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High elevation and cool outside temps - smoking questions

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That says it. We live at about 6400' elevation and it's getting down into the high 30s at night. I'm guessing these variables will extend the cooking time. Do you think I should bump up the temp of the smoker? If so, to what? We did a pork shoulder yesterday that took about 14 hours at approx. 220'ish. Any recs for cutting the time without sacrificing anything? Otherwise I'll stick with this. TIA.

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  1. While cold does effect the holding temp., wind has much more of an effect. I don't know about altitude. Do you have a garage or shed that you can put the smoker in and vent the smoke outside? Lots of folks do that. Or build an insulated "home" for the smoker.

    It sounds like the smoker was at the perfect temp. 210-225 is great if it can stay there you are golden. But smoking is not quick. 14 hours is about right. That's why many people load up the smoker and do several things at once. If you get around to making some of the modifications to he Bradley things will get easier.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JMF

      It actually was almost 16 hours; bad math :) I think it's in a pretty good spot. It sits in a pretty sheltered on three sides spot under the deck. I can live with that time quite well and am glad that I read (over and over) to not count on a particular time. I had a backup meal planned. We were really happy with how well the Maverick thermometer held the temp in the smoker. That was money WELL spent. Thanks, JMF.

    2. Use a higher temperature.

      Contrary to popular belief, 225 isn't a magical temperature. Bump it up to 275 and give it a try.

      There is no benefit to the lower temperatures. People will argue that point, but they simply don't know any better.

      You can cook at 225 or 220...or even 200...but it is going to take an extended period the lower you go. The higher the cooking temp the shorter the "stall period", and the shorter the total time.

      Cooking at higher temps give no negative side effects if you understand the heat and how to harness it to your benefit.

      3 Replies
      1. re: JayL

        Thanks, Jay. Our elevation certainly effects some things that I cook - boiling eggs has been a learning curve for sure. I'll try 250 next time.

        1. re: JayL

          Using a higher temp. can work well, but one has to watch the meat much more carefully. 300F can even prevent the "stall." But the OP is using a Bradley and they are designed for 200-250F, or less, and 250F is their maximum safe temp. Heat sensors will turn off the heating element if it goes too high.

          As for the "stall" there are much better ways to stop that than cooking at high temps. When the butt/shoulder, etc. has been smoked as long as you want, 2-4 hours in most cases, and has hit an internal temp. (IT) of 150-160F, take it out, wrap in heavy duty foil, and put back in with no smoke. There will be no stall, the meat will cook much faster up to the ending IT of 190-200F, and the meat will be juicier. If you want the outside bark to form, then take out of the foil at IT 190F and crank up the Bradley to full and take out when IT hits 200F. OR, put in the oven turned on high for just long enough to crisp up the bark, making sure that you keep an eye on the IT and pull it at IT 195F because the IT will rise from the blast of heat from the oven.

          1. re: JMF

            I didn't read that - shame on me. I think the foil wrap is the best idea. Along with the final blast.

        2. I live at 8500 ft. I used to use a regular metal smoker but got a fantastic deal on a Bradley. In the old smoker it took a long time to cook anything when it was windy. I generally just smoked in the smoker and finished in the oven.

          Now I use the Bradley. Because it is insulated and the temp is regulated (more or less), cold is is not such a big deal. (I'd like to get a good PID controller). I follow the same times as people in lower altitudes and then foil as JMF suggested, sometimes in the oven. When I don't want a bark, I do the FTC thing (wrap in foil, then a towel and place in a small cooler).

          When it is cold outside I can cold smoke, but that's harder in the summer as I can't get the cabinet as cool.

          1 Reply
          1. re: travelerjjm

            Thanks. Ours is also a Bradley. I think the FTC is going to help