A New Way To Brine Your Pork
Everyone can enjoy a nice piece of smoked pork in any of its forms. Ribs, butt, pork loin, pork tenderloin, pork chops, or whatever your preference might be, they can all become even more delicious when you toss them on a smoker. But the danger of any low and slow cooking method always presents itself no matter how good the results might be, that danger being overcooked and dried out meat.
There's a rather simple solution that should keep your meat nice and moist, though - a basic brine. What do you need to make a brine? How long should you let the meat soak? Do you dry it off afterward? All these questions and more will be answered as we take a look at a new way to brine your pork using a unique recipe sure to impart tons of flavor while keeping your pork from drying out. Let's get started.
What You Need For This Recipe
In order to make this special brine for all your pork smoking needs, you first need to get your supplies together. Here's a full list of of brine ingredients and for smoking the pork after it comes out.
- Pork shoulder (6 lbs or so).
- Dark brown sugar (1/2 cup).
- Garlic Powder (3 tablespoons).
- Onion Powder (3 tablespoons).
- Dried oregano (2 tablespoons).
- Cayenne pepper (2 tablespoons).
- Kosher salt (1 cup salt plus 1 tablespoon).
- Freshly ground black pepper (1 tablespoon).
- Yellow mustard (1 tablespoon or enough to coat the meat).
- Frozen orange juice concentrate (12 ounces or one can).
- Lime juice (6 teaspoons or 3 limes).
- Apple juice (1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons).
- Cold water (2 gallons).
- Charcoal smoker.
- Chunk charcoal.
- Wood chunks or chips (details below).
- Large plastic bucket with lid.
- Plastic wrap.
- Aluminum baking pan.
- Aluminum foil.
- Meat thermometer.
- Paper towels.
- Plastic spray bottle.
The wood you burn is almost as important as any of the spices you put on your meat. Not all wood is created equal, so finding the right choice for what you cook is important to making that perfect flavor. The general rule is that with a big cut of meat like pork shoulder, woods like oak and hickory are a great choice. If you want smoke that's a bit lighter in flavor, you could add in some apple or pecan, too. Experiment with different woods and wood combinations to find the one that's right for you.
Cooking the Pork - Step-by-Step
When you've gathered all your supplies, you can finally start work on your pork shoulder.
Step 1: Brine Pork
As with any recipe involving brining, you'll first want to make the brine in question. The secret is that this brine lacks the signature sugar of most, replacing it with the natural sugars found in the fruit juices used. Combine your lime juice, half a cup of apple juice, and your orange juice concentrate in a large bucket, then fill with two gallons of water and a cup of salt. Mix everything together until the juice has incorporated and salt dissolved with no frozen chunks left and you'll get a unique flavor brine for your pork recipe.
When the brine solution is ready, submerge your whole pork loin. If needed, add extra water to cover the meat completely. Place on a lid and store in a cool, dry place for up to three days. The brining time might seem long, but it is so worth it.
Step 2: Season the Piece of Meat
After your meat has brine for the amount of time you want, remove it from the brine and pat it dry thoroughly with paper towels. Discard the leftover brining liquid.
While the brine itself adds plenty of flavor to your pork, you should know by now we can always go one step beyond. For this, we'll make a simple spice rub for the outside of the meat, both flavoring it and creating a fantastic crust as it cooks. Mix together the sea salt or table salt, pepper, cayenne, brown sugar, garlic and onion powder, and oregano, then coat the outside of the pork in yellow mustard. Press the spices into the meat liberally, making sure to cover as much of the meat as possible. After that, wrap it securely in plastic wrap and store in the fridge overnight or up to a full day to intensify the flavor.
Step 3: Prep for Smoking
The day of smoking, take your meat out of the fridge about half an hour earlier than you intend to put it on the heat. This lets the meat warm up slightly, producing a more even cook and reducing the risk of overcooking and excessive moisture loss. Additionally, soak your wood chips in hot water around this time if you're using them instead of wood chunks.
