Brining Pork Butt

Discussion in 'Pork' started by slowandlow, Apr 12, 2012.

  1. slowandlow

    slowandlow Newbie

    Hello All,

    I just joined the site; but have been smoking meat, poultry and fish for a few years.

    I am going to do a large cook of @ 30 pounds of Pork Butt, (to feed @ 25 people). I am planning on brining the meat first, then applying a dry rub. My Question is: How long should I brine 30 pounds of Pork Butt for, and should I use curing salt in the brine, as well? (my one question turned into two -- Oh Well!)

    I would like to brine it for 4 days, then remove it from the brine and Dry Rub it out and let it set in the fridge for 24 hours, then cook it off.

    Any advise would be greatly appreciated. Thank You.
  2. mr500

    mr500 Meat Mopper

    wow  lot of PP. A pound a person?

    Ive  only brined chops never a butt..i usually go 8 hr on mine. but its chops not a butt. Meat a lil different.
  3. scarbelly

    scarbelly Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Most of us do not brine a butt. You will experience a 30-40 % loss during cooking so here is how we figure the finished product 

    30 # X .6 = finished weight = 18 # or .72 # per person which is about double what we normally figure for a catering vend.  You will have some  leftovers for sure - good luck and good smoking 
  4. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Welcome, There really is no need to brine Pork Butt because of the nature of the muscle already containing plenty of fat and collagen to give moist pulled pork. However if you would like to brine anyway the meat will benefit from from as much time as you can give it. If you chose to add Cure#1 you will get a Ham flavor to the outer few inches with a regular pork flavor to the rest once pulled...Smoke the meat at 225*F until it reaches 165-175*F and either wrap in foil or place in foil pans with my Foiling Juice or Apple Juice and continue cooking in the smoker or in your oven until the Internal Temp reaches 205*F. Rest it for a hour or more if placed in a cooler, then pull it add any Foiling Juice or Finishing Sauce and serve. It is best to go by temperature but for a guide line on cook time figure 2 hours/Pound of your biggest piece of Pork plus the rest time. Good Luck...JJ
  5. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Welcome to the SMF family, slowandlow!

    If I recall, this has been a mildly debated topic in the past, although I don't remember the threads or posters...probably buried in archives by now. And yes, not many brine their's where I stand on it, and how I got my trials:

    If you want to brine, you'll get the best results with previously non-enhanced butts (not cryo-vac packed). I've brined cro-vac packed butts before I tried fresh, and there was a very noticeable difference in benefit, so if you can get fresh, that's what you want to run with. If the butts are already in a solution, you won't do them much good with a brine due to having to use much higher salt concentration in the brine to overcome equilibrium of the meat's salt content from the existing solution it soaked in.

    The major benefit to brining fresh butts vs just smoking cry-vac packed is that you can add the flavors you want to the meat through the brine solution you soak them in, and when done correctly there will be hints of your spices in the interior of the meat. You can then further enhance those flavors with your dry rub blend and choice of smoke wood.

    Here's how I did a few smaller batches of butts (2 for each trial) in the past, with a salt/spice brine, no cure additives used:

    Round one, 2-day brine of previously non-enhanced butts, with resulting smoke and review:

    Round two, 8-day brine, otherwise, the same similar to the above, with better results:

    Use the recipes if you like (we love this stuff), but the main things to consider are the salt content in the solution and the time allowed for brining.

    The 8-day was a far better outcome with the finished products, while the shorter brine time did not penetrate completely throughout the meat, and the taste and texture was proof of my efforts.

    I would have to say that if you used the same concentration of salt as my recipe calls for, 4 days may be a bit on the short side for full penetration through the average weight of butt (7-8lbs each). 6 days would likely take it the full distance and be right there where my 8-day brine was (the 8-day was a bit longer than needed, but no harm done, IMHO).

    There may be a limited few others here who have brined some butts also, and can offer additional advice, but like Scarbelly and Chef Jimmy J mentioned, I haven't seen a lot posted about it here on SMF. There were a few who posted that they wanted to try it after seeing what I did with mine, but I haven't seen or heard anything about it since then.

    Oh, concerning time to reach finished temps of 200+*, I have had average-weight butts run over 24 hours (25.5 is my longest, if I recall correctly) if I didn't pan and foil-tent or wrap in foil once they reached ~180* I/T where many will foil at. No-foil smoke produces a superb bark on the meat (depending on rub ingredients and how heavily it is applied) at the expense of very long smoking times, while foiling has reduced overall time in the smoker by approx 15-25%+, in my own experiences, depending on ambient humidity and other weather conditions, smoker type/manufacturer and mods, added humidity with water pans, chamber temps and ventilation rates, and last but certainly not least, the precooked weight of the pork butt.

