Epic battle: wood and charcoal vs Electric and Pellet with Pulled pork.

Discussion in 'Pork' started by addertooth, Aug 15, 2014.

  1. Round 1:

    Three Pork butts were purchased, all weighing in at slightly over 8 pounds.

    Tonight: They all get the exact same rub from the same batch of rub. Then they take a nap in the fridge overnight.

    Tomorrow: Two get thrown in the Mini-WSM for the first 8 hours without foil at 225

                      One gets thrown in an MES 40 Gen II with mailbox mod and the AMZN Tube smoker for 8 hours without foil at 225.

    All of the combatants get foiled at 8 hours and finish at 205 degrees internal temperature.

    All of the combatants get rested one hour and pulled.

    We are going to see how they taste different.

    Pictures and news tomorrow.
  2. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Interesting , not only the flavor but time involved . I feel there will be a diff. due to from each heat source and the procedures done during the cooking (ex.- opening and wrapping and the time to recover the loss of heat).

    I'll be looking at your results and narration.

    Have fun and . . .
  3. This should be interesting.
  4. Known factors about the two smokers.  The charcoal/wood mini-WSM, with IQ120 holds temperature within a couple degrees, once warmed up.  The MES 40 has about a 30 degree swing in temperature.  I have another post which covers the temperature stability of the MES 40

    The AMazeN tube smoker arrived today, it is seasoning in the oven right now, to burn off the oils from fabrication. 
  5. welshrarebit

    welshrarebit Master of the Pit

    You're gonna love that tube smoker!!!

    I'm in on this one.
  6. mdboatbum

    mdboatbum Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Well? Are they in the smoke? Interesting experiment.
  7. The Plan was to have them in both smokers earlier, however, when using a heat gun to stoke the pellets in the tube, my GFI socket apparently died.  The two outside sockets I have are daisy chained from the first GFI socket.  Net result, no power outside the house.  No power for the MES 40, and the IQ-120 was running on backup battery power (don't know if the battery will carry it through a 12 hour smoke).  The short of it, I fixed the problems with the GFI socket, and have the MES 40 warming back up.  Both smokers are around 170 degrees and climbing. 

    This morning the rub was made.  The meat was prepped with the fat cap sliced, and the rub was applied to all three butts.  The Mini was loaded in preparation for the Minion method start, and the chimney was started with coals.

  8. And we are Off!  11:15 to 11:25 the meat is put on.  Two butts in the mini, one butt in the MES 40.

    With the mailbox mod, and the tube smoker, the MES can be ignored for about 4 to 6 hours. At this point, the tube may need to be re-loaded and lit.

    With the IQ-120, the mini-WSM can be ignored for at least 8 hours.  A shorter period, should I want to add some more wood chunks.

    The other day my mini got hit by rain, the temperature dropped by 20 degrees.  Within minutes the IQ-120 had increased airflow and returned the temperature back to 225.  A great tool/toy.

    In terms of hands-free smoking, they are fairly evenly matched. 

  9. 2 chunks of hickory thrown on the coals.  Note to self: next time spray the outside bottom of the pot with Pam, it tends to stick to the Weber base.
  10. Added more pellets to the AmazeN Tube. Hickory this time (to match the charcoal/wood smoke).   It was down to about 2 inches of unburned pellets.
  11. tom 178

    tom 178 Meat Mopper

    [​IMG]I can't wait to hear about the taste difference.
  12. I will be sure to post the end results.

    Added two more chunks of hickory, shook the ashes off the charcoal/wood, topped off the charcoal.
  13. The current state: 8 hours into smoke.

    All Butts foiled at around 8 hours. 

    Temperature raised to 250 after foiling on all smokers.


    The bark is firm, and very well consolidated

    One butt is at 154, the other one is at 156.

    Maintenance was done.  The contents of the firebox was dumped into a chimney, the ashes were separated and pitched.  The charcoal was put back in the firebox, along with a few more briquettes.  I don't want to fuss with it later tonight, so I did all that work now.


    The bark is not as firm as the charcoal/wood, but is quite acceptable.

    The only butt in the electric is at 156.

    No maintenance needed done, it's electric.  The tube has burned out, but now it is in foil.  No need to refill.

    The primary difference seen at this point: Bark appears firmer on the charcoal/wood meat.  The electric is slightly less work.

    I am guessing about 4 to 6 more hours.
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2014
  14. 9 hours in, Butts in charcoal/wood at 176 and 174.  Butt in Electric 176. 

    Internal temperatures climbed 20 degrees in the past hour, no sign of the expected stall (yet).

