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Smoking Pork Butt BBQ and Time Management

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We are hosting a BBQ/Cookout this weekend, and I intend to smoke a pork shoulder, NC-style, on my Weber kettle. I have used it to smoke before, so I'm OK with general technique, but my concern is time management. Rather than risk the BBQ not being ready when folks arrive, I will probably err on the side of caution and start extra early. If the pork finishes an hour or three before folks arrive, what's my best approach?

- Pull right away and put in foil dish, reheat in oven if necessary
- Put in foil and pull later
- Something else?

And are there any good rules of thumb for smoking (e.g. 1.5 hrs per pound at 225 degrees)?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. My husband is the smoker, not me, but I just want to warn you that every time we smoke a pork butt (and it is a certain number of hours per pound at a certain degree, but again, I don't know what), it takes much longer than it should to get to the right temperature. I think for perfect pulled pork it's supposed to be in the 190 range-but it almost always gets stuck in the 150-160 range at the end. The three times we've smoked a pork butt, we've ended up eating around 9 pm, even when my husband put it on at 6 am. Moral of the story-you are better off putting it on earlier rather than later if you are having guests. It's also incredibly hot when it comes off and stays that way for awhile. I think you could take it off, cover it in foil, and still shred/serve it an hour later and it would still be hot enough. I wouldn't re-heat it-that would dry it out. You could also keep it wrapped in foil in a warm oven if it's off too early. BTW, before you shred it, it has to sit for a good 15 minutes.

    Good luck-pork butt is my favorite thing on the smoker. But also the most time consuming!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Samantha

      in the bbq world, we refer to that stuck in the 150 or 160 range as the plateau. For pork butt to be great and wonderful, it takes a while for that fat and connective tissue to render out and turn into soft goodness. When it starts to do that, the temperature starts to sit at the same temperature. Don't fret... keep the faith and it will eventually "break" out of the plateau and start chugging back on up the temps. So you know, 195 is almost always the perfect temp for me to take it off. Great, juicy, tender and not at all dry.

      1. re: Samantha

        I have a Masterbuilt Electric smoker. I smoke my Boston butt at 225 for 6 hours seasoned as you like it. I then put in a pan with about a cup of apple juice, foil cover it and place it in the oven (325 degrees) for about 3 hours or until the internal temp is 205. The bone slides right out and I let it set for half an hour. I put the chunks in a bowl and stir it with a wooden spoon. PERECECT pulled pork every time.

      2. I just smoked a pork butt last weekend. It was five pounds and took exactly six hours in a Weber Rocky Mountain smoker with the smoker's temperature varying between 200 and 250 degrees. You want to get the internal temperature of the pork to 200 degrees at the end and the best technique is to wrap the butt in heavy duty aluminum foil for the last hour at an oven temp of 250 degrees. Since you're effectively done smoking at that point anyway, it is much easier to throw it in the oven for tha last hour.

        Here's a link to a site devoted to the Weber RMS. It has great tips on smoking techniques and recipes:
        http://www.virtualweberbullet.com/

        1 Reply
        1. re: Bob Brooks

          Weber is the Smokey Mountain and not Rocky Mountain. The Virtual Bullet link you gave is excellent. But, I've NEVER done a butt in 4 hours - ever.

        2. I'll tell you what I do for our end of season hockey bbq. It's on a Sunday morning, right after hockey.

          I do my shoulder from Friday afternoon through Saturday afternoon. I do it for about 9 hours skin side up (No rub, no nothing. Naked) and then transfer (And flip it) to an aluminum turkey roasting tray. Cover it with aluminum foil and go another 9 hours or so. A trick taught to me by the fine folks at Jack Daniels.
          I take the meat off the smoker and I let it sit on the counter or stove top or whatever for a couple hours covered. It cools enough to handle at this point.
          Before I do anything to it, I drain off all the juice and fat from the bottom of the tray into a 4 cup measuring cup.
          Then tear it apart and start shredding (Put it into another roaster). Once it's all done and all the nasty bits are removed and the juice that was poured out has separated. I sprinkle liberally with my seasoning. I drain off the fat and pour about 2 cups of juice back in.
          Mix it all up to combine. Check for flavour. Adjust if need be.
          I then cover it with foil and she's ready for the next day.
          I reheat it on my grill but you could always use your oven. I add about a half bottle of beer to it so it more or less steams to reheat (Keep it covered). Go slow (Anywhere from 1/2 to a hour.) Check occasionally and stir so as not to burn the bottom.
          I use some of the pork for my beans as well as the fat to cook the onions.

          Enjoy
          DT

          2 Replies
          1. re: Davwud

            you cook it exactly like i do !! and it turns out perfect !! i get more compliments from this recipe. it my preference to just spend all weekend "cooking" pulled pork, having a cocktail, and hanging by the pool !!

            1. re: itzpms

              Life sucks sometimes dunnit??

