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Smoking question

So I plan on smoking my first pork butt tomorrow. It's about 7.5 lbs., so it'll likely take between 10.5 - 12.5 hours to finish. I've made this many times in the oven (obviously not smoked, just low and slow cooked), but this will be the first time I make it in my spiffy new Bradley smoker....

What I find confusing in my smoking book is that it says in the intro to only smoke the meat for half of the cooking time, then just finish in the smoker without smoke (?), but in the actual recipe for pork butt, it says to "smoke cook" for the entire time. Wha'?

If someone could clarify this for me, that would be great.

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  1. I'm interesting in knowing about this also.

    1. A lot of people who smoke will let something as big as a butt cook exposed to smoke for half the cooking time, then cover it with foil for the remainder.

      7 Replies
      1. re: lowtone9

        Yes, I've seen that, too. However, not for this particular recipe.

        What's even more confusing is that it says "be sure to have enough wood chips or chunks on hand to produce smoke for about 5-6 hours" -- which would imply that one is, in fact, only to smoke for half of the time it takes to cook -- but then goes on to say "smoke cook until the thermometer reads 205°F.


        1. re: linguafood

          So is this a cookbook that came with the smoker? Glad you're test driving til I get home!

        2. re: lowtone9

          That technique (wrapping in foil) winds up incorporating steaming as part of the process and will prevent a properly crispy bark from forming on the pig skin (it is football season after all). It works fine, but it does have that drawback.

          What lingua's asking about is a smoke heat finished with a non smoke heat. This is a technique that is employed to minimize the amount of wood fuel used to cook the meat, based upon the premise that there is a limited amount of time in which the pork will benefit from (or be able to even absorb) the smoke. Either way will produce fine results, with a crispy bark, but often folks who are paying a premium for their fuel find it cost effective to move to a cheaper finish. The same concept works when you split the time on the smoker with time in a low heat oven.

          At bottom, the overall length of the cook is basically the same. It's really a question of what fuel one wants to use to provide the heat for the second half of the process. Personally, I stay with all coals and wood for the entire cook, but I get my fuel cheap and I enjoy watching the neighbors as they sniff the air walkin' past my house.

          1. re: MGZ

            Well, this being an electric smoker, I'm not so worried about the fuel than I am about using up too many of the bisquettes, if they won't make a damn difference after some point.

            So -- what exactly are you suggesting? That I only supply enough of those to smoke for 6 hours, then just finish with heat in the smoker? Or smoke the whole way through?

            Sorry if I'm dense, but I can't figure it out from your reply....

            1. re: MGZ

              I will respectfully disagree with your premise that smoking a pork shoulder, or ribs for that matter, for a period of time, and then wrapping in foil to finish is about the fuel.

              I have seen competition BBQers do this frequently. It's about getting the meat tender while still keeping it moist. I realize not all people do BBQ this way, I usually do, especially with pulled pork.

              Frankly, many times I will smoke a pork shoulder for four or five hours and then finish it in a crockpot. I sometimes add a bit of pork stock and apple cider. When the pork is tender, I pull it and strain the liquid. When the pulled pork is reheated, I add the juices back in.

              1. re: John E.

                "I will respectfully disagree with your premise that smoking a pork shoulder, or ribs for that matter, for a period of time, and then wrapping in foil to finish is about the fuel."

                That was never my premise, nor was it the question presented by the OP.

                1. re: John E.

                  Competition cooks wrap for various reasons...but the biggest reason is COLOR.

                  When their meat gets to the color they want it, they wrap to keep that color (keeping it from getting darker).

            2. I'm not an expert, but some of the stuff I've read on smoking indicates that after a certain point, the meat won't absorb any more smoke flavor, so you might as well save yourself the wood and just roast until the end.

              25 Replies
                1. re: biondanonima

                  Yes. My recollection is that once the meat hits 140 degrees, it won't take on more smoke.

                  1. re: biondanonima

                    Yeah, I've heard that too but I don't buy it 100%. It doesn't take smoke as quickly or as deeply but if you keep smoke passing over the exterior the exterior will get smokier. That is not always a good thing.

                    More importantly its the type of smoke. Clean smoke is what you want. Not the white bellowing smoke which happens as wood starts to smoke which can produce an acrid flavor. Clean smoke is milder and sweeter

                    1. re: biondanonima


                      The "smoke ring" phenomenon will stop around 140 degrees.

                      Many people have erroneously translated that to mean that meat stops taking on any further smoke flavor at the same time.

                      That isn't true at all.

                      1. re: JayL

                        By the time my meat reached 140 I'd long since stopped smoking and it was just cooking. And I wouldn't have wanted any more smoke flavor. Thought 3 hours smoking out of almost 16 cooking was perfect.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          That is cooking with some pellet/biscuit smoker where you get what smoke they give you.

                          In a more traditional setting, where you generate your own fire, cooking in a smokey environment the entire time is the way it has always been done.

                          You generally oversmoke only if you are using too much smoke to begin with. That white stuff billowing out of some of these machines is definitely not what you are looking for.

                          1. re: JayL

                            The OP is also using a Bradley smoker, as I am. Didn't see any of that "white stuff billowing out" :) Having used the "more traditional" many years ago and finding it quite a bit of effort with varying results, I'm sold on this electric/wood combo. YMMV of course.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              My mileage does vary since I don't find a regular smoker much effort at all.

                              I guess it's all in you personal experiences.

                              I like cooking with wood and coals.

                              1. re: JayL

                                I'm glad to hear that. I guess I thought that non-electric ones required more tending. Good to know.

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  Some require more tending and some don't.

                                  I have a "set it and forget it" smoker...never use it.

                                  I currently use a Weber bullet and find it pretty darn easy and fool proof.

