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Unread 07-27-2011, 07:38 AM   #1
CPMatthew
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Default Boston Butts: How Small is too Small?

Greetings Brethren and Sistren,

I have seen a few discussion on cutting Boston butts down to smaller sizes to reduce cooking times. I assume there is a point at which the cut is too small to retain moisture and dries out. So, how small is too small? I have never cooked a Boston butt. I was going to give it a go this weekend on my 22" OTG. I have a 10 lbs butt in the freezer, which at 1.5 hours per pound will take about 15 hours. Should I cut into 2 5 lbs butts? cut off 2 lbs to make bacon and smoke the remaining 8 lbs?

Any advice is appreciated, I don't imagine it will be perfect my first time out. That's why you always make a few fatties to keep the people happy.

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Unread 07-27-2011, 07:53 AM   #2
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I've probably cooked 1000+ butts (or whole shoulders, which includes the butt) over time, currently doing around 100 this year. Butts are fairly easy to cook, and if the cooking surface temperature is around the 240-265 range it should be more like 1 hour per pound. I highly suggest foiling around that 4th to 5th hour as it will help keep the butt moist, help keep it from getting BLACK, and reduce the cooking time. You dont have to foil, but I highly recommend it to folks new to this because it becomes that much more forgiving.

Dont let the cooking surface temperature fall below 230 if possible. I keep ours above 240. Also try to keep it under 270. 250 is darn near perfect. Nice balance of low n slow, but not so slow that you're eating the next day. Most of our smokes run in the 9 hour range.

Notice that I've said "cooking surface temperature" more than once. The temperature on the cooking surface (right where you're placing that butt) has very little correspondence with an external mounted thermometer. Some are high, some are low, others are WAY off one direction or another. I know of MANY people who think they're smokin' at 240 only to find that their surface temperature is more like 210 and they end up unhappy with the results.

I wouldn't cut it up, IMHO.
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Unread 07-27-2011, 07:58 AM   #3
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Not having much experience with BB, I did one recently that was only 5.5 pounds, It was 1 hour per pound, 5 hours, should have done another hour and a half I think. But it was cooked moist but held a little tight at the bone. The temp was pretty consistent around 250 on the UDS.
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Unread 07-27-2011, 10:28 AM   #4
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Just smoked 7# Butt at 225 degrees and it reached and internal temperature of 205 degree in 4 hours. I was shocked it cooked so fast but again I am learning that all meat is not equal, some cuts are better and smoke faster than others.
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Unread 07-27-2011, 11:00 AM   #5
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This IS fast, especially cooking at 225. Bone in or out? If I had to guess, I'd say out. Possibly put it flat? If so it'll cook more like 1/2 the time. Also, I hate to ask, but is that surface temperature right next to the meat? To me that's cooking like a bone-removed 7# butt at about 260. 4 hours... Wow.
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Unread 07-27-2011, 11:58 AM   #6
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Lake Dog I agree with you, I have cooked a lot of Butts but never cooked one this fast. This was a "bone-in" butt and I had the temperature probe on the grate right next to the meat so I was monitoring the actual cook temperature. Im was using a Maverick Remote Thermometer but was backing ti up with a Thermapen.


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This IS fast, especially cooking at 225. Bone in or out? If I had to guess, I'd say out. Possibly put it flat? If so it'll cook more like 1/2 the time. Also, I hate to ask, but is that surface temperature right next to the meat? To me that's cooking like a bone-removed 7# butt at about 260. 4 hours... Wow.
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Unread 07-27-2011, 12:17 PM   #7
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For cooking surface temp I often resort to using a half-potato and sticking the probe from my remote-read thermo through it. This puts the probe right at meat level. The installed thermometer (on lid) is usually 20º or so hotter than the cooking surface temp.
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Unread 07-27-2011, 12:22 PM   #8
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Exactly what I did, used the old potato with the probe in is and sit it right next to the meat.

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Originally Posted by Matt_A View Post
For cooking surface temp I often resort to using a half-potato and sticking the probe from my remote-read thermo through it. This puts the probe right at meat level. The installed thermometer (on lid) is usually 20º or so hotter than the cooking surface temp.
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Unread 07-27-2011, 12:58 PM   #9
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I wouldn't cut it up. Anymore I just start out @ 250F for an hour or so during the actual smoke and then crank it up to 350F until it hits 165F internal. Foil it & then to 200F. Cuts hours off of the cook! YMMV... Cheers!!!
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Unread 07-27-2011, 01:00 PM   #10
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The only time I've really noticed a difference is when a butt is cut down really small, so I guess I would say 2 pounds or so. Hard to say with certainty because i never weighed those little things, just cooked them.
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Unread 07-27-2011, 02:16 PM   #11
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I don't usually hear of folks complaining about dry country style ribs...so I say you can cut it just about as small as you want.
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Unread 07-27-2011, 04:05 PM   #12
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The smallest butts I have done were in the 4# range and they took around 5 hours. These were done on the bottom grate of my UDS (had three butts) and had the top grate loaded with 3 racks of BB's.

I was asked last minute to do some pulled pork along with some ribs I was already cooking for the guys at work. So I rushed over to the local market and bought what they had on the shelf (bone in cross blade cuts). I foiled at the two hour mark with some AJ and they came out great. It was a crap shoot that made me a believer vs what I had learned up to that point. Cook also made a great point above about how country ribs turn out
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Unread 07-28-2011, 06:19 AM   #13
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Done a few in my OTG. If you keep your temps up as Lake Dogs recommends it should be about 1 HR per lb., this has been my experience.
I usually cook them at 250°-275°.
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Unread 07-28-2011, 08:41 AM   #14
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Thanks for the feedback all. I think I will keep it whole and try to keep the temp up. That probably means adding fuel pretty often, but I like to play with fire.
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Unread 07-28-2011, 12:58 PM   #15
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The only advantage that I can see to cutting up a butt is more bark :-)

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