Picnic Shoulder, Wet-to-Dry Smoke Chamber: Q-View, Prep & Method (FINISHED)

Discussion in 'Pork' started by forluvofsmoke, May 25, 2013.

  1. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Hey all! Been a while since I had a picnic pass through the smoke, and my wife called me from the store yesterday to give me the run-down on sale meats. Picnics and spare ribs were on sale, so, I immediately opted for the picnic @ $1.38/lb, just so I could put one through the tests in this method...been there, done that with spares last spring, anyway. I would have had her grab several more if I had the space, but my freezer is currently full of smoked meats awaiting my daughter's wedding in June, so until then, I'm in limbo with freezer restocking. This picnic should make a nice pulled pork dinner for Sunday.

    I was originally planning for about 10-12 hours of smoke with a wet water pan in the Gourmet charcoal smoker, then dropping it into the Smoke Vault 24 for transitioning into the dry smoke chamber, which allow me to get some sleep tonight, but tending the Gourmet didn't seem like a good plan with how busy I've been here on the forums today, so the Vault will carry this picnic from start to finish.

    This subject is bone-in, so no worries about dealing with a compromised muscle, as I'm not injecting...11.1lb should feed us and a few guests, and then some...wanna join us??? LOL!!!:

    Skin is on, but won't be for long...I'm trimming this pretty much to bare meat, well, as much as possible without any waste:

    Got it all in one piece...nice:

    Skin-side is ready for rubbing...back didn't need a lot to prep, just a couple spots of soft fat and the end of the vein that I cut away from the surface without piercing/puncturing into the meat:

    Rub is a simple SPOG with added red bell pepper for a touch of that slightly sweeter profile.

    ***all measures are pre-grind***

    5 Tbsp red bell pepper, med-fine grind

    4 Tbsp onion, medium to fine grind

    2.5 Tbsp minced garlic

    2 Tbsp peppercorn, med-fine grind

    2 Tbsp kosher salt

    Easy, simple, with just a hint of sweeter flavor from the onion and red bells...I want to taste the stronger shoulder and just kick it up a bit, not cover it or get too complicated.

    4th coat here...I didn't stop applying rub until it refused to take anymore...the salt aided in drawing some natural moisture out to allow the rmeat's surface to tack-up and grab onto the rub just as you would normally see:

    Smoke is on @ 1:45 pm MT, 225* target chamber temp, water in the foil catch over my pea-gravel-filled water pan, a few cups of water in a second pan on the lowest grate position for even more humidity, with hickory, cherry and apple smoke wood chips for a heavy smoke up front...I'll keep this coming on strong for at least 5-6 hours before I let it slow down. This is a big ol' chunka meat, so smoke, smoke and more smoke, I say. Picnic is on the 3rd grate position up.

    I'll check on the water in the foil-catch and the pan above after several hours and add a bit if needed, then bump temps to around 240* when it transitions to the dry smoke chamber, and I might just let the smoke fizzle out sometime after that as well. Shooting for at least 8-10 hours wet chamber though, for a good smoke reaction, before I seal it all up and take it home for the finish with the dry chamber. I may be looking at 20 hours+ on this one...maybe over 24...we'll see.

    Catch ya on the rebound with the finished pics and pulled pork, or if anything comes up en-route to the slow race to the finish, I'll post it up.


    EDIT: for those of you who may not have been following me and a few others who have tried this method, here's a couple links...one is from my signature line with a search for additional threads related to this method. The method itself is best explained in the Brisket thread, but the others explain how this method has evolved from it's beginning...look for the earliest, in chronological order from thread start date and you can follow it up to this thread, if you wish:





    Wiki Article: http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/a/wet-to-dry-no-foil-smoke-chamber-method-for-smoking-meats
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2013
    daveomak likes this.
  2. s2k9k

    s2k9k AMNPS Test Group

    Oh Yea!!! Here we go again!!! This should be exciting!!!
  3. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    4.25 Hour Update...
    Ha-ha! I KNEW you'd be game for this, Dave!

    127* @ 4.25 hours into the smoke with chamber temps of 225-230*...that's why we like bone-in, whole muscle meats (not injected, stuffed or otherwise tampered with internally) for cooking low & slow...I dodged the danger-zone issues by using intact whole muscle...4+ hours in, and it's no where near 140*.

