Pork Shoulder Rub Overnight: How Much Time Does It Need?

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Marinated pork shoulder

When’s the best time to apply a seasoning rub? Does it make a difference? The answer to the first question isn’t as straightforward as the second.

In this guide, we’ll attempt to answer both of them. When you’ve finished reading, you should be able to decide whether or not to apply pork shoulder rub overnight.

Pork Shoulder Rub Overnight

Applying the rub to the pork shoulder the night before cooking will free up valuable time on the day of the barbecue. The mixture of herbs spices will also adhere more closely to the meat and may contribute to a thicker and more flavorful bark.

About Pork Shoulder Rub

pork shoulder on grill with rub

A rub is a combination of ingredients that you apply to meat before you start to cook. The mixture may be wet or dry, depending on which ingredients you use.

The right seasoning rub can enhance the flavor of your smoked meat by a considerable amount. The ones used on pork typically feature a blend of spices and herbs that are meant to complement the pork without overpowering it.

Typical dry rub ingredients include—but are not limited to—the following:

  • Kosher salt
  • Seasoned salt (such as Lawry’s)
  • Brown sugar
  • Paprika or smoked paprika
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Dry mustard
  • Oregano
  • Black pepper

To help the mixture adhere to the pork, you can apply a thin coating of prepared mustard beforehand. Note that if you decide to do this, you should leave dry mustard out of the rub recipe.

Wet rubs have the same purpose as dry rubs, but they include ingredients that have their own built-in moisture, so there’s no need to start with a mustard coating. In fact, you can use mustard as one of the core ingredients to help the mixture form a thick paste.

Other wet rub ingredients might include yogurt, horseradish, vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice, and orange juice. If you’d like the texture of a wet rub but are worried about overpowering the other flavors, you can use olive oil instead.

Rub vs. Marinade: What’s The Difference?

Marinated Pork Shoulder Steak

A marinade is designed to break down the proteins in the meat to make it tender. It also provides an added burst of flavor, which you can customize depending on which ingredients you use.

While rubs are meant to impart flavor, and can affect the surface of the meat by allowing a nice bark to form, they don’t really tenderize the meat. That’s the main difference between a dry rub and a marinade.

Wet rubs are a possible exception. If you include yogurt, vinegar, or another ingredient that’s high in enzymes or acid, it may promote tenderness. In fact, it might even result in mushy pork if you leave the mixture on too long, as we’ll discuss later on.

How To Apply Dry Rub

No matter when you choose to apply the dry rub, it’s important to massage the mixture into the surface of the meat.

For one thing, if you don’t rub it in, the spices might fall off when you add the pork to the smoker. For another, you want to ensure even coverage, and that will only happen if you take extra care during the application.

When Is The Best Time To Apply The Dry Rub?

Even the experts can’t seem to agree on whether to apply the pork shoulder rub overnight or to wait until the meat is ready to hit the smoker. That’s because there are solid arguments to be made for both methods.

First of all, it’s not necessary to apply the rub hours in advance. This isn’t like brining, which involves soaking the meat in a saltwater solution to help it retain moisture. Marinades also require a certain amount of time to do their work.

A dry rub, on the other hand, is just there to season the pork. As long as the spices stick to the meat as it cooks, the rub has fulfilled its purpose.

Those who prefer to apply the rub the night before often do so because it’s more convenient, freeing up time on the actual day of the cookout. When you leave the seasoned pork in the fridge overnight, the spices are also more likely to stay put during cooking.

Adding the seasoning rub in advance can also contribute to a thicker and more flavorful bark. This is even more noticeable when you’re smoking ribs instead of pork shoulder.

pulling pork shoulder with a pair of forks

We usually recommend adding the rub in advance and letting the pork shoulder sit in the fridge for up to 12 hours, or overnight. It saves time and doesn’t do any harm (save for the exception we’ve listed below). On the other hand, if you’ve waited until the last minute to apply the rub, your pork should still taste amazing.

We should reiterate that when the rub contains components that might tenderize the pork, it’s better to apply it just 1 to 2 hours in advance. When the pork is exposed to these ingredients for too long, the proteins will break down to the point of mushiness.

Should You Wrap The Seasoned Pork In Plastic?

Once you’ve applied the dry rub, should you wrap it in plastic before adding it to the smoker? Some folks claim that this will help hold the mixture in place, while others worry that the plastic will take the rub with it when it’s time to remove the wrapper.

The plastic wrapper isn’t really necessary. Just set the pork in a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet and set it on the bottom shelf of the fridge, uncovered.

If you’re worried about the raw pork contaminating other ingredients, or that debris might fall from the upper shelves onto the pork shoulder, you can add a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper. Just lay it across the surface of the meat without wrapping it too tightly.

How Much Rub Do You Need For Pork Shoulder?

1/2 to 3/4 cup of spice rub should be sufficient for a pork shoulder weighing 6 to 8 pounds. The exact amount isn’t important, as long as the coating is even.

If you’re dealing with a large cut, you want to apply a liberal coating of seasoning rub. There will be so much meat beneath the surface that the extra seasoning won’t overpower it.

For smaller cuts, it’s fine to apply a bit less seasoning. The spices should accent the flavor of the meat, not drown it out.

The Bottom Line

In the end, it’s up to you whether to apply the pork shoulder rub overnight, or wait until you’re ready to fire up the smoker.

Like many aspects of the grilling experience, it all comes down to personal taste. We would advise caution only when using wet rubs that would turn the surface of the meat to mush if you were to leave them on too long.

Best of luck, and happy grilling!

Darren Wayland Avatar


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