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Pulled pork question

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I'm smoking 2 boston butts, about 8lbs. each, for the 4th of July. I'm injecting them with an apple cider, bourbon, seasoning mixture, rub, then smoking them in a gas smoker.

One of the square jobs, around 4 feet tall. Similar to this

http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12...

My question is two part. #1, how long should I plan for? I plan to cook at about 225, until the meat is 195-200, but I've seen suggested cook times from 8-20 hours. I understand that the cook time is simply a guideline, but I'm just wanting to avoid having to pull the meat at 3 AM.

My second question, is being that one piece of meat will be closer to the heat, should I switch grates partway through the cooking?

Thanks, and sorry for my rambling!!

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  1. I would plan on 16 - 19 hours. probably something around 18 hours will probably get the job done. Better to get it done a bit early and reheat it later than to have your guests waiting around with nothing to eat while you try to wait it out.
    I would switch out the butts about half way through the cooking cycle to ensure even cooking throughout. These types of smokers usually have at least two racks and, unless they have a fan to circulate the heated air, they don't cook quite as evenly as they otherwise might.
    You gonna feed thirty people?

    4 Replies
    1. re: todao

      17 people, but I didn't figure 1 butt would be enough, and there's nothing wrong with leftovers, haha.

      And as far as the time constraints, I'll be making thursday/friday, for saturday night, because we'll be at a hotel on the beach for the fourth, so regrettably, I have to cook it ahead of time.

      1. re: JBethell

        One of the best things about a gas smoker is that you can regulate the heat more easily. Since you are cooking a day ahead you can start really low the night before and let the smoker work while you sleep. you can go as low as 210 for your overnight and then swap places and up the temp in the morning. You can get remote transmitter thermometers that have settable alarms to monitor the temp of the meat as well as the temp of the cooker. Start with the heavier piece of meat closer to the heat.

        1. re: JBethell

          Two 8 pound butts for 17 people? Not only are you not going to have left overs you might not have enough if you have mostly males or big eaters. With that size butt I'm azzuming they are bone in. With a slow cook and bone in butts you will loose a minimum of 40% but for guests you should calculate a 50% loss to be on the safe side. Based on your weights you only wind up with roughly 8 ounces per person and that's not counting any nibbeling when you pull (good luck with that!).
          I'm not familiar with your cooker but I wouldn't flip the two butts unless I had to. If you do, try to switch them at the 150 degree mark so the roasts are still solid. You don't want them to come apart when you move them.
          On my BGE I average 21-22 hours but you really do not want to be any faster than 16 hours or so. The longer the conversion process takes the more tender your end product will usually be.
          If you do not have one buy a polder thermometer ($30 ish). This will allow you to watch the internal temperature of you meat with out opening your cooker and thus dropping your temperature. This also allows you to see where you are in the conversion process. The internal temperature will drop and hold for hours (the longer the better) before it starts to rise again and then you will know the process is complete. Be sure to wrap the wire that is exposed in your cooker with aluminum foil. I typically pull at 185. Remember on average a roast like this will continue to rise 10 degrees after you pull it and let it rest.
          Finally if they do get done at 3 am do not sweat it. Pull them and wrap them tightly in aluminum foil and pop them in a cooler. The insulation in most coolers will hold the temperature above 140 for four hours extending both the hold time and your schnoooze time.

        2. re: todao

          I think the 14 - 16 tops for me but nothing wrong with longer. Just depends. And yes todao, switch them out so even cooking. I do open a couple of times and baste but usually not much more until closer to the end.

          Hey leftovers are great. I would do two as well. Love the leftover thing.

        3. I think you are probably looking at a 12-16 hour cook time for two 8 pound butts. At temps of 225-250 I usually see butts take from 1 1/2 - 2 hours per pound to get to the 195-205 finishing range. Factors such as outside air temperature and wind conditions can affect timing.

          It can't hurt to swap the positions of the butts at the half way mark. Since they are the same size they would then be getting the same treatment. You will lose temp once you open the cooker so do it once and do it quickly then leave it closed and low and slow it til the end.

          3 Replies
          1. re: CDouglas

            You say not to open it, what about this spray/baste I made from one of Raichlen's books? It's apple juice and some other things, is it not worth opening ithe smoker?

            1. re: JBethell

              Every time you open your smoker the temperature will drop and the internal humidity will be lost. How fast can your vertical cooker recover and stabilize the temp back at 225? Every time you open the smoker you extend your cook time. Consider putting your apple juice in a drip pan to have that flavor inside your smoker and/or injecting your roasts and seasoning the day before and letting them rest over night in the fridge.

              1. re: JBethell

                Baste when you swap the butts from one grate to the next and then keep it closed. Basting the outside of the meat will not do anything for interior moisture. It may have a slight effect on the outside bark but I am from the camp that thinks it doesn't do much more than give the cook something to do to make him/her look good. Low and slow takes care of itself.