New to smoking/BBQ....hoping to alleviate some of my confusion!

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by danielc, Jun 23, 2014.

  1. danielc

    danielc Newbie

    Hi Everyone,

    I started playing around with meat smoking/low and slow BBQ this past spring.   

    I'm really enjoying it, but am having some growing pains that hopefully you can help with.

    First of all, since I'm new to this, I've been experimenting with using smoker boxes on my gas grill since I don't yet have an actual smoker.

    My biggest confusion so far is with the cook time.  For example, I keep hearing estimates of 1-1.5 hrs per pound of meat.   However, I'm finding that it's taking much longer than that.   Could it be because I've been doing smaller pieces?

    For example this past weekend I did a pork collar butt.   The meat was about 3 lbs    and I was keeping the hear around 225 F.  

    The cook started around 2pm, and I eventuially pulled it around 7:45pm at an internal tempterature of 168 F because it was getting late and we had to eat and we couldn't wait to get it up to 200 F.

    I generally opened it up every hour to baste or mop the meat, and tend to the smoker boxes but then cranked up the hear for a bit to bring the temp back up to temperature quickly.

    I didn't really notice any stall or anything like that, it kept going up steadily but slowly.

    Any thoughts on why this could be taking so long?   

    I didn't wrap it this time.   I have tried wrapping meat after a few hours in the past.   I find that when I eventually unwrap it to finish it off that the meat is sitting in a pool of juices, which get lost once I unwrap to put back on the grill.   Is this normal?    Even with all these lost juices, are you still farther ahead than if I left it unwrapped?

    Any pointers would be greatly appreciated.


  2. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member


    Go by internal temp, not time.

    However that 1 1/2 hours or whatever would be higher for small butts than large ones.

    I like to put the butt in a foil pan when it hits about 165* IT, and add some foiling juices before covering it with foil. Being in a pan you won't lose the juice. Also I don't take it out & put it back on the grill. When it hits 205* IT in the foil, it's done except for the resting.

    Instead of me explaining everything, here's a Step by Step on my Pork Butt Pulled Pork:

  3. danielc

    danielc Newbie

    Thanks Bear!   I could try that.  I guess I assumed that the bark would kinda get soft and soggy if I didn't finish it off unwrapped.  But I guess maybe if you're planning on pulling then maybe that's not as important.

    The idea of using the pan like a braising pan and covering the whole thing (I assume loosely) is interesting, as opposed to just wrapping the meat more tightly.  I'm wondering....when you say 6 oz of apple juice, I guess this varies depending on the wize of the pan.  Is the point just to add a bit of flavour?   Depending on the size of the meat and the pan, are you trying to cover say the bottom 1/4" of the meat with juice?  more?  Or just cover the bottom of the pan?

    I'm also wondering how important the piece of meat is.  From what I read, the shoulder seems to be the best option (I think that's also referred to as the Boston butt you mentioned).   Does it matter if you get the bone in or boneless?  What about the picnic?  or the pork collar butt like I had?

    I notice that your instructions don't way anything about injecting the meat the day before.   I guess you haven't found any advantage to this for keeping he meat moist and adding flavor?   I've been trying it and been happy with the results, but I can't say for sure if it actually helped or not.

    I'm just wondering if any of these would work, or you shouldn't even bother trying unless you have specific types.

    Thanks for the help, much appreciated!   Sorry in advance for all the questions...there's a lot to learn and I find it very interesting!

  4. geerock

    geerock Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Opening and closing that cooker will definitely add a lot of time. You want to get to eating sooner? Cook at a higher temp and leave the meat alone. Not sure how 225 became the magic cook temp for everyone but butts, shoulders, roasts, porchettas, along with beef roasts, briskets, etc all smoke very well at higher temps. No loss of tenderness, moisture, or flavor. And the vest part is you get to eat earlier!
    BTW. About the shoulder..... a whole shoulder consists of the picnic and the boston butt. You can buy each separately but smoking a whole shoulder is the picnic and butt. FYI.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2014
  5. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

  6. danielc

    danielc Newbie

    Thanks for the info geerock that's good to know. What do you consider a higher temperature which still works well? 275? 300?

  7. danielc

    danielc Newbie

    Ok thanks again!

  8. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I personally like lower temps----220* to 240*, but I have no problem with 260*.

    My MES 40 only goes as high as 275*.