    Brining does bulk up the meat somewhat, as my trial runs indicated a considerable loss of liquid in the brine bucket when I pulled them out to rub and smoke. I don't recall if I ever took weights of the fresh vs brined to compare them or not, but volumes of brine were much less than I started with. The liquids get cooked out (in the form of water vapor) as part of the normal process of cooking, but I did notice a somewhat moister finished product compared to other basic prep methods I've used with cryo-vac packed pork, or fresh non-enhanced. I've brined butts, loin back ribs, whole pork loins, chops...can't think if there's any other cuts of pork that I've brined, but they all have benefited from it with added flavor and a bit more moisture in the finished products.

    As for rubbing and wrapping to rest in the fridge, you may not want to go much over 8-10 hours if it's brined...maybe not even that long. The brine may begin to seep out of the meat while it rests (remember the process of equilibrium with salt, and the meat is now bulked up with salt-water) and turn your dry rub into a soup, and eventually start leaking out of the plastic wrap (definitely place wrapped meat in pans)...I've never processed 'em that way before, so I'm speculating here. I went straight from the brine to a rinse with mine, drip-dry, dry rub with NO SALT in the seasoning blend (brine adds enough salt), rested for a few minutes in a pan or on a board while firing the smoker, and went straight to the grates from there. If you're wanting to rest with a rub and wrap in the fridge for building the start of your bark, just be cautious on not going too long in the rub/wrap before the smoke.

    Uh, I guess I didn't really say one way or the other where I stand on brining butts (the above links/threads should have covered it, though). I will say that if you have the time to get everything ready long enough in advance, can commit the fridge space and are willing to put in a bit of extra time to do the brine prep, there are benefits for the taking. With a well planned and executed brining project (don't jump the gun and pull from the brine too early, or botch-up a recipe regarding salt concentration), the benefits will be best. You don't want to just fumble through it and expect good results...that's setting yourself up for disappointment. Do the benefits out-weight that little bit of extra prep time, equipment (food-grade brining buckets) and fridge space? If you do it once and you do it correctly, you'll likely be back at it soon thereafter. It was not long after my first trial with brined pork butts when I was at it again (a week?...though I had previous experience with brining pork, just not fresh butts), so yes, I say it works, and when I want to take my butts a few notches higher than the average smoke, I go brined with a no-foil smoke. Again, referring to the third's all about the additional flavors, with a hint of better moisture content when the smoke clears.

    Roll with it and make it happen! BTW, brining butts isn't difficult, it just requires a bit more patience then you may be accustomed to mustering up.

    And, in case you're wonder by now, 3 average-weight butts (approx 23-24lbs total weight) should fit into a 5-gal bucket with some thought on positioning (definitely in a 6-gal without any problem) along with the brine needed to cover them up. 2 in a 5-gal has tons of space...just so ya know.

  6. I do not brine buts myself I think buts are moist enough on their own. I just rub em up let them rest at least an hour, smoke em at 225, at 170 it check to see if done. I never wrap mine so I don't take them over 200 it.

    Im with scar, that's alot lb per pers. I do a fairly regular pp for my bro in laws crew of 50 guys, 25 lbs, always leftovers.

    Good luck and good smoking!

    Last edited: Apr 12, 2012
  7. This is definitely the most comprehensive summary on the matter I've read.

    Personally, I'm a fanatical briner, but that's just because I enjoy the resulting taste, I think the texture results range from negligible to negative, and it's painfully easy to over brine.

    that said, I try to keep brine times down to 60-90 minutes a pound, per roast. So, we're not talking 30-45 hours total, but really a brine time comparable to the average weight of each butt, maybe 8-12 hours. I also second keeping the post-brine rub-rest time to a minimum for the reasons mentioned here. Oddly enough, I think the taste results from a 3-hour rub time versus a 12-hour are so similar, it's hardly discernible.

    In summation:

    The Pros for brining are the even season, and the possibility of infusing flavors into the meat.

    The cons are that it seems to inhibit a really good bark, it's extra work, can turn pulled pork into ham, and the extra flavors of the brine can cause us to "not see the forest for the trees".


    Please post up results!
  8. I'm new to smoking. I've been soaking my but in some cider vinegar and Apple juice. Then injecting it with same mix with some rub added. Any suggestions on how I should smoke as far as temps go? I have 15 pound but going now.
  9. I've brined a lot of things I've smoked. Briskets, pork butts, etc.. Generally brining only helps, in my opinion, whether dry or wet. For a wet brine, I just do a basic solution of equal parts salt and sugar. Final product comes out juicier. I dry brined a brisket a month or so ago with just kosher salt and it was unbelievably moist and juicy after a loooong smoke.

    That said though, you can still get a juicy butt without brine. Experiment. See what you like.

    Edit: I just realized this thread is super old. Sorry!
  10. Any temp between 225-275 should be fine for butt. Also, I'm not sure how much good soaking in vinegar and apple juice is doing for you. How did it turn out?

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