Simple Pork Shoulder Brine

Simple Pork Shoulder Brine - Serve moist and delicious meat every time with this simple pork shoulder brine.

This brine is for a pork shoulder (butt) but would work for basically anything. The flavors used are some very basic aromatics. The real power of brine is the salt.

Smoked Pork Shoulder - This recipe and method produces a juicy, tender, perfectly smoked pork butt/shoulder EVERY TIME!Check out our own smoked pork shoulder here! It’s killer! And I don’t lie about the ‘que. 🙂

Brining meat makes whatever you’re cooking come out all the juicier. I am not going to get into the technical aspects of osmosis and salt ions .. let’s keep it easy. Brining prevents dehydration while cooking which means a much moister piece of meat.

Try our amazing Smoked Chicken Wings!

Simple Pork Shoulder Brine brine ingredients on a wooden cutting board

A basic brine is made of salt, sugar, and some aromatics. For this pork shoulder brine, we are using some rosemary, onion, bay leaf, peppercorns, paprika, cayenne, and garlic. You can add whatever flavor profile you like.

Some brine recipes will tell you to use hot water, this is not necessary at all. Feel free, but you can’t add your meat to the brine until it cools. Do what you like, but the salt and sugar will dissolve just fine in room temp water.

Check out our St. Louis Style Ribs!

pork shoulder in the brine in a plastic bag

In a large bowl or pot dissolve the kosher salt and sugar in the 10 cups of water.

Once the salt and sugar are dissolved, get yourself a receptacle for your meat. For us, we like to use a large ziplock bag. We can remove all the air and keep the meat fully submerged in the brine.

Put the pork in what you’re using and add all the remaining ingredients and stir. Cover the meat and refrigerate. If using a plastic bag place it in a roasting pan or larger bowl just in case it leaks.

For our 8 pounds of pork, we’re going to marinate it for 18 hours, but overnight is fine. Smaller cuts of meat require less brining time, larger can stay in for days if you like.

Remove the pork from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.

Once it’s done brining, you’re ready to cook the meat as you will. For us, a rub and onto the smoker!

Pork Brine for Smoking Recipe

Simple Pork Shoulder Brine - Using a brine makes your pork butt extra tender and juicy, every time!
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4.32 from 57 votes

Simple Pork Shoulder Brine

Simple Pork Shoulder Brine – Serve moist and delicious meat every time with this simple pork shoulder brine.
Prep Time5 mins
Brine Time12 hrs
Course: BBQ, Grilling, Main
Cuisine: American
Keyword: barbecue, brine, grilling, pork butt, pork shoulder, smoked, summer
Author: Don’t Sweat The Recipe


  • 10 C Water
  • 3/4 C Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 C Sugar
  • 4 Rosemary Sprigs
  • 2 tbsp Peppercorns
  • 2 Bay leafs
  • 1/2 Onion
  • 6 cloves Garlic, cracked
  • 1 tbsp Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne


  • Dissolve salt, sugar in the water
  • Add the rest of the ingredients
  • Add the meat to the brine
  • Fully submerge meat and refrigerate for 12-18 hours, depending on the size of the cut of meat

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  1. Reply

    Do you have to rinse the meat when yu take it out of the brine

    1. Reply

      No, don’t rinse it. Just remove any of the chunks of herbs that make or may not be stuck on the meat.

  2. Reply

    Hey there. Thanks for the brine and pork shoulder cooking info.
    We are a retired Army family. Kids grown and moved to other states, so we mostly visit over the face book, watching grandkids grow from away is sorta sad. So what to do, what to do other than BBQ.
    I have done alot of cooking, grilling, smoking etc. I have never ever brined anything so this will be a first.

    Keep smiling

    Ray and Diana5 stars

    1. Reply

      31J here, Merrel. Go Army! Thanks for stopping by.

      1. Reply

        13B/31B/31E myself (nothing like the reserve component to switch units out from under you and make you reclass). I’ve taken to brining chicken breast too keep them from drying out too much, but this is going to be my first go with a shoulder.

        1. Reply

          Rock on, Dave. Let us know how it turns out. Go Army!

      2. Reply

        Should you brine pork before cooking with dry rub?

        1. Reply

          Yes. Well, it’s not MANDATORY, but brining it will infuse the meat, making it more tender.

