Cider Brined Pulled Pork

November 15, 2017

This salty sweet apple cider brined pulled pork is made from pork shoulder that is brined then smoked and slow roasted to tender, fall-apart perfection.

Cider Brined Pulled Pork Hey Grill Hey

One of the reasons that I fell so hard in love with my grill is because of how SIMPLE it is to cook dinner for my family. I am a mom of 3, and, to be honest, getting dinner on the table every night can be a pain in the butt. From deciding what to make, to grocery lists, to shopping trips, to the second shopping trip because you forgot stuff on the first trip, it can suck. When I started grilling regularly, not only did I think of ways to make quick 30 minute recipes on weeknights, I learned how to utilize my time on the weekends to simplify the rest of my upcoming meals. I will grill up 3 or 4 whole chickens then shred and freeze for quick (and delicious) chicken dishes. I can smoke a whole mess of tomatoes and make marinara sauce and freeze it. The weekends have become my favorite time to cook outside with my family and meal prep for the upcoming week. My most favorite thing to do in bulk that we do over and over again on the weekends is pulled pork.

Cider Brined Pulled Pork to be specific.

That’s right, CIDER BRINED! The apple cider brine just perfectly accentuates the natural sweetness of the pork. The flavor is in every single bite of pork because not only is it brined from the outside, it is also INJECTED with the brine. This is your chance to play mad scientist and go all in with a giant syringe! It is so freaking fun. If you don’t have a meat injector, it would be worth buying one just for this recipe. Or don’t buy one and just enjoy the (still) amazingly delicious flavor from the brining process alone. This pulled pork is just so succulent and juicy and it is all from that tasty brine, so I love getting the flavor into the meat as much as I can.


Apple Cider Brined Pulled Pork

If you have followed along at Hey Grill, Hey for any amount of time you are probably aware of my pulled pork/ pulled pork leftovers obsession. I think it stems from the fact that pulled pork is so dang simple to make, it is one of the MOST inexpensive (always under $2.00/lb) cuts of meat, and there are leftovers for DAYSSSSS which means easier meal prep for me during the entire week. If I maximize my grill space, then I can double the cider brined pulled pork recipe, portion into bags and freeze for future use. It is a life changer, truly, and helped me get over that “what am I cooking for dinner tonight, crap it’s already time for dinner” dilemma.


How to make Cider Brined Pulled Pork:

So here’s the rundown of how I save money, time, and effort and still feed my family like they are legit royalty without me really trying very hard. I’m lazy. It happens.

Friday evening before bed: Throw the pork butts in the brine. Refrigerate. Make the rub and set aside.
Saturday morning (7 AM): Pull the pork butts out of the brine, pat down with a paper towel, and inject with some of the brine liquid. Cover liberally with spice rub. Place the butts on the smoker at 225 degrees. Bring about 6 cups of the brine to a boil (to protect against cross contamination) and and then refrigerate. Continue my morning as usual, heading outside about once an hour to check my fire and mop my butts with some of the reserved brine.
Saturday morning (10 AM): Before we head out to soccer games, friends houses, errands, etc. I transfer my pork butts to a disposable aluminum pan and fill the bottom of each with about 1 cup of the reserved brine. At this point, you can return to the smoker and increase the heat to about 250 degrees, or you can place it in your oven at 250 degrees, or if you’re a little concerned about leaving with your oven/smoker on you can always put the pork butt and liquid in a large crock pot on low (but please try not to do this. Crock pots are against my personal moral constitution. No judging though.) If at any point during the day, your pork starts to look a little too dark for your liking, cover it tightly with foil.

Saturday afternoon (about 3 or 4 PM): Start checking your temperature. Always use an internal thermometer to check your pork butts. You are looking for 195 at least, preferably 200 degrees, before your pork is ready to pull off the heat. This can take anywhere from 6-9 hours after you place them in the foil pans . If your pork butts are done before dinner time, no problem! Just pull the whole foil wrapped tray and place it in a cooler with some towels to keep it hot! If it is taking a little too long…. well…. there are always appetizers to tide people over until it is done. Don’t rush BBQ. It is what it is.
Saturday evening (10 minutes before chow time): It’s time to shred your pork. Pour the excess cooking liquid into a large measuring cup and set aside while you shred. You can use 2 forks, some Bear Paws (my personal favorite), or whatever you love to get that pork shredded and the extra fat/gristle removed and discarded. Once your pork is shredded, grab your cooking liquids. The fat should have risen to the top, so skim that off with a spoon or a fat separator, and drizzle some of the juices onto the pork to moisturize everything and make it extra yummy! Now serve as much as you want to your family!
Saturday night (after dinner): It’s time to portion the leftovers into bags! I like to plan at least 2 meals for the upcoming week with the cider brined pulled pork and freeze the rest for future meals. If you need inspiration for your pulled pork leftovers, look no further! I’ve got Pulled Pork Huevos Rancheros (for breakfast), The Smoky Cuban Sandwich, BBQ Chicken Nachos (make with pork), Loaded Baked Potatoes, The Smokehouse Stuffed Hot Dog… the possibilities are endless!!

