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.
Why The Recipe Works
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.
A basic brine is made of salt, sugar, and some aromatics. We use rosemary, onion, bay leaf, peppercorns, paprika, cayenne, and garlic for this pork shoulder brine.
You can add whatever flavor profile you like.
How To Prepare The Brine
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 dissolve just fine in room-temperature water.
In a large bowl or pot, dissolve the kosher salt and sugar in 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.
That way, we can remove all the air and keep the meat fully submerged in the brine.
Put the pork in what you’re using, 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.
I would not recommend going over 24 hours with the brine. This might produce a too-salty experience for some.
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, we’ll be applying a very tasty rub and doing up a fabulous smoked pork butt.
The main ingredient of every brine is salt. This one ingredient is what is going to flavor your meat. It also is the thing that binds with the protein of the meat, preventing the release of water during the cooking process.
The other items of the brine are those additional flavors that get added with the salt, so it’s really up to you.
- Using herbes de Provence (also called Provencal herbs) adds a spice blend regionally accurate to the region of southeastern France. It goes perfectly with pork.
- Creole seasoning is made up from the ‘trinity’ of onion, celery, and bell pepper with garlic. This makes everything pop, and the tastebuds come alive!
- Other fun spice blends work well with this brine. Things like Honey Habanero, a citrus mojo spice blend, or any kind of sweet heat rub would all work well.
Pork butts should brine overnight for up to 24 hours. Smaller cuts of pork should go from 6-18 hours, depending on their size.
The salt enters the pork and binds to the protein. During the cooking process, this prevents the meat from releasing its water, thereby keeping the meat juicy. It also adds the flavors of the entire brine to the meat, not just to the outside.
No. You may need to remove things from it, such as peppercorns or other large items.
Yes. Refrigeration is required while brining.
Other Delicious Recipes
Simple Pork Shoulder Brine 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 water10 C Water, 3/4 C Kosher Salt, 1/2 C Sugar
- Add the rest of the ingredients4 Rosemary, 2 tbsp Peppercorns, 2 Bay leafs, 1/2 Onion, 6 cloves Garlic, cracked, 1 tbsp Paprika, 1/4 tsp Cayenne
- Add the meat to the brine
- Fully submerge meat and refrigerate for 12-18 hours, depending on the size of the cut of meat
Do you have to rinse the meat when yu take it out of the brine
No, don’t rinse it. Just remove any of the chunks of herbs that make or may not be stuck on the meat.
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.
Ray and Diana
31J here, Merrel. Go Army! Thanks for stopping by.
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.
Rock on, Dave. Let us know how it turns out. Go Army!
Hello Dave, 13B here also. 79-83. PEACE Keep Smokin makes one happy!
Should you brine pork before cooking with dry rub?
Yes. Well, it’s not MANDATORY, but brining it will infuse the meat, making it more tender.
Does it have to be thawed?
Yes, I would highly recommend that.
Easy to make with results that are amazing. Meat is tender, juicy, and full of flavor.
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?
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!
Paprika is red
Paprika will color the water
After using this brine, would it be too much to also inject the butt?
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.
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.
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.
What’s that process look like?
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!
I soak and inject the brine to mine and it comes out delicious. Nice and tender all around.
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!
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!!
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
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!
I’ve subsituted jalapeño for the onion. Wish me luck on the pork butt!
What a great idea!!! Good luck, let us know how it turned out!
We’ll be cooking an entire suckling pig for Christmas using this brine. Thanks for the recipe!
do you have to inject some brin into the meat or just submerge it into the brin… Thank you
Just submerge it. The salt in the brine will do its work.
Has anyone tried putting the meat in coolers? We want to smoke several butts, however, they won’t fit in the fridge.
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.
Bag the ice and float it in the brine in the cooler
I actually put the meat and brine in a large ziplock in the cooler, then surround it in ice.
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.
Doing 20lbs of pork butt. Double the recipe??
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
Your recipe calls for a half onion, but does not indicate if it should be chopped, diced, sliced, etc.
A rough chop would do. You’re just trying to infuse some flavor.
Quick question. Are you using regular or kosher salt in this recipe? Thanks.
We’re using kosher salt. Thanks!
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.
The brine would be great for either cut. Thanks!
Trying this today! Thank you
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!!!!!
Awesome!! 🙂 Thanks for giving it a whirl, glad it turned out!
How long would you place in a slow cooker for? Our shoulder is 15 pounds…
Good gravy, that’s huge! Well, something that big .. figure 1 hour 15 minutes per pound on low. Check out this article: https://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/answerline/2014/02/06/slow-cookers-times-temperatures-and-techniques/comment-page-2/
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!!
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…
So I have a small Pork Leg (or butt) of 4 pounds. Should I leave the skin on? Smoking it tomorrow.
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.
Just put it in the fridge! Can’t wait to smoke it tomorrow using your recipe! I’ll update tomorrow! Thanks! 🙂
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!
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?
Yes, pour the brine off and then apply your rub. Thanks!
How about on high in the crock pot?
https://www.justapinch.com/recipes/main-course/pork/crock-pot-pulled-pork.html Hope this link helps!
If i brine the pork should i cut back on the salt in the rub?
You can if you like but we don’t.
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
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.
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. Yes, add rub after the brine.
2. Rub recipe can be found here in the recipe card: https://www.dontsweattherecipe.com/smoked-pork-shoulder/
3. Fat side up! 🙂
Good luck and let us know how it turned out!
Thanks, I was also looking for the same really appreciate you!!
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!
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…
Can you roast this brined meat in the oven? I don’t have a smoker.
Absolutely. You will miss out on the smoke, though. As far as time and temp, it’s the same.
My coworkers and family are still talking about the pork shoulder I made with this brine.
Added 2 tsp of Stubbs liquid smoke to the brine- cooking tomorrow for Easter. Thanks a load for the tips!
After bining the pork shoulder, can I freeze it to be slow-roasted at a later date?
Hey Barbera. No, I don’t think that would be such a good idea. I would just plan on brining it before your planned cook.
Thanks for the brine recipe – didn’t have rosemary sprigs so added dried rosemary and a few sprigs of thyme, cut onion into quarters, warmed brine up on stove top and left overnight to season.
Thawing bone in 8lb pork shoulder roast overnight and the will add thawed roast to brine on Saturday morning for BBQing on rotisserie with smoke box on my Napoleon Q.
Using Korean BBQ marinade after brining to cook – do you think that I should score the fat layer or just leave intact?
I will report back on the finished product.
BTW – Ex- Canadian 4RCR infantry reserve – Go Army for sure !! 😊👍
You can score the fat cap, for sure. I remove a good portion of mine if it’s real thick. Too much, and the rub and smoke will not penetrate it. Let us know how it turned out! Thanks!
OK – thanks, I will score the fat cap, it isn’t too thick.
Will be putting it on the Q in about 1.5 hours – will let you know how it turns out.
Roast turned out awesome – hit of the party.
Very moist and juicy with great flavour – both couples took home doggie bags of the left overs.
I did add 1 cup of orange juice to the brine to add acidity and to complement the Korean marinade. Thanks for the awesome recipe – it is a family keeper for sure ! 😊👍👍
Rock on! Thanks for letting us know, Dean. Yeah, our leftovers also seem to exit the house when we have people over. Good idea with the orange juice!