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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.

        Huh.

        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

                      FALSE

                      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

                                                    Cool.

                                                    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.

                                                Tasty.

                                                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.