Cider Brined Pulled Pork Recipe

And BOOM!! You’ve got the major protein taken care of for at least 6 meals if you made two pork butts. I kid you not, life changing. Just pull a bag of cider brined pulled pork out of the freezer and dinner is all but done! And since your smoker did most of the work (if you have an indirect, automatic smoker like my Camp Chef Woodwind) you can look like a total rock star without actually trying very hard. I’m always looking for new ideas on how to use up that pulled pork, what are your favorite ways to eat it up??

cider brined pulled pork
Print Recipe
5 from 11 votes

Cider Brined Pulled Pork

The apple cider brine perfectly accentuates the natural sweetness of the pork.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time9 hrs
Total Time17 hrs 10 mins
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Barbecue, Party Food
Servings: 8 people


  • 1 bone-in pork shoulder or Boston butt 5-7 lbs
  • Buns and BBQ sauce for serving (if desired)

Cider Brine

  • 6 cups apple cider
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp onion powder
  • 1/3 cup Hey Grill Hey’s Sweet BBQ Rub link in recipe notes


  • In a large plastic container or food safe bucket, combine all of the brine ingredients and stir until the salt and sugar crystals have completely dissolved. Be sure the pork is almost fully immersed in the brine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, but no more than 12 hours.
  • When ready to cook, start your smoker going at 225 degrees F and preheat, lid closed, for 10 to 15 minutes. While the grill gets up to temperature, remove the pork from the brine and set on a large cookie sheet with raised edges. Do not discard the brine liquid. Pat the meat dry with a paper towel. Using a meat injector, inject the pork with some of the remaining brine about every two inches across the entire roast. Pour about 6 cups of the remaining brine into a pot and bring to a boil to kill any raw pork germs and discard the rest.
  • Now that the meat is brined and injected, it is time to rub. Rub the Sweet Rub liberally onto your pork butt, using your hands to massage the rub across every surface of the meat.
  • Put the pork directly on your grill grate, fat-side up, and cook for 3 hours, mopping with your reserved brine every hour after the first hour.
  • After 3 hours, the pork is going to have taken on as much smoke flavor as it can, so it is time to turn up the heat! Transfer your roast to a large disposable aluminum foil pan and pour about 1 cup of the brine liquid in the bottom of the pan. Increase your grill temperature to 250 degrees F, and cook for 6 to 8 additional hours, or until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat (but not touching bone) registers 195 to 200 degrees F. If the pork starts to brown too much, you can cover it loosely with aluminum foil. I usually put foil on after the pork has been on for 6 hours or so, but that is personal preference.
  • Once your pork is up to temperature, remove it from the grill and carefully transfer it to a large cutting board or serving dish and let it rest for at least 20 minutes. Pour the juices from the bottom of the aluminum pan into a liquid measuring cup and separate any fat that rises to the top. Now it's time to pull the pork into lovely shreds. You can use your hands, Bear Paws, or whatever method you like Discard the bone and any lumps of fat, including the cap. Season the pulled pork with additional rub (if desired) and moisten with the reserved pork juice.
  • Serve on buns with BBQ sauce, if you like! Freeze any leftovers in labeled gallon freezer bags. Will keep in the freezer for at least a month for your future use.


Here's the link to a printable version of the Sweet BBQ Rub used in this recipe:
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91 thoughts on “Cider Brined Pulled Pork

  1. I used your apple cider brined pulled pork recipe at my church’s annual Grill Off yesterday. I won the pulled pork category. My wife liked it so much she’s having me make it again next week for her birthday. Thanks!

  2. My old smoker disintegrated after 10 long faithful years and I decided to break in a new one and learn how it cooks. I came across this recipe and decided to give it a try. After putting my Boston Butt in the brine I realized I had a lot of space left. I took a whole pork loin I had purchased and threw it in to take up the space overnight. Same rub applied to both. Apple wood on the smoker at 8 AM and off we go! Pulled the tenderloin off after five hours and 155 deg internal temperature for lunch. Sliced thinly and what an amazing flavor it has! My girlfriend and her mother couldn’t keep their hands out of the plate!!! What a wonderful compliment of cider and vinegar, along with the brown sugar and freshly cracked pepper in the rub. Still another treat awaited 3 hours later when the butt hit 195 deg!!! Took it off and headed to the high school football game. Came back and shredded and everyone is in bliss again!! This is going to become one of my staple pork recipes! Scanned your site and found some other recipes that also peaked my interest! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hey Troy! Thank you SO much for taking the time to come back and leave a comment! Next time I make this recipe, I’m putting a pork loin in with the pork butt. That sounds amazing!! I hope to hear from you if you try any more recipes. Happy smoking!

