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Q-talk *ON TOPIC ONLY* QUALITY ON TOPIC discussion of Backyard BBQ, grilling, Equipment and just outdoor cookin' in general, hints, tips, tricks & techniques, success, failures... but stay on topic. And watch for that hijacking.


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Unread 09-07-2009, 07:30 PM   #46
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Default Sorry this post is so long.

Following all the great advice Iíve received as best I could, here is my resulting report. Saturday night I rubbed the roast and stuck it back in the fridge. Sunday morning, in preparation for starting the fire, I layered my pan with coal. Then I dug out a hole on one side as a spot to place the coals from my chimney starter. I spread my wood chips throughout.



I loaded the chimney, lit it up, and dumped it in my designated spot. Right away I got a ton of smoke, which I assume is normal. What I later realized was that a lot of that smoke was probably my wood chips burning up. Iím pretty sure using chunks instead of chips would have helped me out a lot, but thatís all that was available to me at the time.



I placed the roast on the grate at 8am. I gave it a really thick rub, much more than if I were prepping something for grilling.



Mostly, I battled two things: consistent smoke and consistent temp. While I attribute the temp problems to my rig, the inconsistent smoke was from my inexperience. I struggled with the wood chips burning up almost instantly. So, thanks to the vast resources Iíve read here on the forum, I knew there were at least two ways to combat this - I could soak the chips or place them in foil. First, I tried the foil. That seemed to work a bit better, and the smoke would start slightly slower, but I still had a huge surge of smoke in less than 10 minutes.





After the surge, there was no wood smoke. I pulled out the foil and replaced it with some soaked chips in foil. That gave a much slower smoke and was the best I could get out of these tiny chips. Unfortunately, I didnít figure out the frequency I needed to replace them (which I felt was very often) until I was about half way through the cook. As a result, the pork seemed roasted instead of smoked.

For the first 100 minutes or so, the temp held very well and I was feeling good about things, and then the cooker starting cooling off. I knew there was no way that the coal I had in the pan was spent yet, even with the ash buildup issue of the Smoke ĎN Grill. I peaked in the door, and sure enough, all the briquettes were greyed over and about half were sitting in ash. I tried to raise the temp back up by adding a few fresh briquettes and sifting the ash towards the bottom of the pan. With the small clearance below the water pan though, this was difficult.

As it turns out, besides the lack of ventilation control, steadying the temperature of the fire for any more than 30 minutes was nearly impossible. There were spurts where it stabilized on 220į or 230į, but for the most part I had to tend it. Iíd check it about every 20 minutes or so, and almost every time Iíd need to vent off a little heat or stir the fire to boost the temp.

Despite the temp fluctuations, it was still a hot grate and the meat was cooking. I threw on two fatties at 10am. I jammed it all onto the top grate, which proved to be a small mistake. The drippings from one of the fatties were too close to the edge and missed the drip pan all together, falling straight onto the ground.



I was able to pull the fatties for lunch, which was a bit after noon. One was plain Jimmy Deanís, the other was a spicy Tennessee Pride with bell pepper and a zucchini we needed to use.





The roast finally came off at 4pm. I foiled and toweled it in a cooler for about 70 minutes. Then I let it rest on the counter for 30 minutes. When I cut it, the meat looked ok, but it was much harder to pull than I anticipated. The center was a pale white-grey color and the outer edges had a ring of pinkish red. If I had to guess, Iíd say that I overcooked it slightly. What I donít understand though is why the edges were the tenderest. Could it be that I left it in the cooler too long, as it cooked from the inside out?





Iíve written all this up in order to bring my portion of this thread to some kind of completion. Iíve focused on the mistakes of my first cook to get help for next time and also to provide a reference to other first-timers. Although Iím calling out the things that went wrong, I enjoyed the day and we still had a good dinner. My wife made up some homemade beans and weíve got plenty of leftovers. Thanks again guys for all your help, and I'll gladly accept any more that you can provide.

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Unread 09-08-2009, 09:19 AM   #47
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I'm sorry you had a rough time with your first cook... Please take solace that it happens to all of us on a new cooker, no mater what the experience level is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Divemaster View Post
Also, did you get the grate for your charcoal? If not, it's not to late... Either way, I think you're going to need to stir the coals every 45 minutes or so...
Quote:
Originally Posted by B3 View Post
I got a grate and it was about 3/8Ē too large to sit down inside the brim of the pan and had to return it. It was like a 3-point fit without the third point. If I poured my chimney coals on it, it could have flipped right over. I need a grate that was maybe 1/2" smaller or 1/2" bigger. Either would have worked, but I didnít have a chance to go hunting for another one. As I said, stirring definitely helps, but only after I close the door.
If you can't find the exact size, get one that is larger and build a wall around it using foil (also cover part of the under side to prevent the ash and coals from falling on the ground). This way you have more space for ash in the pan.

