What poppycock is this dry-brining, you say? Is that not anti-thetical to the entire concept of brining?
Well, yes and no.
Brining involves submerging food in a solution of water, salt, and occasionally sugar and spices. The entire idea is to inject the food with flavor and moisture. Dry-brining creates a similar effect, just without all the goopy meat-juice to clean up afterwards.
And, if you're anything like me, goopy meat-juice isn't exactly on the list of things you want hanging around in your kitchen.
Dry-brining involves creating a mixture of mostly salt and sugar, along with some spices, and then liberally coating the meat in it. Let it sit for 24 hours or so and the salty-sweet rub magically (it's not really magic) extracts the juices from the meat where they mix with the rub, and then slowly settle back into the tissue creating - wait for it...flavor and moisture!
By then roasting the meat at a low temperature for a long period of time, the mixture then slowly melds with fat and caramelizes, creating a crusty, highly-flavorful shell that infuses the entire pork shoulder with delicious salty-sweet-spiced goodness. The fat and sinew in the pork shoulder slowly gelatinizes (yep, that's a word) and makes it all meltingly tender inside the crust.
And it involves approximately 15 minutes of active preparation, something I think all of us busy people can get behind.
So, before you get your knickers in a twist about the semantics of "dry-brining," give it a shot. If you don't like it, invite me over to your house and I'll eat it all. I won't mind one bit.
Dry-Brined Pork Shoulder
1/2 cup kosher salt
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon dry mustard
5 lb. pork shoulder (Boston butt, pork butt - they're all the same thing)
Combine the rub ingredients in small dish and liberally coat the entire pork shoulder on all sides. Place in a leak-proof container and let rest in the refrigerator at least 24 hours. The next day, preheat the oven to 250F degrees. Place the pork shoulder in your favorite baking dish large enough to accomodate the shoulder and roast, uncovered, for approximately 7-9 hours. Start checking at 7 hours - if it's fork tender it's ready. If not, let it continue cooking, checking every half hour for doneness.
Enjoy with BBQ sauce on a bun, siracha-mayo in a tortilla, or fried up with some potatoes and a poached egg - or shovel it directly into your mouth indiscriminately.