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Mar 2, 2010 11:33 AM

Brining pork butt too long

I bought a 7.5 lb pork butt yesterday and planned to brine it all day today, dry rub, and roast uncovered at 225 for 10 to 12 hours starting tonight. Change in plans... My husband will not be around to eat it unil Friday noon which is 3 days away. Nice of him to tell me before I started the process. Of course, I only found this out after the butt was in the brine.

I know that people have opinions on whether to brine a fatty butt or not, but (no pun intended) that is the path I am on.

How long is too long to brine a piece of pork that large? After it comes out of the brine, I intended to double rinse it and dry it. If I pull it out of the brine 1/2 to day before roasting, will the moisture in the meat run out, negating the brining effect?

Here is my altered plan... Brine for 48 hours; Double rinse, dry, and put in the fridge for 12 hours; Dry rub and roast uncovered at 225 for 10 to 12 hours beginning Thursday at around 10:00. I plan to serve Friday noon.

Would you suggest anything different?

Thanks for the help! I am a frequent lurker because I can usually glean what I need from searching this site. I thought I would post with these specifics in case I need to correct my course.

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  1. I work with pork butts that size on the smoker when I BBQ pulled pork. Usually I inject it because I'm not convinced that a marinade would penetrate the middle of a roast that large. OTOH, if you marinate it for 3 days, it's not going to hurt it.

    If you have an injector, great. If not, instead of marinating at all, I'd suggest wrapping the roast in foil once the internal temp gets to be about 160F. At that point, the rendering fat and juices will act on the seasoning on the outside of the roast and your flavors will migrate throughout the meat.

    Another question is how you want to serve the roast. Are you planning on cooking it to the point that the meat shreds easily by hand, or do you want to keep it firm enough that you can slice it? I'd check on the meat when it reaches about 190 - 195F internal temp. At that point, a probe thermometer should penetrate with light resistance. It's probably slicing-tender at that point. If you want pullable pork, cook it until the probe goes in like room temp butter. Internal temp will read probably closer to 200 - 205F.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Professor Salt

      Thanks Professor Salt: I am planning to shred it and so I was looking for internal temp of 200. I really need a digital thermometer where I can tell what the temp is so that it doesn't go too far. I plan to pick one up on Thursday. While doing that I think I will get an injector. I make enough butts and other slow cooked meats, it would be good to give that a try. I probably will skip the brine next time. I think it probably is unnecessary.

      1. re: lisaress

        Well, good luck on this roast! You may not have time to be choosy about your thermometer or injector for this weekend, but I've used a lot of different ones, broken a lot of them, and have some strong recommendations.

        Thermoworks makes a low cost, accurate, and simple digital probe thermometer. For $19, I order a couple at a time, since I tend to break mine with hard outdoor use. This is the type where you leave the probe in the meat during the whole cooking process. Since you can monitor the temps while you're cooking, you don't lose heat by constantly opening the door.

        Sur La Table sells an injector that's hard to break, has a smooth plunger action, and is easy to clean. I have more expensive, supposedly "better" units, but this is the one I'd recommend. This same model used to be sold at Bed Bath and Beyond at holiday time, but i didn't see it there this past winter.

        1. re: lisaress

          I wouldn't worry too much about "going to far" in terms of temperature. Like I mentioned, a pork shoulder can take some abuse in the kitchen and still come out fine. This isn't a beef tenderloin that you want to remove from the oven when it hits an EXACT temperature. If you're not looking to spend $20-$25 right now on a probe thermometer (though I use mine ALL the time and find it to be the best $20 I've ever spent on a cooking gadget) you could also buy a standard instant read thermometer like this:

          It's a good thing to have around for all kinds of meats or even bread.

          I'd check out Bed Bath & Beyond like P.S. kind of mentioned. It's worth looking there first and using one of those 20% off coupons versus paying slightly more at a specialty store.

      2. Like you mentioned lisaress, brining something like this is questionable. Brining first and foremost adds moisture to meats that often don't have it (broad breasted white turkey breast). Of course pork shoulder has plenty of moisture in the form of fat. Flavor is secondary; kind of a value-added feature of brining. So, just a personal preference based on trying to keep things cleaner and easier, I'd skip the brining next time and stick with simply a rub.

        Next is the issue what can go wrong? Not too much, but do know this: brining is the first step in the production of a typical American holiday ham (that is to say, think Honey Baked ham, NOT a dry-cured country ham or a ham like prosciutto). Brining begins the curing process and depending on the amount of salt and/or sugar in your brine you might have some minimal curing going on. Not a big deal, in fact it is desirable in some applications and recipes (see: David Chang).

        On to the temperature, I would follow Prof. Salt's advice and check the temperature of the pork rather than simply relying on cooking time. Cooking times are merely a suggestion and I'm going to wager that your 7.5lb pork will be done before the 10-12 hours is up. You might already be planning on using temperature, not time, as a guide but I thought it was worth mentioning. Either way pork shoulder is just about bullet proof so you'll be fine.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Fuller

          Yeah I will probably skip that step next time. I will keep an eye on that internal temperature. My oven often surprises me with how quickly things get done even though I have verified that it is not exceeding the temperature it is set to. Thanks a bunch Fuller. I appreciate it.

        2. Um, I would brine for the normal time. And then just cook it. Reheat when husband comes home. It wont' suffer.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jaykayen

            Thanks Jaykayen... If I do that I will be eating 7.5 of pork butt by myself and I am little. My husband will eat leftovers but only if he is enthusiastic about eating it coming right out of the oven and then packing some to take to work that day and then eating it one other time. So.. I invited my Dad over to eat with us (he can eat more than DH, DD, and myself put together) and then send some leftovers home with him. He likes leftovers. So the Friday lunch is pretty much set in stone, unless of course, DH is called in early and then I am screwed and my Dad will get more leftovers than he can handle.

            Cooking for my picky family is always a challenge and requires more flexibility on my part than I like to give.

          2. Are you planning on braising it or dry roasting? If you're braising, you can do that anytime. Take the meat out & shred it. Put the meat back in the braising liquid & keep in the fridge until the day you want to serve it. Then just gently reheat. The meat will stay tender & the bonus is that the braising liquid will have even more flavor.

            1. Hi all,

              Thanks for all of your advice. The butt was amazing! Using the meat thermometer with the temp alarm took all the worry out of the roasting part of it. I dry rubbed and roasted on a rack and the bark is so amazing. I am still snacking on it. It took 11.5 hours @ 225 to get to 200 degrees. I let it rest for 45 minutes. The recipe called for turning off the oven and letting it rest in the cooling oven for 2 hours, but I didn't have that kind of time. Will try next time. I also got an injector for next time. We have a kitchen outlet here with good prices.

              As far as my original question, I am not sure if brining did anything good or bad. It seemed to be no more or less juicy than when I don't brine. It was very flavorful, but maybe that is because of the rub.

              I am so glad I invested in the thermometer.