Should You Brine Pork Butt? A Guide to Perfectly Seasoned Pork

Pork butt, also known as Boston butt, is a cut of pork that comes from the upper part of the shoulder of the pig It’s a flavorful, fatty cut that is often used for pulled pork, carnitas, or roasting Many people wonder if you need to brine pork butt before cooking it. Here’s a comprehensive guide on brining pork butt and how to perfectly season this cut of pork.

What is Pork Butt?

Pork butt, despite its name, does not actually come from the rear end of the pig. It comes from the upper part of the front leg/shoulder of the pig. It contains parts of the shoulder blade and neck vertebrae.

The name “butt” refers to the way barrels or casks were used to store and transport pork – the highest meatiest part of the shoulder was called the “butt” end.

Pork butt is a flavorful, marbled cut that contains a good amount of fat. This keeps the meat moist and tender during cooking. Popular ways to cook pork butt include:

  • Pulled pork – The pork is cooked low and slow until fall-apart tender, then shredded or “pulled” to make barbecue sandwiches.

  • Carnitas – Pork butt is simmered in a seasoned liquid until tender, then shredded for tacos and burritos.

  • Roasting – The pork butt is seasoned and roasted uncovered in the oven. The fat renders during cooking, basting the meat from within.

Do You Need to Brine Pork Butt?

So do you need to brine pork butt before cooking it? With its high fat content, brining is not necessary. The intramuscular fat bastes the meat from within, keeping it nice and moist.

However, brining can be beneficial for adding extra flavor. The salt penetrates the meat, seasoning it throughout instead of just on the exterior. Aromatics like garlic, herbs, and spices also infuse into the meat.

So while not strictly necessary, brining can take your pork butt to the next level by amping up flavor. It comes down to personal preference.

How Long to Brine Pork Butt

If you do decide to brine your pork butt, how long should you brine it for? Here are some general brining time guidelines:

  • 5-8 lb pork butt – brine for 12-18 hours
  • 8-12 lb pork butt – brine for 18-24 hours

Keep in mind that longer brining times do not necessarily mean more flavor. An overly long brine can result in meat that is too salty.

12-24 hours is sufficient time for the brine to penetrate into the meat without making it overly salty. Brining time also depends on the salt concentration – a less concentrated brine needs longer to penetrate.

Simple Pork Butt Brine Recipe

Here is an easy homemade brine recipe perfect for pork butt:


  • 1 gallon water
  • 1⁄2 cup kosher salt
  • 1⁄2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary


  1. Combine water, salt, and brown sugar in a large pot. Heat over medium just until salt and sugar dissolve. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

  2. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

  3. Place pork butt in a large ziploc bag or container and cover with cooled brine. Seal and place in fridge.

  4. Brine for 12-24 hours.

  5. Remove pork from brine, rinse if desired, pat dry, and cook as desired.

The salt penetrates the meat to add flavor and moisture, while the sugar provides subtle sweetness. The herbs, garlic, pepper, onion, and bay leaves infuse the pork with aromatics. Feel free to customize the brine with your own favorite flavors!

Choosing the Right Salt for Brining

An important component of any brine is the type of salt used. Here are some common options:

  • Table salt – Fine grains that dissolve quickly. Use about 3/4 cup per gallon of water.

  • Kosher salt – Coarser grains that dissolve slower. Use about 1 cup per gallon of water.

  • Sea salt – Medium sized flakes with minerals. Use about 1 cup per gallon.

Table salt dissolves fastest while kosher and sea salt have larger grains that take longer to break down. Adjust salt amounts based on the type you use. Kosher and sea salt have less sodium by volume than table salt.

Brining Tips

Follow these tips for perfect brined pork butt:

  • Cool the brine completely before adding the meat.

  • Weigh down the meat to keep fully submerged in the brine.

  • Brine in the fridge to inhibit bacteria growth.

  • Rinse after brining if the pork tastes too salty.

  • Pat pork dry before seasoning and cooking.

  • Save extra brine to baste the pork while cooking for added flavor and moisture.

Seasoning Brined Pork Butt

After brining, pork butt needs additional seasoning before cooking. A flavorful spice rub adds tons of flavor. Here is a simple homemade rub:


  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper


  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.

  2. Pat pork butt dry, then generously coat all over with spice rub.

  3. Refrigerate for 30 minutes up to overnight to allow rub to penetrate meat.

  4. Cook pork butt as desired, such as smoking low and slow or roasting in the oven.

The spices, sugar, and salt form a tasty, aromatic crust on the pork as it cooks. Customize the rub to your taste – more sweetness, heat, herbs etc.

Should You Inject Pork Butt?

Injecting is another method used to add moisture and flavor to large cuts like pork butt. It involves injecting a flavored liquid mix directly into the meat using large syringes.

Injecting does help add extra flavor and juice. However, it’s not necessary for well-marbled cuts like pork butt that already contain plenty of natural moisture. Brining or a good spice rub can achieve similar results without injections.

