Traeger Carolina Pork Shoulder – Recipe and Cooking Guide

Hey Smokers, and welcome to my post where we will run through my Traeger Carolina Pork Shoulder recipe and cooking guide. As you may or may not know, this site is all about cooking on my Traeger Pro Series 22 Pellet Smoker and seeing where we can take things. And today, I venture into an area that I have never been to before, the Carolina form of cooking!

Traeger Carolina Pork Shoulder - Header

I am not from the Carolinas and would certainly not pretend to fully know the flavors of their BBQ, however I do know that this style is known for its tanginess which comes primarily from the Apple Cider Vinegar used in the marinades and sauces. The tomato sauce (ketchup), however is optional depending on the part of the Carolina’s you come from.

Interestingly, my first ever taste of “American BBQ” was actually a Carolina pulled pork sandwich at the Kentucky Derby years ago. I remember how tangy it was and so different from anything we had here in Australia. Funnily enough though, I never actually looked at it again, until now……

Where’s the video Paul? Ummmm, it was all jumpy and kept stalling so I couldn’t use it. I have pictures as below but never fear, as I enjoyed the results here so much that I will do it again very soon with a video for you to watch.

Check out my post: Pork Shoulder vs Pork Butt

Traeger Carolina Pork Shoulder: What You’ll Need

Ok, so below is what I used to cook me some Carolina pork shoulder on the smoker:


  • 5-6 pounds pork shoulder (also known as pork butt)

Pork Marinade

  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)

Carolina BBQ Sauce

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce (such as Tabasco or Texas Pete)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)


  • Pellet smoker
  • Saucepan and hotplate for sauce

The Cooking Process

This is what I did and when:

Preparing the Pork:

  1. Trim the Pork: Trim any excess fat from the pork shoulder, leaving a thin layer to keep it moist during cooking.
  2. Season the Pork: In a small bowl, mix together the yellow mustard, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, salt, and cayenne pepper to form a marinade (or a very wet rub).
  3. Apply the Rub: Rub the spice mixture all over the pork shoulder, ensuring it’s evenly coated. Let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight, to allow the flavors to penetrate the meat.

I will say here from the outset that this was a really different way of smoking a port shoulder than I was used to. I have always followed the old rub, smoke till after the crawl, wrap will internal temp and then rest as long as possible.

Working with marinades and and then, as we will see below, not wrapping at all, was a a test for me, but it was a lot of fun to learn something new for sure.

Marinating Vs Brining - Marinated pork shoulder

Smoking the Pork:

  1. Preheat the Pellet Smoker: Preheat your pellet smoker to 225°F (107°C). I used Apple pellets but you can obviously use whatever you like to at the time.
  2. Smoke the Pork: Place the seasoned pork shoulder directly on the smoker rack, fat side up. Close the lid and let it smoke for about 6-8 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 195-205°F (90-96°C). – Yep – no wrap!
  3. Spritzing: Every hour or so, spritz the pork with apple juice to keep it moist and enhance the flavor.
  4. Check for Doneness: Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the pork in several places to ensure it’s cooked through and tender. It should easily shred apart with a fork when it’s done.

One of the reasons I have always wrapped my shoulder was to keep the moisture in. hence, I must admit to being a little nervous about leaving this one on the smoker for so long (needlessly I might add).

However during the cook, I used an apple cider spritz on the meat every half hour to an hour. I also used a drip pan filled with water under the grill tray as well.

Traeger Carolina Pork Shoulder - Sauce and cooked meat

Rest the Pork:

  1. Rest the Pork: Once done, remove the pork shoulder from the smoker and let it rest for about about an hour (or longer if you can). This allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in a juicier and more flavorful pulled pork.

Making the Sauce

Whilst the pork is smoking away merrily, you can create the sauce as follows:

  1. Combine Ingredients: In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar and blend the flavors.
  2. Simmer and Stir: Once the sauce begins to simmer, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer gently for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Adjust Consistency: If the sauce is too thick for your liking, you can thin it out with a bit of water or apple cider vinegar. If it’s too thin, you can simmer it for a few more minutes to thicken it up.
  4. Taste and Adjust Seasoning: Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning to your preference. Add more salt, pepper, or hot sauce if desired.
  5. Cool and Store: Once done, remove the saucepan from the heat and let the Carolina BBQ sauce cool to room temperature. Transfer it to a jar or airtight container and store it in the refrigerator until ready to use.

This makes one of the tangiest and most delicious BBQ sauces I have ever made and certainly brought back memories of that very first taste way back when.

I did however have trouble getting the mustard to fully dissolve so I actually pushed it through a mesh sieve to mix it properly as well.

Serving the Pork

  1. Shred the Pork: Using two forks, shred the smoked pork shoulder into small, bite-sized pieces.
  2. Sauce the Pork: Toss the shredded pork with your barbecue sauce or keep it as is and add as you need.
Traeger Carolina Pork Shoulder - pulled meat

My Results

Oh.. My. God. It was so good. Put it this way, my 12 year old son, who is usually quite picky when it comes to the delights I produce on my BBQ, couldn’t seem to get enough pork and sauce onto his bread roll.

For me, I really enjoyed the flavor that the marinade left on the meat which is something that I believe I would not have got had I wrapped it during cooking. However, as the end of the day, it was something I really enjoyed learning about and something I highly recommend you try.


What is Carolina BBQ?

Carolina BBQ refers to the barbecue cooking style and traditions originating from the state of North Carolina and South Carolina in the United States. It is known for its emphasis on slow-cooked, smoked meats, particularly pork, and distinct regional vinegar based sauces.

How is Carolina BBQ meat cooked?

Carolina BBQ meat is typically cooked low and slow over indirect heat, often using traditional barbecue methods such as smoking or pit-roasting. Wood smoke, such as hickory or oak, is commonly used to impart a rich smoky flavor to the meat.


So there you have it, my recipe and cooking guide for some Traeger Carolina Pork Shoulder action. I hope it has been of assistance but as usual, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to reach out by commenting below. I would also love to hear of your own experiences, preferences or suggestions here as well.

Are there any other products you have been looking at but want to know more about? If so, please comment below and I will do my best to get some details for you.

Until next time

Have fun and get smoking!


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