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Old 06-07-2011, 07:35 AM   #1
Big slick
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Default Various smoker/smoking questions

I have just under a dozen smokes under my belt and I am already trying to perfect my Q to its fullest.

Pork butts are my favorite thing to smoke and when I smoke them I can't wait till they hit that sweet spot of 190-195. Thing is that they don't seem very tender. I mean they are tender but I think they could be more tender. How can I make them more tender? Would injecting help? Should I just cook them for 14-16 hours instead of the usual 12?

I see a lot of BBQ on here and it all looks incredible. Mine doesn't look like that. When I pull a butt off the smoker it's really dark (almost black) while a lot of you have nice deep red looking BBQ. is it because I use a lot of sugar in my dry rub?

What are the advantages to foiling?

Does brining help that much?

When it comes to injecting what do you inject?


Sorry to ask so many questions but I figured it's better to put it in one thread verses several threads.

Thanks for any and all input!

Nick
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Old 06-07-2011, 07:47 AM   #2
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You should cook butts until they are tender to the probe, not to some specific temperature.

If you have sugar in your rub, that could be why they turn black. Try smoking without foil until you reach the desired bark color you desire, then foil until tender. No need to brine butts to get a tender product. You should rest them in foil in a pre-warmed cooler, covered with towels for at least an hour before you pull them.

This assumes you are not using too many unsoaked wood chunks and have a properly vented, clean burning fire.
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Old 06-07-2011, 07:51 AM   #3
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i'm no expert by any means but sugar content maybe why yours is darker, diff rubs i think will produse diff colors. and do the probe test on your butt if it slides in like butta then it is done do' go by temp alone. foil will keep moist but u will lose some of the barkyness that most like
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Old 06-07-2011, 08:15 AM   #4
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> Pork butts are my favorite thing to smoke

Mine too. That, and whole pork shoulders.


> and when I smoke them I can't wait till they hit that sweet spot of 190-195.

Oops, first problem right there. If you're pulling them right away, the let them get to something closer to 200.


> Thing is that they don't seem very tender. I mean they are tender but I think they could be more tender. How can I make them more tender? Would injecting help?

Yes, that's one piece of it. Plus ever-so-slightly under-cooked (reference temperature above). Also let them rest for an hour or two in the foil before pulling them.


> Should I just cook them for 14-16 hours instead of the usual 12?

Nope. Cook to internal temperature or when it pulls cleanly from the bone.


> I see a lot of BBQ on here and it all looks incredible. Mine doesn't look like that. When I pull a butt off the smoker it's really dark (almost black) while a lot of you have nice deep red looking BBQ. is it because I use a lot of sugar in my dry rub?

Yes, but that's just one piece of the puzzle. You may not be smoking with sweet blue. Billowy white smoke will make that meat blacken in a heart-beat. You also may want to consider foiling the meat around that 4th-6th hour.


> What are the advantages to foiling?

We foil mainly for color and to keep moisture. I foil right at 4.5 hours, and when I do I pour the juices (captured in a cookie sheet) back over the meat before I seal it. We have VERY moist meat as a result. For ribs when we foil we hit it hard with a spritz before we seal the foil.


> Does brining help that much?

We inject, but dont brine.


> When it comes to injecting what do you inject?

You *can* inject most anything. However, take it from competitors, there's no big secret why 85% inject largely with the same ingredients, being a simple mixture of apple juice, worchestershire sauce, and a little of your rub.
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Old 06-07-2011, 08:16 AM   #5
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I never thought about the probe test. That would make sense.
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Old 06-07-2011, 08:19 AM   #6
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For the record I always wait an hour before pulling my pork butts. I throw them in an aluminum pan and cover with foil. However, I leave them on the counter. Should i put them in the oven to keep them warmer?
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Old 06-07-2011, 08:22 AM   #7
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At night how can you tell the difference between white and blue smoke? How far in advance should I start my smoker before adding the meat? Do I throw my "dry" wood chunks on in the beginning or do I wait till I put the meat on?
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Old 06-07-2011, 08:54 AM   #8
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What temp are you cooking at? I have noticed that when I cook at 225* to an internal of 190-195, it will be tender enough for me to pull the bone out almost every time.