                                  My last two cooks were a full sized pork butt that was done in 6 hours and a full rack of spare ribs that were tender in 2 hours.

                                  1. re: JayL

                                    Jay, what temps do you do your butt and ribs at?

                                    1. re: scubadoo97

                                      The above foods were cooked at, or above, 325. The butt spent some time above 350.

                                      Cooking overnight doesn't excite me much. Also when I decide late afternoon to have ribs for dinner, it's nice to know you can have them done in time for dinner.

                                      1. re: JayL

                                        When I decide late afternoon to have ribs, I have a totally different technique that I use. So no problem for me.

                                        1. re: JayL

                                          Please explain how you can smoke at that high a heat without the outside getting way overdone by the time the inside is tender. I'm curious as to your methods. You say a lot about do this and don't do that, but haven't explained how you do things.

                                          1. re: JMF

                                            You just let it cook.

                                            The only thing you have to do different is flip the meat...that and not use sugar in your rub. It is very easy.

                                      2. re: JayL

                                        Whoa! Curious as to what you consider "full size" for a pork butt. I've found that cooking it low and slow (225 tops), it'll take between 1-1.5 hours per pound. I barely ever get anything smaller than 7 or 8 lbs. pork butts, and they would *never* be done in 6 hours. At least not how I like them done.

                                        1. re: linguafood

                                          Full size is typically 7-9#. You sometimes find butts that have been cut in half...4-5# or so. That is why I usually specify full size or not.

                                          My 6 hour butt was cooked until the bone pulled free and clean...the meat pulled easily. Can't imagine what else anyone would want.

                                          You also have to understand that using direct vs. indirect heat, even at the same temperatures, speeds up the process considerably. I cook on my WSM without the water pan in place most of the time. There is nothing between my food and the heat source but air.

                                          Many people think you have to cook at a certain temperature all the time. That is far from the truth. In North Carolina we cook whole hogs in 6-8 hours.

                                          1. re: JayL

                                            Hell, if that ain't the point I was hinting at in offering support to the new Board. To put it another way, some things you learn from books, some things you learn from broads, and some things you learn from barbecue.

                                            1. re: JayL

                                              Jay, when you cook at those higher temps, is that considered barbecue, grilling or smoking...or is that all just semantics...when the point is one is cooking food?!?!? :) Will you get as much smoke benefit with a shorter cooking time as you will with a larger? Do you stop adding wood at some point cause you don't want a smokier taste?

                                              IS THIS ACTUALLY A DIFFERENT THREAD?!?!?

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                Grilling is something you do to a steak at high temperatures...more in the 500-1,000 degree range.

                                                Cooking at 300-350 is still pretty low...you are just going to get your bbq done faster than if you cook at 225.

                                                All the "low & slow" stuff came about with the advent of offset/indirect smoking. That is sort of the "new way" of smoking believe it or not. Many years before that there was cooking directly over a bed of coals. This original method brought about the barbecue tradition in this country.

                                                When you have traditional barbecue in Eastern North Carolina, Virginia, and parts of South Carolina you will be getting a whole hog cooked over a bed of fresh coals. In other local areas they have gone away from the whole hog, but still cook over coals.

                                                That isn't grilling at all...it is traditional barbecue.

                                                I do 'normal' smoking too. I like all kinds of bbq. I will cook a butt for 12 hours on occasion, but I know I can also do it 6 hours if I prefer.

                                                Hope that helps.

                                                1. re: JayL

                                                  My first introduction to making real BBQ was 30 years ago, working in a whole hog BBQ pit in middle Georgia over logs and coals.

                                                  1. re: JMF


                                                    My first introduction to Rye Whiskey was 30 years ago when I stole a bottle of Old Overholt. Loved it all these years. In fact, that swill still tastes good to me even though I have been served many a highball with Canadian in its place over time and have tasted a bunch of "new to the old" ryes that have come to finally pay homage to lost art.

                                          2. re: JayL

                                            I'm curious why you don't use your "set it and forget it" smoker?

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              C, think of it this way, some folks don't like research, don't like to be told. Some folks wanna find their way and realize they didn't know where they were going until they got there and it felt right.

                                              Some folks don't read notes or don't care for sheet music. Sometimes the heart controls the fingers. Baking is symphonic and Mozart - old world and determined. Barbecue is Blues and Jazz - American and individual.

                                              To make a long post short(er), let me just say that there is never gonna be any universally "right way" to cook outside. Just too many factors and feelings. Makin' barbecue and cookin' outdoors is fun. If it becomes work, either stop or charge for it.

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                I just don't like it. I find my product comes out better with more traditional methods.

                                                Is that a psychological response on my part? Maybe...but I do feel there is a difference.

                                                Also, it does my insides well to cook the way I was raised. Cooking barbecue isn't something I learned as an adult...it is something that was instilled in me as a child. It is just a part of my life.

                                                I have tried different methods of cooking through the years, and many of them I enjoy...but I always come back to "my" more traditional ways of preparing food...sometimes even combining methods.

                                                No single way so right, but there is wrong information out there that people have "heard" and then want to believe as gospel.

                              2. We usually smoke the meat for 6 - 7 hours, then wrap in foil and finish in a 225 degree oven for another 3 - 4 hours. You'll know it's done when you can pull the bone out with no resistance, if you are using a bone-in pork butt.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: jeanmarieok

                                  Interesting. I've never wrapped it in foil when I did it in the oven. But you might be on to something.... about finishing the butt in the oven.

                                  If only the timing weren't so shitty. I thought about throwing the butt in the smoker some point tonight 1-2 AM, but I sure as hell won't be up at 7 or 8 AM to move the butt from the smoker to the oven.

                                  Dang. Who knew this was going to be so complicated??