Quote:
Originally Posted by B3 View Post
Following all the great advice Iíve received as best I could, here is my resulting report. Saturday night I rubbed the roast and stuck it back in the fridge. Sunday morning, in preparation for starting the fire, I layered my pan with coal. Then I dug out a hole on one side as a spot to place the coals from my chimney starter. I spread my wood chips throughout.
Sounds like a good start!

Quote:
Originally Posted by B3 View Post
I loaded the chimney, lit it up, and dumped it in my designated spot. Right away I got a ton of smoke, which I assume is normal. What I later realized was that a lot of that smoke was probably my wood chips burning up. Iím pretty sure using chunks instead of chips would have helped me out a lot, but thatís all that was available to me at the time.
I agree, I prefer using chunks rather than chips...


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Originally Posted by B3 View Post
I placed the roast on the grate at 8am. I gave it a really thick rub, much more than if I were prepping something for grilling.
You did the right thing. The flavor of the rub gets milder as the cook goes on...

Quote:
Originally Posted by B3 View Post
Mostly, I battled two things: consistent smoke and consistent temp. While I attribute the temp problems to my rig, the inconsistent smoke was from my inexperience. I struggled with the wood chips burning up almost instantly. So, thanks to the vast resources Iíve read here on the forum, I knew there were at least two ways to combat this - I could soak the chips or place them in foil. First, I tried the foil. That seemed to work a bit better, and the smoke would start slightly slower, but I still had a huge surge of smoke in less than 10 minutes.

After the surge, there was no wood smoke. I pulled out the foil and replaced it with some soaked chips in foil. That gave a much slower smoke and was the best I could get out of these tiny chips. Unfortunately, I didnít figure out the frequency I needed to replace them (which I felt was very often) until I was about half way through the cook. As a result, the pork seemed roasted instead of smoked.
As my Navy CO used to say... Adapt and over come... You did the right thing in putting the chips into foil (something I didn't think of earlier, sorry). Based on the pron, I think you could have even put more into the packet, but that's for next time... Did you wrap them tight and poke just a few holes in the foil (preferred) or leave the foil open a bit... also, did you put the 'smoke bomb' on the coolest section of the coals?

Quote:
Originally Posted by B3 View Post
For the first 100 minutes or so, the temp held very well and I was feeling good about things, and then the cooker starting cooling off. I knew there was no way that the coal I had in the pan was spent yet, even with the ash buildup issue of the Smoke ĎN Grill. I peaked in the door, and sure enough, all the briquettes were greyed over and about half were sitting in ash. I tried to raise the temp back up by adding a few fresh briquettes and sifting the ash towards the bottom of the pan. With the small clearance below the water pan though, this was difficult.

As it turns out, besides the lack of ventilation control, steadying the temperature of the fire for any more than 30 minutes was nearly impossible. There were spurts where it stabilized on 220į or 230į, but for the most part I had to tend it. Iíd check it about every 20 minutes or so, and almost every time Iíd need to vent off a little heat or stir the fire to boost the temp.
Again, a lot of this is just learning the cooker... While you shouldn't have to tend it that much, you now know what to expect and with a few modifications, the time between tending well lengthen...

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Originally Posted by B3 View Post
Despite the temp fluctuations, it was still a hot grate and the meat was cooking. I threw on two fatties at 10am. I jammed it all onto the top grate, which proved to be a small mistake. The drippings from one of the fatties were too close to the edge and missed the drip pan all together, falling straight onto the ground.
You know I love fatties! As for the drips, live and learn...

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Originally Posted by B3 View Post
The roast finally came off at 4pm. I foiled and toweled it in a cooler for about 70 minutes. Then I let it rest on the counter for 30 minutes. When I cut it, the meat looked ok, but it was much harder to pull than I anticipated. The center was a pale white-grey color and the outer edges had a ring of pinkish red. If I had to guess, Iíd say that I overcooked it slightly. What I donít understand though is why the edges were the tenderest. Could it be that I left it in the cooler too long, as it cooked from the inside out?
From the pron you posted I don't think you over cooked it, if anything it looked under cooked (not temperature wise, as long as it was over 165* it is fine to eat, just tenderness wise)...

Nice smoke ring (the pink around the edges)!

In looking at your second shot of the butt, it looks like the bottom was more tender than the top... Since this is the side that would have been closest to the heat, and it looks like it's just about ready to pull, you were only off my maybe an hour on the cooker to make the whole roast that tender... I must say that it's looks like it has a great bark (out side edge) and also looks real moist!