    Just stuck it with a freshly boil-checked wireless probe my wife picked up last week (reads 2* below boiling-point for my elevation...close enough for me)...just a cheapo basic alarm thermometer with 100ft rated range and no user-selectable temps, just "taste" & meat, but hopefully it will do me a nice job for these longer smokes (all of my direct-read digitals are trashed now, so I'm looking for more, locally). Only issue is that once you reach 170*, that's the highest alarm set-point available, so between 170* and pulling temps for pork will still be a watch and see when it happens kinda thing:

    Yep, I wrapped the silicone cable with foil before putting it to use, like a good boy always does...LOL!!!:

    Temp is now 132* @ 4.5 hours into the smoke. This hand unit lost signal laying on my desk just 20 ft from the smoker, but theres some equipment against the wall between the probe and me, so if I lift it up about 4ft off the floor it picks up the signal again when the probe refreshes every 5 seconds or so....(sigh)...you get what you pay for, eh? If I put it up high on my desk should work for now though, and I seriously doubt this picnic will come screaming into the 200* range while I'm sleeping peacefully tonight dreaming of pigs dancing in my smoker...Ha-ha-ha!!!

    See ya in about 20 hours or so with pulled pork, I'm guessing...TIC--TOC-----TIC--TOC...

  4. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Looks really good....  I like the way you determine the amount of rub....   "Til it don't take no more".....     Perfect........   Dave
  5. kathrynn

    kathrynn Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Yummmm......Been working out my Camp Chef 24 too today!

  6. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    20-Hr Update...
    Yeah, I noticed that last night...looked like some fine dining to be had in your neck of the woods!
    Ha-ha! I figured as big as it was it would tell me when enough is enough.

    I had a rude awakening late this morning when I plugged my wireless thermometer transmitter back into the probe lead and turned everything on: 163* WHAT??? Now, mind you, this was after I watched a low0temp stall late last night in the 144-148* range for nearly 3 hours. After taking the following pics, I realized a possible reason for this stall, as chamber temps were 235* and slowly climbing when I turned in for the night, running 255* this morning. The picnic only climbed 15* in more than 7 hours? Are your kidding me???

    So, what's the reason for the low temp increase overnight? I still had a 12" X 18" aluminum pan lined with foil from when I was smoking steaks, chops and such for the past few weeks, which I used as an added drippings-catch with a larger area than the water pan. It didn't occur to me when I put this picnic in that the additional baffling from that larger pan would kill the grate temps mid-way up the smoke chamber, but apparently, that is exactly what it did. I did use it for this smoke as an addition water recptacle, but should have removed it for this smoke.

    Had I been using another probe to monitor grate temps, I would have known something was awry very early into this smoke and would have removed the pan right away, but now I'm 20+ hours in, and wondering if this picnic will hit pulling temps by the ~26-hr mark, which is when I need it out and resting so it will be pulled for dinner. Without the baffle, internal temp would have been closer to 135* or so @ 4hrs into the smoke, I feel. Smoke and learn, huh?

    I removed the added pan, and I'm watching the I/T start climbing again, so things are slowly turning around, it's still moving slow @ approx 1* per 20 minutes, and knowing that it will slow down closer to the 200* mark, will it be ready in time? IDK, but I'll be watching this close for the remainder of the smoke now, for sure. I have one thing in my favor here, and that is the dry rub...no sugars which would cause earlier caramelization, and the colors so far still have plenty of room for cooking without scorching, so that's not even an issue. Time is the issue, or in specific, the lack of time. We'll see...

    20-hr mark @ 164*...color has lots of room for higher temps here, but for how long, is the question...guess I'll find out later today:

    Just hit 166* internal @ 20.5 hours in. I'm thinking I'm going out bump temps to around 270* here in a bit...I think the dry rub can handle it for 5-6 hours without scorching, and I don't see this getting done on time. One things for sure, with a dry smoke chamber for the past ~11 hours already (was wet for around 9hrs), this is gonna be a KILLER bark!!! Wish me luck!

  7. s2k9k

    s2k9k AMNPS Test Group

    WOW 20 hours and still awhile to go! It's looking Great!! Really didn't think a foil pan would block that much heat. I don't think 270* will be a problem, I've done a few butts on my Mini at 270*-280* over charcoal dry chamber the whole time and they came out fabulous!
  8. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Thanks Dave! Yeah, with the color I saw earlier, I figured the bark had a long way to go before it would actually start to scorch, so, up went the chamber temps. Oh, just to clarity, it is a 12" x 18" aluminum baking pan line with foil that I removed, not a foil pan...that would make a big difference, but would still act as a baffle, even though it's thermal mass would be a lot less than the baking pan.

