in a Smoker

  • If you like, you can use a barbecue spice rub on the trimmed pork shoulder in place of salt and pepper. Just rub it generously.
  • Preheat a smoker to 250°F with the wood of your choice for at least 10 minutes.
  • Place the pork shoulder directly on the grate with a drip pan underneath it to catch fat. Smoke for 3 to 5 hours hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 160°F.
  • Transfer the pork shoulder to a disposable aluminum pan and add in the onions, garlic, and pour in apple cider, hard cider, or lager beer with the pork shoulder. Do not use herbs or other aromatics with smoked pork. Tightly cover with foil and continue cooking for an additional 3 to 4 hours or until the internal temperature of the pork at its thickest part reaches 204°F.

How to Pull Pork

  • When it's so tender it falls apart, carefully move the pork shoulder to a large, heat-roof mixing bowl. Strain the cooking liquid and any aromatics through a fine mesh sieve or colander set over a saucepan on medium high heat.
  • While the pan juices reduce to 1/3 of their original volume, use two forks or my favourite heat-proof barbecue gloves to shred or pull the pork into bite sized pieces.
  • Add the reduced pan juices a couple of tablespoons at a time, tossing to coat until the pulled pork is as dressed as you'd like it.


Calories: 291kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 124mg | Sodium: 608mg | Potassium: 660mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 11IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 34mg | Iron: 2mg