Again, if you have any questions, just ask. We are all here to help each other out!
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Unread 09-08-2009, 10:09 AM   #48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Divemaster View Post
I'm sorry you had a rough time with your first cook
I wouldn't call it rough, just involved. It would have been a lot more difficult without everyone's help. Like I said, I enjoyed it and got fed at the end of the day. I can't complain about that.

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Originally Posted by Divemaster View Post
Did you wrap them tight and poke just a few holes in the foil (preferred) or leave the foil open a bit
I tried both.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Divemaster View Post
also, did you put the 'smoke bomb' on the coolest section of the coals?
This is so obvious that I didn't even think of it. The whole time I was placing the 'bomb' right in the middle of the pan. Putting it in a different spot probably would have helped.

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Originally Posted by Divemaster View Post
From the pron you posted I don't think you over cooked it, if anything it looked under cooked (not temperature wise, as long as it was over 165* it is fine to eat, just tenderness wise)...
So... I might have needed more time? Interesting. I was going on the internal temp of the roast. Using the guideline of 1-1.5 hours per pound, I decided to check it after 8 hours. The first time I checked, the temp was up over 190į, so I checked tenderness with a knife and removed it. That leads me to the question: How do you know when a butt is done, internal temp AND a tenderness check? If so, what is the progression of the tenderness as the meat cooks? Firm, butter, firm (and dry)?
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Unread 09-08-2009, 10:49 AM   #49
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Congrats on the first smoke!! When you did the knife test was there any resistance?? If so you needed more time.
You'll have better luck next time
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Unread 09-08-2009, 10:59 AM   #50
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When you did the knife test was there any resistance?? If so you needed more time.
If there was any resistance, I would call it a very small amount, but I have no frame of reference. It was not falling apart though, more like peeling apart.

So, for the next time I check a butt with a knife, if I feel resistance, it should stay on the grate and if it's like butta, it's done. What if, heaven forbid I leave a butt on for too long, what will that knife test feel like? Do these rules apply for all meats?
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Unread 09-08-2009, 11:09 AM   #51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Divemaster View Post
As my Navy CO used to say... Adapt and over come... You did the right thing in putting the chips into foil (something I didn't think of earlier, sorry). Based on the pron, I think you could have even put more into the packet, but that's for next time... Did you wrap them tight and poke just a few holes in the foil (preferred) or leave the foil open a bit... also, did you put the 'smoke bomb' on the coolest section of the coals?
Quote:
Originally Posted by B3 View Post
I tried both.
Quote:
Originally Posted by B3 View Post
This is so obvious that I didn't even think of it. The whole time I was placing the 'bomb' right in the middle of the pan. Putting it in a different spot probably would have helped.
It's worth a shot next time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by B3 View Post
So... I might have needed more time? Interesting. I was going on the internal temp of the roast. Using the guideline of 1-1.5 hours per pound, I decided to check it after 8 hours. The first time I checked, the temp was up over 190°, so I checked tenderness with a knife and removed it. That leads me to the question: How do you know when a butt is done, internal temp AND a tenderness check? If so, what is the progression of the tenderness as the meat cooks? Firm, butter, firm (and dry)?
I like to use the temp as a guide (needs to be over 195* for me to even check the tenderness) to tell me when I'm getting close and the the 'probe' (and or bone pull) to tell when it's really done...

In reviewing my previous posts on 'feeling the meat' I may not have been clear that it's not just how the knife goes in, but also how it feels when it comes out. if it goes in easily but but there is an amount of resistance in pulling it out, it still needs more time to cook. The same goes for the 'bone pull' if it is resistant to pulling, it again needs more time. Another thing to remember is that the meat is going to tighten up a bit once it rests so any resistance is going to be increased and translated to a more difficult pull in the end. The other thing I failed to mention is that you should try the knife test in more than one location. What may have happened is that the one spot you tested it was fine, but in other area's you would have felt more resistance

Also, it takes a lot to dry out a pork butt. If you are concerned that yours may be dry, you can add a cup or so of apple juice when you foil it and it'll soak it up. Just remember that you did that when you open the foil or your in for a good sized mess (again, don't ask me how I know this... LOL)
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Unread 09-08-2009, 11:17 AM   #52
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Quote:
Originally Posted by B3 View Post
If there was any resistance, I would call it a very small amount, but I have no frame of reference. It was not falling apart though, more like peeling apart.
This comes with time... Stick with the very soft butter concept...

Quote:
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If there was any resistance, I would call it a very small amount, but I have no frame of reference. It was not falling apart though, more like peeling apart.
That's an indication that it more than likely needed more time, but it's close...