                                  1. re: linguafood

                                    But if you start out with enough bisquettes to smoke for half the time and the leave it in the smoker for the full time, won't that work? I'm always up by 7 or 8; it's the 1-2AM that's not going to get it for me :)

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      You're right, of course -- I could just leave it in the smoker. I probably will, just to Not Have To Deal at that ungodly hour (even tho my man might be up).

                                      I think that's what I'll do. And it sounds like the bisquettes only need to last 5-6 hours.

                                      1. re: linguafood

                                        I've never used an electric smoker. I can tell you that for competitions, we start the butt at 6 or 7 pm on the night before turn in. This allows plenty of time for the butt to be done in the morning. We then wrap in foil then towels and keep warm in a dry cooler. It will stay hot for hours, I think it improves tenderness as well.

                                        1. re: chileheadmike

                                          That is how we do it also, we were told that method from competition cooks as well.

                                    2. re: linguafood

                                      You don't have to remove from smoker when done. It can stay for a few more hours.

                                      1. re: linguafood

                                        We time the meat to come off the smoker at about 11 pm. Drop them into a full size foil pan, cover tightly with foil, put them in at 225. We set the oven to turn off at 4 am. When I get up at my usual 6:30 - 7 am, the meat is still at a serv-safe temp, but cool enough for me to use the 'claws' to shred it. Then we just pop it into the fridge, and gently reheat to serve.

                                        1. re: jeanmarieok

                                          See, that's part of the problem. Nobody in this household will be up that early in the morning :-)

                                          But we'll work it out somehow. After all that angst, something swell should be the result. One hopes.

                                    3. I hope you seasoned the smoker first.

                                      Go with the tips from the Bradley forum. They are based on that smoker. Smoke 3-4 hours. No more is needed. then let cook at smoking temp. Then 2-3 hours before end wrap in foil and let steam in smoker to break down last of the collagen.

                                      If you want crisp bark then roast at high heat for 10-15 minutes in your over or remove foil 1 hour before end.

                                      Many folks here won't have the indepth knowledge of the Bradley, so you may want to focus on their forum.

                                      26 Replies
                                      1. re: JMF

                                        Yes, of course I seasoned it. I already smoked 1/2 chicken in it a couple weeks ago, which came out ok.

                                        1. re: JMF

                                          Glad I found this thread. Since this is my very first time and will unlikely have little idea as to timing, I'm thinking I shouldn't try to anticipate WHEN is 2-3 hours before end. Do you agree? I'm guessing after the first time with this (8# pork shoulder) I'll have an idea of how long. Appreciate as always your advice.

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            At 225, you can generally calculate an hour to 1.5 hours per lb.

                                            1. re: linguafood

                                              Excellent! I've been trying to keep just a smidge below 125. Thanks, l. BTW, did you wrap in foil for the last couple of hours?

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                I did, if not for 3 or so. Since we did it overnight, it was pretty much done early afternoon, so I just kept it wrapped in foil until we were ready to eat, which is when I heated it up in the oven.


                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                  Wrapped in foil in the smoker or the way they talk about in foil, in a towel and in a cooler. Sorry to be so full of questions. It's at 145 now and I'm figuring it will get stuck for a while.

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    Wrapped in foil in the smoker, then wrapped in foil in the oven.

                                                    It never went in the cooler. Everyone's still alive.

                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                      Foil in smoker, oven, cooler; all are good. You can keep it foil wrapped, then wrapped in towels, in the cooler for up to 5 hours without problems.

                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                        I live in a magic house. No worries :)

                                                      2. re: c oliver

                                                        Five hours later and it's only at 162. Won't be tonight's dinner :) But I wish you could have seen one of the dog's nose when she walked by it. Straight up in the air (she's a short dog) and then sniffing all around. Hope it tastes as good as it smells. An adventure.

                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          If it's an 8 lbs. shoulder, it will take *at least* 8, but more likely up to 12 hours to be done. It should reach 200.

                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                            We're just short of 12 hours and only at 165. I like 180 for pork shoulders. It's 9PM here and who knows? We made tacos with a little leftover pork chop :) BTW, here at Lake Tahoe it's pretty chilly so that's got to be effecting the temp.

                                                          2. re: c oliver

                                                            Foiling it when it hits the stall will shorten the stall time and move things along a bit better. You can uncover after it gets to 175-180 to recover some bark

                                                            1. re: scubadoo97

                                                              Hey, that's good to know! We put it in at 9AM and Bob (I had already gone to bed) took it out at 1245AM at 180. Wrapped in foil and then a towel and into the MW (off). This morning it was still warm and PERFECT!!!!!! I was able to slice it in half and also able to remove the bone without the meat falling completely apart. My goal isn't "pulled" so I'm super happy. The dogs can barely pull themselves away from the kitchen :) Pictures to follow. Bob left for golf with a sandwich to eat en route. Thanks everyone for all the hand holding.

                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                I had to stop picking off it! So rewrapped in foil and put in the fridge. My breakfast sandwich was wonderful. Tonight we'll do a Mexican meal of some sort. Here are a couple of pix.

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  Looks like barbecue. Congrats on a successful smoke.

                                                                  1. re: chileheadmike

                                                                    Thanks. Couldn't have done it without this group effort.

                                                                  2. re: c oliver

                                                                    If you get it to 200 internal, you can just pull it apart with forks.

                                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                                      I'm really not into that texture of meat but thanks. I got that "Smoke & Spice" book which has recipes for everything including salads (smoke the vegetables), pizzas, desserts, you name it. We're going to have a lot of fun with this toy, I can tell.

                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                        Oh, it's still got bite. Knives remain on the table. But it gets very nice and tender.

                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                          Smoke and Spice by the Jamesons? I have Splendid Smoke and like that book a lot. Everything I've made from it has turned out well.

