Pork Shoulder for pulled pork - Brine or no brine?

Discussion in 'Pork' started by wayoung, Apr 27, 2016.

  1. wayoung

    wayoung Fire Starter

    So I'm about to try my first pulled pork in a smoker. Using a 4.5 lbs pork shoulder in my MES 30". I've made pulled pork many times in a slow cooker but never in the smoker. I've been looking online and have been seeing some conflicting ideas on whether it should be brined or not. About half the recipes I've seen do it, half don't. What does everyone here do for theirs? Brine or no brine? Any special ingredients you add to the Brine if you do do one?
  2. mummel

    mummel Master of the Pit

    I say no brine.  I think it dries it out.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2016
  3. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    No brine. If you want to add flavor, inject it.

  4.  What he said
  5. wayoung

    wayoung Fire Starter

    Well that seems pretty unanimous.
  6. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    Most of the butts I have had from the store are already full of solution when you get them. This always just makes me mad that they add all that water weight to make bigger profits.
  7. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    No brine for pulled or shredded pork, but use a finishing sauce, reserve drippings, defat drippings, tweak drippings to your preference, add drippings back to the pork when pulling.

    Suggestions for finishing sauce Red Wine, apple juice, pineapple juice, herbs, favorite rubs, favorite barbecue sauce, coke, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, whiskey, beef base, etc...
  8. brandon91

    brandon91 Meat Mopper

    I have dry brined butts before and they come out great, no added water but thoroughly seasoned throughout. 1/2tsp kosher salt per pound of meat, cover outside and let sit on a wire rack in the fridge for a day or two then smoke.
  9. damon555

    damon555 Smoking Fanatic

    I brine in frozen concentrated OJ, lime juice, apple juice and salt (1/2 cup per gallon of brine) and it always turns out delicious. Soak in that mixture for 24 hours and get ready for the best tasting pulled pork you've ever had. As a matter of fact it's so good that I don't even need to rub it down before it goes in the smoker......

    P.S. I brined some spare ribs last weekend along with the butt and those stole the show.....first time I ever tossed the ribs in too.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2016
    keitha likes this.
  10. GaryHibbert

    GaryHibbert Smoking Guru OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    I never brine pork butts.  I do them in a MES 30 too, and don't use a water pan either (its filled with sand for a heat sink.)  Pork butts have plenty of fat to keep the PP moist, and like SQWIB said, just use a finishing sauce for some extra flavor.

  11. wayoung

    wayoung Fire Starter

    Thanks everyone. I deskinned and trimmed the fat on my shoulder this morning (thing was super fatty) and coated it with some mustard and a rub. 24 hours in the fridge and smoke it tomorrow. Hopefully it turns out. I'm smoking on the middle rack with a pan on the bottom rack to catch the juices to add back in when I shred. Using the built in thermometer and a second independent probe to monitor temp. Planning on cooking at 225. I have a store bought pulled pork sauce to use, but I'm going to try the meat first before I add it in. I know a store bought sauce isn't ideal but I've never smoked a shoulder and I've never made a sauce so I figured one at a time:)
  12. I like to keep it simple, and that's typically when it turns out the best.  I don't do anything except throw on a simple rub, though every once in a blue moon I may inject.
  13. c00nass r33f

    c00nass r33f Newbie

    Either way it'll be great. A bribe of salt, brown sugar, apples, and of course water makes a great brine for pork. But honestly just a good run with some time and low temps will be perfect
  14. damon555

    damon555 Smoking Fanatic

    I don't brine because the pork won't taste great without doing it.....it certainly will.....I brine because it's a reasonably simple step that can be taken to ensure that everyone who eats it says it's the best pulled pork they've ever eaten.....As a Yankee I love hearing it from my wife's family who are from the south and have been eating BBQ their entire lives......

    Of course it took some trial and error to figure out what works best for me....especially the salt content. I did a lot of reading and many recipes called for 1 cup of salt per gallon of brine solution......that ruined the meat for me......ultimately a 1/2 cup was all it took to balance the flavors to my palate's preference. 

    Brining is just another way to go about it.....that's the great thing about the BBQ world (any cooking for that matter) there are many ways to skin a cat.....I never would have thought ribs could be just as good without foiling until I tried it......after trying it I never foiled again.....and that goes for almost everything that goes on the smoker now.

    Get the basics down and you'll have lots of people enjoying your BBQ....then as your experience progresses it will only get better.....and there is no better place to learn than here.....
  15. GaryHibbert

    GaryHibbert Smoking Guru OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

  16. smokeymose

    smokeymose Master of the Pit

    I never thought about brining a butt for PP, but that doesn't mean it can't be done...
  17. jckdanls 07

    jckdanls 07 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member


    If/when you go this route.. just add a little at a time and taste... there's been a time or 2 that I added to much ...

    and remember... :worthless
  18. I don't know...  I've never had SoFlaQuer's finishing sauce, but I've had JJ's Finishing Sauce and I love it. 

  19. On paper it doesn't sound like it would be that good but the SoFlaQuer sauce is outstanding. Seems to be best if you make it a day or two ahead of time to let it blend and and mellow a bit but the flavor is just sublime if you use the right amount. Too much can be a bit strong but if you hit it right it just balances everything just so. Tough to describe because you don't taste the sauce so much as you just notice how much better the meat tastes. Highly recommended it.
  20. I have to agree, never brine, put rub on just before putting into the smoker, smoke at 225 until IT is 195. Put it in the cooler at least an hour or so, before pulling.  Then use the SoFlaQuer after pulling.  We make it up just before the meat comes out of the smoker, does not need to be refrigerated and cold when adding that way. 

    We like more smoke than most people, so some of it goes in an open top foil pan and back in for another 20 min of smoke then re-mixed back in.

    Good luck to you, keep experimenting till you find exactly what you like.  Keep a running log each time till you get it down pat.

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