If I cook hotter, say around 275-300 I need to get it to a higher internal temp to achieve the same results.

As far as color is concerned, you may be using too much wood. I try not to give it any more wood smoke after 2-3 hours. Even then, I still sometimes get a dark bark.
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Old 06-07-2011, 09:12 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big slick View Post
At night how can you tell the difference between white and blue smoke? How far in advance should I start my smoker before adding the meat? Do I throw my "dry" wood chunks on in the beginning or do I wait till I put the meat on?
at night, if you can smell it but not see it, you've got thin blue.

if you can see it most likely there is too much and it is white.
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Old 06-07-2011, 09:15 AM   #10
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At night the sweet blue will be so thin it's almost transparent. Definitely DONT wet the wood. You can put it on early. Let the cooker come up to temps, usually 30 minutes to an hour. Certainly be in the sweet blue mode before putting meat on. Different smokers will get different sized pieces to sweet blue at different times. I use split hickory that I warm in the warmer box above the firebox. It takes about 3 minutes+- to go from a little white smoke to sweet blue.
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Old 06-07-2011, 09:28 AM   #11
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When i smoke i try to stay between 225-250 but i usually end up closer to 250 for the first 5-6 hours, and 225 for the final 6.

Is it okay to cook lower than 225? If i shoot for 200 i may get 225 and then i can catch it on the way down towards the end to hopefully keep the smoker at 225 the whole time. Regulating temps has been my biggest hurdle. I just can't dial my smoker in to 225 for long periods of time. I know this will come with more practice.
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Old 06-07-2011, 09:29 AM   #12
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The ONLY reason I even put a thermometer in my butts is to tell me when to start probing for tenderness. That's it. Once they reach around 180 I'll sometimes even pull out the thermo and turn it off because I'm only looking for tenderness from that point on. Temperature means very little when it comes to done. I've had some butts be ready at as low as 180-185 and some took until 205. Bottom line, I yank mine off the smoker when and ONLY when the meat gives no resistance to pushing the probe in. It should feel like pushing through warm butter.

Someone posted a great side-by-side photo on here a while back (Lakedogs?) that perfectly showed white vs blue smoke.

I don't always foil butts (I like it when the bark's good and black), but when I'm cooking for someone else I definitely will. Truth is, I usually do. When the bark gets where I want it, I'll double foil (this usually happens just after or around the stall) and then let them ride until they reach around 180 (see above) and then start sticking them.

The foil will help "steam" the meat and will help them cook a little faster. It will also help get to that perfect tenderness quicker. Also, when you reach tenderness, then you can just yank 'em, cooler them and let them rest. If you can't unwrap the butt, grab the bone and lift it cleanly out of the meat with no effort.......then the butt isn't done enough. THIS is my opinion, of course.
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Old 06-07-2011, 09:37 AM   #13
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/\/\/\+++

Especially when using my drum with a pizza stone as a deflector my internal temps seem to stay lower, around 185, even after 12 to 14 hours, but my butts will still probe like butta and I pull them off. I've been using my temp probe less and less these days. The probing with a bamboo skewer tells the tale. HOWEVER, I've been at this for a year and I still feel like I have ton to learn.
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Old 06-07-2011, 09:45 AM   #14
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Remember, if you foil, save every drop of juice to add back to the meat after its pulled!!!
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Old 06-07-2011, 09:49 AM   #15
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What Wampus said. And it's true, I've had a few get done at 188+-. Nervana in pork is achieved when that bone pulls right out but it's not completely falling apart. However, IMHO, a little over-done makes better pulled pork than a little under-done.
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Started competing in chili cookoffs back in the 1990's and have competed in more than I care to count. I became a CBJ in MiM in 2005, then MBN and in GBA in 2010. I've probably judged 130+- BBQ comps (sanctioned and unsanctioned) over this time. That said, I really enjoy competing more than I enjoy judging, and hope to get back to doing 4 or 5 a year in the near future.
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