  3. Reply

    Easy to make with results that are amazing. Meat is tender, juicy, and full of flavor.5 stars

  4. Reply

    There’s a red powder in the image and the brine looks brown. I see no red colored spice in the ingrediant list. Is the list missing something?

    1. Reply

      Holy smokes, you’re right! We added paprika and cayenne to our brine as well. We have updated the post and recipe. Thanks for pointing that out!

    2. Reply

      Paprika is red

    3. Reply

      Paprika will color the water

  5. Reply

    After using this brine, would it be too much to also inject the butt?

    1. Reply

      I suppose it all gets down to how TENDER you want your meat. It IS possible to make the meat too tender. It comes down to the texture of the meat. For instance, I love my ribs to be fall off the bone while my wife likes a little pull on hers. I personally would do one OR the other, but then again, it all comes down to choice. Doing both will make the mean all the more tender vs just doing one OR the other.

      1. Reply

        My wife used to make her own BBQ sauce – without ketchup, God Forbid, and she liked her ribs fall of off the bone (Parboiled.) I showed her the magic of low and slow with a dry rub and she won’t have them any other way. And… she’s never been to NC, but she loves Eastern NC pulled pork. Canadians here have never had it. BTW – I smoke my own paprika… just cheaper and tastes fresh.5 stars

        1. Reply

          I lived in Spain for a year next to a huge paprika smokehouse, they made it by the ton every day. Nothing like fresh smoked paprika, the flavor is the best! The whole town smelled like it.

    2. Reply

      Hi Herschel,

      Sorry for being late to this party! If you’re still cooking often, I have a tip that works well for me: keep a few cups of your brine, boil it, allow it to cool and then inject it into your pork shoulder/roast just before cooking, doing injections around the should pretty much every two inches or so (until you feel like you’ve gotten any spots that may have not quite absorbed brine, especially).

      I then tend to spray my pork with a bottle of mixed mop about every 45min-1hr, flipping the roast on the same interval. Mop spritz is 5 part moscato or riesling, three parts pineapple or orange juice and two parts vinegar (white or cider).

      Hope this helps!5 stars

  6. Reply

    I used a slow cooker. Worked out great, very flavorful pork butt. I just shredded it and ate it “plain”. Note: if i’m going to put a sweeter type of barbecue sauce on it next time, I will use less sugar in the brine and add a bit of liquid smoke to it next time. Thanks!5 stars

    1. Reply

      Great recipe. Always wanted to brine a pork shoulder. I used smoked birch and alder coarse salt. Reduced the sugar a bit and substituted hot honey. Deleted the cayenne and used smoked paprika. Came out amazing!!5 stars

  7. Reply

    Should I leave the skin on the pork shoulder or slice it off? It’s pretty thick and fatty. I’m going to want to slow cook in a crock pot after

    1. Reply

      If it’s like crazy fatty, sure you can trim it up a bit. But that fat, if you’re cooking low and slow will render down. It will also add a ton of flavor and moisture to your pork. So, just be mindful of that. The fat is where all the good flavor is.

      I am not sure how you’re planning on serving your pork butt, but we usually shred it, fat and all. 🙂

      Hope this helps!

  8. Reply

    I’ve subsituted jalapeño for the onion. Wish me luck on the pork butt!

    1. Reply

      What a great idea!!! Good luck, let us know how it turned out!

  9. Reply

    We’ll be cooking an entire suckling pig for Christmas using this brine. Thanks for the recipe!

  10. Reply

    do you have to inject some brin into the meat or just submerge it into the brin… Thank you

    1. Reply

      Just submerge it. The salt in the brine will do its work.

  11. Reply

    Has anyone tried putting the meat in coolers? We want to smoke several butts, however, they won’t fit in the fridge.

    1. Reply

      You can use a cooler just make sure you have lots of ice unless it’s winter. Also as the ice melts it will dilute the brine slightly, not by much just something to keep in mind.

      1. Reply

        Bag the ice and float it in the brine in the cooler

        1. Reply

          I actually put the meat and brine in a large ziplock in the cooler, then surround it in ice.

    2. Reply

      This recipe sounds fabulous! Cant wait to taste the end results. The shoulder is c6rrently submerged in the brine for over night for my Mothers Day dinner.

