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Easy Pulled Pork Shoulder Recipe (Traeger Smoked)

Easy Pulled Pork Shoulder is packed with flavor from two ingredients, and lots of time on a Traeger Grill! The great flavor from the dry rub and yellow mustard gives you the best pulled pork, with very little effort!

easy pulled pork shoulder

If you’re looking for a super easy Boston butt recipe, this will become your new favorite!

You do need a Traeger Grill or an electric pellet smoker to get the best results from this specific recipe. However! The same dry rub and marinating technique can be applied to a pork roast or boneless pork shoulder that you can smoke on any smoker!

If this is your first time making a pork shoulder roast, you’re in for a treat.

It’s as easy as rubbing down the meat with mustard and seasonings, letting it sit covered tight overnight, and then getting up super early to add the cut of pork to your Traeger Pellet Smoker.

You’ll let the ease of a Traeger Smoker do the work! 

My darling brother has a Traeger and has absolutely mastered the art of slow-cooking pulled pork until it’s tender, juicy, with the most incredible smoky flavor.

I recently visited him and had a fun time making it with him. I couldn’t believe how easy this process was!

You see other people use all the smoking paraphernalia like a spray bottle and pink butcher paper and lots of ingredients, etc. And, while they have their way, John John has his!

I’m sharing with you my experience of John John’s Pulled Pork Recipe and the helpful tips he gave along the way.

How to Make Easy Pulled Pork Shoulder

ingredients for a pulled pork shoulder recipe

First, let’s talk about this cut of pork. We’re using a bone-in pork shoulder, but it might have another name in your market.

  • Boston Butt
  • Picnic Pork
  • Pork Roast
  • Pork Shoulder Roast
  • Pork Butt

The pork shoulder has many names, you just read the majority of the above. It’s a cut of meat that needs a low and slow cooking time, and it’s the best way for a home chef to get barbecue restaurant-worthy pulled meat. 

You could also find a boneless shoulder or boneless pork shoulder. 

This pork butt recipe uses two ingredients! Yes, you read that correctly… TWO ingredients! (Besides the pork shoulder!)

pork shoulder for pulled pork recipe

Carolina Dry Rub from Carolina Brewery. This dry rub is filled with all the seasoning you need. Salt, paprika, brown sugar, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, and black pepper. It’s a great go-to seasoning blend for any pork recipe! Great on smoked chicken, too! 

If you can’t find that dry rub, or you don’t want to wait for an Amazon delivery, choose a dry rub that has similar ingredients. Some of my favorites are Smokehouse Maple Seasoning from McCormick Grill Mates, Honey Hog BBQ from Meat Church, Stubbs Pork Rub, or any spice rub that has brown sugar, spices, and onion powder in it. 

The other ingredient you’ll need is good old-fashioned yellow mustard. Plain, yellow mustard and the cheap one is fine. 

The mustard helps the dry rub adhere to the pork, but it also helps break down connective tissue from the acidic nature of mustard.

Now, let’s go back to the pork shoulder.

You want to choose a bone-in pork shoulder that is smaller in size. Right around the 7-8 pound weight. the better. 

If you need more, buy two and cook together, it doesn’t take any more time. You’ll just line them up in your smoker. 

Now, if you start cooking 4 or 5 of them at the same time, you will most likely need a longer cooking time.

cooking process for pulled pork on a smoker

Preparing the Bone-In Pork Shoulder

You’ve been to the market, picked your pork, and you’re ready to get smoking.

Before you get all excited, the NIGHT BEFORE, you need to prepare your shoulder. You want the extra time of 10+ hours of the simple ingredients getting into all the fibers of the pork.

Let’s get ready to marinate some pork!

Clean off your countertop really well, and have a few items at the ready:

  • Paper Towels – not only to clean up around the pork, but you’ll want to dry off the pork before adding the mustard.
  • ​Plastic Wrap – after you rub down the pork with mustard and seasoning, you’ll tightly wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap. 
  • Casserole Dish – to store the pork in the fridge.
  • Baking Tray – if you don’t want to get this all over your counter, use this to keep it contained.

