Pork shoulder, also known as pork butt, tastes magical when juicy. How do you ensure that pork remains juicy and tender after being smoked for a few hours? The secret is to prepare the right brine solution for the pork to soak in. Here, we will tell you how to brine pork shoulder and more about the timings and ingredients needed for the brine.
How to Brine Pork Shoulder
Pork shoulder is one of those dishes that tastes great, regardless of the method used for cooking it. By ensuring that you brine the meat properly before smoking, you can be sure of retaining the natural flavors intact.
Before we understand how to make a brine for pork shoulder and the time for brining, here are some basic points you should know about the meat.
Contrary to popular belief, pork butt doesn’t come where you think. It’s actually the meat found on the pig’s front leg’s upper shoulder portion. In some parts of the US, pork shoulder is also known as Boston butt. Next, we like to introduce you to the question that may have formed in many people’s minds – is brining pork shoulder necessary?
Yes, it’s absolutely necessary to brine, because if you don’t do so, the meat will become dry and dehydrated after the cooking process.
As a result, your entire dish will taste bland. If you want to master the art of how to brine pork shoulder the right way, you should understand the reasons for the process.
- The salts in the brining solution keep the meat tender, juicy, and moist throughout the cooking process.
- The taste and flavor of the ingredients you use in the brining solution get absorbed into the pork butt, making it tastier and juicier than before.
You should never forget to brine before smoking if you want to savor tasty and juicy meat at the end of the process.
How to Make a Brine for Pork Shoulder
Here, we have given you the basic brine recipe pork shoulder. You can add as many modifications to it as you want, based on your taste preferences.
We recommend you keep the brine recipe as simple as possible, as too many flavors can disrupt the meat’s natural flavors.
What you will need to prepare the brine
- Zipper lock bags – size of 2 ½ gallons
- Apple juice – 6 to 7 cups
- Water – 2 cups
- ACV – 2 cups (simple vinegar would also do)
- Soy sauce, brown sugar and kosher salt – ¼ cup each (always use equal quantities)
- Garlic cloves – about 4 (crush them well)
- Bay leaves (optional) – around 6
- Celery sticks – 3 stalks
Some modifications you can try
There’s no hard and fast rule for preparing the recipe to learn how to brine. You can add herbs, spices, and flavors to suit your preferences.
Here are some modifications you’re free to try:
- You can add additional spices like peppercorns, onion powder, and garlic powder (about 2 tablespoons each to the recipe that we mentioned above).
- You can avoid bay leaves if you don’t like the flavor, and add cayenne pepper for a spicy solution.
The Process of How to Brine Pork Shoulder
In a bowl, mix water and brown sugar. Keep stirring until the sugar dissolves completely.
- You can now mix all the other ingredients in the solution and stir well before pouring it into the zipper-lock bags. However, don’t put everything away in the sealed bags. Set aside about 2 to 3 cups of brine solution. This will be useful to you later.
- Place the cleaned pork butt in the bags. Seal the bags tightly before you put it away in the refrigerator. We recommend you soak the meat in the brine solution for about 24 hours.
What is the Recommended Time?
Pork butt is quite fatty in nature. Therefore, you don’t have to soak the meat in brine for a long time.
The ideal time is anywhere between 8 and 24 hours. However, the time depends on the size of the meat.
If you’re not sure about the size, you can soak the pork shoulder in the brine solution overnight.
According to culinary experts, you should leave the shoulder soaked in brine overnight (for about 8 to 12 hours at least) for the meat to turn juicy and moist while cooking.
Cooking the Brine-Soaked Pork Shoulder
Now that you have understood how to brine pork shoulder the right way, let’s proceed to tell you more about cooking it.
Here are some simple tips you have to follow while smoking the pork shoulder:
- Before putting the meat in the smoker or oven, you have to rinse it thoroughly to eliminate all the salt and flavors. Wipe the meat dry using a clean towel to remove all traces of moisture.
- Set your smoker to 225 degrees F. If you’re using an oven, you can set it to a temperature of 300 degrees F.
- Slowly smoke the shoulder for 6 to 8 hours, brushing the meat with a generous layer of brine solution that you reserved earlier, once every hour. If you’re hard-pressed for time, you can cook pork butt for about 2 to 3 hours. However, it’s best to use the slow-smoking process.
- Stop smoking when the meat’s temperature reaches 160 degrees F. At this stage, bring the meat from the smoker and leave it at room temperature for 30 minutes. You can wrap the meat, if you want for the last 30 minutes, to keep it moist and juicy.
Since pork shoulder is naturally high on fat content, some people avoid brining the meat completely.
However, we definitely recommend you to use a simple brine recipe and leave the meat soaked in it overnight before proceeding to smoke the same.
If you have time, you can also leave the pork shoulder in the brine solution for 24 hours.