                                                                          1. re: chileheadmike

                                                                            Yep, that one. It's rather fascinating all the things one can cook in a smoker that I'd never considered.

                                                                            1. re: chileheadmike

                                                                              I got that for my birfday, to add to How to Grill/Reichlen and Smoking meat/Phillips.

                                                                              I should really smoke something this weekend.....

                                                                            2. re: c oliver

                                                                              "We're going to have a lot of fun with this toy, I can tell."

                                                                              it IS fun isn't it? like a road trip with no map or schedule.

                                                                              1. re: hill food

                                                                                VERY! Just froze the remainder of the pork in 1/2# portions. Next will be ribs. Slowly we creep :)

                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                  last Thanksgiving the power cut out (all electric house) so I finished up the dressing and brussel sprouts on the grill over a layer of wild grape vine smoke and some shaggy bark hickory as the guests were arriving. they (well most) had seconds.

                                                      3. Oh, and when you invest in a dual probe PID you can just set the PID and forget it. You have all your temps and smoke times set, and then when done set to hold at 140 and it can literally stay in there for another day. I made sure I did all the hot rodding (modifications) on the Bradley and had the PID before my first smoke and it made it care free.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: JMF

                                                          I was really hoping that SOMEONE would ask what the heck a "dual probe PID" is but no one did :) So here it is:


                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                            Yowzah. A little rich for my wallet at this time, but I'll keep it in mind.

                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                              Yeah, me too. Down the road perhaps. When/if I'm ready to enter JMF's league :)

                                                        2. All I can think of is some woods can give a bit of an acrid taste to meat if you over do it. Mesquite is a good example where a little goes a long ways. Too much and just as well have used pine.

                                                          As an aside, this site has some really good tips for boston butts. I've tried several of them with great results.


                                                          1. After about 6 hours you will have pretty much all of the smoke and bark you're going to get. The rest of the time is just getting the meat tender. Problem is, once the surface gets to a certain temp, you run Into the "stall" when the interior temp stubbornly refuses to rise. Reason is, surface moisture is evaporating & cooling things off. So take it off the pit, wrap in foil (which counteracts the evap) and finish in the oven.


                                                            Whole Hog Productions

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: rjbh20

                                                              Why can't I wrap it in foil and finish it in the smoker, at the same temp?

                                                              Just asking since we'll likely start this baby at night, and *nobody* is getting up in the early AM to move it into the oven to finish.

                                                              Of course, I just realize that *someone* will have to wrap it in foil after 6 hours. I am doubtful that someone will be me.

                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                A smoker is just a wood fired oven, so you can certainly keep it in the pit. Only reason to move to the oven is so you don't have to tend the pit & waste firewood, but that's obviously not a prob here. Are you doing bone in?

                                                                1. re: rjbh20

                                                                  Yep, bone in. We'll probably start it tonight.

                                                              2. So here's what I've learned about doing pork butts in Bradleys, after doing hundreds of them for dozens of catering gigs over the past few years. This will come after you're done but maybe someone can use this info for future reference.

                                                                We currently own six Bradleys of various shapes and sizes and configurations and love them all, but they do have quirks.

                                                                Depending upon how you have the vents set and the controls and the ambient temps and such, your butts can take 12, 18, up to 24 hours to finish. The first half of this time is when the beast is taking up smoke and the internal temp is generally below 150F. The second half is when the butt finishes cooking and getting tender, but at the same time the fibers are contracting and the meat is expelling a lot of moisture, especially as it passes through about 170 or so.

                                                                So a lot of the great juices run out of the shoulder and into your puck catcher, where they turn from pleasantly smoky to unpalatably ashy and you can't use them. Sometimes there will be so much that they'll run into the puck-advancer and the pucks will swell up and form a puck paste and jam up the feeder and refuse to advance, and boy is that fun to clean up. And you are stuck with eighty pounds of unsmoked meat. But I digress.

                                                                So our butts go into the Bradley before we go to bed, say 11-ish. In the morning, they go into roasting pans and are covered with foil, where they finish in a 250-300F oven. All the juices are captured in the roasting pan, where they can mix back into the pork as it is pulled. Everyone says it's the moistest and juiciest and smokiest they've ever had. You do lose the crispy bark this way, but no one I know cares about how crispy it is, only how smoky and tender. But then we are damned Northerners.

                                                                I actually have a video that shows how we do it:


                                                                You will be having Cole slaw and making a North Carolina Sauce to go with it, right?

                                                                12 Replies
                                                                  1. re: acgold7

                                                                    Hi, you say "So a lot of the great juices run out of the shoulder and into your puck catcher, where they turn from pleasantly smoky to unpalatably ashy and you can't use them. Sometimes there will be so much that they'll run into the puck-advancer and the pucks will swell up and form a puck paste and jam up the feeder and refuse to advance, and boy is that fun to clean up. And you are stuck with eighty pounds of unsmoked meat. But I digress."

                                                                    Can you explain how this could happen? I'm not saying it didn't happen to you. Personally, I don't see how it could. I have never had this happen in all my smoking with a Bradley. The V shaped drip tray prevents this.

                                                                    1. re: JMF

                                                                      >>The V shaped drip tray prevents this.<<<

                                                                      Not if you are an idiot like I am and jam in two butts per rack, so they actually touch the sides of the smoker and the juices run down the walls directly onto the puck feeder through the rather sizable gap between the inside wall and the edge of the V shaped drip tray. I am proud to say there is no piece of equipment that can't outwit me. Wait, I mean, um....

                                                                    2. re: acgold7

                                                                      Great video. I just have a few questions. I always like to see different ways to achieve the same goal of great smoked meat.

                                                                      I've never had so much juice ever come out of a pork butt. Maybe because I never let the temp. in the Bradley get over 210F or so. When I finish in the oven I set at 220F.

