Smaller cuts, longer cook times? What gives

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by aspicola, Jun 29, 2014.

  1. aspicola

    aspicola Newbie

    Hi all!

    I've been smoking with my MES 30 here for about 3 months now. I recently got an AMNPS, which is great, but I do have a lot of issues with it skipping rows a lot of the time. Though this discussion is not really meant to talk about my AMNPS issues as it is doing a better job than the chips were by far.


    What I've been trying to get my head around is why it seems when I smoke a smaller cut of pretty much anything it seems to take FOREVER to cook. I understand it's not about time all of the time but about the temperature and I understand the stall. Though as I'm sure many of you will agree, time is important if you have a ton of hungry people over. Even understanding the temp and stall things, there are times my smaller cuts have just taken way longer than I ever expected them too.

    Here are some examples:

    1. 4-5 lb boston butt - should average out at 1.5 hr/lb at a cook time of 6.75. On two occasions I have smoked to 165 which took a normal amount of time, maybe 4 hours depending on the starting temp of the meat. However, once after wrapping it ended up taking another 6-7 hours just to get to 195. I watched it push through any stall points with relative ease, but it just seemed to be taking forever. Another time, with a similar cut I had the same exact thing happen, the meat would just not get up to temperature. I ended up finally getting them there and they pulled nicely and tasted great but the timeframe for cooking was so off it was frustrating.

    2. 5-6 lb brisket - should be 8 to 9 hours of total cook time. I did one yesterday, started at 9:00 AM it didn't touch 165 until about 3:30. I foiled it early (at about 155, some spots 165) and ended up only going to a temp of 180ish and that was two hours later. Most places I've read say 190-195 for brisket, but the one time I did that it ended up so dry you needed to drink water or have a lot of BBQ sauce to get it down. However, after over 9 hours of cooking I would have expected that sucker to be at least 190. I pulled it off and it sliced almost like butter and tasted amazing so I'm not complaining.

    3. On the flip side, a few weeks back I did an 8 lb picnic roast for pulling and that was done in <8 hours. It was the best one I've made yet to be honest. My father-in-law also did an 8 lb boston last week in his propane Masterbuilt and that only took 8 hours, but he also pulled it out at 180, no foiling, straight through smoking and it was perfectly tender. 

    Between my brisket and my father-in-laws pork and taking them out at much lower temps that I've read they "should" be at, I'm not fully convinced those higher temps are always necessary. I've been finding that the feeling of the meat and just intuition is getting me better product.

    I'm still working to under the sciences of this, and I know every meat is different. However, I wanted to see what others had to say. Thanks all, happy smoking!
  2. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Smoking is about you and your smoker. No two people, no two smokers, and no two techniques the same. There are also regional variables involved, altitude, weather, the meats, etc. I am sure you already understand that.

    First and foremost I think your guesstimation might be a bit short. That's from how I use my smoker, a MES30 also. I guesstimate 2 1/2 hours per pound per butt, but I don't wrap, old style low and slow. With the MES 30 not needing tending, I am completely happy letting it run the entire time un-crutched. It does make a lovely bark in a moist environment. Yes it takes a little longer but since the MES doesn't require tending I can sleep right thru to completion either way. Most of my butts are usually about 9 to 10 lbs. and take 20 to 24 hours. So when ever I put it on today, it will be ready at that time tomorrow. I just adjust my setting time to reflect that value. Its so simple.

    The biggest thing though to think upon, is no one ever taught pigs to tell time, so they don't know when they are supposed to be ready. Each piece of meat has its own time table and you just gotta deal with it. Always remember though that with the "setting" time, which is extremely important, you can hold and adjust to your planned meal time.

    Another thought, if I do have to hit an exact time for a party, I pre-cook. I cook it a day or two in advance and reheat for that party. Its actually better re-heated with some of chef JJ's great finishing sauce. It allows time for the flavors to not only be redistributed AND enhanced. Everyone will think you a smoking genius.  

    With Electric smokers, and us for the norm being weekend smoking chefs, digital remotes, and PIDs and pellets, we still do not control the cooking time. Smoking is about ballpark values and hours to correct a mistake or re-evaluate a situation. Its not an exact science. And in a time of Cell phones, portable computers, cars with talking maps, etc. we have become a nation of instant gratification. Smoking predates it all and really when you look at it not much has changed since that first smoky cave cooker.

    That's pretty much my other's view point. Smoke is about enjoying a great day and not so much about eating at 5:00.

    PS, your Father-in-laws is a fire breather, there is no real comparison with an electric.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2014
  3. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I have always figured around 2 hours per pound for butts no matter the size. That's running the pit at 250*. When I do higher temp smokes say around 285* them I cut that time down to 1 1/2 hours per pound.

    Have you checked the temp of your smoker with another therm. I have heard that the MB electrics can be off as much as 25* from what they are set to. That could be an issue you may think your running at 250, but really are running at 225. Another thing about the electric smoker is they cycle so the temp isn't as consistent as other types of fuel. So that fluctuation also plays into your longer cooking times.
  4. aspicola

    aspicola Newbie

    Thanks for the info all! You're right my MES is about 25* off, but the built in is 25* lower than the actual internal last I checked.

    Foamheart - how do you keep an MES smoking for an entire period without having to change chips? Are you using an AMNPS? I cannot go more than a couple hours without having to open it even with the AMNPS at times (thinking about a mailbox mod) to get smoking again.
  5. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    So many options here.

    My MES30 has a reloader. Fill the tray once when you put the meat in, and two charges will usually take you past the 140 to 150 which is your upper prime absorption limit. You can use vent manipulation to extend this all.

    You can load a AMP's or its Dust tube brother and get hours and hours of smoke. Even with a mailbox modification. And if you get to screwing stuff in your reloader you have lost your ability to use chips and shells. I don't care for that, but that's just me.

    You can use the cold smoke generator from MES, I am anxiously awaiting mine's arrival to try it. I have not read on any board a negative remark yet. Its get 5 stars nearly everywhere including here.

    LIke I said its about getting your smoke to roll the way you want.

    Currently I am operating under the assumption that the MES cold smoker will add another 4 to 6 hours of wood smoke. I have an AMP's and it works fine, but I have to see for myself the MES cold smoker. I am currently under the assumption that the wood creates either more smoke or a different smoke because I see and taste a difference between pellets and wood. Don't get me wrong, each has there place and I may end up just wrong as all heck. But when I smoke with my pecan shells or chips and twigs I am pretty sure I can tell a difference.

    The Amps works great as designed. I am just an inquiring mind.

    As to "The entire period", I grew up tending my Pop's fires as a kid. and he build a fire in a firebox, the corner of the shed, or the pit. He didn't keep it stacked with good smoke hard wood. He kept the heat about constant and occasional threw on a split of the good stuff. After coming here I learned from Jeff, He's a pretty smart fellar, why Pop usually did it after the fire was coals and the meat hung, its that 100 to 140 degree IT thing about the optimum smoke absorption.  Sure you can run wood more, you can ever run wood the entire 24 hour smoke, but....... Its my humble opinion you don't need to.

    In nearly every instance I have messed up my smoke, it was due to being over zealous with the smoke, don't believe I have ever heard anyone complain about too little. Again these are only my opinions. There are much more knowledgeable folks here on the boards,  its just the way I want to bend my pit to smoke for me.

    Like I said I may be completely wrong about my entire set up, come next week I'll have more experience to base my assumptions. But look at all the good food I'll get to eat while experimenting.

    Its about good food, no real work, a lot of contemplating the meaning of life, and consumption of libations.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2014
  6. flash

    flash Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Stall time. Can be different for all meats, some do, some don't.

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