There are really only two reasons you’d be here right now.
I’m going to guess that you either forgot to take the pork out of the freezer in time or your cravings for pulled pork kicked in and you simply can’t wait for your frozen pork to thaw.
After all, thawing large cuts of meat like pork shoulder/pork butt can literally take days in the refrigerator.
So you may be thinking: instead of waiting impatiently, can you simply smoke your pork butt/pork shoulder from frozen?
Let’s do a test and find out.
The first thing to preface is that smoking a properly thawed pork butt/shoulder is a lot easier and will always yield better results than smoking one from frozen.
In saying that, it is still possible smoke a pork shoulder even if it’s frozen.
However, it does take SIGNIFICANTLY longer to cook and the exterior of the meat can overcook and dry out much more easily.
Luckily, when you make pulled pork the meat mixes together nicely. Some people even prefer to have some bits chewy and some bits soft, so it’s a win there.
All in all, it IS entirely possible to smoke a frozen pork butt/shoulder, but you should adjust your approach slightly to help yield the best results.
How To Smoke A Pork Shoulder From Frozen
The task of smoking a frozen pork shoulder should never be taken lightly. Not to mention it’s going to take at least an extra few hours in the smoker to get up to temp.
Whether you’ve just taken your pork shoulder out of the freezer or it’s been partially defrosted first, you’ve got a mission on your hands.
Without further adieu, here’s the best method to smoking a pork shoulder from frozen.
Step 1: Preparations
The absolute first thing you should do is take your pork shoulder out of the freezer!
Even though you’ll be cooking it from frozen, every minute it’s defrosting is going to be helping the process.
Preheat your smoker to 250-275°F, and set up your workstation as your pork begins to thaw partially.
Step 2: Apply The Rub/Seasoning
If your meat is frozen solid like a brick, it’s going to be extremely tough for any rub and seasoning to effectively stick.
This is one major downfall of smoking a pork shoulder straight from frozen.
To combat this, you should always use a binder before applying any of your seasonings or rubs.
Generously lather up your pork in a binder like mustard or ketchup before applying a handsome coating of your favorite rub or seasoning.
Step 3: Smoking Time
Finally, time to smoke!
Once your smoker is up to 250-275°F and that clean white smoke is rolling, place your pork shoulder fat side up in the best smoking position your smoker offers.
Give your pork shoulder 3 hours completely untouched before you even think about opening that hood.
After 3 hours you can start spritzing your pork every 1.5 – 2.5 hours. Water or apple juice does just fine.
This is an essential part of smoking a frozen pork shoulder, as you really don’t want to risk the exterior getting too dry!
Step 4: Time To Wrap
After roughly 6-8 hours and once you’re satisfied with the bark formation, then it’s time to wrap it up in aluminum foil or butcher’s paper for the remainder of the cook.
Not only will this lock in all the remaining moisture, which stops things getting too dry, but it will also dramatically help the cooking process.
This step is more essential than ever when you’re smoking a frozen pork shoulder as opposed to a thawed one.
Step 5: Rest, Sauce, & Shred
Once your pork reaches an internal temperature of 205°F in the thickest part of the meat and it’s probing like butter, then you, my friend, are done.
Don’t be alarmed if your pork shoulder feels a little tougher than usual on the exterior. It’s just a result of smoking it from frozen.
Rest your pork for between 15 – 45 minutes, add your favorite sauce, broth, or juice, and begin to shred your glorious creation.
After this entire process, I guarantee you your guests, family, or friends wouldn’t even guess it was smoked straight from frozen!
How Long Does It Take To Smoke A Frozen Pork Butt/Shoulder
At 250-275°F, a fully thawed pork butt/shoulder generally takes 1.5 hours of smoking time per pound of pork.
But, at 250-275°F a fully frozen pork butt shoulder takes between 2 – 2.5 hours of smoking time per pound of pork.
There are two main reasons it takes so much longer to smoke larger cuts of meat from frozen:
- The meat starts at a lower temperature and remains at much lower temperatures for much longer. It essentially needs to thaw in the smoker before the cooking process starts.
- The frozen meat lowers the ambient temperature of the smoker, which ultimately slows down the cooking process further.
What Can Go Wrong When Cooking Frozen Pork Butt/Shoulder
Cooking frozen pork butt/shoulder is not a walk in the park.
There are a few things that can go very wrong that impact the end product.
For one, don’t underestimate the time it will take to properly cook your pork from frozen. Where a normal, thawed pork shoulder takes 10 hours to smoke, a frozen one of the same size can take 15 hours to smoke.
Prepare for this so you’re not sitting there with hungry guests. Check out this guide for preparing pulled pork for a crowd for more info.
Secondly, because of the much longer exposure to heat and smoke, your pork butt/shoulder is much more likely to dry out, becoming much too tough on the exterior.
To combat this it’s essential to keep it moist. Spritzing and wrapping early really helps.
Lastly, because the meat cooks much more unevenly, it’s common to get varying degrees of tenderness in different parts of the meat. Pulling your pork and mixing it all up does help to disguise this, but it does happen nonetheless.
Why You Should Thaw Pork Shoulder Before Smoking (If Possible)
Smoking a properly thawed pork shoulder is always quicker, safer, and yields a better result than smoking a frozen pork shoulder.
Thawing pork shoulder before smoking it will ensure it cooks more evenly, the bark develops properly, and it remains moist and juicy.
Plus, if you’re wanting to trim the pork fat down a little you can’t do it when it’s completely frozen!
It’s as simple as that.
If you really don’t have the time to thaw it, then it’s completely OK to smoke it from frozen. But remember, you’re adding significantly more time to cook, and it’s at risk of becoming much more mediocre!
I would always recommend trying to at least partially thaw your pork shoulder before you start the process, if not thawing it completely.
After all, you’re investing so much time and effort into the smoking process that you don’t want to be disappointed.
In saying that, it’s entirely possible to smoke a pork butt/shoulder from frozen with amazing results. Just be aware that it’s going to take a lot longer, and you’ll need to ensure it stays moist throughout the entire process!
Spritizing and wrapping it early are your keys to victory.
Best of luck and save me a bite!