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View Full Version : Pro BBQ Advice Needed - how to find the perfect time


dgassaway
09-09-2009, 10:01 AM
I heard Chris Lilly say that pulling meat from the cooker at just the right time, that precise moment when it is perfectly cooked, is what new smokers should learn before messing with other variables like rubs , injections, sauces, etc.

How do you know when that perfect time is? Probe it and pull when it feels like butter, but what i think feels like butter and you think may be different.

I guess my question is this. If I were helping you cook a butt at a competition what would you tell me to do to know when the meat is perfectly done?

Bbq Bubba
09-09-2009, 10:07 AM
I would think soft butter feels the same to everybody.if you learn to cook by feel rather than by temp you'll be ahead of the game.

SirPorkaLot
09-09-2009, 10:24 AM
With butts, picnic's, brisket, etc.. here is a fairly simple method.

3/4 way through the cook, check meat with a thermometer, then start checking about every 30 min.
Most of the time the meats above will plateau at a certain temp. (this does vary, but seems to be in the 160-170 range).

What I mean by "plateau" is that the meat will stay at the certain temp for a much longer period of time than normal (sometimes an hour or two).

What is going in inside the meat, is the energy that was being used to cook the meat, is now being used to render the fat in the meat, so the temps don't increase.

Shortly after this plateau ends, and the temps start to rise again you are at the "right" time to pull the meat and let it rest.

It is at this time that the meat feels like budda when probed. Just prior to this point, you will find the meat much more resistant to being probed, this is the "wrong time" to pull it.

Now you do want to pay close attention, as once the fat is rendered, and the temp. plateau ends, your meat will begin a relatively quick rise in temp.

do not overcook - take off at between 190-205 (depending on the cut)

Once you get this method down. It is fairly easy to tell with just a toothpick when your meat is done.

Lake Dogs
09-09-2009, 10:28 AM
While Chris Lilly is right, there's an art there. It takes a while to learn. Focusing on that
is key to cooking great BBQ, but I wouldn't skip the other variables along the way. Rubs
get that great flavor down into the meat and give you that great tasting bark. Some
use injections; others dont. I do, but keep it very simple. Sauce should complement
the flavor of the meat (taking into account the rub you may be using). Honestly, as
most of my friends and neighbors and relatives are learning when they come over,
sauce is largely unnecessary when the meat is done properly... We do sauce ribs
and chicken ever-so-slightly, using a sauce that IMHO complements them (so it's not
a strong sauce).

He's right though, focus on the meat. Keep the temps low (within reason, I started
off trying 220 or less; learned other hard lessons along the way), keep the temps
as consistent as you can, watch the amount and type of smoke you're putting on the
meat, do not over-watch it (top off of a cooker ain't cookin'), and pull the meat when
it's just right (as he stated).

SirPorkaLot
09-09-2009, 10:35 AM
Honestly, as
most of my friends and neighbors and relatives are learning when they come over,
sauce is largely unnecessary when the meat is done properly... We do sauce ribs
and chicken ever-so-slightly, using a sauce that IMHO complements them (so it's not
a strong sauce).


This is a serious piece of information folks!

Sauce is for people that can't cook well IMHO.

Would you put A-1 sauce on prime rib? (if you say yes...please skip the rest of my post)
Heinz 57 on a nice ribeye? (see above)

Pork (and yes even Brisket, when done right) is as good as any high quality piece of beef & when done correctly, and does not need any added sauce.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't add a nice dry rub though to season er on up.

dgassaway
09-09-2009, 07:03 PM
Thanks for the good advice. I think this will do more to better my BBQ than anything.

Sledneck
09-09-2009, 07:06 PM
According to Skip when the meat has the right aroma it is done

MOS95B
09-09-2009, 07:11 PM
I personally did a lot of "practice runs" with smaller cuts of meat (steaks, roasts, etc) before I tackled my first brisket. (Being from Texas, I prefer beef over pork).

While it's definitely not exactly the same, it does give you a good feel for how your cooker performs, and what to expect when you mov on to the big boys.

That, and reading the threads here.

landarc
09-09-2009, 07:52 PM
I believe that what he is really saying is that you have to cook a lot of meat and learn that feel that gives you the product that satisfies you. In competitions, that may mean one thing, at dinner time, another. You just have to cook a lot and always be testing and learning the feel.

