When should you inject pork shoulder? – Maximum flavor guide!

Once you’ve got the hang of smoking pork shoulder or pork butt, playing around with the flavors is just the next step. In this guide we are going to cover a few questions that arise, should you inject pork shoulder the night before? What flavors work best and how much to inject pork shoulder?

If you search around on the internet you will find a lot of conflicting information in regards to almost every element of injecting pork joints. This guide will try to answer all of them but some are still open to personal opinions and taste preferences.

How different are pork shoulder and pork butt?

Both pork shoulder and pork butt are the perfect chunks of meat smoked for pulled pork. However, pork shoulder responds and is injected more often by pit masters than a joint of pork butt. Pork shoulder contains less intermuscular fat than pork butt. When smoking or cooking in general the breaking down of this fat is where the meat gets all its moisture from.

Just because pork butt is a fattier chunk of meat it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t inject it. In fact, injecting pork butt is exactly what you should do if you want to try out different flavors.

Why inject pork shoulder?

The trick when smoking a cut of pork shoulder for pulled pork is to keep maximum moisture within the meat. Pork should never be allowed to overcook and dry out. Pulled pork is extremely dull when dry and no matter how much BBQ sauce you use once ruined, it’s just not the same.

By injecting the pork shoulder you are adding moisture as well as extra flavor to the meat. When smoking on the BBQ the extra fluid inside the meat steams and cooks the meat. If a good bark is formed on the outside of the pork shoulder early on this extra moisture will be retained.

So not only have been able to add extra flavor to the meat in the injection you’ve also kept more moisture in the meat than you thought possible.

Spritzing and mopping the pork shoulder will help retain some of the moisture but can never really penetrate the meat to add extra moisture internally. Spritzing and mopping can and should both be used in addition to injecting for the biggest impact.

When to inject pork shoulder?

Inject pork shoulder the night before for the biggest flavor impact. At a maximum pork shoulder should be injected no more than 12 hours before hitting the smoker.

Pork naturally contains a lot of salt and with the addition of salt within the liquid injection. Any longer than 12 hours pork will start to cure. Cured pork has a ham taste to it. Also, you can almost guarantee almost all the liquid injected would’ve leaked from it any longer than 12 hours.

When injecting pork shoulder you will lose some of the mixture as it will leak and that will always happen, so don’t panic when that does happen. As long as you don’t lose all of the fluid then you’ve done it correctly.

Why inject pork shoulder the night before?

Pork shoulder can be injected as soon as 5 minutes before it hits the smoker but the juices have not had a chance to soak into and through the meat. This is why the maximum flavor impact can be achieved when you inject pork shoulder the night before.

This is where the conflicting information comes from some people say 1 hour works best, others will say 6 and I will say 10 – 12 hours. Most experienced competition BBQ pit masters will more than likely inject pork shoulder the night before to save on extra prep that day.

What should you inject pork shoulder with?

As I briefly touched there are a lot of different liquids and ingredients that can be used when injecting pork shoulder. Typically apple juice or cider vinegar are the starting substances. Then you will see additions such as BBQ rub, BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, and salt.

Other liquids that can work well with pork shoulder are Alcohol such as bourbon or whiskey, coca-cola, and other fruit juices.

By far the easiest and best-tasting injection mixture is 100% apple juice mixed with BBQ rub used on the exterior of the pork shoulder. This mixture delivers that BBQ flavor from the bark and also inside the meat. Heavenly!

Pork and apple are a marriage of flavors, and pure 100% juice can work wonders without any additions when injected.

How much liquid shoulder you inject pork shoulder with?

Over-injecting pork shoulder will just mean losing most of the fluid as it will be forced out by pressure. The ideal amount to work on is 1 cup(236ml) of fluid per 10 pounds(4.5kg) of pork shoulder.

To inject pork shoulder make sure to force the injector into different sections of the pork shoulder to allow the fluid to spread around the meat as much as possible.


It is a completely personal choice whether or not you inject pork shoulder or pork butt. Pork can be enjoyed with just a simple BBQ rub to amplify the flavors. Give it a try for yourself and see how you get on.