This Cider Pork Shoulder Brine is a great way to add tons of flavor to your smoked pork shoulder! Read on to learn everything you need to know about brines and brining pork shoulder.
What is a Brine?
A brine is a solution made with simple ingredients: salt and water.
When you soak your meat in this mixture, osmosis comes into play. Essentially, the salt in the brine moves into the meat until their salt levels balance out. This process also applies to sugar, enhancing the overall flavor.
What is Brining?
Brining is a method used to enhance the flavor, tenderness, and moisture of meat.
It involves soaking the protein in a solution of water (or other liquids like apple juice, beer, or wine), salt, sugar, and spices for several hours in the refrigerator.
This process helps infuse the meat with a subtle taste and ensures it stays juicy and tender during cooking.
Making this Pork Shoulder Brine
When I make our smoked pork shoulder, I like to brine it in this cider pork shoulder brine first. If you’ve never tried brining pork shoulder for smoking, you’re missing out!
Brining the pork shoulder does add some extra time onto the whole process, but I promise it is worth it!
An overnight brine before smoking pork shoulder results in the best pulled pork meat – it is juicier, is seasoned throughout instead of just on the surface, and super tender.
Tools Needed to Make Cider Pork Brine
You’ll need a few kitchen tools to prepare this recipe. Here’s what I recommend having on hand before getting started:
- Measuring Cups and Spoons – to measure the pork brine ingredients.
- Large Stock Pot – to prepare the wet brine in.
- Wooden Spoon – for stirring the pork brine mixture as it cooks.
- Large Bowl – or other container large enough to hold the whole pork shoulder with enough brine to completely cover it.
- Plastic Wrap or Lid – to cover the container you’re storing the raw meat and brine solution in.
- Refrigerator – to store the brining pork shoulder overnight. If you don’t have room in your fridge, you can place the pork with the brine in a well insulated cooler. Then, surround the container of pork and brine with ice so the meat stays cold – don’t add ice directly to the brine as this would dilute it when the ice melts.
Pork Shoulder Brine Ingredients
There isn’t anything too fancy in this cider pork brine recipe, but sometimes the simplest ingredients can have the biggest impact. Here’s what you’ll need to have before preparing this recipe:
- Kosher Salt
- Brown Sugar
- Yellow Onion
- Bay Leaf
- Apple Cider
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Apple Cider Vinegar
For the complete ingredient list and detailed instructions to make this cider pork brine, scroll to the bottom of this post for the FREE printable recipe card.
How to Make Brine for Pork Shoulder
- Combine water, salt, brown sugar, peppercorn, onion, garlic, and bay leaf – boil, then simmer.
- After simmering, let rest at room temperature.
- Then, add the remaining ingredients to a container large enough for the pork and the brine.
- Add the salt water mixture to the container with the other ingredients, and stir to combine.
- Place the prepared pork shoulder in the brine once the liquid has cooled. Then transfer to the fridge to brine for 12 – 24 hours.
The above is simply a quick summary of this pork butt brine. Check out the full recipe in the free printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for all the detailed instructions.
- Do not substitute table salt
- Make sure the salt and sugar dissolve completely in the hot water mixture.
- Fresh apple cider is typically found in the produce department. It should not have any added sugar or spices.
- For best results, don’t brine longer than 24 hours.
- Try our favorite pork rub if you plan to smoke the pork for pulled pork sandwiches
Pork Shoulder Brine FAQs
Got questions about how to make this pork shoulder brine recipe? Here are the answers to a few commonly asked questions. Feel free to leave any other questions in the comments on this post and I’ll respond with answers.
Why should you brine a pork shoulder?
Brining seasons the meat all the way through rather than just on the surface. It adds great flavor to a large cut of meat like a pork shoulder, tenderizes the meat, and results is juicy meat.
What type of salt should I use to make pork shoulder brine?
This recipe calls for Morton brand coarse kosher salt. I don’t recommend substituting another salt. Kosher salt has much larger granules than table salt, for example, so you would not be able to use the same amount.
How long should I brine pork shoulder?
We like to let our pork shoulder soak in this brine for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours (for an 8 – 10 lb. pork shoulder).
Pork Brine Times
- 8 – 10 pounds: brine up to 32 hours, I prefer 24 hours
- 6 – 8 pounds: brine for 12 – 16 hours
- 4 – 6 pounds: brine for 6 – 8 hours
- 2 – 3 pounds: brine for 2 – 4 hours
- Individual Pieces of Meat ( i.e. pork chops): brine for 30 – 90 minutes, depending on thickness
Do you rinse pork after brining?
Yes, we rinse our pork shoulder to remove any residual salt from the pork shoulder brine off the surface of the meat so it isn’t too salty when you add the dry rub (which contains some salt).
How should I cook pork shoulder after brining it?
We like to cook brined pork shoulder on our Traeger to smoke it. Here’s a detailed post on how to smoke a pork shoulder.
Can I use this pork brine with different cuts of pork?
Yes, the flavor profile of this pork brine works well with many different cuts of pork: Boston butt, pork roast, pork loin, pork tenderloin, and pork chops.
Just make sure you adjust the length of time the meat is brined for according to the size of the piece of meat. A small pork tenderloin or pork chops, for example, won’t need to brine as long as an 8 pound pork shoulder.
Try this Pork Shoulder Brine!
Next time you’re looking for a way to add extra flavors and tenderness to your pork shoulder, give this Cider Pork Shoulder Brine recipe a try!
Did you think the brining process produced the perfect pork shoulder? Leave a comment below and give it a review for others to see what you thought of this brine solution.
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More Brine Recipes
Garlic Herb Peppercorn Dry Brine is full of flavor and will make your turkey shine on Thanksgiving! Dry brining a turkey is really simple and produces juicy, seasoned turkey meat. It would also work well for a pork roast or whole chicken.
This Rosemary Beer Brine works great with a whole chicken, turkey breast, or whole turkey.
Don’t see what you’re looking for here? You can always head over to check out the recipe index to look for more recipes.
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Have you ever brined pork shoulder?
- 1 quart Water
- 1 cup Kosher Salt
- ¼ cup Brown Sugar
- 2 tablespoons Peppercorn
- 1 large Yellow Onion, quartered
- 4 whole cloves Garlic, smashed
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 2 quarts Fresh Apple Cider (no spices or sweeteners added)
- 3 quarts Cold Water
- ¼ cup Worcestershire Sauce
- ¼ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
- In a large stock pot, combine the 1 quart water, salt, brown sugar, peppercorn, onion, garlic cloves, and bay leaf.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
- In a container large enough to fit the pork butt covered with the brine, apple cider, 3 quarts cold water, worcestershire sauce, and apple cider vinegar. Then, stir in the salt water mixture until combined.
- Meanwhile, trim any excessive fat from the outside of the pork shoulder. Discard the excess fat.
- Score the pork by cutting a 4 line by 4 line tic tac toe pattern on both sides of the pork - the scored lines should be about ½ inch deep.
- Place the pork in the brine, cover, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
Pork Shoulder Brine Times
- 8 - 10 pounds: brine up to 32 hours, I prefer 24 hours
- 6 - 8 pounds: brine for 12 - 16 hours
- 4 - 6 pounds: brine for 6 - 8 hours