Very long cook times for pulled pork

Discussion in 'Pork' started by nicetomeatyou, Feb 14, 2014.

  1. Hi guys,

    I'm new to the forum and fairly new to smoking in general. So far I have 3 pork shoulders, a whole packer brisket and a pair of turkey's under my belt.

    Just so you have a frame of reference, I'm cooking with a WSM 22.5 and monitoring my temps with a Maverick ET 732 and the temperature maintenance is being assisted by a Pitmaster IQ 110.

    My "problem", if it even is one, is that I see a lot of people claiming 1 1/2 hours per pound for pork shoulder but none of mine see to adhere to that general rule. In fact I'm generally much closer to 2.5-3 hours per pound. My method of operation is to use the minion method and pour about a gallon or maybe more of boiling water into my WSM water pan. Once the initial billowing has calmed and the pit temp has stabilized at the temp I want to cook at (225) for at least 10 minutes then I will throw my pork shoulders on the upper grate. I place my meat probe and set the pit probe so that it is near the center of the grate but at least a few inches from it so that the meat doesn't throw off the temp reading. After this I toss in a chunk of whatever wood that I want to add and then forget about it for the next 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 hours which then I will add another chunk of wood. Then It's forgotten again for about another 10 hours which is when I need to add more fuel usually. I typically use Royal Oak lump by the way. I then set and forget again only occasionally adding more fuel here and there but I try to make it very quick so that it doesn't disrupt the pit temp too much. I can typically add more fuel in a matter of seconds. The entire cook time I am able to maintain a very steady temperature between 215-240. I cook until around the meat is about 190 but I've already discovered that sometimes the meat is ready before that and sometimes after that temp so I also use the probe tender and/or the bone wiggle test. All of my pork shoulders have been a minimum of 8lbs and maximum of 9.5lbs yet I have yet to have a cook time of less than 24 hours. My last one actually took 28 hours to reach 187.

    My brisket also took a fair amount of time longer than the "typical" but unfortunately I don't remember enough details from the cook. My set up process was essentially the same though and I do remember the I kept the water filled with boiled water throughout most of the cook. I want to say it took about 6 hours longer than the "norm".

    How unusual is it for a pork shoulder to take this long? Is there something flawed in my process? Thanks for your help guys.

    p.s. I forgot to mention that in preparation I leave the fat cap on and also inject the shoulders at least a few hours prior to putting them on the grill... fat side down. With the exception of the brisket (a little too tough for my intentions) everything I've smoked has come out exactly as planned and been absolutely fantastic tasting.
  2. Anything I smoke in my 30 inch MES, I never use water or any liquid in the water pan.  And the 1.5 hour/Lb works fine fro me.  I smoke at 225 degrees.
  3. dan - firecraft

    dan - firecraft Smoke Blower

    Same 250 I am getting around 1.5 hrs per lb.
  4. redneck69

    redneck69 Smoking Fanatic

    every piece of meat has a mind of it's own while smoking...some will take the 1.5 hours per lb..while others may take longer...the main thing is to make sure you have an accurate temp gauge on your smoker and and a good therm for internal temp on the meat...try and keep a good steady chamber temp...also keep in mind if its cold/windy out your smoker will loose cooking temp real easy. 
  5. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    No, this is not the norm, three hours is much too long.

    The water in the pan could be affecting the evaporative cooling process of the meat (referred to as the stall), that is when the meat cools itself due to the moisture evaporating. (just a guess)

    Many folks will replace the water with sand.

    You should be able to get the same as the guys above 1.5 hours

    here's a few suggestions to reduce cook time , try some or try them all.
    • Start the smoker at a higher temp and work down from there.
    • Do not peek.(no spritsing/basting)
    • Use a non evaporative thermal mass.
    • Cut 8 pounders in half
    • remove bone, (bones are poor conductors of heat)
    • trim fat.
    • crank the temp up to 275°
    • Foil at the stall (evaporative process)
    • increase temps a bit at the foiling stage
    Of course this is all based on your thorough post ruling out thermo inaccuracies
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2014
  6. I'm getting a feeling my problem is probably mainly due to the water pan. If I use sand is there a specific type that I should be using?
  7. hambone1950

    hambone1950 Master of the Pit Group Lead


    Play sand from HD is good. Or the coarser kind that you use on patios. Just so it's clean. Gravel will work too. Lots of times I use a foil wrapped fire brick.
  8. I've been very pleased with how moist my meat has turned out each time including the time when I smoked the brisket but it wasn't quite as tender as I was wanting it to be. If I shy away from using water in the pan will I use any of that moisture in the meat or is the water pan only good as a heat sink and stabilizing temps?
  9. worktogthr

    worktogthr Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    I posted a similar question when I was new to this forum.  Heck, I still am, only been smoking since October.  But at low temps like 225, I have learned from experience and my fellow SMFers that you can expect at least 2 hours a pound for pork shoulder (not sure about brisket, I will be tackling that next week for the first time).  I posted that similar question after I had a 7 pounder take almost 19 hours.  So estimating that the whole cook will take 2.5 hours a pound will drive you slightly less insane.  And I hope I am not stealing CliffCarter's response to this post it since he shared this with me, and I will never go back to cooking shoulders at 225.  Try cooking them hotter. On Cliff's advice, I tried mine with temps between 280 and 300 and it took slightly more than an hour a pound with no stall.  As long as you pull at the normal IT, it will be as tender and juicy as anything low and slow.  Also, if you still want to cook at 225 or thereabouts, cut a big shoulder in half and you will significantly cut back your time, plus more delicious bark. Hope this helps!
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2014
    cliffcarter likes this.
  10. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

  11. sqwib

    sqwib Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    No you will not loose any moisture, water in the water pan will not ADD Moisture.