  3. Thank you for the video and recipes! I’m getting ready to try this, this weekend, can’t wait!

    Two questions:
    -The recipe posted above, omits the ground mustard and cayenne pepper used in the video. Was that intentional, or should I leave out those two ingredients? -Is the rub recipe also just for one butt, or do I need to double it for two butts?


    1. Hey Marshall! The simple recipe here is a great starting point. I recommend going for the recipe with the mustard and cayenne if you have the ingredients on hand!
      Also, the recipe should make enough for two butts but I always double the recipe anyways so I have some on hand for next time.

      1. Hi, my name is Johnny I read MR. MARSHALL ADAMS, 02/16/17 comment about the omitted ground mustard and cayenne pepper, and I watched the video twice to see if they added the the two missing ingredients neither the video or the posted recipe has it so what is the recipe he is talking about? and what is the link to that recipe?

  4. Hello! This recipes sounds delicious and I plan to make it soon but do you have any suggestions for the smoker step if I don’t have one? Thank you!

    1. Hey Jane- this recipe can easily be adapted for the crock pot! Just follow the steps for the brine and seasoning and put in a slow cooker with a couple cups of the brine liquid. Cook over low heat for 8-9 hours or high for 5 1/2 hours. If you don’t have slow cooker, you can place the seasoned shoulder in a baking dish with some of the brining liquid, cover the pan with foil, and cook for about 3-4 hours at 325 degrees F.

  5. Why not bring any longer than 12 hrs? I have brined for 2 days before with no issues. Is it because of the vinegar?

    1. Hey Jay- exactly right about the vinegar. Salt brines are a bit different, the vinegar in this brine is acidic enough to actually start to break down the protein after too long and will result in mushy pork.

      1. Do you know if I brine for eight hours then drain the brain off and save it and then put a dry rub on it for another eight hours does the vinegar still have the same affect as if it was sitting in the brine longer than 12 hours ?

      2. I leave mine in the brine for 24 hours with no issues. By the way, I use this recipe slightly modified and it always gets praises.

  6. So I’m not much of a recipe follower but this brine is top notch! And to make things better I used the rub and mop sauce recipe from your bourbon brown sugar butt recipe because that made my mouth water. The result was out of this World! Keep the recipes coming. And thank you from the bottom of my stomach! ????????????

  7. You did it again Susie. What an awesome method. I made 3 10 pound butts for my daughter’s wedding rehearsal dinner. Everyone was amazed at the taste and how moist the pork was. It was a lot of extra work but worth it with the end result. Thanks again, you always post things that hit it out of the park.

  8. Hi Susie, came across your website last week and I must say I’m very impressed. I’ve tried a couple of your recipes and all I can say is. Yummy! I live as far away from a Utah as I can possibly get Esperance, Western Australia. We can’t get American style Apple cider. The stuff they call apple cider is more like apple flavoured soda. Can 100 percent apple juice be substituted to make your cider brined pulled pork? I’m responsible for providing pulled pork for my daughters wedding reception (ring ceremony) so I want something totally awesome. Thanks Tim

      1. I’m glad I looked at these comments! I’m from Western Australia too and I just made the brine with our apple cider! It’s alcoholic and carbonated and was fizzing like crazy… I have just made it again with apple juice!
        I’ve tried a few of your recipes too and is my go to for smoking now.

  9. So I actually made this today! I usually do my own stuff for stuff like this but I figured id give a different method a try. I usually don’t brine either, more of a marinade it for a few days with my rub before I smoke it on my charcoal grill. Well my husband gave this huge thumbs up, I also threw a pack of thick cut bacon in the brine and smoked it too and omg best bacon ever. Thanks for an awesome recipe I will definitely be doing it again!

    1. I’m so glad you gave it a try!! I haven’t even done a pork belly in this brine, but now I’m kicking myself that I haven’t because it sounds SO GOOD! Thanks for inspiring me!

  10. Hi, Trying this at the weekend for a party. Doing 3 butts should i triple the brine recipe for this or make 3 separate brines and brine them in different containers.Cant wait to try it. Thanks Sean

    1. This recipe is good for 2 butts, so you will want to increase it if you are doing three. They can all be done in the same container if you have one large enough and that you can keep cold.

