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.