    3. Reply

      Doing 20lbs of pork butt. Double the recipe??

  12. Reply

    Hi, I‘m a little late here. I’ll be using your brine recipe today. What kind of salt does this call for, regular table or Kosher Salt?

    Thanks in Advance

    1. Reply

      Kosher. Enjoy!

  13. Reply

    Your recipe calls for a half onion, but does not indicate if it should be chopped, diced, sliced, etc.

    1. Reply

      A rough chop would do. You’re just trying to infuse some flavor.

  14. Reply

    Quick question. Are you using regular or kosher salt in this recipe? Thanks.

    1. Reply

      We’re using kosher salt. Thanks!

  15. Reply

    Hi. If I brine the shoulder, can I then put it in the smoker to make ham? We love the shoulder more than the hind quarter because it’s so tender.

    1. Reply

      The brine would be great for either cut. Thanks!

  16. Reply

    Trying this today! Thank you

  17. Reply

    Over the years I have only brined a shoulder 1 time and it didn’t seem to make a difference. This brine is more complex and it really did make a difference!! Thanks for moving my skills up the ladder! Go Army beat Navy!!!!!5 stars

    1. Reply

      Awesome!! 🙂 Thanks for giving it a whirl, glad it turned out!

  18. Reply

    How long would you place in a slow cooker for? Our shoulder is 15 pounds…

    1. Reply

      Good gravy, that’s huge! Well, something that big .. figure 1 hour 15 minutes per pound on low. Check out this article:

  19. Reply

    Trying your brine for the first time! I de-boned a pork leg, scored the skin and keeping it in a cooler for 2 days (with ice). I will be stuffing it with apples, onions and garlic, tying it into a spit and open pit BBQing over charcoal…… can’t wait until Saturday!!!!! I love the combo of herbs and spices you’ve chosen for this recipe!!

  20. Reply

    Here we go! trying this brine for a pork shoulder. Having a party tomorrow for my daughter’s 16th. Looking to impress the guest…Thanks for the recipe…

  21. Reply

    So I have a small Pork Leg (or butt) of 4 pounds. Should I leave the skin on? Smoking it tomorrow.

    1. Reply

      The thing to consider is that smoke cannot penetrate much through fat. You will want to remove the skin as well as EXCESS fat so the smoke can get in there.

  22. Reply

    Just put it in the fridge! Can’t wait to smoke it tomorrow using your recipe! I’ll update tomorrow! Thanks! 🙂

    1. Reply

      I struggled with my gas grill to keep it cool enough, and the meat suddenly shot up to 220 degrees, but miraculously, the pork shoulder turned out delicious!5 stars

  23. Reply

    Once the brine is pored off, do you then apply your rub? Then place into the smoker? Or, should the rub be applied to the brine mix?

    1. Reply

      Yes, pour the brine off and then apply your rub. Thanks!

  24. Reply

    How about on high in the crock pot?

  25. Reply

    If i brine the pork should i cut back on the salt in the rub?

    1. Reply

      You can if you like but we don’t.

  26. Reply

    Will this method work well if I want to slice the pork and not have pulled pork?
    I want to make sure it holds together and makes pretty slices

    1. Reply

      Sure will, Karyl. The brining just permeates the meat and flavors it throughout. It won’t turn it into goo. I am using the same brine today as a matter of fact. I have some double bone-in pork chops that I’ll be smoking later.

  27. Reply

    Never brined pork shoulder before. Can’t wait! Do you add rub after the brine? Do you have a good rub recipe? Also fat side up or down?

    1. Reply

      Hey Ben:
      1. Yes, add rub after the brine.
      2. Rub recipe can be found here in the recipe card:
      3. Fat side up! 🙂

      Good luck and let us know how it turned out!

      1. Reply

        Thanks, I was also looking for the same really appreciate you!!

        5 stars

  28. Reply

    I like the simplicity of the brine. After the overnight brine, my plans are to cut it up into 2″ pieces, marinate it and skewer them and grill. Greek souvlaki style!

  29. Reply

    Added dried onion instead of whole onion, dried rosemary instead of fresh, doubled up on the garlic, and added a tablespoon of Hard Core Carnivore Black…we’ll see how my new Kamado Joe handles this monster…5 stars

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