Results of My First Pork Butt Smoke - Long Post Warning

Discussion in 'Pork' started by jtucker, May 26, 2013.

  1. jtucker

    jtucker Fire Starter

    Well - it was a long day, but I now have my first pork butt smoke under my belt.  In the end, I would grade my work at a B- ish.  One thing I walked away with for sure is that I'm truly a novice in every since of the word, and I have a lot to learn (which I will).  In fact, I spent a lot of the time I had when not tending to the smoker reading this site. 

    A few cook notes & observations:
    • Two pork butts, each weighing about 7.5 lbs.  Smoked at fluctuating temps (not by design) of 220-230 on my new MES.  I would say the average was probably 225ish degrees.
    • Went into smoker at 6:00 am, came off about 4:15pm.  Overall smoke time was less than I anticipated.  Used a 50/50 mix of Hickory & Cherry.  Smoked both with fat cap up.
    • Had a big fire flare up right after dropping the chips in.  This happened to me on my last rib smoke too.  Fire last for maybe 30 seconds before it dies out.
    • Never hit the big stall.  Temp increased consistently all the way to the end on one, and the other stalled out at about 195 degrees, but I took it out at 195 degress so it didn't matter.
    • Learned my MES40 runs about 35-40 degress cooler than the internal thermo reads.  My Maverick thermo is a must.
    • Double wrapped in foil at 165 degress, took one butt out at 195 and the other at 205 degrees.  Both were wrapped with bath towels, and stored in a cooler to rest for 3 hours (for logistical purposes).  I only intended them to rest 2 hours.
    • Meat absolutely fell apart once I opened the foil.  I'm thinking they rested a bit too long because it almost seemed just a very little bit mushy.
    • Both cuts of meat had Jeff's rub recipe.  One was sprayed with Apple Juice/Capt Morgans roughly 3 times.  Couldn't really tell a difference, but perhaps I needed to spray a few additional times and let it carmelize a little more.
    • One butt had Meowey's finishing sauce, the other didn't.  I didn't particularly like the vinnegar taste of the sauce.  Maybe I didn't something wrong, or maybe I need to try a different receipe.  Not sure. Interestingly, that pan of meat didn't keep well and didn't taste good the next day.  The other butt had a smoke flavor.
    • I was surprised by the fat cap. It was still big, and I wasn't sure what to do with it when I was pulling. I just discarded it because it was thick, but you lose an entire side of bark in doing so.
    What I clearly need to learn in the next 2 weeks (before I'm smoking pork for my ENTIRE family):
    • I realized that I have no idea if I'm seeing TBS or TWS.  Its a problem.
    • I don't have a good feel for smoke amount/flow -- is it too much or not enough, etc.  I constantly worried about this during the actual smoke process.  Whenver it seemed as though there was just a very little bit of smoke coming out, I would throw in more wood (about 1x per hour).
    • I kept the vent position open about 1/3.  I'm reading some folks close it off, some keep it open 1/3 - 1/2, some open all the way.
    • I had a lot of humidity inside the smoker, with drops running down the clear panel of the door.  My water pan had water in it, but it was dry by the end of the day.  My guess is that this is why I never got a good crisp bark (noticed this on my rib cooks as well).  Not sure if this is a problem.
    • I'm considering the AMNSP pellet tray or tube, but not sure where I would put it.  I smoke with a foil pan on the bottom rack of the smoker to catch drippings as it makes cleanup much easier.  And because the MES drip tray is tiny, and it overflows on the reg.
    Thats about it.  Thanks!

  2. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    You have a great start by keeping a log of your cooks, with every one you do ,you will have corrected the last cooks problems. Kudos.

    As for the Smoke:

    This is Thin Blue Smoke... just slow down and be will clear for you , if not ask and we can help...