How to Cook Brined Pork Butt

Brined and seasoned pork butt can then be cooked using your preferred method. Here are some top cooking techniques:

  • Smoking – The classic way to prepare pork butt. Smoke low and slow at 225-275°F until tender and smoky.

  • Roasting – Roast in a 300-325°F oven until fork tender and caramelized on the outside.

  • Braising – Braise in a flavorful liquid like broth, wine, or juice until fall-apart tender.

  • Slow cooker – Cook on low for 8-10 hours until tender enough to pull or shred.

Cook until the internal temperature reaches 195-205°F. The meat should be very tender and shred easily. Rest for 30 minutes before pulling or slicing.

Should You Wrap Pork Butt While Cooking?

Many people wrap pork butt in foil at a certain point during smoking or roasting. The benefits of wrapping include:

  • Speeds up cooking time

  • Adds moisture as the pork steams in its own juices

  • Helps push the pork through the “stall” period where cooking slows

Wrapping is especially useful to power through the 160-170°F temperature stall. However, wrapping earlier can cause the bark or crust to become soft.

Whether or not to wrap is personal preference. For a nice crust, avoid wrapping until at least 160°F internal temp. To save time, you can wrap earlier at around 150°F.

Can You Freeze Brined Pork Butt?

It is possible to brine and freeze pork butt for later use. Here are some tips for freezing brined pork:

  • Brine the pork as normal, then pat dry and portion into freezer bags.

  • Freeze raw brined pork for 4-6 months max. Thaw in fridge before cooking.

  • Alternatively, smoke or roast first, then slice and freeze in portions. Reheat gently to serve.

Freezing is a great way to prep brined pork butt in advance for quick weeknight meals. Thaw overnight in the fridge then reheat gently to serve.

Brined Pork ButtMakes Fantastic Leftovers

One of the bonuses of cooking a big cut like pork butt is having plenty of leftovers! Here are some delicious ways to use up leftover brined pork butt:

  • Chop or shred into salads, nachos, burritos, tacos etc.

  • Make barbecue sliders or sandwiches

  • Fry up with eggs for a hearty breakfast

  • Mix into pasta, rice, or grain bowls

  • Fold into soups, stews, or vegetable dishes

  • Eat cold on charcuterie or antipasto platters

Brined and seasoned pork butt makes incredibly tasty leftovers. Get creative with how you use up any remaining pork!

While not strictly necessary, brining does wonders for adding juiciness and flavor to pork butt. Follow the guidelines above for brining times and salt amounts to perfectly season the meat. Combine with a flavorful spice rub before smoking, roasting, or braising. Brined and seasoned pork butt guarantees incredibly moist, tender and tasty pulled pork every time.

Should You Brine Pork Butts — SIDE by SIDE Taste Test – Overnight Smoked Pork Butts on Pellet Grill


Should I brine my pork for pulled pork?

Brining overnight locks in juices and injects flavour all the way through the pork so every mouthful of pork is seasoned; and. Slow-roasting at a very low temperature means less moisture loss and in turn more succulent meat.

Is it worth brining pork?

If you want an extra juicy piece of pork, brine it before cooking. You can make an effective brine just with salt and water, but additional seasonings do help.

Why brine pork before smoking?

Brining helps to regulate the cooking temperature by distributing moisture throughout your meat. Since all parts of the brined meat have the same moisture content, it will cook more evenly. Not only does will this prevent your meat from drying out or burning; it prevents flavorful juices from being lost.

Do you salt pork shoulder before smoking?

Season pork shoulder generously all over with salt and set on the wire rack. Refrigerate at least overnight (8 hours) or up to 24 hours.

Can You brine a pork butt?

If you’ve decided to brine your pork butt, here are some tips to ensure it turns out perfectly: 1. Use kosher salt: Kosher salt is recommended for making brine as it dissolves easily and provides a better flavor. If you don’t have kosher salt, you can use table salt, but use 25% less than the amount of kosher salt called for in the recipe. 2.

How do you keep a pork butt fresh After brining?

Keep it cold: It’s important to keep the pork butt in the refrigerator while it’s brining. This prevents bacteria growth and ensures the meat stays fresh. 4. Rinse before cooking: After removing the pork butt from the brine, rinse it thoroughly with cold water to remove any excess salt from the surface. 5.

Does brining pork butt make a difference?

Brining pork butt has several benefits that can make a significant difference in the final product. Firstly, brining helps to inject moisture into the meat, which is especially important for leaner cuts of meat like pork butt. By introducing extra moisture, the natural moisture content of the meat isn’t lost to the heat during smoking.

Should you brine a pork shoulder?

Well, the most important factor to why you should brine a pork shoulder is that it will keep the meat from dehydrating during your cooking process. The liquids and salts will make the juices draw out and keep your meat moist while it cooks. The second benefit of brining a pork shoulder, is the infusion of the ingredients.

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