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Q-talk *ON TOPIC ONLY* QUALITY ON TOPIC discussion of Backyard BBQ, grilling, equipment and outdoor cookin' . ** Other cooking techniques are welcomed for when your cookin' in the kitchen. Post your hints, tips, tricks & techniques, success, failures, but stay on topic and watch for that hijacking.


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Old 07-10-2019, 09:24 AM   #1
84Tigers
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Default Odd issue getting out of the Danger Zone

Greetings all. New to the forum as a poster, but I have been a reader / lurker for years :) Been smoking since 2011, so while I am new to the forum, I am (somewhat) experienced in smoked pork butt and brisket.

I would like to tap the collective intelligence of the forum for a problem I had a couple weeks ago. My old electric Masterbuilt had just died, so I bought a Pit-Boss vertical pellet smoker. On this new unit I placed two bone-in pork butts (injected with apple juice) on the top shelf. Each was about 9-to-10 pounds. Started smoking them at 11 PM Friday, set at 225 degrees. When I woke up at 6 am I inserted a temp probe into each. One was 155 (where it should be at that point in the smoke) and the other was 133. Of course, I inserted another temp probe into the under-cooked one and it also read 133. Crap! For food safety reasons (way too long in the danger zone) I **reluctantly** decided to pitch the under-cooked one. The only difference between the two was I placed a pan of apple juice mixed with some rub about 12 inches beneath the one that was under-cooked. It would be my guess that the pan somehow acted as a heat shield for the under-cooked butt. However, I have done this before in my old Masterbuilt without any problems (I use the pan to catch more of the drippings, which I would later add in the serving dish to help keep the meat moist).

Does my assessment make sense about the heat shield causing the issue? All feedback is appreciated. Thank you!

Todd
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Old 07-10-2019, 09:59 AM   #2
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Maybe the cooker has a cool spot and the spot where you put that butt was the highway to the danger zone.
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Old 07-10-2019, 12:10 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply, Chipper. I was wondering about that too. The entire unit is like an enclosed oven with a smoke vent, so I don't know how it could have any "cool spots", but I guess it is possible.
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Old 07-10-2019, 12:25 PM   #4
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I am sure that all smokers, regardless of fuel source, have different temp zones within. One quick and easy test is a biscuit test where you get one or two cans of biscuits and place them throughout the smoker and check to see which get done the quickest. It's cheaper than losing another butt. Good luck with it.
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Old 07-10-2019, 12:27 PM   #5
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I know rules are rules, and the 140° is the "rule", but one school of thought is that with whole muscle meat, the surface is where most of the baddies live. If your internal was 133° the surface would have been higher. Now, how fast the surface took to get to 140° is anyone's guess.... so you made a safe call.

Did you happen to take a second temp on the 155° butt to make sure the 155° was not a false positive, like maybe you were in a fat pocket?

And regarding the 155° but, it took 7 hours to get there... how much longer did you cook it to get the tenderness you wanted?

Or like you thought maybe the pan was a heat sink or
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Old 07-10-2019, 01:10 PM   #6
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Yeah I can't help with the temp issue but you were probably fine. 133 inside means the bad bugs outside were dead.
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Old 07-10-2019, 01:20 PM   #7
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Do a biscuit test in your cooker and see the hot and cool spots for yourself.

Then you’ll know, if the biscuits don’t show a cold spot on the under cooked side you’ll know it was more than likely the pan all things being equal.
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Old 07-10-2019, 05:29 PM   #8
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I have the same smoker and did 2 butts in it about 3 weeks ago, put them on at a similar time but had them down a little from where the top rack would normally be. I ran it at 225 also but I always put my Smoke in there to monitor temps especially on an overnight cook, it's nice to have a high and low alarm set so I can sleep better, anyway I found that 225 has huge temp swings up and down, I think I had my alarms set for 50* high and low of 225, they went off so often that I finally just set it at 250* and it was much more stable.
Anyway I never put any liquid in any pans in the smoker, I take the butts to 170-180 then put them in a pan, cover with foil, finish in the oven, defat the juice and add it all back once pulled.
But yeah that pan could have been a heat sink and I would check to see how that thing runs when set at 225* cuz mine is all over the place and I've heard from others that at 225* theirs has huge temp swings also.
Sucks you had to chuck one.
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Old 07-10-2019, 06:50 PM   #9
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The danger zone ends at 129 and the window is quite a bit longer than 4 hours, but odd numbers are “hard” to remember so the 40-140-4 hours BS was born.
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Old 07-11-2019, 04:03 AM   #10
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If I recall correctly, the danger zone applies to leaving food out in that temp range and not about cooking through it. There’s no rule that you have to power through 140F before a certain amount of time. Look at sous vide cooking...

Having said that, I’ve done a few briskets that took 12-16 hours around 225 and it certainly lingered before 140F for a few hours without any problems.
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Old 07-11-2019, 08:06 AM   #11
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As pointed out this was essentially the same as a sous vide cook and 133 (and rising) for hours is more than enough to kill the beasts I get it - better safe than kneeling to the porcelain gods. That said - you acted with due caution and will now have to figure out 'why'.
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Old 07-11-2019, 10:08 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Czarbecue View Post
If I recall correctly, the danger zone applies to leaving food out in that temp range and not about cooking through it. There’s no rule that you have to power through 140F before a certain amount of time. Look at sous vide cooking...

Having said that, I’ve done a few briskets that took 12-16 hours around 225 and it certainly lingered before 140F for a few hours without any problems.
It can apply to both situations. A good example of the cooking side of the danger zone is smoking sausage or summer sausage in large diameter casings, but using low pit temps. Ground meat is riskier for bacteria than whole muscle meat so spending 5 or 6 hours in a lower temp smoker is not a good idea. But, if you add curing salts into the sausage you can extend the 4 hour window. And with curing salts you don't have to take the sausage internal to 160°, you can pull it at 152°.
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:21 AM   #13
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With curing salts, if done right you can pull it at 70 and store at room temperature.
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:59 AM   #14
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Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but doesn't every piece of meat cook differently? Also, if you were wrapping after that, I think the temps might come closer in the wrap. You might have to keep one in the a bit longer, but not that much longer.
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Old 07-11-2019, 12:08 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m-fine View Post
With curing salts, if done right you can pull it at 70 and store at room temperature.
Right you are, Things that are not cooked just air dried, like salami, is cured with Instacure #2 which has nitrites and a small percentage of nitrate.
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