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blackdog043 12-23-2010 08:07 PM

Danger Zone 40-140
This came up in a thread the other day about getting above 140 in 4 hrs. I sent an email to USDA to see if they had any standards. I used 6-7 hrs to exaggerate. Take it for what it's worth, it's there guide lines.

Subject: Message from Internet User - smoking meats danger zone

I get my smoker to 250*, before I put my meats on. Sometimes the meat will take longer than 4 hours to reach an internal temp of 140*. As long as my smoker is keeping temps above 225*, how long is it safe to still
keep smoking the meat? If it takes 6-7 hrs to reach 140*, is it still ok
to eat,as long as I get the internal temp over 160*?
Thanks,in advance for your time.

Dear Bill:
Thank you for writing the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline.

As long as the smoker is at least 225 degrees F it is safe. The amount
of time it takes for food to cook in a smoker can vary widely, and when
it is cold outside it can take longer to cook as well. The most
important thing is that you monitor the temperature of the smoker and
the internal temperature of the food you are cookng. If the smoker stays
at 225 or higher, the food is safe to eat, no matter how long it takes
to cook.

We have more information at:

Meat and Poultry Hotline Webmaster
To speak to a Food Safety Specialist,
call the Hotline at 1-888-674-6854

Food safety information is also available 24/7, by going to "Ask Karen,"
our automated virtual representative at You may type
your food safety question directly into the automated virtual
representative feature.

Mister Bob 12-23-2010 08:36 PM

Thank you for the information.

I was going to comment to that effect in the other thread, but I was having trouble finding an authoritative source to reference.

I've cooked some very large cuts that were nowhere near 140 internal temperature in 4 hours and never even considered it a problem because of the smoker temperature.

blackdog043 12-23-2010 08:44 PM

USDA has a lot of useful information. From what I was reading on there site, the 40-140 is for meats before or after they are cooked. Thats what inspired me to write them. Hopefully this clears up some of the questions on here, about throwing meat out when smoking.

bigabyte 12-23-2010 10:03 PM

I sure hope nobody has ever told someone to throw out meat they have been smoking at 225 or higher. That would be a first as far as I know.

byounghusband 12-23-2010 11:14 PM

Good to hear!! I was asked about how long it took to get ot 140* on the Butt I smoked today and it was approx. 5 hours. I wasn't too worried about it since I have not had an issue in the past on anything I have smoked... But I like to know the published factoids.

J'ville Grill 12-24-2010 12:34 AM

How long it would take to get a whole hog up to 140. Surely it would take longer than 4 hrs, wouldn't it?

Ron_L 12-24-2010 06:38 AM

The key is that the cooking environment (the smoker) is above 225. I'm not sure that 225 is the magic number, it may be lower, but that is the important part. Assuming that the meat has been handles properly before it went into the smoker, it would be safe when going in. If it has been in an environment that is hot enough that no new bacteria can grow (hence the 225), then it will be fine. Where we (the Brethren) have suggested that meat may be unsafe is when the cooker temp has dropped below that magic number (use 225) for a long period, or, an unknown period. That temp drop could allow bacteria to grow and the meat could be unsafe.

byounghusband 12-24-2010 07:35 AM

I did a Wild Boar Piglet (20-25 lbs) and a mature Wild Boar Hind Quarter this past spring on a SFB smoker and after fighting rain and 40 mph winds all night, I fell asleep for about three hours. The fire crashed and meat tmep went from 120* to 110*. When I woke up in a PANIC :doh: I fired it back up and brought the meat to 140 * in about an hour. Yeah a little quicker than I would have liked, but this smoker leaked like a screen door on a sub... I pulled all the wild Boar after it got to 195*. Nver foiled the meat at all and it came out just fine.

I would NOT recommend that as a way to go, but it ended up just fine and everyone loved it. That and the 30 ABTs, 2 Pizza fatties and 65 lbs of mud bugs!! :eusa_clap

The key point is to keep your smoker above the magic number 225* and if the USDA say ok on that, a little bit of fudge factor should be fine.

What kind of smoler are you thinking of doing the whole hog on?


Originally Posted by J'ville Grill (Post 1492479)
How long it would take to get a whole hog up to 140. Surely it would take longer than 4 hrs, wouldn't it?

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