    Temperatures dropped on the charcoal/wood smoker briefly when rain started blowing on the side of it.  It auto-recovered due to IQ-120.
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2014
  15. 10 hours in, Butts in charcoal/wood at 199 and 198.  Butt in Electric 192. 

    Internal temperatures climbed 24 degrees in the past hour in the Charcoal/wood, and the electric climbed 18 degrees.

    No sign of stall on the charcoal/wood, the electric is slowing down a bit.
  16. 205 target hit on both butts in the Charcoal/wood smoker within a minute.  IQ120 adjusted to 150 temperature, lid partially lifted to drop the inside temperature rapidly to 200.  Lid closed for the 1 hour rest.  Butt in electric at 202.
  17. 20 minutes later, the electric hits target.  Electric temp reduced to 100 for one hour rest.  It is better insulated, so 100 is appropriate for it.
  18.   I will be watching for your final details. Very good so far.

  19. The wrap-up didn't finish till 2 A.M. my time, so I waited until the next morning (after a night of rest) to post the results.

    The first two pictures are of the butts smoked over charcoal and wood chunks.  The third picture is of the electric butt.

    The bark was slightly darker and more consolidated on the charcoal/wood smoked meat.

    The smoky flavor was more pronounced, and had a deeper penetration on the first two butts as well.

    A reddish smoke ring was about a quarter (or more in places) inch thick on the first two butts.

    The third (electric) butt had a faint red coloring, perhaps a sixteenth of an inch, but was hard to see in

    the transition area at the bark. At the time of the pulling, the third butt had a more "baked" flavor to it, with a less pronounced smoke

    flavor.  I wanted to be fair in my comparison, so I re-tasted the electric butt in the morning after a night of sleep.

    When the electric butt was tasted alone, it had a smoked character to it.  It did not seem quite

    as "bake flavored" as I remembered.  Some of this I chalked up to me being in the smoke all day, and becoming "smoke blind"

    in the taste buds.  Then I tried the charcoal/wood butts again; the smoke flavor was more pronounced and rich.

    I sampled the electric butt again, and by comparison, the baked flavor was back.

    If all I had was an electric smoker, and could not do a side-by-side comparison, I would be satisfied (even pleased) with the

    smoke flavor of an electric.  It is only in direct comparison that any shortcomings are seen.

    For lightly smoked meats, such as chicken and fish, the electric might come out on top in a comparison.

    The electric creates a moister environment with a lighter smoke flavor.  For poultry and fish dishes, this may actually be better.

    The electric was less work, once the GFI electrical socket was repaired at the beginning of the smoke.  I felt less of a need

    to monitor the electric's temperature, it had already  been charted and graphed in the previous weeks; it's character was

    well known to me. 

    Even with a stoker (Pitmaster IQ120), I kept an eye on the charcoal/wood temperatures.  With a greater amount of meat

    in the smoker, the fuel burn was higher (no surprise there).  But, I didn't know in advance how often more fuel would

    be needed, so a close eye was kept on it.  Even with a stoker, once a large enough blanket of ash covers your coals,

    temperatures will drop. The stoker does not blow enough air to puff the ashes off the coals; it is a very gentle supply of air.

    This is why at 8 hours the ashes were separated and dumped from the mini-WSM. I saw a 5 degree

    drop, and knew something was amiss.  The ash blanket was dealt with before it became a real problem.  With its battery backed up power,

    and the ability to manually open the vents, the loss of electrical power would not have been catastrophic with the mini-WSM.

    It would have been a show-stopper for the electric. 

    The meat was vacuum packed and frozen for future enjoyment and gifts to co-workers. 

    A quick note on frozen pulled pork.  Prepare a pot with 170 degree water.  Throw a frozen vacuum sealed bag in the water.

    Maintain temperature of the water.  It produces pulled pork at the ideal serving temperature without rupturing the bag.

    It takes about an hour to go from frozen, to piping hot by this method.  A crock pot set on medium heat can be used for

    the water bath, or a pot on an induction cooker (like the $99, "as seen on TV") table top unit, set to 170 degrees. 

    Making the pulled pork in advance, freezing, then heating at a later date makes hosting a BBQ party much less stressful.

    You don't have to worry about hitting the dreaded "stall" and the meal being delayed.  Serving time becomes predictable,

    and you can then worry about making the burgers and brats on the grill instead. 

    Thanks to everyone for reading this.  I know it is long.
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2014
  20. nice job and thanks for the comparative ... i too have both and electric and a charcoal smokers.. you described exactly what i have noticed .. while the charcoal to me is superior for taste   of smoke the electric does a good job keeping the meat moist..  the electric  smoker and the type of wood you use is noticable compared to the charcoal/wood..... will use both  just depends on the level of attention i want  give  ... isn't great to have options !

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