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Smoked Pork Shoulder

Pork Shoulder
Boston butt smoking on barbeque.Robert Lowdon / Getty Images
Cook Time:
7 hrs
Prep Time:
10 mins
makes 25 to 30 servings

Chef notes

If you're following the keto diet, a pork shoulder is your friend. Make no mistake about it: A whole bone-in pork shoulder is still somewhat of a project to cook. However, it's guaranteed not only to keep you on your diet plan, but also to have plenty of delicious smoked meat to share with your family, friends and neighbors, too.


Pit Mop (makes about 1½ gallons)
  • 1 gallon distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 4 lemons, halved
BBQ Vinegar Sauce (makes about 3½ cups)
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoons monk fruit sweetener
Pork Shoulder
  • 1 (15- to 20-pound) bone-in, whole pork shoulder
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • gallons Pit Mop (recipe above)
  • cups Vinegar BBQ Sauce (recipe above)


For the pit mop:

Combine all the ingredients and ½ gallon of water in a large pot and set it over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil so that the pepper flakes open up and infuse the mop with flavor. Let the mop cool completely, about 1 hour.

Funnel the sauce into bottles or containers of your choice. Cover tightly. The sauce will keep, refrigerated, for up to 1 year. You can portion it out as you cook barbecue along the way.

For the BBQ vinegar sauce:

In a heavy, medium-sized pot set over medium heat, combine the vinegar, tomato paste and hot sauce. Stir until well mixed. Add the salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and stir to dissolve. Stir in the monk fruit sweetener and allow the mixture to come to a simmer but do not let it boil. When the spices are thoroughly dissolved, take the pot off the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature. Funnel the sauce into bottles or containers of your choice. Cover tightly. The sauce will keep, refrigerated, for up to 1 year.

For the pork:


Select and prep the meat. My daddy didn't trim pork shoulders too much; maybe he cut away extra skin or large hunks of sinew hanging off a shoulder, but mostly he kept it simple and liked to take the shoulders straight from the butcher. Do it like he did: lay the shoulder out on a table covered with butcher paper or another sanitary covering, then rub it down all over the inside and the outside with white vinegar. Season all over with salt and pepper.


Heat your smoker to 250 F.


Place the shoulder in a large aluminum pan, meat side down. Transfer the pan to the smoker and cook for 3 hours.


Remove the pan from the heat. Poke the skin with a sharp knife in three places. Using heat insulated gloves or tongs, carefully flip the shoulder so that it is now skin side down. Cover the pan with aluminum foil.


Return the shoulder to the smoker. Cook for about 6 hours, all the while keeping the smoker temperature consistent at 250 F. Every hour, open up your smoker, remove the foil covering, and mop your meat.


After four hours, start checking the meat for doneness. My dad did this by grabbing the blade bone and pulling it. (Wear your heavy-duty work gloves to do this, if you like.) You want that meat to be almost falling-off-the-bone tender. If the bones are slipping easily, we're going to pull the shoulder out. If not, we're going on for 1 to 2 hours more. Again, we're mopping at 90-minute intervals until the meat is done. It's done when the temperature is 205 F.


When the meat is done, pull it from the smoker and let it rest for 1 hour. My dad pulled all the meat from the shoulders by hand and with tongs, simply grabbing off pieces and collecting them in a large aluminum pan. At this point, lightly sauce the meat with the vinegar-based sauce and make barbecue platters or sandwiches.