                                                                      I think the 300F finish in the oven is letting more juices release. But if the pulled meat is sitting in the juice and it re-absorbs, that is good too. Does the juices re-absorb into the meat?

                                                                      What is the texture of the meat? In the video it looked like it may be too soft from steaming in the juices. Is it soft, but still firm to the bite? Or mushy?

                                                                      1. re: JMF

                                                                        The juice does re-absorb, at least to my palate. I find it soft and tender but still with a little chew. It may be too soft for some. You might like it a bit firmer but we find most of our guests value "tender" more than almost anything else as long as the flavor is there.

                                                                        It's certainly possible that more juices release at 300, but not much more than were at the bottom of the Bradley when we used to do them 100% in the smoker and we were pretty careful to keep the temps pretty low and stable.

                                                                        Good advice about Mesquite, below, but we've never found Hickory to be overpowering. Curious how tastes vary.

                                                                        1. re: acgold7

                                                                          With hickory I find it overpowering because it seems very unbalanced and one note, so a mix of hickory and fruit wood is more balanced.

                                                                          1. re: JMF

                                                                            So then do you alternate the bisquettes?

                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                              Yes, when I use more than one type I alternate.

                                                                              By the way, a good investment that is relatively inexpensive are puck savers. A set of three is used by placing on top of the stack of bisquettes. They push the last three bisquettes out onto the smoke generator. Otherwise you have to put three more bisquettes in the stack than you need, and the three get a bit singed, but aren't used.


                                                                              1. re: JMF

                                                                                Or you can just save the singed unused bisquettes and just leave them in place until the next time. It's actually only the first one in line that gets singed anyhow. We use ours daily so not an issue.

                                                                                But we do alternate three kinds of bisquettes for depth of flavor too. We use Apple, Alder and Hickory.

                                                                                1. re: acgold7

                                                                                  You use your smoker every single day??????? Now THAT should be a thread unto itself! No steaks, no fish, no chicken pieces? Please elaborate.

                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                    Yep, as I may have mentioned elsewhere, we do Turkey legs and wings and tails daily for our restaurant. Our seventh unit just arrived -- we got it on eBay for less than $90 because it was damaged, and even if we can't fix it we can use it for parts. Not bad for a smoker that lists for about $600, although as pointed out above you can do much better than list price, especially at the site linked to above.

                                                                                    When you're getting the big digital model for a couple hundred each, you can afford to burn through one or two.

                                                                                    1. re: acgold7

                                                                                      Oh, you have a restaurant. THAT explains daily use :)

                                                                    3. A few little things you learn over the years.

                                                                      One thing with the Bradley is to use an 9x13 aluminum foil tray that fits in the bottom metal tray, instead of the water bowl/ash catcher. The disposable type you get for roasting from the supermarket. Use 2-3 pans inside each other for strength. And fill 2" deep with hot water, before you start. Make sure you have the empty pans in the smoker, then add hot water. The pans are too flimsy to carry water in easily. Unless you carry them on the bottom tray. They are reusable, just rinse and a little soapy water to get rid of grease.

                                                                      Also make sure you always smoke with the top vent fully open. You need to vent the humidity/steam or else you will get condensation "black rain" of nasty soot onto your meats.

                                                                      With pork butts, 3-4 hours smoke maximum at the beginning. Three hours is better. You do not need to smoke for half the time

                                                                      If you use hickory or mesquite, use for only one hour and some fruit or other wood for the other 2-3. Otherwise it will be overpowering.

                                                                      11 Replies
                                                                      1. re: JMF

                                                                        Sound advice. A buddy of mine smokes a LOT of pork butts and shoulders, and 3-4 hours in the smoker is ample, then a few hours covered in a low oven. He has done several the whole time in the smoker, with no additional advantage, just a lot of work and attention to the fire and temperature. One rainy day he did the whole thing in his oven and it really sucked and I told him so. The smoker makes the meal.

                                                                        1. re: Veggo

                                                                          Hell, the day will come when machines replace racecar drivers, football* players, hockey goalies, etc., but in the meantime, can't we revel in the beauty that is human fallibility and artistry?

                                                                          *Real football, not that silly Monty Python kinda "no hands" nonsense.

                                                                          1. re: MGZ

                                                                            "Real football".

                                                                            And, yes, that's the kind we call "rugby league"

                                                                            Although there's a bit of a clue about the "no hands" game the world plays. FOOTball,innit?


                                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                                              Well, Harters, my friend, looking at it from the skewed view provided by the Eastern side of the pond, I'll concede that sports and sex are both possible without hands. I just find both significantly less exciting. I mean, it's a bitch tryin' to unhook a bra with your feet . . . not to mention putting on a condom.

                                                                              That bein' said, and with full acknowledgement of your closing point, shouldn't that silly game with the black and white sphere be called "Anything-but-Hands ball"?

                                                                            2. re: Veggo

                                                                              I used to do the smoke in the smoker, and oven finish, but with my latest Bradley, after I did the modifications and got the PID, it became so easy to do the whole thing in the smoker. Especially if I was catering and had to do 8 pork butts at once.

                                                                              1. re: JMF

                                                                                The PID is sounding more and more attractive. There are those who smoke and get off and on results. You've clearly studied the art and I appreciate your input. And hopefully if my results are less than wonderful, no one will grouse about them :)

                                                                            3. re: JMF

                                                                              I used maple. Did not know about the disposable pans (ecological nightmare, right there...), the water pan seems to be doing the trick so far -- but I'm only smoking one shoulder at the moment.

                                                                              We put the butt in at 2 AM, and my dear man wrapped it in foil at 8 AM this morning. Inside temp's at 188 now, smoker temp around 220. Think we'll take it out of the foil in another hour or so.

