Whiskey-Brined Pork Shoulder

Whiskey-Brined Pork Shoulder

Pork shoulder (often sold as pork butt or Boston butt) is one of the most forgiving barbecued meats there is. Although it can be sliced, most pitmasters prefer to barbecue it until the collagen and connective tissue break down sufficiently to “pull” it into meaty shreds.


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Whiskey-Brined Pork Shoulder

Recipe Notes

  • Advance Prep: 24 hours for brining the pork
  • Yield: Serves 8
  • Method: Smoke-braising


  • 1 bone-in pork shoulder, 5 to 7 pounds
  • Fresh coarsely ground black pepper
  • Granulated garlic
  • 1 cup apple cider or juice
  • Your favorite barbecue sauce, warmed
  • Hamburger buns, for serving (optional)

For the Brine

  • 1 gallon cold distilled water
  • 1 cup coarse salt (sea or kosher)
  • 1 ¼ cups whiskey, divided use
  • ½ cup brown sugar (light or dark)

Recipe Steps

1: In a large pot on the stovetop over medium-high heat, make the brine by brining the water, salt, 1 cup of whiskey, and brown sugar to a boil. Stir with a long-handeled wooden spoon until the salt and sugar dissolve. Let the brine cool to room temperature. Cover and cool completely in the refrigerator.

2: Submerge the pork in the brine. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

3: Heat the grill or smoker to 250 degrees F.

4: Remove the pork shoulder from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. (Discard the brine.) Season the pork with pepper and granulated garlic. Place the pork on the grate and smoke until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, about 5 hours.

5: Transfer the pork to an aluminum foil roasting pan and add the apple cider and the remaining 1/4 cup of whiskey. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Place the pan on the grate and cook the pork until the bone releases easily from the meat and the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees F, about 3 hours more. (Be careful with lifting a corner of the foil to check on the meat; the escaping steam will be hot.)

6: Remove the pan from the grill and let the pork rest for 20 minutes. Reserve the juices.

7: Wearing heatproof gloves, pull the pork into chunks. Discard the bone or any large lumps of fat. Pull the meat into shreds and transfer to a clean aluminum foil roasting pan. Moisten with the barbecue sauce or serve the sauce on the side. Stir in some of the drippings—not too much; you don’t want the pork to be swimming in its juices. Serve on buns, if desired.

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