    Don't sweat the small stuff [​IMG]   Remember the fallen and service personnel. They deserve our support.
  3. Best bet for TBS with no babysitting or loading chips is an AMNS. Perfect set it and forget it solution. I do overnight smokes all the time with no worries.
  4. The AMNS sits perfectly on the rails next to the burner.
  5. jtucker

    jtucker Fire Starter

    I'm not sure where you are talkig about.  Here is a picture of my burner area.

  6. s2k9k

    s2k9k AMNPS Test Group

    JT, it sounds like you did a really good job!!! (just wish I could see it :biggrin:) Sounds like it came out real good for your first time! I think it's great you were taking notes and remembering details, doing that will really make the next one better and take you to a new level!

    With reading into your observations above I think you are a prime candidate for the "lean trim no foil wet to dry smoke chamber method"! I know that sounds like a lot but it's real easy and I think will give the results you are looking for. Here are a couple of threads about it, very informative posts by forluvofsmoke:

    And here's one about briskets:
  7. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Dave, thanks for catching this and helping spread the word! Much appreciated!

    JT, great job on your first butt smoke! You definitely have kept notes on your smoke and have brought some questions up in your mind to get better results in the future...that's excellent!!! Every smoke will get easier, and you'll be able to produce consistently better finished products as time passes and you refine your methods, gain more confidence in your skills, and learn more about how your smoker likes to work.

    I must tell you though, don't worry much about the smoke color or density of smoke your putting out, as long as there's smoke flowing out the vents. If you have no smoke, you'll get no smoke flavor, obviously, but the color and density is of less importance, IMHO, to a beginner. Whether it's Thick White Smoke or Thin Blue Smoke, it's still smoke. There are different applications for different types (color/density) of smoke and they all serve a purpose, either for hot-smoking or cold smoking.

    Many folks preach thin blue smoke a lot...there's really no need to get concerned about it, and white smoke will happen every time you add smoke wood to a heat will dissipate and turn to thin blue smoke in time, unless you desire to keep the white smoke and learn how to produce it, and having the proper equipment to do it for you helps, of course. There are some who deliberately produce thick white smoke, or a combination of thin blue and thick white...I'm one of them...and I admit it! LOL!!! But I have my reasons for doing so...better finished product for my efforts.

    It sounds like you like to read and gain knowledge, so here's some great informative reading on the subject of different smoke production, how smoke does what it does, and how to get what you want from your smoke. Quite a bit of research, not speculation, went into this;

    Many GREAT smokes are coming your way, JT!

  8. mr t 59874

    mr t 59874 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    JT, you did great.  The only thing I might add to the advice given above would be, when making changes, take it slow so you can observe what each change makes to your finished product.  If you keep observing as you did this time, experience will be your best teacher.

    s2k9k likes this.
  9. s2k9k

    s2k9k AMNPS Test Group

    That is very good advice!
  10. geerock

    geerock Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Yeah, Tucker you don't have the rails that meddling kids is talking about. You have the gen 2 model. The pellet tube works well right where your water pan is. I just take it out and lay the tube over the opening where the pan used to be. Then put a foil tray on the bottom rack for water and to protect the pellet tube from drippings. As for the vent I actually did a dremel job on mine to double the vent size as its very small. If you don't want to mod it leave it open all the way. This will allow better smoke and air flow and with keep vapor from condensing on the interior. As for chips flaring masterbuilt customer service. There is a safety recall for the chip tray. They will send you a new tray no charge. I actually use small chunks in the tray and i dont have to reload near as often and dont worry about flare ups. All the best to you.
    Last edited: May 26, 2013
  11. jtucker

    jtucker Fire Starter

    Guys -

    Thanks for all of the advice.  I've read through all three of forluvofsmoke's lean trim no foil wet to dry smoke chamber method posts...three times each.  First, got to give props to the excellent write ups (very thorough and easy to follow).  As I have been reading through these, I have been trying to mentally map out how to implement this process with my own smoking equipment because it sounds like this is exactly what I'm going for.  Good crisp bark, but with moist, tender, LEAN meat (I'm a little bit of a health nut too).  My biggest concern with this method is time because I'm cooking this for a family camp out that is 2 hours away.  It feels like I need to rest and pull prior to departing, otherwise I'm not sure how I will be able to save the crisp bark that is preserved by the no-foil resting method.  I'll figure it out.  Anyway, I digress.