                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                They good thing about the disposable pans is, One, you don't have to dispose, I've had the same ones for four years. Two, they are a heat sink, so the hot water helps keep the smoker stable.

                                                                            4. I don't understand it, but we have cooked many, many pork roasts to be pulled. We cook it the whole time uncovered, and at the same pit temp. Raves follow. I'm confused. And I;'ve never seen this referred to in any of the BBQ/SMOKE forums we read.

                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Nanzi

                                                                                If you read JMF above, you'll see you're not alone. I don't want to do pulled pork. Just smoke all manner of meats and fowl.

                                                                                1. re: Nanzi

                                                                                  I like to smoke meat, not make pulled pork either. i like to slice the pork butt, although for parties and catering pulled pork is a big hit. I sometimes do both.

                                                                                  1. re: Nanzi

                                                                                    Wrapping in foil to rest/steam/break down collagen, and to prevent the "stall", is nick named the Texas Crutch. Been around for at least 10-15 years under that name that I know of.


                                                                                    1. re: JMF

                                                                                      Some old bastards say that wrappin' in foil is the strip club of barbecue. Make up your own mind (and ask your wife) if it's cheatin'.

                                                                                  2. Aaaaand here goes my digital thermometer with its mind fuck again: the internal temp of the butt was 193 when we removed it from the smoker, took the foil off and put it in the pre-heated oven (at 225). The butt was maybe out for 5 minutes, if that long.

                                                                                    The internal temp, according to MF thermometer now? 173, going down. WTFF?

                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                                                      Not smoking related but generally, IIRC, it's REACHING that higher temp that's important, not necessarily maintaining it. I'll be corrected I'm sure if I'm wrong about that :)

                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                        No, in fact, as CI has pointed out with charts and graphs and such, it is indeed maintaining that temp for a period of time that breaks down the collagen and increases perceived juiciness and tenderness and wonderfulness. IIRC this was in an article about Brisket.

                                                                                        It is in the 170ish range that meat is at its maximum nastiness and driest toughness.

                                                                                        1. re: acgold7

                                                                                          No, I understand that. But AFTER that period of time, I don't find it a problem when the temp then goes down.

                                                                                      2. re: linguafood

                                                                                        Is the thermometer in the exact same place?

                                                                                        1. re: rjbh20

                                                                                          It was never taken out.

                                                                                          But I've had this happen before. Maybe I need a new thermometer. It doesn't make any sense whatsoever. Down to 172 now. Took it out. Had a taste of the pork -- nice on the smokiness, but a tad bit dry.... wanna express send some of your fabulous bbq sauce over? :-)

                                                                                      3. Didn't read all the responses, so excuse me if I'm redundant. You don't need to smoke something for 10 hours. Usually, 2-3 hours is sufficient to get the smokey flavor to permeate it. That's probably why they say only half the time.

                                                                                        1. Here's an interesting BBQ "manifesto"

                                                                                          Also this site/forum has some great Bradley BBQ recipes, tips,, etc. Also all the info on modifications to the Bradley smoker like additional heating element, circulating fan, PID, etc.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: JMF

                                                                                            JMF, it's very nice of you to share all of this. Looking forward to getting home in about a week and starting to play with this. Thanks.

                                                                                          2. Alton Brown said that anything over 2 hours begins to cause a bitter acrid taste on the meat.

                                                                                            I'm by no means an expert in this area, but my uncle is one of the best smokers I've ever known and he agrees.

                                                                                            He just smokes for about 2 hours then finishes it off without smoke. (He has 4 different styles of smokers - he said if using one of the electric or gas models, just stop adding wood chips after 2 hours. If using the traditional burning wood smoker, he wraps the meal tightly in foil to prevent additional smoke from giving it an acrid taste)

                                                                                            41 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: JetLaggedChef

                                                                                              I have an electric Bradley smoker. Pretty much the standard for meats is three hours of smoking. Never anything acrid although I've been warned against mesquite. I've smoked vegetables for less time, some tomatoes recently for only 40 minutes. And have also cold-smoked some thin steaks and pork chops for only 40 also.

                                                                                              There are some VERY knowledgeable people on this board who have been so kind to share that knowledge. You'll learn a lot, I'm sure.

                                                                                              1. re: JetLaggedChef

                                                                                                I'm not going to get into this argument again...so I will simply say that this is only true if you are generating acrid smoke to begin with.

                                                                                                Many people smoke for 6-24 hours and don't get a bitter taste. Only people like AB seem to have that issue.

                                                                                                  1. re: JayL

                                                                                                    Thanks for chiming in JayL.

                                                                                                    Can you tell us tips on how *not* to generate acrid smoke?

                                                                                                    1. re: JetLaggedChef

                                                                                                      Don't use mesquite. I usually smoke a full 3 hours and never had an issue, either (Bradley electric here, too).

                                                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                        Seems like I remember reading here that stopping at three hours is just because the meat isn't really going to absorb any more much after that? BTW, we found that we can order the bisquettes online from Home Depot with free shipping. And the price was good. Just an fyi.

                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                          Good to know. Our local HD doesn't have them at all. I'll check online (tho I'm pretty set for now -- smokingmeat.com had a sale recently, and I got 48 each of cherry, pecan & maple).

                                                                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                            Wow, you ARE set! Yeah, our HD didn't have them either. Bob found them online.

                                                                                                          2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                            Again...not what "I" consider good information.

                                                                                                            I would be willing to bet that many people, including quite a few on this board, could taste a difference between pork or brisket that is smoked for 2-3 hours and the same smoked for 6-14 hours.

                                                                                                            Most meat will absorb smoke taste for as long as it is exposed to it.