My darling brother does this on his countertop, with a piece of parchment paper underneath. 

If you’re worried, do the rub-down process inside a large baking sheet. This will keep everything contained and off your counter! 

Remove the wrapping from your pork, then dab it dry with paper towels.

mustard binding for pulled pork

Drizzle mustard over the top of your pork shoulder, and give it a nice massage. All over!

yellow mustard on a pork shoulder

Flip her around and get the mustard all over the picnic roast.

Then, sprinkle the pork rub over the pork. A hefty amount. Using a back-and-forth motion, evenly sprinkle the seasoning over the pork. Don’t worry if you think it’s too much.

seasoning a picnic roast to smoke

​It’s helpful to have someone else do this part, so you don’t have to wash your hands in between.

Rub the seasoning into the pork, all over, just like with the mustard.

carolina barbecue pulled pork recipe

Wrap tight in plastic wrap — a lot of plastic wrap! I like to lay out a few layers of cling wrap, wrap it up, then do it again.

wrapping pork shoulder in plastic wrap

Then, use a casserole dish, and let your pork hang out in the fridge overnight in the fridge. The casserole dish catches anything that might seep out.

Once the pork is in the fridge, it’s completely hands-off. There’s no need to flip the pork, or anything like that, like if you were marinating chicken. 

​Allow the pork to marinate for 8-10 hours, if you can.

You’ll need to be up EARLY in the morning to get the real show started, so count back from 5-6 am to see when you need to get the pork rubbed down and in the fridge.

Cooking Process for Pulled Pork

​Smoking a pork shoulder on an electric smoker takes 12 hours for a 7-8 pound cut on a Traeger Pellet Grill.

The Traeger temperature needs to be 225 degrees. You’ll wake up early in the wee hours, and fire up the Traeger. 

john johns pulled pork recipe

John John uses hickory pellets in his smoker. Select Elite is also a favorite.

If you start with a full hopper you will not need to refill it during the 12-hour cook time.

While the smoker preheats, remove your pork from the fridge, and unwrap from all the plastic wrap. 

You might think the pork needs to be at room temperature before you add it to the smoker, and while that does help in the cooking process, it’s not necessary. Since this pork is cooking for a long time at a low temperature, you can take it right from fridge to smoker without letting it sit out.

If you have one, use a Meater or the electric smoker’s meat prop to keep an eye from afar on the internal temperature. Using a meat thermometer allows you to go about your day, and not “nurse” the grill all day. John John kept an eye on his app and the internal temperature of the pork while we enjoyed ourselves at the North Carolina State Fair!

traeger pulled pork shoulder recipe

Be sure to insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat so you get the most accurate read.

When your electric smoker is at 225˚, place your pork shoulder directly on the grates, fat side down.

Close the lid, and let the smoker do its magic cook time for 12 hours.

DO NOT OPEN THE SMOKER. This is very important. John John said it, so it’s gospel.

In order to break down all the connective tissues you want the smoker to have plenty of time to cook the pork through, but also let all the excess fat melt into the pork. 

traeger smoked pork

The internal temperature of the pork you are aiming for is 203-207 degrees f. John John said the sweet spot is removing the pork at 205˚ and letting it rest for 45 minutes.

John John’s Helpful Hints: Once the meat reaches 165* “the stall” happens. This is where the waiting process comes in!

What is The Stall? The fat in the meat starts to dissolve, producing moisture, and evaporating within the smoker. Which cools it down the pork. This process can take hours and hours, so let the pork be. 2-3 hours later the temperature will start to rise steadily. 

This is why you plan on a 12-hour cook time for the best end result.

If this is your first time cooking on an electric smoker, the app is a great resource. Look at the recipes and reviews for various Traeger pork recipes and find one you love.

Once your pork has reached 205 degrees, remove it from the smoker and let the meat rest on a large cutting board covered with aluminum foil for 45 minutes.

how to shred pork shoulder

​Frequently Asked Questions:

Why do you put the shoulder fat cap side down?