    Water pans with water work as a heat sink but also aid in heat stabilization, the optimal temp for using water in a pan is around 225°, due to the properties of water, however if you were going to run higher than 225° I would suggest a different heat sink.

    You may get more temperature fluctuations.

    I never used sand and always use water in my GOSM but I don't do Butts on my GOSM Verical Cabinet Water Smoker anymore due to it taking forever to cook.

    I always tell folks to use the smoker as it was designed, so if it says use water ...use water, however a cut of meat like a Butt/Picnic, I would say try another type of thermal mass.

    I have limited experience with briskets, so I will leave that OPEN for folks that have done Briskets on a Weber.

    Now If you were to do pork Loins, I would say stick to the water.
  12. Awesome stuff guys. Thank you everyone for your input. I'm going to throw an 8 and 9 pounder in the smoker late tonight for a little get together I'm having tomorrow evening. I'm a firm believer in changing one thing at a time as seeing how it affects the outcome. I'm going to start with going without water in the pan and seeing how it goes. Maybe next time I will go with sand and then trimming some of the fat. I like the idea of cutting the meat in half because as far as I'm concerned more bark = mo betta.

    I'll be sure to follow up on Sunday with the results.

    Thanks again guys!
  13. flash

    flash Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I use sand quite a bit, but mainly during colder temps because sand will bring you higher and most consistent temps when using charcoal. Don't be afraid of raising your smokers cooking temp either. 250º will not hurt your pork butt in any way. After wrapping in foil, I even raise it up to 300º.
  14. mchar69

    mchar69 Smoke Blower

    Or 275.  I don't have all day to fiddle with something that can be done just as delicious

    in half the time. Gotta foil at the proper time.
  15. Well, for me it's not a race. I'm not in a hurry to get food onto the plate so I'm fine with the standard low a slow method don't feel the need to crank the heat to shave a few minutes off each pound. Other than my first butt I have always given myself an adequate amount of time to cook, prepare and serve. Call me crazy but I enjoy the entire process even when it's taking an insanely long time. I'm not the worry wart type and have always let the meat do what it's going to do. Rule #2 of smoking is don't panic and rush it, right?

    I came here more or less because I was suspicious of the water pan being the culprit for my extra long cook times with no added benefit to the how moist the meat was. From all of the replies it seems as though that's the thing that I am consistently doing different than others with typical cook times. I'll find out soon enough I suppose.

    Quick question. On those long cook times I would only add a couple of chunks of wood for adequate smoke flavor. Assuming that deleting the water from the equation brings my cook time into the normal range, should I be adding more wood chunks or stick with the current recipe that I like? I've read that you only absorb the smoke flavor for the first few hours and after that smoke absorption is very minimal.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2014
  16. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I never put water in my pan.

    I give it smoke all the time, except when the food is foiled. Always light to medium smoke.

    Never make heavy smoke, no matter what color.

    It would be pretty hard to dry up a Butt---It's loaded with fat, inside & out.

  17. Bearcarver, I've been considering putting in for a black bear hunt but I've hesitated because I don't want to harvest an animal without knowing if I would like the taste. I've searched high and low locally to find a source so I could try it for myself. For some reason it's also hard to find anyone that's able to describe the taste on the internet. I always find responses like "I had some bear sausage mixed with pork and beef. Very good stuff" but that's about the extent. Given your fondness of carving bears am I safe to assume that you have also consume one of these lovely animals? If so, can you describe the taste and also does it work well on the smoker?
  18. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Hmmm, The Bears I carved were different than you're thinking about. You can see them here:

    Link to my Bears:

    However I have had Bear meat a few times. I like it very much. It tasted a lot like a course Beef to me, and no tallow sticking to the roof of your mouth like from Deer fat.

    I remember we had a Bear roast when I was a kid. My older Sister raved about it (not knowing it was Bear). She told my Dad it was Great, and asked him where he got it. He told her Barringer's Butcher shop. She said it was the best she ever had. Later he told her it was Bear meat. She said, "Well it was still Great!!"

    I never had any smoked, but I'm sure it would be awesome, if it was a quick, clean kill, and you get it cooled down in a short time.

    Last edited: Feb 14, 2014
  19. blackzebra

    blackzebra Fire Starter

    Interestingly, I cooked a 8.0 lb pork butt it took 10. Plus hours to get to 195 ! Than I cooked 2 4,65 pounders and it took 13.50 hours! Goes to show meat is done when it is done!
  20. Nice stuff Bearcarver. That's some serious artistic ability.

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