                                                                                                            1. re: JayL

                                                                                                              You know I'm a complete newbie on this so am also a complete sponge :) When do you smoke for longer? Our first foray was, like linguafood, a large pork shoulder that took 16 hours!!!!! We smoked for three and it was great. Thanks for all your help.

                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                Hey, it's no problem.

                                                                                                                The way you smoke, on a Bradley, it's probably best to smoke only a couple to three hours. I have an electric that smolders wood (more acrid smoke). I have rarely used it, but I don't smoke a full 12 hours with it either. I don't like that thing...not that it doesn't cook, but because I would rather cook with wood or coals.

                                                                                                                When cooking with wood fuel you obviously will be smoking the entire cook. That is the best answer to "when" you smoke for longer.

                                                                                                                Traditional barbecue is cooked entirely with wood fuel...and the result of that is smoke. This is how it's been done for generations.

                                                                                                                Hey, I've cooked shoulders & such for extended periods like you. That doesn't excite me much these days. LoL

                                                                                                                1. re: JayL

                                                                                                                  Thanks for elaborating, JL.

                                                                                                                  What excites me is that, in addition to some great meals right away, I have half pound 'chunks' of it in the freezer and can make a meal (love tacos) SO easily. We did whittle that time down to about 10-12 IIRC the next time :)

                                                                                                                  Do you have a favorite thing to smoke? Always looking for inspiration.

                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                    I'm basic...nothing "new & exciting" entering my pit for the most part.

                                                                                                                    Butts, shoulders, green ham (to mix with a shoulder if I'm cooking ALOT and want something closer to "whole hog"). Pork ribs or beef ribs. Brisket. Eye of round for simple roast beef.

                                                                                                                    Nothing out-of-the-ordinary.

                                                                                                                    1. re: JayL

                                                                                                                      "green ham"??? That's probably nothing like "green eggs and ham." Never heard of.

                                                                                                                      Smart and Final here (Reno) had briskets when we visited recently. I'd never seen them out here before. Will do one. Also our Latino market has whole pork legs as well as whole pigs (my smoker won't hold one of those!)

                                                                                                                      We're traveling a lot over the next couple of months so smoking is probably not going to happen again very soon. It's HARD being retired :)

                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver


                                                                                                                        When you speak of "ham" most people think of Thanksgiving, Virginia, spiral sliced, etc.

                                                                                                                        A green ham simply means one that is fresh and has not been cured and/or smoked.

                                                                                                                        Green = Fresh

                                                                                                                        By mixing a fresh ham with a whole shoulder you get a minimal replication of whole hog barbecue...not the same, but better than not doing it. Still...you end up with alot of meat!

                                                                                                                        1. re: JayL

                                                                                                                          Okay, bud, now you bring up another question that I've had. What IS a ham that's not cured? I know I grew up eating it in the South and I see those spiral sliced things but makes it a "HAM"? Please :)

                                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver


                                                                                                                            So is an uncured ham the same as an uncooked shoulder roast....just from a different part of the critter?

                                                                                                                            A raw "primal" cut?

                                                                                                                            1. re: Monch

                                                                                                                              A ham is the hind quarter.

                                                                                                                              Are people not aware of this? Curious.

                                                                                                                              1. re: JayL

                                                                                                                                Yes, I was.

                                                                                                                                It is the hind haunch. Just want to understand if "ham" can refer, in our collective experience, to a raw primal cut from the critter's back leg.

                                                                                                                                Can THAT be a "ham" before any curing/smoking/cooking?

                                                                                                                                1. re: Monch

                                                                                                                                  "Ham" is the hind leg of a pig.

                                                                                                                                  What is widely marketed as ham - the ham you get at the deli and spiral sliced - is a cured product - brined/injected with a solution of salt and potassium nitrate (pink salt). Then smoked. The potassium nitrate is what makes deli meats "red".

                                                                                                                                  UNcured hind leg of a pig is carried at butcher shops and sometimes in the supermarket. It is usually labeled "fresh ham." It is not processed - just fresh pig meat, like pork chops, and tastes like pork. (I've made a few cured hams from supermarket fresh ham - still haven't got the amount of cure or length of time brining quite right).

                                                                                                                                  1. re: sbp

                                                                                                                                    Thanks for this. My Latino market recently has been having whole legs so now I know what they're talking about.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: sbp

                                                                                                                                      I'm so glad to hear this. Not being a butcher *or* American, I wasn't going to butt in (haha)... but in Germany, hams, AFAIK, are made from the pig's butt (not shoulder, but hindquarters).

                                                                                                                                      1. re: sbp

                                                                                                                                        The fresh ham available in grocery stores is mostly the front leg of the pig. In Minnesota the skin is usually left on.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                          That would be a fresh shoulder or maybe a picnic. The picnic is sometimes listed as a picnic ham...never to be confused with anything other than the lower part of the shoulder (front leg). Whole shoulders & picnics always have the skin intact where I shop. The butt portion of the shoulder never has any skin.

                                                                                                                                          I have never seen anyone sell a fresh ham that wasn't the back leg. I see fresh hams at many places...labeled correct and always with the skin on.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: JayL

                                                                                                                                      I know nothing about pig anatomy :) So are you saying that one part is a ham and cooks up pink while another part is "pork" and does differently? I honestly don't care much for the "ham" I grew up eating but love the "pork"

                                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                        C....don't know either. I'm sure that other, wiser, folks know why "ham" comes from the raw back leg and that wonderful shoulder, from the front leg, cooks up into something different.

                                                                                                                                        Someone is going to come up with "fast twitch" and "slow twitch" concepts.

                                                                                                                                        All I was saying is that a "ham" can possibly be construed as the ass-end of the critter...cooking, no cooking...curing, no curing....

                                                                                                                                        Can a "green ham" be as simple as a raw haunch of back leg, from a pig?

                                                                                                                                        Inquiring minds.....

