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OneHump 04-13-2011 11:25 AM

Thoughts on Foiling Butts
I really enjoy experimenting, and rarely repeat a process. I read a recent thread about foiling and some posters who I really respect suggested that they don't foil their meat. This is a common debate, and it seems that good results are had on both sides.

What I like about the idea of not foiling is bark formation. It makes sense that bark is going to be better if you're not braising the meat. I have always foiled my butts because that is what I learned to do.

I made a couple of butts last weekend and decided not to foil them. A huge advantage of this was being able to put them on at 10:30 PM and go to bed. The bark, as expected, looked amazing, but I was surprised by the overall results.

While the bark was substantial, it was a little bit much. I like bark as much as anyone else, but I had some really big and hard bark chunks that were difficult to break apart and not all that pleasant in a sandwich.

I was also surprised to find that the bark smelled a bit burnt. My temp averaged 225F and didn't spike, as indicated by my StokerLog. The color of the bark was very dark when compared to bark foiled at 165F. Rubbing my finger across the bark and tasting it, I got a less than pleasant essence of char instead of a savory/sweet rub. I used two different rubs on these butts: SM Spicy Apple and SM Cherry.

The biggest change was with the moisture of the meat. I have never had a dry butt, but both of these butts were dry. One had a substantial fat cap and the other was trimmed. Both were boneless and of very high quality.

Now, on their own, these changes were less than optimal but, after pulling, I did have a good overall result. I had a lot of people over and they all raved about the pork.

The question I'm left with is this: Is it better to foil when considering bark protection/burning and meat moisture? All who don't foil will probably say that their butts are perfect, and they probably are, but could they be even better if they foiled? I wish I knew the answer to that. Either way, my stake is firmly planted in the foiling camp at this point.

Oh, I'm also now in the "trim the fat cap" camp as well. The capped butt was nowhere near as good as the trimmed butt as it had no ring on the capped side and lost its rub/bark.

Lake Dogs 04-13-2011 11:56 AM

Yep. That's why i foil. I know others dont, and that's certainly their choice, and they're happy with their results. I/we foil because:

1. Moisture retention. We compete and we cook for ourselves. For competitions especially it needs to be as moist as possible.

2. Bark (appearance as well as taste). Need it to be more reddish brown (described as a mahogany) than towards the black. Also the
blacker the bark the more bitter the taste.

3. Whole shoulder must be great; not just pieces. When we compete it's more likely to be MBN; judges will be right there in our campsite.
The shoulder must be perfect in every way, not just a few select pieces. Also, we can't separate the money muscle from it. None
of the hard bark / outside stuff is acceptable. None.

We get less loss due to burn, or over-smoke, or dryness, etc.

I'm not saying others dont get great results without having to foil. We dont.

Groundhog66 04-13-2011 12:02 PM

I have never foiled a butt, and have had pretty good results. I think I will next time though, you have me curious now.

eddieh70301 04-13-2011 12:03 PM

I tried butts both ways. I prefer not to foil as I do not like the mushy bark. I sometimes inject the butts. Flavor wise, the injection helps get the flavor deep into the meat. Moisture wise, I do not find much difference. I feel butts have enough fat that it will help retain moisture.

Just my preference.
I do foil chuckies and briskets.

mwmac 04-13-2011 12:09 PM

I trim the fat cap, inject with AJ/worcestershire/rub, cook with no foil until 190F, wrap in foil and cooler until serving time. Cooler time is where any tough bark is softened up imho:thumb:

martyleach 04-13-2011 12:29 PM

I have only foiled once when the butt got stuck in the stall and I had people coming over..... I foiled it to get though the stall then removed the foil. It came out good.

Southern Home Boy 04-13-2011 12:37 PM

Yeah... I foil. Though I HAVE had success in not foiling but basting every 45 minutes. The basted butt (hey... new team name?) wasn't significantly better than the foiled one and since it was a LOT more work (and I'm essentially a lazy a$$) I stick with foiling.

OneHump 04-13-2011 12:58 PM

I should point out that I injected 2c of injection per butt, and they were both still dry. Again, not a bad result at all, just not as good as my foiled butts.

Groundhog66 04-13-2011 01:04 PM

I am such a rookie, I have never injected anything I have smoked.

J'ville Grill 04-13-2011 01:14 PM

I don't foil and I've never injected a butt. I do use a water pan though to create a moist environment. I also like to use a mop but that's more for layering of flavor than moisture.

Cook 04-13-2011 02:27 PM

Don't blame the dry, hard pork on not foiling. LOL

Grafixgibbs 04-13-2011 03:05 PM

I don't foil or inject but my pork doesn't come out dry. I baste it every time I add wood though. I also let it rest for at least half an hour. I know if you cut/pull meat too soon the natural juices tend to run out too quickly and the meat seems dry. Resting allows them to redistribute through the meat.

drqag 04-13-2011 03:22 PM

I like to foil in a pan after 4-5 hours of smoke so I can keep some of that tasty pig juice...I skim off the fat and use it in my bbq sauce.

Dave S 04-13-2011 03:46 PM

I had never foiled my butts before. Last weekend I decided to try it. I foiled at about 170 and continued to cook in the foil until 190. I removed it from the cooker and wrapped it and put in a cooler for 2-1/2 hours. It was the juiciest butt to date. Now, I will say that I have never let one rest for 2-1/2 hrs so maybe that helped with the redistribution of the juices, I don't know. Could be a combination of the foil and longer resting time. I think I will continue to do both (foil and not foil) as the mood strikes. At some point I may develop a preference. Isn't that what makes BBQ so much fun???

early mornin' smokin' 04-13-2011 03:50 PM

I foil only if necessary, ie bark is getting to dark. But always unwrap and give it 20-30 back on the smoker to dry it out a little bit, after that it's wrapped in red butchers paper and coolered, well cambro-ed

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