  11. Hey Grill,
    I have done about 5 pulled pork recipes.
    It was your turn today.
    We had visitors from France and they were raving about it.
    Perfect and it will go to the top of my list.
    Regards from New Zealand

  12. Do I need to cut this recipe in half if I’m using one Boston butt? The recipe says 1 Boston and 8 servings but the comments said this recipe is for 2 Boston. It’s. Please help (: I’ve smoked a BB Sunday and one yesterday. Look forward to brining!

    1. Hey Jess- I keep the amount of brine the same for one or two roasts, simply because you need enough to make sure the whole roast is covered and it is generally enough to cover two (if you’re doing that many anyways).

      1. I must have read the recipe wrong, I added the 1/3 cup of rub to the brine. The recipe said to mix all ingredients together and the rub was on e of the ingredients. Hope I didn’t mess up. Hope it still tastes ok. Some of what I pulled off the bottom of the foil pan was pretty salty.

  13. this recipe looks fantastic. I’m making it to serve next weekend for family. Does it make any sense, have you had any experience on whether to leave them unshredded, freeze them, then reheat and shred? Or shred it and freeze it now, after having some ourselves?

  14. Have made the apple brined pork three times now, unbelievable. Everyone loves it. Your sweet bbq rub works great for pork ribs. Using cherry pellets today and can’t wait.

  15. Do you have any suggestions on cooking without a smoker? I would love to use the brine and rub and cook the pulled pork recipe. Could I possibly use a slow cooker?

    1. This recipe can easily be adapted for the crock pot! Just follow the steps for the brine and seasoning and put in a slow cooker with a couple cups of the brine liquid. Cook over low heat for 8-9 hours or high for 5 1/2 hours.

  16. This recipe is AMAZING. I did one tweak though – I held it steady at 225 throughout (electric smoker), but did everything else as described. The results….no Thanksgiving leftovers. Next year, I’m smoking two pork butts.

    On another note, love your site!

  17. My nephew wants me to make Dr Pepper pulled pork yet I’m finding this bribe intriguing. Can you bribe it apple cider and then Add half a can of Dr Pepper to the bottom of a crockpot for sweetness?

  18. I’m not seeing apple cider in my grocery stores, only the alcoholic stuff in the liquor stores (Canada). I assume you don’t mean for an alcoholic cider to be used in the brine? (I did see the earlier comments about subbing apple juice in but just wanted to clarify the alcohol part)

    Thx for your site – this looks like a delicious recipe.

  19. My husband works maintenance for a huge company in the area, and he was off for the first time this weekend since probably Thanksgiving. I got him a new smoker for Christmas and we ran across this recipe…pretty much followed everything to the tee (noted this time of year in NC you can only find apple juice at your local food lion, butttt..),it turned out absolutely spectacular!!! You made everything so easy to follow and we all have full tummys thanks to this recipe!@

  20. Just wanted to say thanks! I’ve made this 5 or 6 times now and it has never failed to amaze. Even my hardcore BBQ friends can’t find a fault.. lol
    In fact, I’m heading to the store now for the rub ingredients to make a shoulder this weekend.
    Again Thanks for such a great recipe!!

  21. Quick question. I am making this for my birthday party Saturday. Do you continue to baste every hour after the initial 3 hours or once you put the brine juice and pork in the smoker do you stop basting?

  22. How do you reheat the pork that has been in the refrigerator? I’m smoking it now but won’t use it for 2 days. Thank you! Love your website.

  23. Intentaré hacer esta receta el fin de semana desearme suerte, si no encuentro la cidra de vinagre de manzana lo puedo remplazar por algo más?

  24. Hey! Using your brine for this smoke. I’m new to this last year, and wonder if this is a ok idea or not… I boiled my brine after I was done, canned it in a jar and used it again on the next one. Added salt and spice to the previous brine when I did it again. I had good results and everyone loved it. Is it ok to save and reuse a brine?

  25. Hey Grill! Just read thru all the comments I have my butt brining right now but my injector is missing, do you think this will still be ok if I cannot inject once the brilning is done or make some kind of adjustments during smoking? Not sure if I can find a store to get another injector in time….. Thank you – cant wait to get it started tomorrow morning!!!

  26. Did this pork yesterday. Turned out fantastic (even in a water smoker!) Used hickory and apple woods.

    One note: the “1/3 cup Hey Grill Hey Sweet Rub” is listed under the brine ingredients, so I inadvertently added some to the brine. Oh well, I call that “bonus flavor”! Good thing I always have plenty of the rub on hand.

    Thanks for a great recipe!

  27. I don’t have a smoker. Can I do two butts in the oven low and slow? Or must be a crockpot?

    I’ve always done the Dr Pepper in the crockpot, but this recipe sounds amazing and worth the extra work!!

    1. You absolutely can! Just follow the smoker instructions in your oven! The only thing you’ll miss out on is the smoky flavor.

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