  9. geerock

    geerock Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    265 to 275 for larger pieces of meat like butts, shoulders, brisket, etc. Ribs are the only thing I do lower and its so they have time to gain some smoke. I know guys that put out great product at 300 and over. Try it before you get locked into that 225 wait for food. You might like it.
  10. danielc

    danielc Newbie

    Thanks for the tip!

  11. It may also have something to do with the construction of your gas grill. I started out using a gas grill too and found that all the ventilation holes typical in a gas grill allowed for a lot of breezes to blow in and reduce the temp. Smokers in most cases have a little better design for maintaining temp and air flow.

    Not that you can't do it. I've made some killer BBQ on a gas grill. It's just a little more finicky.
  12. danielc

    danielc Newbie

    Thanks! Actually I did a few cooks with the back of the grill covered (inside) with foil to cover the big gsp at the back, as well as covering the little holes on the sides for the rotisserie and with that on sunny days I actually found that the temp was up around 275 even with the gas as low as I could go. But I guess it's still something I'm płaying with.

  13. I don't know that I would close off the holes. You could end up with soot on your meat. I would personally look for ways of blocking the wind.

    When I used the gas grill for smoking, I just used foil loosely around the meat to shield in the direction of the vents/holes. That worked well for me.
  14. danielc

    danielc Newbie

    Thanks for the tip, but not sure I follow what you said about the loose foil around the meat. You mean just like a tent around the meat itself, but leave the holes open? Also abiut your tip, you mention soot. Are you referring about tihe gas not being burned cleanly? I just read this weekend that grill manufacturers dont recommend blocking the air flow to make sure the combustion is clean, so I wasn't really planning on putting them back ir at least not all of them. Or were you referring to the wood smoke itself? Aren't smokers generally pretty enclosed? I've never had one so maybe my impressions are wrong.


  15. Anytime you close off your airflow you run the risk of getting soot on your meat. So you need good airflow, but you need to control it.

    What I was referring to with the foil, is I would create walls with the foil. It does not really touch the meat, it just acts as a shield to the places where you might be getting a breeze. I've also used that method for shielding hot spots. Works both ways.

    That's just my 2 cents. It's worked for me.

    You could also use a tray of play sand. I've never used it myself but the science makes sense. It helps to keep your temp consistent. The air temp fluctuates but the temp of the sand remains continuous and helps cook the meat even when the temp drops a bit momentarily.
  16. danielc

    danielc Newbie

    Interesting ideas....thanks!

  17. danielc

    danielc Newbie

    Can you elaborate or point to a link about this 140 in 4 hrs that you mentioned? I'm somewhat confused by that. I assume this has ti do with possibly pushing surface bacteria to the interior. I can see this being an issue if you're cooking a rate or medium rare roast or something but shouldn't it be fine if you are planning on hitting 160, 170, and higher? I wouldn't have thought that the rate at which you get to temp would be that critical if the end result is still high enough to kill anything, I can see that more bacteria may form before they get cooked, but in the end they would still get cooked.

  18. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I never inject, because I use low temps & often don't get it to 140 in less than 4 hours. I put my meat in without a temp probe, until 3 hours in. Then I clean my Meat Probe with an alcohol wipe before inserting.

    Going to high heat later in the smoke will kill bacteria, but some toxins could be formed during the danger zone time which will not be killed at those high temps. 

    I don't know if I'm explaining that right, but that's the reason I do what I do.

  19. danielc

    danielc Newbie

    Ok thanks again! I guess I was only thinking of bacteria and wasn't aware of these other toxins.
  20. danielc

    danielc Newbie

    I've been doing more reading in the forums on this, thanks for the tip. This is why I joined this site, to learn!

    So I guess this leads me to a few more questions...
    - I saw somewhere that recommended letting the meat sit for a while to come up to room temp before going into the smoker. But niw this seems like a bad idea. I guess it's ok ti gi from the fridge straight to the smoker?

    - if you are doing leaner cuts would they still remain moist with no injection? Like a loin, or perhaps a brisket without the fat cap (the places around here usually have it removed) ? Or is this why the tenting is required instead if you don't inject? Or does that make it important to brine first?

    - if you inject maybe 3 or 4 hrs into the cook, does it have any effect? I assume you should heat up the injection mix

    Thx again fior the info and for your patience!

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