Fill your smoker halfway with charcoal and light it, closing the lid and opening the air vents fully to give the coals a chance to burn. After they've burned down some, fill the smoke the rest of the way with charcoal and add your wood, placing the grill grate over top and filling the tank with water. Close the lid once more to give the new fuel a chance to burn and fill the smoker with smoke. If you have a digital thermometer, the target temperature inside the smoker should be around 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 4: Smoke the Meat
Once the smoker is ready and your meat has had a chance to sit out at room temperature, you're ready to cook. Place the meat into an aluminum baking pan large enough to hold it, giving a place to collect juices as they run out during cooking. Transfer both into the smoker and close the lid.
Over the next several hours, continuously monitor the levels of wood, charcoal, and water in your smoker, adding more as needed. Additionally, adjust the air vents as needed to keep the temperature within the smoker consistent.
Every half hour or so, spritz the meat down with the remaining apple juice in a spray bottle. This helps to keep the outside of the meat moist and adds some additional flavor. If at any point the meat looks to be burning or getting too dark, cover it loosely with aluminum foil.
Step 5: Rest the Meat
Your pork will be finished cooking when it reaches a temperature close to 195 degrees Fahrenheit. When your thermometer reads that, remove the meat from the smoker. Alternatively, just stick a fork in it and take it off when there's little to no resistance from the meat.
Cover the top of the pan with aluminum foil and allow it to rest wrapped in a towel inside a cooler for the next hour. While it might seem like a while to wait, it'll be worth it not to loose moisture. The longer you rest, the better the pork will taste once it's eaten.
Step 6: Pull the Pork
When your meat's had a chance to rest, you can begin pulling it apart. Using two forks, simply rip and tear the meat into small pieces, removing the shoulder bone from the middle. Another way to do it is with Cave Tools Shredder Rakes. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to use them. Mix the pork pieces with the juices collected at the bottom of the pan and add a bit of apple juice or apple cider if desired for some extra flavor and juiciness.
Step 7: Serve the Meat
With your pork pulled, it's finally time to eat. Nothing's better than a heaping pile of pulled pork smothered in barbecue sauce, except maybe a pulled pork sandwich. Whatever your favorite method of eating is, enjoy your delicious smoked pork with your friends and family.
Brining is a great way to keep meat moist and add a ton of extra flavor, especially when it's set to be cooked for long periods of time like in smoking. If you're ready to take your barbecue game to the next level, try this great brine recipe for some irresistible and unforgettable pulled pork like you've never eaten before.
Did you like this recipe? Any tips on brining you'd like to share? Leave a comment down below to let us know, and don't forget to share this guide with a friend who could use the help making their own brine.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Make a Brine?
Brine is simply salt water, so it’s very simple to make. You simply add salt to water and stir until the salt is dissolved! You can add other flavorings to your brine, like sugar or honey, garlic, and other spices.
What is Brine and Why is It Used?
Brine is a solution of salt and water. The process of brining involves placing lean meats (including pork and chicken) into heavily salted water. These meats can soak for as little as 20 minutes or as long as overnight. The salt in the water enters the meat and denatures the proteins, helping them retain water so they're juicer and more tender.
Is Brine Healthy?
If you’re on a reduced-sodium diet, you may want to avoid using a brine. The meat will absorb salt as it sits in the brine, especially if the brining process takes a long time. For people who are not avoiding sodium, there is nothing especially unhealthy about brine except for its salt content.
Can You Brine Your Meat for Too Long?
Yes, it’s possible to brine too long. Over-brined meat will taste salty, sometimes to the point of being inedible. If you’ve brined for too long, it is possible to fix your mistake. Soaking the meat in pure water will pull out some of the salt content in the meat but this process can also pull out the natural flavors of the meat. It’s best to brine for the appropriate amount of time: A few hours for thin-cuts of meat and overnight for larger roasts.
Does a Brine Need Sugar?
No, sugar is not required in a brine. At its most basic, brine is just salt and water. Many people add sugar, honey, molasses, or maple syrup to their brines to add flavor to the meat. You could also add corn syrup, if you like. These sugary additions will also improve the browning of your meat as it cooks because sugars caramelize more quickly than fats.