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Monch

                                                                                                                                          Yes...a green ham is nothing more than what you suggest...the raw, upper part of the back leg. You also commonly use the whole back leg.

                                                                                                                                          Prepared "ham" (the pink stuff) can be made from various parts of the pig...to include, but not limited to: the ham, the picnic shoulder, the back loin, etc. it turns pink because of the curing...not because of which part it is made from.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                    All hams that are marketed as "ham" are cured. By that, I'm referring to hams that you eat around the holidays, spiral sliced, country hams, etc.

                                                                                                                                    In the South you probably had a "Virginia" ham...dry cured (salt or salt/sugar) and smoked. Love it.

                                                                                                                                    Now if you want to really throw a monkey wrench into the conversation, we'll bring up that all hams are not "hams". Some hams comes from the shoulder. Now that's a discussion in itself. LoL

                                                                                                                                    1. re: JayL

                                                                                                                                      Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh :)

                                                                                                                                      The ham I had in Atlanta was baked and I don't think it was smoked. And the meat was pink.

                                                                                                                                      One of THE annoying things about meat in general is that seems like most cuts go by different names in different parts of the country. Double argh :)

                                                                                                                  2. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                    I think the issue with mesquite is that it's a fairly oily wood. why you see it used usually in "mesquite-grilled" not "mesquite-smoked"

                                                                                                                    I like its smoky flavor, but have only used it in short preparations as sort of a smoldering condiment, not the multiple hour 'low'n'slow' marathons where I'd opt for hickory or apple or something a bit sweeter.

                                                                                                                    1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                      I spoke to my uncle and he said that the problem with mesquite is that it burns hot so it's difficult to keep the bbq low and slow. As a result, many people burn their meat or smolder it until it's bitter.

                                                                                                                      Not my knowledge, just sharing what he said. He's known for his smoking prowess. He said it's great but takes a lot of practice, otherwise short cooking w mesquite is better - just like what hill food said.

                                                                                                                2. re: JayL

                                                                                                                  Very late into this review.

                                                                                                                  My only observation is that my wife used to say that my smoked shoulder would "make her tongue tingle". Thought that it was a creosote (?) buildup, on the interior of my barrel smoker. Began diligently power brushing as much interior surface as possible to bare metal. Had the cleanest smoker in five states...albeit northern states.

                                                                                                                  Didn't change a thing.

                                                                                                                  Heard that doing 100% of the cook with hickory logs might....MIGHT mind you....be overkill.

                                                                                                                  Since I started only putting three to five hours of woodsmoke to the butts, have had MUCH improved reviews. The remaining time, to get to temp, have been foil wrapped in the oven.

                                                                                                                  All this said, some of my indulgers long for the "old way" I did my butts...we COULD be dealing with some hard-wired tastes, here.

                                                                                                                  Just one amateur's experiences.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Monch

                                                                                                                    Acrid tastes usually don't come from the stuff baked onto the pit interior. It normally comes from an improperly burning fire.

                                                                                                                    1. re: JayL

                                                                                                                      I'm intrigued by your comment, JayL.

                                                                                                                      Could you expand on the concept of a fire that is burning improperly?

                                                                                                                      No snarkiness intended nor implied....Just want to understand.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Monch

                                                                                                                        A fire is a fire, is a fire, right? WRONG!

                                                                                                                        If cooking I an offset/indirect smoker, you can't just light some wood and start cooking...well you can, but luck will determine your final product instead if your cooking skill. You typically don't want a large roaring fire...you want a small fire that burns hot and clean. If you are blowing white (or black) smoke out of the smoker, then you are doing it wrong. You are actually wanting smoke that is practically invisible. If you see a whiff of blue smoke, or no smoke at all, then you are sitting pretty.

                                                                                                                        1. re: JayL

                                                                                                                          JayL is right on.

                                                                                                                          One thing about the Bradley electric smoker is that the smoke is almost invisible. Just a hint of blue smoke at times. Whatever temp. they have the smoker heating plate at, is just right. I've never had any bitter/acrid flavors using it. Sure, it's not as fun as using a wood fire in an offset, and not as much art/skill, but after as many days, weeks, months of my life that I've spent caring for wood burning smokers... I'll let the Bradley and a PID do 99% of the work for me nowadays.

                                                                                                                          Although if I roast a whole critter, that's a different story.

                                                                                                                          1. re: JMF

                                                                                                                            Thanks, guys. I understood and didn't even KNOW I understood. Throttle the air on my firebox down so that the smoke throughput is minimal, while doing my level best to maintain the smoker temperature needed.

                                                                                                                            JMF, I also have the four-shelf Bradley and love it. It has taken virtually all the load off my Brinkman.

                                                                                                                            May I ask about your PID? Source? Cost?

                                                                                                                            I have yet to pull the trigger on that purchase.

                                                                                                                            I have also kicked around the idea of adding a low-RPM smoke stirring fan....any opinions, there?

                                                                                                                            1. re: Monch

                                                                                                                              $185 for a dual probe One for smoker, one for internal food temp.

                                                                                                                              I got a small fan kit online. Back when they were dirt cheap. They improve evenness of heat dramatically for such a tiny thing.

                                                                                                                              The additional heating element add on is fantastic.

                                                                                                                      2. re: JayL

                                                                                                                        The only time acrid/bitter tastes come from the baked on smoke is when there isn't enough draft and moisture builds up, condensing, and falling back on the food in a creosote rain.

                                                                                                                        1. re: JMF

                                                                                                                          That is true.

                                                                                                                          But again, that's the fault of the operator and not the equipment (unless the pit is of a bad design).

                                                                                                                          1. re: JMF

                                                                                                                            THERE it is!

                                                                                                                            When I was a smoking noob, that is exactly what I allowed to happen....dummy, me!