Quote:
Originally Posted by B3 View Post
So, for the next time I check a butt with a knife, if I feel resistance, it should stay on the grate and if it's like butta, it's done. What if, heaven forbid I leave a butt on for too long, what will that knife test feel like? Do these rules apply for all meats?
That's correct.


Quote:
Originally Posted by B3 View Post
So, for the next time I check a butt with a knife, if I feel resistance, it should stay on the grate and if it's like butta, it's done. What if, heaven forbid I leave a butt on for too long, what will that knife test feel like? Do these rules apply for all meats?
The meat would actually feel kind of mushy rather than soft (I know, it's a fine line but the line is still there... lol)

Quote:
Originally Posted by B3 View Post
So, for the next time I check a butt with a knife, if I feel resistance, it should stay on the grate and if it's like butta, it's done. What if, heaven forbid I leave a butt on for too long, what will that knife test feel like? Do these rules apply for all meats?
I also use the knife test for my brisket...
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Unread 09-08-2009, 11:43 AM   #53
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I use the probe test for all pork and beef cuts, I do not like mushy chicken, so I go for a little more resistance. The temp is a key to when to start testing. Once you get to 165, you know it will be time to start. You might look into getting a driveway drip pan to put your smoker on, it cuts down on mess on the concrete. I like to lay chip packs on the edge, as stated above. And it only takes two or three pencil sized holes to work.
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Unread 09-08-2009, 12:45 PM   #54
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B3, congrats on getting your cooker dirty and making some tasty food, even though it wasn't as easy as it can be. You'll get better each time you use it. I agree with Divemaster that it looks undercooked. The first one or two (or more???) that I cooked came out the same way - even though the internal temperature "looked" right. Then, someone told me (Divemaster, maybe) to just use the temp as a guide and not to take it off until a probe (or knife) goes in like butta NO MATTER what the temp says. Best advice I've gotten and now my pulled pork comes out mighty tasty.
Hang in there and welcome to the Brethren!
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Unread 09-08-2009, 12:57 PM   #55
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Congrats B3 on your first smoke.

Let the adventure begin...
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Unread 09-08-2009, 02:55 PM   #56
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Quote:
Originally Posted by landarc View Post
I use the probe test for all pork and beef cuts, I do not like mushy chicken, so I go for a little more resistance. The temp is a key to when to start testing. Once you get to 165, you know it will be time to start. You might look into getting a driveway drip pan to put your smoker on, it cuts down on mess on the concrete. I like to lay chip packs on the edge, as stated above. And it only takes two or three pencil sized holes to work.
Personally, I think 165* is a little early... Normally, on my butts, this is just the start of the 'Stall' and not the end of it... I usually start around 195*.
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Unread 09-08-2009, 03:51 PM   #57
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Now that I look at that, and reading Jeff's comments, I realize my comment was not well written. It is not good advice as written, it is more how I do things, but, probably represents my own bad habits of over-checking the food. B3, I do think checking after the stall is best, I tend to check to early mostly out of having developed bad habits.
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Unread 09-08-2009, 04:04 PM   #58
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Quote:
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Now that I look at that, and reading Jeff's comments, I realize my comment was not well written. It is not good advice as written, it is more how I do things, but, probably represents my own bad habits of over-checking the food. B3, I do think checking after the stall is best, I tend to check to early mostly out of having developed bad habits.
Actually it may be more out of experience than bad habits... In thinking back, I may have been to quick with my response.

There have been times that I too have started checking early and I don't know if it was impatience or that little voice in the back of my head that said that something looked different (maybe the bone moved when I touched it or the bark looked too perfict)... I don't have an explanation for it (I should be used to the voices by now!) but I think it's an experience thing...

Maybe it would be a good learning experience to start checking at 165* so you can get an idea of how the texture of the meat changes...
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Unread 09-08-2009, 04:23 PM   #59
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Quote:
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Maybe it would be a good learning experience to start checking at 165* so you can get an idea of how the texture of the meat changes...
I think that would help me out a lot.
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Unread 09-08-2009, 05:06 PM   #60
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Thanks for the save Jeff. I do think it will be a good experience to develop the same bad habits I have. Actually, I have had a lot of butt cooks where things have not gone right once I got to the final few hours. I tend to like to know what is going on so I check, at least every 20-30 minutes or so. Once I get the sense that things are close, I now know that I have to pay attention. I think it is a lot like a ladder, 165F is just another rung on the ladder, towards getting done.

There is an old maxim in BBQ, 'You ain't cooking if you are looking', but, since I cook be feel and not temps, except as a reference point, I need to look once in a while.
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