    Well, it would appear that I may have done too much to correct the grate temp issues. I've been watching this like a hawk for the past 2 hours, and at 22 hours in now, internals jumped to 182* from 164*, in just 2 hours. But with removing the aluminum baking pan and bumping chamber temps, it all added up pretty quickly, so I dropped back my chamber temps to 250* again just to slow it down. I may even drop back some more depending on how it reacts in the next hour or so. I need this to come out at around 4 pm this afternoon at~200* internal temp just so my resting time isn't too long, as I won't foil to rest, but will elevate it on a grate and cover it with a towel to preserve the great bark I have created. Gotta find that sweet spot from here on out, so it will be a game of regulating temps according to what the internal temp rise is and the time I have left. Kinda tricky, but not too bad, as I have a lot better control over temps now that I've made it through a low and (possibly) a high-temp stall.

    Just watching things now...hit 183* while I;'m typing here a minute ago....temps will keep climbing pretty fast for a bit yet until the rate drops off from reduced chamber temps, then I can get a handle on the rate of climb for internals again and estimate when it will reach 200*. Easy, right?Well, maybe not, but I'll do my best...LOL!!!

    Sheesh! 184* now @ 22 hours, 10 minutes...

  9. seenred

    seenred Smoking Guru Group Lead OTBS Member

    Hang in there, Eric!  Its looking good, and sounds like you getting close.  Hope it meets the dinner deadline...

  10. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    22.5Hr Update...
    Thanks Red! Yeah, it's looking like I'll be pushing it a bit now, but earlier it was jumping pretty fast.

    I dropped chamber temps form 270*+ to just under 250*, then again to a bit over 230*, after seeing the internals spike, but dropped too much and created a stall @ 192*, so I bumped back up from 230* to 250*. I need this out to rest in about 2 more hours, max, so I'm just looking for that ~220 (oops!!) 200* mark regardless of how fast it comes, now. Should be close to my target time though...that's one of the tricks about using the resting method I'm going to run with...you need to get it to finished temps in a much smaller window that if you foil to rest, as when foiled, it can lay there for hours and still be piping hot with no food safety issues. With a towel covered rest on an elevated rack, it will cool faster, but still slow enough with a larger cut as this to redistribute the natural juices.

    So, I peeked at the bark to determine what I can get away with and not scorch it with higher chamber temps one more time...just getting a mild caramelization to it now, so 250-270* will finish it up with no problems, and this is one of the reasons why I use no-sugar rubs for long smokes:

    So, it has made a long and slow transition from that blonde/straw colored bark to a beautiful golden brown...it will darken a bit more in the next 2 hours, but not a lot, unless I have a chamber spike nearing 280-300* for some unknown reason, but I don't see that happening at this point.

    Pulled Pork in about 4 more hours!!!

    I'll post my resting method when the time comes, just so everyone is in the loop, as I know there are many who have not seen it done that way before, but I have my reasons for using it, which I'll explain in that post as well.

    See ya shortly...almost there!!!


    EDIT: somehow, I lost track of time...the 24-hr mark blew right past me and I didn't even see it!!! This was 25.5 hours, not 22.5!!! Holy Smokes, I think I'll be breaking my record for most long-winded pulled pork smoke to date on this round.
    Last edited: May 26, 2013
  11. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    That's why I say be patient , never know about them pesky Pig parts.[​IMG]

    Have a great day and remember the Fallen and serving Heros.
  12. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Picnic is out and resting @ 26.25 hours...

    It took awhile, but this will be worth the long smoke time I encountered and any little issues I had to overcome. Overall, the smoke went fairly well, with just an operator error on my part with having that aluminum baking pan above my water pan causing excessive baffling. 200* was my target, and I yanked it out to rest @ 199*...poked around a bit inside and it felt like I reached that sweet spot I've been waiting for.

    Resting method:

    So, now that my pork has reached my desired finished temp and is tender for pulling, it's time for a rest, but do I want to foil it? NO, NO, and can I get another NO. I've pushed the limits quite a bit to get a moist and tender pulled pork and a GREAT bark with my picnic shoulder using the wet-to-dry smoke chamber method, and now, I need to finish it up so I can keep what I've worked for. Keep what I've worked for??? I added several hours to the cooking time by not foiling, and possibly another few hours due to using the dry smoke chamber about 1/3 of the way through to the end of this this smoke, so yes, I need to protect my investment in time, fuel, and smoke wood, don't you think? That's where this resting method comes through with shining colors.