The reason it’s okay right on the grill grates is that you don’t eat the fat strip. You want it to stick to the grill, the meat separating when you pick it up. 

How long does it take to cook a pork shoulder roast on a pellet grill?

​For a 7-8 pound pork shoulder, with the bone in, it will take about 12 hours.

How long to smoke a 4 lb pork shoulder?

At 225 degrees, a 4 lb pork shoulder should take about 6 hours.

Serving Traeger Smoked Pulled Pork

After the 45-minute resting period, it’s time to serve this beautiful meat! There are different ways to serve this pork. Pork sandwiches are my favorite!

how to smoke pork butt on a traeger

This meat is impossibly tender, but’s helpful to use some “meat claws” to really get in there and shred it up. 

Serve in a big pile with your favorite barbecue sauce and buns on the side. 

We love using the Eastern Carolina BBQ Sauce from Carolina Brewery

easy pulled pork shoulder

While our family hails from Western North Carolina, home of the tomato-based barbecue sauce, that apple cider vinegar eastern Carolina style sauce is incredible!

Other favorite BBQ sauce ideas to try:

  • ​Sweet Baby Ray’s — this is a staple, it’s always delicious
  • 12 Bones Blueberry Chipotle — Order a little Asheville Barbecue Sauce and taste the magic of this iconic sauce.

​You could turn this into pulled pork sliders for Game Day or serve as pork tacos for Taco Tuesday.

You’ll want to add your favorite sides to your menu, too! We picked up sides from their local BBQ joint in Apex, NC.

traeger pulled pork shoulder

If you want to make your own BBQ restaurant-style side dishes, give these a try!

Old Fashioned Macaroni and Cheese — you’ve got to have a creamy macaroni and cheese casserole on your BBQ menu! This one will remind you of the Piccadilly Cafeteria!

Southern Collard Greens with Bacon — a heaping pile of pulled pork and tender collard greens is what North Carolina barbecue is made of! It’s so good together, you can’t go wrong!

Easy Homemade Cole Slaw — I love making cole slaw at home. This simple homemade cole slaw dressing is a few pantry staples smothered over shredded cabbage and carrots. If you’re feeling frisky, grate up a sweet Vidalia onion into your cole slaw for some extra flavor.

Homemade Baked Beans — Baked Beans are one of my absolute favorite side dish recipes. It’s a great option for everyone! 

Store any leftovers in an airtight container, or freeze them in zip-top freezer bags for later.

how to cook pulled pork on a pellet smoker

Alright, friends! You have everything you need to go and make a delicious pulled pork recipe that your friends and family will love! Cheers to grilling!

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easy pulled pork shoulder

Easy Pulled Pork Shoulder Recipe (Traeger Smoked)

  • Author: Sweetpea
  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 12 hours
  • Total Time: 12 hours 5 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: main dish
  • Method: smoker
  • Cuisine: southern


  • 1, 7-8 pound Bone-In Pork Shoulder
  • 3 TBS Yellow Mustard
  • 3 TBS Carolina Brewery Carolina Rub



  1. Remove the pork shoulder from the packaging.
  2. Blot dry with a paper towel.
  3. Cover in the mustard and massage it all over, on all sides.
  4. Sprinkle with the barbecue rub and massage into the pork on all sides.
  5. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and let rest in the fridge for 10 hours.


  1. Prepare your pellet smoker with a full hopper of pellets, and preheat to 225 degrees.
  2. While the smoker preheats, remove your pork from the fridge and unwrap it from the plastic.
  3. Insert the meat thermometer into the thickest portion of the pork.
  4. When the smoker is ready, place the pork FAT side DOWN on the grill grates.
  5. Close the smoker and let her rip for 12 hours.
  6. Once the internal temperature of the pork reaches 205 degrees, remove it from the smoker and let it rest on a cutting board, covered in foil for 45 minutes.
  7. After 45 minutes of resting, shred with meat claws and serve however you want to!

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