    Here are a couple of things that I find myself trying to figure out as I read through the posts:
    1. I only have one smoker (MES 40in 2nd gen).  How do I make the conversion from the moist to dry chamber?  It is as simple as just pulling all liquid out after x amount of time?
    2. I haven't a clue what the pea gravel is, how it is used, or where to put it.  Could use some help understanding how to manage this tool.
    3. It reads as though there are layers of water trays.  Perhaps a tray of pea gravel under a water pan, and even a 3rd pan in the final post I believe.  Given my water pan (pictured above), what should the setup look like?  I have 4 rack positions, only one of which will be needed for meat.  I also like to use one foil pan on the bottom rack position for catching drip (the built in drip tray on the MES is insanely small).
    I'm sure as I keep reading, I'll have more questions lol.  But this is all for now.


  12. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    To answer your questions:

    1. DaveOmak I think has an MES, and can probably tell you what he does with it for this method...he's used it as well. PM him and I'm sure he'll give you a quick run-down. In a nutshell though, if the water pan won't warp (Dave probably knows this), you could run without a thermal mass like sand or pea-gravel. Just let the water evaporate out, or pull the pan and dump the water, then place back in smoker.

    2. Pea-gravel is used for cement mix...should be found at any home center and many hardware sure you wash it (rinse in a pail or other receptacle with clean water and drain off water) before using in a smoker, and also, season it by filling your pan with the amount you need and heat the pan in the smoker for 10-15 minutes...well, with electric will take longer...probably 30-40 minutes. Play sand will work, also. Either one will cost about 5 or 6 bucks for a 40lb bag ( I think it's 40 anyway...may be 50).

    3. If you put sand or gravel in the water pan to about 1/2-2/3 full, then line the pan with 2 layers of foil, and add water into the won't hold as much as normal, but won't evaporate quite as fast as it would without the sand/gravel underneath it. Use your choice for a drippings-catch above this...whatever the rack spacing will allow. Beware of the baffling effect if you have too large of a foot-print with your drippings-catch pan, as it can increase cooking time by making more heat flow closer to the cabinet walls...I experienced that very thing in my wet-to-dry brisket smoke. I had a 12" X 18" pan in a cabinet that is 15" X 24", and the front/back clearance was not enough, I suspect. If you have 3" or so of space between the door, back and side-walls, it should work fine.

    Maybe check out Dave's brisket smoke thread, and it might give you some pointers on how to set-up your MES for this:

    Last edited: May 27, 2013
  13. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I just went back through Dave's thread and I forgot that he made an improvement to the method by adding the water with the pea-gravel in the water pan...seemed to work out very well for space as well.

  14. jtucker

    jtucker Fire Starter

    Thank you!  I'll reach out to him.  The foil pan I've been using for drippings could also have been an issue with my previous smokes.  I'm using a larger foil pan that just barely squeezes in with the door shut.  In fact, I normally bend up the edges all the way around to allow for a little more gap between the pan and the walls, but even then we're talking 1/2-1 inch at most.  I was more concerned about smoke flow originally.  As it turns out...should have been more concerned about heat.

    Thanks again.
  15. jtucker

    jtucker Fire Starter

    Gotcha. He basically just poured the water right on top of the gravel.  I'm guessing that eliminates the need to preheat the gravel.
  16. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Yep, as long as you season the gravel or sand before the first smoke...water with the gravel does make things much more simple IMHO. I will add his nice touch to a tutorial when I get around to it...there's just way too much buzz going on right now about this method that I have to wait until I think everything is out in the open before I put this to the Wiki. Anything anyone else does to make this work for their situation will all be a part of it, so anyone's input will be used to help others get it off the ground and running right the first time out of the gate...that's my goal, anyway. That said, please do let us know how you make it work for you.


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