I have a friend that keeps asking me how to cook a brisket, but, she won't accept the answer that I cannot give her a time or temperature for when it is done. She feels I am being secretive. If you can find someone to cook with, that is the best way.

Bbq Bubba
09-09-2009, 08:12 PM
According to Skip when the meat has the right aroma it is done

The pros can "hear" when it's done.

Skip
09-09-2009, 09:59 PM
The nose knows :biggrin::biggrin::biggrin:

Meat Burner
09-09-2009, 10:30 PM
Sauce is for people that can't cook well IMHO.

jsh, I respectfully disagree with that statement. If you are so much of a purest about adding sauce for flavor, then adding rub is the same thing. Adding the appropriate amount of sauce or rub on the meat or on the side makes a good chef's talent shine. I honestly think cooking most meats with no sauce and no rubs meaning that, people can't cook well, isn't accurate. Don't get pi$$y with me bro. Just a thought.

leanza
09-09-2009, 10:35 PM
Practice, practice, practice.

blues_n_cues
09-09-2009, 10:44 PM
I heard Chris Lilly say that pulling meat from the cooker at just the right time, that precise moment when it is perfectly cooked, is what new smokers should learn before messing with other variables like rubs , injections, sauces, etc.

How do you know when that perfect time is? Probe it and pull when it feels like butter, but what i think feels like butter and you think may be different.

I guess my question is this. If I were helping you cook a butt at a competition what would you tell me to do to know when the meat is perfectly done?

what meat is it? i don't want my chicken like butter or my ribs being a wet shredded mess... whatcha cooking- tell by your own self for what you think is right.
see the 2 dudes(soo's) w/ 2 webers in a minivan in the comp thread & adjust accordingly..

you cooking for friends,family,customers? do they keep showing up- ya may be doing it right..

dgassaway
09-09-2009, 11:22 PM
Ok, so temp just tells you your getting somewhere in the ball park and feel is the real test for doneness.

That leaves me with a couple of other questions.

How long of a window do I have with a pork butt when it is perfectly done? In other words if I pull it 10 mins to soon or 10 min too late have I missed it or do I have longer? What about brisket?

Sometimes when I probe the meat the ends may feel done but the center may still have resistance. Leave it on until all probes like butta or pull and wrap then?

bbqfans
09-09-2009, 11:26 PM
Here is a good time to reflect on the subtleties of smoking.
I know that a lot of you have graduated to the knowledgable side of Queing,so this is intended for the less experienced...
Bar-B-Cue Confidence
1.-Know your pit. By that I mean,do a few burns in it with things like Chicken, or Fatties; something that is inexpensive. Know how to control the temp. with the air intake,why you should keep the exhaust wide pen, and how much volume you can get in it before mass overload keeps temps. lower than necessary before it heats up the meat beyond danger.And how not to overfil the firebox(this chokes the airflow and kills the fire). How does the pit act in inclimate weather?Wind, cold, rain,etc.
2. Know your fuel. How much charcoal does it take for X number of hours?How large should your wood be?Understand the control of your gasser.
This very important as it is the difference between good Cue and a burned mess,or worse!
3. Understand how to control the temperature. Keep a record of your cooks, noting the amount of fuel used,lighting procedure, time cooked,and so on...
Charcoal burns different than lump or wood and vice versa.
Paramount is to watch the temp. at grate level. A 10*F drop signals a problem. Check the fuel supply, air ,and exhaust(someone may have shut it!)
You can handle a 20*F drop with not much trouble, but it gets more difficult the greater the difference!Do it small and the work is less.
Wood is a good fuel,however there are a multitude of woods to choose from, each has a distinct characteristic. Mesquite burn very hot, Hickory is hot, but in manageable for beginners.Oak is a good general heating and smoking wood. and on ,and on.....
You will be using wood, but not like the big rig use it, they throw a log in(so to speak) but you must throw a smaller piece in...ie-cut you wood to 8" or so(or wheels or disc) and cut them to appox. 2" diameter or thickness. Keep them on top of the firebox and add a piece when needed. Fire control is a great part of your cooking process. Lose that and you'll lose the cook.
4. Dillegence- do you want good Cue, or are you playing? You MUST be aware of the process. Watch everything,fire,heat, and smoke. Any change can upset the applecart. I recently asked my boy to add a stick and he put a piece of junk in and the smoke went instantly to dark:confused:,I jumped , checked everything and saw the problem and took the crap wood out. Straightened out in 1min.
Everything is an obsticle, everything is subject to change,weather, humidity,wind... be ready for anything...Blocks,covers,dryer wood(I keep a few 2yr. old logs to help lower the humidity in the pit just before the rain.
5.Know how to handle the meat you are to use. Prep.,seasoning,and the approximate cooking times. Remove the silver or membranes, trim fat caps or pare down the size. (I know; it's getting long huh?)
Use these rules of thumb to your benifit.Along with grid temps.,color of smoke,amt.of smoke,and just some common sense, you can begin to become more consistent in your methods.
6. Consistency is a great factor in mastering you pit.Remember the little by way of a record. I keep a log of all my cooks. (There is a good on if you Google it-Cooking Log).It will help you track your every aspect.The good cooks and the bad.In the end, you will come closer to attaining the quality you want.:rolleyes:
7.Get to know your Butcher or get a good fresh meat supplier.A good go to guy is worth a Rack of Ribs now and then:wink: Fresh is a good thing in all areas of your cook. Fresh spice,marinades,rubs and anything else you might use.
8.(Last one,I promise) Now you have a grip on things; go out back and Practice,Practice,Practice................:smile:


