Perfect Pulled Pork Brine Recipe
Apple and pork are two things that always go together so well. So, for the oh-so-American, perfect pulled pork brine recipe, it makes sense to incorporate the use of apple juice-based brine.
Pulled pork itself is a rather straightforward meal to cook, but it does require a lot of prep and cooking time. As this recipe calls for the meat to be smoked, the cook time is greater. However, the end results are always worth it though with its smoke flavor and different ways to serve it.
Prep Time: est. 15 minutes plus 12-24 hours brining
Cook Time: 9-12 hours
Ingredients For This Pulled Pork Brine Recipe
- 1 Pork Shoulder (4-8 pounds)
- Apple Juice (4 cups)
- 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons of white sugar
- 1 tablespoon of kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon of paprika powder
- ½ tablespoon of onion powder
- ½ tablespoon of garlic powder
- ½ tablespoon of black pepper
The Dry Rub (optional):
- 1 tablespoon of kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon of cumin
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons of garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika
Preparing the Pork Brine
For this pulled pork recipe, combine all of the brine ingredients together in a large bowl. Make sure that you stir well so that all of the spices get completely dissolved in the mixing bowl. Once the brine is complete, place the pork butt in a food-safe storage container and pour the brine inside. A large plastic or zip bag will typically work best for the storage. Both of those options gets the meat covered well and makes it easy to sit in the refrigerator.
As for the refrigerator, once everything is sealed up tight and the pork is just about completely covered, refrigerate 12 to 18 hours. If you wish, you can choose to refrigerate overnight.
When it is time to cook the pork butt, remove it from the container. Dry the pork off using some kitchen paper towels. As for the brine, you can preserve some of the liquid and set aside in a bowl to use as a mop sauce for the pork while it cooks. This is not required, however.
Now comes time for the rub. You can use the ingredients listed above to create a rub that pairs well with the brine used. It is an optional step as you can instead use your own favorite BBQ rub. Either way, always put a lightly coated "binder" on the pork so that the rub will have a better chance of sticking. Anything you like should work out well whether it's yellow mustard or sunflower oil. For more options check out The Best Texas Brisket Rub article.
Once you have the rub on, allow the pork butt to sit with it. Ideally, the pork should sit for about 20-30 minutes. This allows for the meat to get to room temperature and it gives the rub more time to settle in. While the pork sits, you can take the time to prepare your smoker, starting by preheating it to 225ºF.
When the smoker is ready, place the pork butt inside and close the lid. At the beginning stages of the cooking process, it isn't too important to monitor the internal temperature of the pork. During this stage, you can also begin using some of that leftover brine to mop the meat every few hours. Again, this is optional.
Since we're smoking the pork butt here, we're aiming for a cooking time anywhere from 9 to 12 hours long, so prepare yourself for keeping a watch on that smoker. Around the four hour mark or so, use a good thermometer to begin checking on that internal temperature. Remember not to hit the bone as it will not provide you with an accurate reading.
When the pork butt reaches an internal temperature of around 160ºF, wrap it up in aluminum foil. This will prevent it from taking in too much more smoke while also help to catch some of that moisture lost while cooking.
Keep an eye on that internal temperature. The optimal temperature for a well-finished pork butt is 195ºF. Sometimes, the pork can reach that around 9 hours or so. Other times, it can take the full 12 to hit that temperature mark. In the end, always go by the temperature rather than how long it's been inside the smoker to know when it's done.
Once that target temperature has been met, remove the pork butt from the smoker. Be sure to let this rest for a good amount of time. It is ideal to rest for 1 ½ to 2 hours.
When it's time, remove the pork butt from the aluminum foil. Take care that you do not lose whatever liquid that is left inside the foil. This liquid is packed full of flavor, so you will want to save it; it can be mixed into the meat later on.
Now comes the fun part: shredding the pork. It doesn't matter what you use here. Take a fork and knife, a pulling claw, or your hands as long as they are properly protected with the right gloves. Regardless of what you use, as the internal temperature of the pork is 195ºF, it should shred with relative ease. You should come away with a good crust on the outside while maintaining a juicy inside. If you want to get more technical and do everything by the book, though, I have just the right tutorial for you: Meat Grinders Guide: How To Shred Pulled Pork!
If you plan to serve up the brined pulled pork pork immediately, then you can use that liquid you saved from the aluminum foil and mix it in with the meat, add some homemade barbecue sauce.. This adds a punch more of rich and delicious flavor. If you are planning to store the pork to eat later, then you can save that liquid to mix in when you reheat the meat. You can also assemble delicious pulled pork sandwiches.
Apple is a good base for the brine, so make sure to watch this awesome tutorial on how to cook Apple Brined Turkey with Big Time Gravy Recipe:
Add in some bbq sauce, if desired. Serve it up on some hamburger buns with coleslaw and enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Brine Pork?
Brining pork is very easy. Once you dissolve the salt and spices into the water, submerge the pork butt into the brining liquid. This can be done in a large container or a plastic bag. The brining pork should be placed in the refrigerator until it is ready to use. Then, you can discard the brine solution and pat the pork dry with paper towels.
How Long Should You Brine Pork?
Brine is very salty, so you don’t want to leave your food in it for too long. Thin cuts of pork, like pork chops or pork tenderloin, only need 30 to 60 minutes of brine time. A whole pork loin usually takes about 2 to 3 hours, and a pork shoulder can brine for 12 to 18 hours.
How Long Does it Take to Cook Pulled Pork?
Pulled pork will take at least 2 to 4 hours in a 325 degree F oven. If you are cooking it on a smoker, it can take 9 to 12 hours when smoked at 225 degrees F.
What Temperature Do You Cook Pulled Pork?
It is always good to use an instant read thermometer when cooking pulled pork. This helps you to know when it reaches the finished temperature. Pulled pork is fully cooked at 160 degrees F, but it will be most shreddable and juicy when taken to 195 degrees F.
What Cut of Meat do You Use For Pulled Pork?
Most professional barbecue restaurants use whole pork shoulders. Since these are difficult to find in grocery stores, it is easier to use a Boston butt (also called pork butt). The butt is half of the shoulder. The other half is called the picnic butt, which also makes good pulled pork but it is harder to find. Lean cuts of pork, like pork loin or pork tenderloin, do not make great pulled pork. They do not have enough connective tissue to make tender, shredded pork.