Brine Pork Shoulder

Chef's notes:

Pork, as we all know, is a white meat. And that being the case, when it’s cooked improperly it can come out tasting very dry. For the longest time we were told to cook the living daylights out of pork. And with good reason: Trichinella spiralis is no parasite to fool around with. But the trichina worm is no longer found in our farmed pigs. They eradicated it. So we no longer have to cook our pork so cruelly. But just in case you still do, or you just want to make your pork juicier, I have written this recipe for pork brine, which will make even the most well-done pork chop or roast remain juicy, tender, and delicious.


  • 1 pork shoulder (10# or so)
  • 8 cups boiling water
  • 4 pounds ice
  • 1½ cups kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 limes
  • 10 green onions
  • ¾ cup pickling spice

Pork Shoulder Brined in a Solution of Salt and Sugar with Limes, Green Onions, and Spices

  1. Decide what piece or cut of pork you will be brining. I have brined pork chops in the past, and in fact I’ve already written an article on it— Brined Pork Chops. So, with that in mind, I thought it would be fun to brine something bigger, like a shoulder roast. This baby is over 10 pounds, so I will be brining it for 2–3 full days before I roast it.
  2. Find a container to brine your pork in. In the past I have used coolers and Ziploc bags to brine in. But for this 10 pound roast I wanted to find a container that I could still fit in the fridge. And something that I could reuse. I picked this up for 5 dollars at Target. I made sure to wash and scrub it thoroughly before using it.
  3. Assemble the spices and ingredients for your pork brine. The brine recipe that I settled on is a very basic recipe, one in which you will be able to substitute ingredients if you want. Or you can just pick up a “pickling spice” mixture at the supermarket. The main ingredients are sugar and kosher salt; I threw the limes in because I needed to use them up.
  4. Make the brine for your pork. Boil 8 cups, or half of the water, on the stove top. Then use a whisk and combine the spices, sugar, and salt with the hot water. The hot water will make it easier to dissolve the sugar and salt, plus it boosts the spices’ flavors. Once everything is combined, add the ice cubes to cool the brine. When the brine is cool to the touch, pour it over the pork. Add the rest of the ice cubes. Refrigerate until ready to use: 1 day for roasts under 10 pounds, 1 1/2 days if over.

Tips & Tricks

  • I like to buy roasts with the bone still in. I think you get a better flavor when you roast with the bone in.
  • Ask the butcher if you may smell the meat; it should smell fresh. Pork can be a little tacky or slimy to the touch. That’s okay as long as it smells good.
  • If you brine in a bag, make sure to store the whole thing in a container that will catch any leaks that may happen.
  • Use spices that you think will taste good together. The brining flavors will be subtle but noticeable. You don’t want to make it too noticeable by using flavors that don’t go well together.
  • Make sure you cool the brine before you put it on the meat.
  • Four pounds of ice is roughly equal to 8 cups of water. A gallon of water weighs almost exactly 8 pounds.

Pickling Spice Recipe

  • Crumbled cinnamon
  • Whole allspice
  • Mustard seed
  • Coriander seed
  • Crumbled bay leaf
  • Dried ginger
  • Whole cloves
  • Whole black pepper
  • Mace
  • Cardamom pods
  • Red chillies
  • Star anise (optional)