Chapter 2 tomorrow :)-

Hugh Jorgan
09-10-2009, 12:56 AM
This is a serious piece of information folks!

Sauce is for people that can't cook well IMHO.



For reals. What are you trying to hide? Never ever sauce on the grill. What are you showing off if you do? Certainly not your cooking skills. 90% of sauced on the grill items taste exactly the same to me and most of the people I cook, eat around.

Sauce is for people that can't cook well IMHO.

If you are so much of a purest about adding sauce for flavor, then adding rub is the same thing. Adding the appropriate amount of sauce or rub on the meat or on the side makes a good chef's talent shine.

Completely different. Like comparing apples and ducks IMHO. If you're adding the sauce for flavor, why not just go buy pre-cooked ribs at the grocers? Heat them up in the microwave and most people would never know. The sauce HIDES the flavor of the meat. The rub brings it out.

Practice, practice, practice.

Correct answer to original question.

#edit#
When I think about saucing, I always remember this lady I sat next to at a pancake house once, she said, "Bring me two BLTs hold the lettuce, a large order of fries, and two cups of Ranch dressing." She may as well have had the Ranch and some cardboard. I'm just saying.

Norcoredneck
09-10-2009, 01:04 AM
Keep cooking, take notes, keep in mind every piece of meat will act differently. Visit a few comps and ask people you respect. Cook to make yourself happy because you are always your worst critic. When you hit it you will know. Enjoy eating your mistakes.

NorthwestBBQ
09-10-2009, 01:15 AM
Get involved, go nuts, keep trying, keep it simple, be amazed! :mrgreen:

dgassaway
09-10-2009, 10:11 AM
OK, printed the smoking log and headed to Costco. Will check back for more advice in a few hours.

Thanks Brethren.

thirdeye
09-10-2009, 12:44 PM
Sauce is for people that can't cook well IMHO.

jsh, I respectfully disagree with that statement. If you are so much of a purest about adding sauce for flavor, then adding rub is the same thing. Adding the appropriate amount of sauce or rub on the meat or on the side makes a good chef's talent shine. I honestly think cooking most meats with no sauce and no rubs meaning that, people can't cook well, isn't accurate. Don't get pi$$y with me bro. Just a thought.

Right. With rubs and sauces, appropriate amount is part of the key here. Having a complimentary flavor is another part. When I make or eat Q with sauce, I enjoy it so much better if it's not overpowering and is a good match with the rub and the meat.


http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v377/thirdeye2/Barbecue%207/DSC04838b.jpg


Now in all honesty, a guy or gal that regularly uses sauce does so for a particular reason....... they like it. And when folks ask for it, it's because they like it.... which is good enough for me. Personally, I'm not a sauce guy, but that doesn't mean I don't know how to use it. And it sure doesn't mean I won't serve it on the table.

Markbb
09-10-2009, 02:23 PM
^^^^Damn Thirdeye that is some good looking rack of ribs....

leanza
09-10-2009, 05:12 PM
I thinks that some folks here, are trying to tell you not to get sauced why yur Q'ing.