    I use an elevated grate (2" rise, but it doesn't bottom-out in the roasting pan I'm using today, so it's nearly flush with the lip of the pan...could be a bit lower and be fine also) to place the pulled pork subject onto, then into a 4" high roasting pan or similar receptacle, and cover with a clean towel or paper towels. I prefer towels over paper, as they provide some insulation while still allowing evaporated moisture to escape through the towel, whereas paper just breathes well without insulating. Why do I do this? Because if I wrap it in foil to rest, the bark will soften due to the small amount of moisture evaporating from the meat while it's resting...it may not be much, but with what the bark went through to get to this stage using the dry smoke chamber to bring it all together for the finish, I don't want to loose any of that crispness, so, I'm preserving the bark until it's pulled for serving by allowing it to breath on top, sides and bottom, while the pork is cooling. If served immediately after pulling, you will likely experience a pulled pork bark like you've never seen or eaten before...unless you've already used a similar method for smoking and resting, that is.

    This resting method works like a charm, but it also brings a challenge to overcome: You need to get your pulling subject up to finished temps in a smaller time-frame if your on a schedule for meal-time, because this meat will cool about 2-3 times faster than if foiled and insulated with multiple layers of towels and placed into a insulated cooler. When foiled/towel-wrapped, I can rest for 5-6 hours with an average butt (8.5lb) ...here, I have 11lb precooked weight, and only about 2 hours to get it pulled after it comes out, or, it will likely be into the danger zone. Tip: I leave my temp probe in while resting so I know if I need to get it pulled earlier than planned and can monitor temp drop rates, as well.

    That said, it does require a bit more control towards the end of your smoke so you get it out to rest on time. When using a foiled resting, you have a lot more time to play with, and if the pork is done too early, you can rest for much longer than you can using a breathable method such I use. For me, the added benefit is more than worth the extra effort it takes to to get the pulling subject out on time, +/- 30-45 minutes, as the dining is like no other pulled pork you'll eat, ANYWHERE. The bark, if well-developed and hardened, will retain that texture throughout resting, and will be there for you when you dine on your masterpiece pulled pork. I have not found a better way to accomplish pulled pork with a great bark than using the wet-to-dry smoke chamber along with this resting method. If you like a heavy, hard bark on your pulled pork like I do, it just doesn't get any better than when I use the methods described here.

    OK, I've babbled long enough about the resting method, so here's what it looks like...

    Come to DADDY!!!:

    Probe is still in the picnic, towels laid around the probe and into a roasting pan on an elevated grate:

    I'm just passing the end of 1 hour resting and I/T has dropped from 199* to 170*, so I should be in great shape on temps yet when I pull this in another 60-75 minutes...should be just hitting the140* mark, or still above it. I'll let you know how it works out here in a bit.

  13. seenred

    seenred Smoking Guru Group Lead OTBS Member

    Lookin' good...keep that qview coming!  [​IMG]

    Thanks for detailing this method, Eric...I'm gonna spend some time going through the earlier threads you referred to above for future reference.

  14. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Update: Picnic is pulled and properly dined on...
    Thanks Red. Hey, if you have any questions about those threads, don't hesitate to ask, as with every smoke, when using these methods I still learn a few tricks along the way to make it even better than the last...just depends on the smoker and meat I'm rolling with at the time. In a way, those previous threads on the wet-to-dry smoke chamber are somewhat outdated, but not obsolete, as they still contain valuable information on how it all came together and evolved to what it is today. Enjoy your reading!

    I was seriously considering telling everyone that this method just didn't work on picnics, because the demand and price just may skyrocket now if too many people read this, but I can't lie to all you fine people...LOL!!! I like pork butts, but I forgot (been a long time since my last picnic) how GREAT the flavor of picnics really are...slightly hammy and stronger than the butt...in a good way...while butts have a few mouths full of the money muscles in them, the flavor just isn't the same at all, and much less of it in the butt vs the picnic.

    Results of the resting were very good, with temps still @ 151* after 2.5 hours of resting, and that was @ room temp of around 74-75*, so your mileage may vary, but 3 hours might still be a viable length of time to rest and still be well above 140*.

    Sooooooo, let's get on with this pork pullin' party, shall we?

    All 4 sides, just for one last look at how it transformed into such beautiful smoked meat...also, notice there are few areas where moisture was weeping from the meat while it finished getting happy in the smoker and very little drippings in the smoker...was the wet-to-dry smoke chamber responsible for this?...you be the judge...compare it to what your smoked large cuts of meat finished at high internal temps look like:

    The bone is out...almost...I had to break the bark off the ends, as usual with the wet-to-dry smoke chamber method...:

    ...and here's the rest...the joint socket got left behind in the pocket (small round, white spot, upper center)...held into the meat by the bark...:

    ...another angle...:

    And, last, but not least, what we've all been waiting for...I took lots of pics with different views and angles so you can zoom-in and see if this is what you would to see in your pulled pork picnic shoulder...:look for the glistening moisture, and of course smoke ring and bark (can't miss the bark...LOL!!!):

    Just getting my dinner plate built:

    Not much else to say that the pics can't say for themselves.

