Dizzy Tips: How to Select Pork Shoulder for Pulled Pork

The pork shoulder is the entire front leg and shoulder of a hog.

Typically weighing between 14-18 lbs, it is divided into two parts – the Boston Butt (aka Boston Roast, Pork Butt) and Picnic shoulder.

The pork shoulder is a fatty, tough, and affordable cut of meat. But when cooked low and slow for several hours, the fat melts away and the collagen breaks down. What you get is tender and juicy shreds of meat.


Number 1Meat Selection

When selecting meat from the shoulder, whether it be the picnic, the Boston butt, or the whole shoulder, it is a good idea to use a reliable meat packer or butcher that you know gets pork from a good source.

Make sure the meat is all-natural. The easiest way to ruin your barbecue is to purchase an enhanced piece of meat. Avoid anything that says “self basting” or “injected with a solution”.

Pork is not graded like beef, so it is even more important to know what you are looking for. The meat should be reddish pink, and not light pink. The fat cap should be pearl white, and the meat should have plenty of internal fat.

Nicely marbled pork butt
Meat should be reddish pink with plenty of internal fat, and fat cap should be pearl white.

Analyzing the fat content in pork takes a little practice because it all looks fatty to the untrained eye. It always helps to have several to compare. You’ll start noticing the fat in certain muscles. Unlike beef, the fat is not always in straight lines embedded in the grain, it is more of an irregular marbling pattern. Try and look at the same muscle in each piece you compare, and you’ll notice that some are way more marbled than others. Some of the main “veins” of fat will be thicker. Once you see it, it will be obvious that the hog was eating well and not skipping breakfast.

A fat pig is a happy pig, and a happy pig tastes good!


Meat Trimming

I like to leave the entire fat cap on, which I place on the cooker facing down. The fat cap protects the meat from the heat that is coming from below.

Everything else on the butt gets trimmed down to meat. Trim excess fat, silver skin, and membranes from the rest of the pork butt. Optimally, you want the rub to build a crust on the meat itself, so make sure and trim everything that is not meat. The rub, the smoke, the juices from the meat all work together to create a beautiful and flavorful crust. The last thing you want is to have that amazing crust on a membrane or chunk of fat that slides off when you are pulling.



Injections can impart some great flavors into the depths of your meat and help a little with moisture content of the final product. Over the years I have found it is easy to put too much flavor into your pork. Pork, after all, tastes pretty damn good. So I stick with pork stock, salt and sugar. Pork loves salt and a little sweetness, and you can’t go wrong with a little more pure pork flavor!

Injecting pork butt with moisture and flavor
Be careful not to put too much flavor into your pork.

You may want to put your own twist on this, but I recommend starting pure, then adding flavors later based on your liking. It can’t hurt to throw in a TBSP or so of MSG if you do that kind of thing.

There are lot of muscles in a pork shoulder, so inject marinade into all sections of the butt. I find it best to punch a hole and go in at an angle, then just before the needle pulls all the way out, insert at a different angle. The less holes you punch, the better. Re-inject any excess liquid that ends up in the pan.



It is pretty hard to over-salt a pork butt, and salt enhances pork beautifully. Also, Dizzy Pig seasonings do not have a ton of salt in them. So I apply a light dusting of Coarse Kosher Salt all over the butt.

Now for the seasoning. The butt will probably still be damp with a thin layer of the injection on the outside, which is the perfect amount of moisture to help the rub adhere.

Apply a heavy coating of Dizzy Pig Crossroads Authentic Southern BBQ Rub or your favorite Dizzy Pig blend (Dizzy Dust All Purpose BBQ rub, Raging River Salmon rub, Swamp Venom Hot Deep South Seasoning are also excellent) and press in with your hands, until the entire butt is covered. It is hard to put too much on, and the long cook will not only build your luscious crust, but will mellow and round out the spices to create a perfect flavorful bark.

Salted and partially rubbed
Apply a heavy coating of Dizzy Pig Seasonings and give it time to set up.

Once applied, give the seasoning some time to set up and “melt in”. Cover and rest for at least 30 minutes, and up to 3 hours. May as well do this before you fire up your cooker.


First Time Making Pulled Pork? Check out our Recipes!

Competition Style Pork Butt Recipe

Recent Posts

Let's talk about ginger root


The Amazing & Mighty Ginger

Part of cold weather cooking includes working in Superfoods that keep us healthy and nourish us to stay well. Ginger is a big player here. Read More

Garlic, turmeric, star anise are superfood spices


Healthy food can be delicious too: How Dizzy Pig uses Superfoods to spice things up!

Using superfood spices is an easy way to not only make food taste better but also get the health benefits we have all learned are vital. Read More

Dizzy Pig competition barbecue team wins in Harpoon Vermont

Dizzy Tips

6 Award-Winning Tips for Moist and Tender BBQ

Winning over a pro BBQ contest judge is not easy, it takes moist, tender, and tasty BBQ and a lot of know-how. Read More