Learn to slow smoke pork shanks until juicy, delicious, and fall off the bone tender for the perfect shredded pulled pork recipe.
Skip the slow cooker and the dutch oven and make delicious smoked pork shanks on your charcoal grill or electric smoker instead.
This is a great alternative to making pulled pork with pork shoulder because it’s a smaller cut, very affordable, and a great method for cooking a tough cut of meat and getting a delicious end result (you can see a similar recipe here for smoked beef shank too).
During the smoking process, the shank meat takes on a nice dark color from the outside bark and keeps the insides tender, and juicy while getting a beautifully rich and smoky flavor.
Why This Recipe Works:
- Low and Slow: Cooking a secondary cut of meat like a pork shank or ham shank allows you to slowly break down the tougher connective tissue and collagen in the meat than if you were to roast or sear it. It’s the best method in my opinion for cooking this affordable cut and making something seriously delicious.
- Versatile: The end result of a smoked shank is pulled pork. I love this version of pulled pork because it is slightly fattier than pork butt or pork shoulder and makes it delicious and juicy all on its own.
- Portion Sizes: Pork shanks are not quite as large as a whole pork butt or pork shoulder and make a more reasonable amount of pulled pork. This is great if you want fresh pulled pork for a smaller crowd, but don’t be fooled; this will still make a lot of food!
- Knife and Cutting Board
- Paper Towel
- Spray Bottle
- Meat Thermometer
- Baking Sheet
Welcome to my virtual classroom! Use the guided notes below where I often answer commonly asked questions I get from readers and cooks just like you.
This information is meant to help you have a stronger understanding of this recipe and the process so you can find success all on your own.
Ready to begin cooking? Simply jump to the recipe card below and begin.
What Is A Pork Shank Cut?
A pork shank cut, also known as pork hocks or ham hocks, is a cut of meat that comes from the lower leg portion of the pig. It is a tough, flavorful cut that is often used in slow-cooking recipes such as stews, soups, and braises.
These cuts are harder to find in a standard grocery store but often found through your local butcher.
The pork shank cut typically includes the bone, meat, and skin. The meat is dark and rich in flavor due to its high fat content and the fact that the pig’s leg muscles are well-exercised.
It can be cooked using a variety of methods but does well when cooked low and slow on the smoker because it will slowly break down the connective tissue and become infused with smoke flavor at the same time.
- 4 Pork Shanks
- Yellow Mustard or Olive Oil
- BBQ Dry Rub
- Beef Broth or Apple Cider Vinegar
- BBQ Sauce
- Remove the pork shank from the packing or butcher paper and remove any excess moisture on the outside of the meat with paper towels.
- Inspect the outside of the pork shank and remove any large hanging pieces of excess fat or skin, but keep the rest of the skin or fat cap intact on the shank.
- Lightly coat the shank in a binder. I prefer to use a light coating of yellow mustard over the surface of the meat so the dry rub can stick.
- Use your favorite pre-made rub or in a small bowl combine kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, smoky paprika, and brown sugar. Season shanks evenly all over with the rub and set them aside while you prep the smoker.
- Preheat the smoker to 250 F. and set it for indirect heat. Use lighter woods like apple, cherry, or pecan wood for this recipe.
- Place shanks directly onto the grill grate and allow them to smoke over low heat for about an hour. After the first hour, begin lightly spraying the outside of the smoked shanks with either diluted apple cider vinegar or beef broth to help build the bark and allow more smoke flavor to adhere to the meat. Spray the meat every hour after this.
- Continue smoking until the pork shank reaches 165 F. internally (typically 3-4 hours or so) and remove them from the grill. Lightly spray the outside and then wrap them tightly in foil and place the pork shanks back onto the smoker. If you prefer, you can also increase the grill temperature up to 275-300 F. at this point to speed up the cooking process.
- Allow the pork shanks to smoke until they are very tender when you insert a thermometer probe. Tenderness is usually achieved when the pork reaches an internal temperature of 195-203 F.
- Remove the pork shanks and wrap them in a towel and place them into a small cooler to rest and finish carryover cooking for at least an hour.
- Carefully remove the foil and you can serve the shank with your favorite BBQ sides as is or pull it and remove the bone.
- Top the pulled pork shank meat with your favorite BBQ sauce and enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions:
The cooking time of a pork shank varies but will take 5-6 hours. Plan to add additional resting time as well for best results.
It is not necessary but can be helpful in adding more flavor to a tougher cut of meat. Try my apple cider beer brine recipe.
You do not have to ever wrap your BBQ, but it is a great way to speed up the cooking process and save time while still keeping the meat juicy and delicious.
Classic BBQ sides pair well with this recipe like baked beans, potato salad, and slaw. You can also try my smoke mac and cheese or make a polenta too.
More Recipes To Try:
Smoked Pork Shank Recipe
- 4 Pork Shanks
- Yellow Mustard
- BBQ Dry Rub
- Beef Broth or Apple Cider Vinegar
- Preheat the smoker to 250 F.
- Remove the pork shanks from the packaging and pat them dry with a paper towel to remove excess moisture.
- Trim any hanging pieces of fat, but leave any remaining fat that's secure in place.
- Lightly coat each pork shank in the mustard binder on all sides. Then lightly coat each shank in a light coating of a BBQ dry rub of your choosing.
- Place the pork shanks onto the grill grates and let them smoke for an hour.
- After an hour, spray the outside of the pork shank lightly with either beef broth or apple cider vinegar that is diluted in a spray bottle. Continue this process every hour or so until the pork shank reaches an internal temperature of 165 F.
- When the pork shanks reach an internal temperature of 165 F., wrap them tightly in foil and return to the smoker. Increase the smoker temperature to 275 F. to speed up the cooking process.
- Continue to smoke the pork shanks until they are tender. Use a thermometer probe to check for tenderness starting at 195 F – 203 F.
- Remove the pork shanks from the smoker and keep them wrapped. Place them wrapped in a clean kitchen towel into a cooler to rest for an hour.
- After an hour, remove and shred by hand into pulled pork and enjoy with BBQ.