Apple Juice Brined Pulled Pork

After brining fish (see “Cedar Planked Smoked Sesame Salmon and Tuna“) and thanks to Greg I’m now exploring brining pork shoulder for pulled pork. Pulled pork is amazingly simple, but requires preparation work. Brining adds to this, but is well worthy.

Pulled Pork Sandwich

Pulled Pork Sandwich

Because serving this evening a larger group (see “Four States BBQ Sauce for Pulled Pork (or anything else)“), I have two pieces of pork shoulder, nicely marbled, total of 2.4 kg:

Pork Shoulder

Pork Shoulder

I started brining it on Friday evening. For the brine I used:

  • Apple juice (about 1 liter/1 quart)
  • 2½ tablespoons white sugar
  • 2½ tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • 1 tablespoon paprika powder
  • ½ tablespoon onion powder
  • ½ tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tablespoon garlic powder

Dissolve everything, put the shoulder into a plastic or zip bag.

💡 Using a plastic bag instead of a large bowl makes handling easier, needs less brine and uses less space in the refrigerator.

Fill in the brine and put into the refrigerator overnight:

Brining Pork Shoulder

Brining Pork Shoulder

The rub (amount is for one shoulder):

  • 1 tablespoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Rudy’s Dry Rub
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder

I brine it for 18 hours, 12 hours should be fine too. Take it out of the brine, dry it with kitchen paper towels. I use first sunflower oil on the surface to get the rub stick better:

Rub applied to shoulders

Rub applied to shoulders

While the rub is sitting on the meat, time to heat up the smoker to about 100°C. Then put the pork into the middle of the smoker with water pans underneath:

Pork in the Smokder

Pork in the Smoker

I keep the smoker temperature in the 107-135°C range. So far I had best results with burning beech (fagus) wood, so I used beech for that run again. Aiming for 92°C (198°F) meat temperature.

After 5 hours, the two pork shoulders swapped the space in the smoker (the one on the right side is closer to the fire-box):

Porked Shoulder Swapped in Smoker

Porke Shoulder Swapped in Smoker

After 12 hours it reached 90°C:

Two Pork Shoulders reached 90°C

Two Pork Shoulders reached 90°C

Rested for 1.5 hours, nearly no juices lost:

Rested Pork Shoulder

Rested Pork Shoulder

Then pulled, with a nice crust outside and juicy inside:

Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork

Then on a bun, combined with coleslaw salad and South Carolina style sauce:

Pulled Pork Sandwich

Pulled Pork Sandwich



That one was the best pulled pork so far. Compared to the non-brine version I did before, my impression is that the meat is more tender and more moist. So I definitely will do it that way next time again. Because the pieces where a bit smaller, they were done faster than expected, but worked out fine. And it seems every guest liked it too :-).

Happy Brining 🙂


1 thought on “Apple Juice Brined Pulled Pork

  1. Pingback: Easter Weekend Apple Juice Brined Pulled Pork Smoked on Beech Wood | MCU on Eclipse

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