Perfect Pulled Pork Brine Recipe

Apple and pork are two things that always go together so well. So, for the 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.

Prep Time: est. 15 minutes plus 12-24 hours brining

Cook Time: 9-12 hours

INGREDIENTS

The Meat:

  • 1 Pork Shoulder (4-8 pounds)

The Brine:

  • 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 Rub (optional):

  • 1 tablespoon of kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 2 teaspoons of onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons of garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika

PREPARATION

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. 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 pork immediately, then you can use that liquid you saved from the aluminum foil and mix it in with the meat. This adds a punch more of 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.

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 barbeque sauce, if desired. Serve it up on some hamburger buns with coleslaw and enjoy!

Frequently Asked Questions​

How Do You Brine Pork?

How Long Should You Brine Pork?

How Long Does it Take to Cook Pulled Pork?

What Temperature Do You Cook Pulled Pork?

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