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.

Simple Pork Shoulder Brine ingredients on a cutting board.

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.

Simple Pork Shoulder Brine brine ingredients on a wooden cutting board

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.

Pork shoulder meat shredded with a pair of meat claws.
Check out our own smoked pork shoulder here! It’s killer! And I don’t lie about the ‘que. 🙂

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.

pork shoulder in the brine in a plastic bag

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.

Chopped and shredded pork butt on a wooden cutting board.
Using a brine on your pork butt will give you some amazing barbecue!

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.

Brine Variations

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.


How long should I brine pork?

Pork butts should brine overnight for up to 24 hours. Smaller cuts of pork should go from 6-18 hours, depending on their size.

What does brine do to pork?

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.

Do I rinse the meat after brining?

No. You may need to remove things from it, such as peppercorns or other large items.

Do I refrigerate pork while brining?

Yes. Refrigeration is required while brining.

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Simple Pork Shoulder Brine ingredients on a cutting board.

Simple Pork Shoulder Brine Recipe

Simple Pork Shoulder Brine – Serve moist and delicious meat every time with this simple pork shoulder brine.
4.44 from 117 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: BBQ, Grilling, Main
Cuisine: American
Keyword: barbecue, brine, grilling, pork butt, pork shoulder, smoked, summer
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Brine Time: 12 hours
Total Time: 12 hours 5 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 63kcal
Author: Brad Harris


  • 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
    10 C Water, 3/4 C Kosher Salt, 1/2 C Sugar
  • Add the rest of the ingredients
    4 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


You can brine overnight for up to 48 hours. The longer it brines, the more flavor you introduce to the meat.
Salt is key to keeping the meat moist during smoking. Any other aromatics you add will enhance the flavor. Mix it up with your favorite flavor profiles.


Calories: 63kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 0.3g | Saturated Fat: 0.1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.04g | Sodium: 10627mg | Potassium: 77mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 474IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 35mg | Iron: 1mg

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  1. 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 ! 😊👍👍5 stars

    1. 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!

    2. Don’t own a smoker, my bad, but have always had good luck slow cooking butt in the crockpot with just some onion, garlic, house rub, soy and Worchester sauce. Given that, will brining just be an unnecessary step or will it enhance the flavor of the final product?

      1. Hey Mitchell, I would think doing it in a crock pot would get you a pass on the brining (as to adding moisture) but the brine WILL introduce flavors to the meat (which is a win). Entirely up to you. 🙂 Hope this helps!

      2. After brining the pork roast I’m going to place it in my slow cooker/ crockpot to cook.
        My question is: Do I add water , beef stock etc…. In the slow cooker with roast? Or do I place the roast by itself as is and just set it and forget?

  2. 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.


  3. 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 !! 😊👍

    1. 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!

    1. 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.

  4. Added 2 tsp of Stubbs liquid smoke to the brine- cooking tomorrow for Easter. Thanks a load for the tips!

  5. 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

  6. 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!

  7. 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?

  8. 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. 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.

  9. 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?

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

    1. 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

    1. 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.

  11. 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…

  12. 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!!

  13. 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

  14. 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.

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

  16. 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

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

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

  18. 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. 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!

  19. 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. 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

    1. 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. 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. 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. 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

  20. 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. 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!

  21. 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. 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.

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