              LOL

              DT

          2. You state you are using the Weber kettle grill and not a smoker - this is how I've done NC style pork for several years now. You state you have no problems with the technique, though bear in mind I've had issues keeping the grill cool enough. Could be just me though.

            That being said, I recommend wrapping the smoked butt in foil and putting it on the counter for however long you need. When it comes to pulling the meat your fingers won't get scorched and the finished product will be much moister (in my experience).

            Hope it turns out for you.

            8 Replies
            1. re: xfleetwoodx

              When I say I have no problems with the technique, I mean I'm able to maintain sub-250 temps. I put maybe 10 coals (chimney-started) on one side of the grill and top with soaked wood chunks. I do think that I probably check and switch the wood chunks more often than I need to, making it a high-maintenance cooking experience.

              Speaking of wood, should I expand beyond Hickory for pork butt?

                1. re: Imby

                  As far as wood chunks, this is my first year owning a smoker. I have smoked ribs just about every Sunday this past summer, and experimented with different techniques and types of wood. I had heard that apple wood adds a sweater flavor than most others. I would have to agree. I also use a bottle of apple juice in the liquid pan to add a little more of that sweet aroma and flavor. It does make excellent ribs. As far as a pork butt, I have one on the smoker right now, with about 85% apple wood and 15% cherry. It has been on for about 10 hours. I use an electric smoker. Some may call that blasphemy, but it's all about the temperature and the smoke anyway, not a fire. It maintains an even 220 degrees and I just add some wood about every hour and a half. Another 10 degrees it will be up to 195 and I will pull it off and let it rest for about a half hour. This is my first attempt at a pork putt, but so far is looks and smells great. I gave it a little nudge with tongs and I can tell it is going to be very tender. I have tried other types of wood, but I have found some can be a little harsh, such as mesquite which tends to be a little bitter, and pretty much turns ribs into ham. Not what I was going for. I have had pretty good success with the apple. Bon’ apatite magazine, or however you spell it, rated the three best places to get ribs in the U.S. and the number one is located in, of all places, Southern Illinois. They use nothing but apple wood. That's where I got the idea, and it has been great so far. Best of luck.

                  1. re: ryis36

                    I sure hope you mean that apple wood adds a SWEETER flavor, and not a flavor like a sweater...or worse, like sweat!
                    ;o)

                    1. re: ryis36

                      How long did you soak chunks ? I've had mine soaking for 3 days in apple juice & a little water .Is that bad ? & do I risk mold on chunks ? I so dont want to jack up an expensive 12 lb pork shoulder.Anyone have tips ?

                      1. re: jjensen88

                        If you are using a decent smoker, you don't even need to soak chunks. I never do. chips, yes, chunks, no. In a smoker you don't have as much oxygen as you do in a grill, so chunks won't flame up and burn freely like you would see in a grill. Instead they'll smoke nicely, without any soaking at all. All that said, it's not a problem at all that you did soak it,... it just won't really do much to benefit the bbq. And don't worry about mold either. It won't be a problem given what you stated in your post.

                    2. re: Imby

                      Excellent that you can maintain the sub 250 degree - I have trouble with that, but my work-around is that I mop it often with the vinegar sauce - so there you go. Don't quit until you get the 190 or so degree internal temp. Now, sometimes this takes 5 hours and sometimes as long as 9 (!) I think the fat ratio in the meat has something to do with that - the fattier, the better the taste and the faster it cooks. But the secret my North Carolina Dad gave me was that whenever it was done (actually about 10 degrees shy of the 190 if there's more than an hour before serving), take it out, cover with foil and cloths or newspaper - but do NOT shred it until your just about ready to eat. And let the folks add the vinegar sauce at will - it doesn't taste right if you store the pulled meat in the sauce. Also, the vinegar sauce doesn't keep well, so we make fresh stuff the next day. It's cheap, it's easy - and worth it.

                      1. re: Imby

                        using cherry soaked in beer our 9 pound pork butt. Will start at 9pm tonite and cook until @ 10 am tomorrow, and th

                    3. not sure why folks are so into meat temp on something like this(maybe alton brown,ab,AB, foodnetwerk, etc...)when its done you'll know it. When shredding tender let rest.

                      1 hour or 3 no prob-its still gonna be hot-before the foodsafety nazis come out let your probe tell all. Wrap, keep in a warm place, do your thing.

                      minutes per elbow is meaningless to me and probably most other folks who pulled something that "should have been done".

                      pork butt will not dry out if reheated unless you really have no skills. I guaranty you that the carnitas at your favorite mex joint wasn't pulled out of the oven just for you.

                      don't worry, be happy :)

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: dano

                        Let the smoke take you away. The trip is the best part of it. Let it do it's own thing and you can do your own thing you will know when it's done. Enjoy!!!

                        1. re: dano

                          Most of what you said was incomprehensible but if I gathered correctly you said temp doesn't matter. That's wrong no matter how you "slice it" pun intended. You're still concerned with temp. I bet you just go by more of a feel than a dial. That's fine but it's always about temp.