Smoked Venison Shoulder Barbacoa Recipe

Keep a shoulder whole the next time you butcher a deer for this fall-off-the-bone recipe.

By author of Timber 2 Table Wild Game Recipes Print Recipe
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Slow smoking a venison shoulder from start to finish yields great flavor, but the texture can be a little bit like jerky. Slow cooking a shoulder with a bit of liquid makes for fall-off-the-bone venison, but the flavor can be a little mild. Why not combine the two cooking methods?

The long cooking time melts the connective tissue and makes the meat fall from the bone.

That's exactly what this smoked barbacoa recipe does. Start it out by smoking the rub-coated shoulder at low temperatures for a few hours, then transfer it over to a large aluminum pan, add onions, peppers, spices, and a beer for a bit of moisture, then seal it all up with foil and continue cooking until the meat falls from the bone. All that connective tissue in the shoulder melts into the meat, giving it an unctuous goodness and spectacular flavor.

Coat the shoulder all over with the spice rub.

We like to cook this one for big family get-togethers, set out a spread of flour and corn tortillas, salsas, sour cream, cheeses, anything you like on a taco. Let your guests build their own taco and top it any way they like. 

Set out different tortillas and lots of toppings so your guests or family can build their own tacos.


I whole venison shoulder

4 bell peppers, quartered

4 onions, quartered

1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 can or bottle of dark beer


Spice rub

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons crushed oregano

2 teaspoons onion powder

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin


Cooking Instructions

Begin by coating the entire shoulder with the seasoning rub. Reserve 2 teaspoons of the rub for later, pack the rest onto the shoulder. 

Set your Traeger grill at 225. Place the shoulder directly on the grill rack and smoke for 3 hours.

After smoking the shoulder for a few hours, add it to the pan with the peppers and onions.

Transfer the shoulder to a large disposable aluminum pan. Add the onions, peppers, chipotles (with sauce), garlic, and beer. Sprinkle the reserved rub over the vegetables. Seal the pan tightly with foil and return to the grill. Raise the temperature to 300 and cook for an additional 3-4 hours until the meat is shreddable and falls easily from the bone. 

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