    This was strictly hand-pulled, no tools, so the pieces are large when I could leave them that way. The bark was the most challenging part of the pull...wicked hard, crispy and determined to hold onto whatever it was attached to, so I tried to break and tear it without breaking down the meat in the process.

    The sandwich reminded me of tossing a few Doritos or some other tortilla chip on top of a sandwich for some crispy, crunchy texture, only it was mixed into the meat in layers...I loved it!!! Family said it was my among my best pulled pork so far, but that was in comparison to butts, which we all know quite well. I haven't smoked a picnic for so long that I can't remember when it was...probably about 4 years, and as a result, we had a real treat here with the great flavors of the picnic shoulder. Even the dry rub was a hit, because it didn't hide anything, just jazzed up the meat and smoke a little bit, but DAYUM that bark had FLAVOR!!!

    Oh, and the pulling of the picnic was SO much easier, and had SO much less wasted soft-tissue than the butt which translated to very fast pulling...the only con of the picnic is a large bone, which makes up for more than the soft-tissue loss in a butt, but takes little time to remove. Butts take a bit of effort to get a clean pull...this picnic had only about 2-3 Tbsp of soft-tissue to toss when I was finished pulling it. I want more picnics to smoke...oh yeah, baby!!!

    Overall experience with the combinations of the wet-to-dry smoke chamber, the breathable resting method, and the picnic shoulder? Excellent, and there's not much I think I would change at this point, barring the baking pan baffle at the start of the smoke...would have made cooking faster for sure, but you know what? It STILL worked out perfectly for timing on dinner...I'm not complaining here, believe me!

    That's a Rap! You can stick a fork in me now, ;'cuz I think I'm done! LOL!!!

    As I've mentioned before, any questions (and comments) are welcome, and if anything else pops into the ol' brain-waves I'll drop in an edit, 'cuz my brains are smokin' right now...LOL!!! Ah, all in good fun, and for a good cause...enjoy!

    Great smokes to all, and to all a good night!

    Last edited: May 26, 2013
  15. s2k9k

    s2k9k AMNPS Test Group

    That looks Amazing Buddy!!!!!
    I love the sandwich with the big ring of bark on it!!!
    Congratulations on an Awesome smoke and Thanks again for explaining everything in great detail for us!!!!
  16. woodcutter

    woodcutter Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I'll bet that was great.[​IMG]
  17. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Oh, it was! Ranks up there pretty high in my pulled pork smokes...wet-to-dry smoke chamber hasn't failed me yet...I'm still looking for the next project to toss at it and see where it goes...no date set yet either, but...oh, wait a minute!!!...I do have another smoke project I will use this method for after all, and it will be with cured semi-dry chicken salami...gotta pick up the meat next days off and get it ground and curing for a smoke the following days off.  I'll get everyone in the lop when that unfolds.
    Thanks Dave! That was some fine eating PP, and the best part is that it didn't need sauce. The flavors were great without alterations, and the texture variations with the bark and tender meat...MMM!!! Moisture was plenty enough for a nice chew without drying the mouth. I'm not a big sauce fan, so retained moisture in all of my hot-smoked meats is a high priority for me, and that's one of the main reasons why I've been using this method so frequently. Some folks like sauce, some don't...I use it for one thing...doctoring-up dried-out meat so I can chew it enough to get it into the belly...LOL!!!

    You're welcome for the details...I sent you a PM...will await your thoughts.

    Last edited: May 28, 2013
  18. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    That is my new "go to method" for doing butts.....   brisket....  heck every I smoke....  I really like the brisket and how it turned out..... 

    Thanks for taking the time to do this "testing" and sharing your results....   

  19. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Thanks Dave, and you're welcome!

    I think you'll be hard-pressed to find a meat for hot-smoking that won't respond well to this method. The only thing that you need to consider when resting is if you want to preserve the hardness of the bark, or let it soften-up just a bit by foiling to rest instead of allowing it to breathe. Either way, it's been great for everything I've tossed at it so far. I'll be testing it for long time trying to find what doesn't work well with it...that part has been eluding me from the beginning...LOL!!! Come to think of it, I used this for 8 whole yard birds for pulled chicken for my daughter's upcoming wedding...worked very well for that, too...and so, the quest will continue...

  20. dockman

    dockman Smoking Fanatic

    Do you have pictures of the pan or pans for the wet chamber setup? Can this be done on my MES 40?

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